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    Default Humble origins?

    Hello,
    This post was originally posted under "unarmed arts" but I think this is the proper forum.
    I have heard somewhere Te was not usually practised by people of "humble" birth if you look at their names. If so, why is the weaponry in the Okinawan arts so "humble"? I would be happy if someone could tell me more about this.
    Jakob Ryngen

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    I don't think that's the case but TTT for a more expert perspective.
    Michael W. Gooch

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    TTT?
    Jakob Ryngen

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    'have heard somewhere Te was not usually practised by people of "humble" birth if you look at their names. If so, why is the weaponry in the Okinawan arts so "humble"? I would be happy if someone could tell me more about this'.

    It depends on the Te, if it was a local Te system (Tomari, Shuri or Naha)it was practised by people of humble birth and was eventually absorbed into Okinawan Kobudo and Karate.

    However if it comes from Shuri and is related to the castle then it might be Motobu Undun Te (as it is now known) the alternative name for this is Go No Te in which case it is Palace hand, passed down via the Motobu Family who were martial arts instructors to the Ryukan Kings based at Shuri castle.

    But note that the Motobu Undun Ryu Te also uses some slightly different weapons from the humble ones you are referring to (I assume you mean Nunchuka, Tonfa etc of Okinawan Kobudo).

    Hope this answers your question

    Regards
    Chris Norman

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    Thank you for the information!
    So it can be said bo, tonfa, kama, tenbi and nunchaku is of "humble" origin and the sai is not. When were the simpler weapons incorporated by the wealthier practitioners? I also wonder if there is a theory why knives, swords and longspears are left out of the okinawan arts?
    Jakob Ryngen

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    Jakob,
    Did not say that the Sai was not of humble origins (there are various types and forms, some may be more humble in origin than others) nor that the Bo was of humble origins (it depends on form, same with Jo).

    As regards incorporation of humble weapons into the arts of wealthier practitioners and the reason why certain weapons were left out of the Okinawan arts, this is a point of debate and may relate to the Satsuma clans raid on Okinawa in 1609 with complete changes on the Island by 1699.

    It certainly appears to be the case as regards the Sword (Katana), Knife (Tanto) and Long Spear (Yari) and even Halberd (Naginata) that these simply were not part of the more common Te systems of Shuri, Naha and Tomari which were combined with or influenced by Chinese arts to create Tode and eventually Kobudo.

    However the Motobu Udun Te which was associated with the Royal Court at Shuri castle does use Katana, Tanto, Yari and Naginata as well as the more humble weapons.

    Hope this goes some way to answering your question.

    Regards
    Chris Norman

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    Default humble origin???

    Hello to all,

    very interesting stories.

    First I would like to ask who spread the story of the peasants developing fighting techniques with everydays tools?? Well, the one who did so was wrong. It is not the case that Ryukyu Kobudo was developed by peasant class, so it would be not correct to point out a "noble origin" like it is an exception.

    It is very interesting how it works to point out some "formerly secret tradition" or some connection to the royal court. It gets the westerners very interested it seems; soon everybody wants to be part of it.

    The name Udun - the Kanji can be pronounced Goten also - means palace. It is similar to Dunchi. Udun and Dunchi denote the homes and houses of high nobles of the Ryukyu Kingdom class system, such like Anji or Oyakata.

    One often finds the terms Udun (Goten) and Dunchi in the names of Ryukyu nobles, for example Ginowan Dunchi, one student of Sakugawa. Udun and Dunchi denotes someone of higher rank like a lord or something. It seems that both Udun and Dunchi are affiliated not with the Ryukyu Samurai class (Pechin), but with the Ryukyu Daimyo class (Oji, Anji, Oyakata!!!). The Kata Yaka no Sai is also called Hama Goten (Udun) Yakaa no Sai, meaning Sai Kata of the Beach Palace.

    In order to make it not too long: the earlist protagonists of historic Ryukyu Kobudo were of rank in Ryukyu kingdoms class system.

    Sakugawa was Satunushi Pechin, Chatan Yara also is said to have been nible. Ginowan was a lord, Soeishi was also called Udun as well as Dunchi. Hama Higa was a Pechin. Members of the early Kogusuku (Kojo) were Oyakata and Pechin.

    From low to high:
    Samurai class
    - Chikudun Pechin (like Chinen Anadaya)
    - Satunushi Pechin (like Sakugawa)
    - Pechin (like the person Hama Higa Pechin)
    Daimyo class
    - Oyakata
    - Anji (feudal lords)
    - Oji (kings sons and brothers or so)

    All those often had quasi-military functions within the Ryukyu kingdom. There is no evidence that peasant class developed anything of that. It's just a modern tale, made in Japanese mainland or even in the West.

    When Ryukyu kingdom had been abolished amd Okinawa-ken established in 1879, Ryukyu officials lost their rank and with this their functions and duties.

    At least Eku, Bo, Sai and Tunfa (!) are old Ryukyu Kobudo implements.
    Kama, Tinbe, Surujin, Nunchaku came only later, already at Okinawa-ken times. For example, Kanegawa no Gibu, the grandather of Taira Shinken developed Tinbe-jutsu, and developed the techniques for Kama, Surujin, Nunchaku, Tekko. He is said to have been of rank, and lost it with the dissolution of Ryukyu kingdom.

    The Ufuchiku Den also has a connection to higher ranks, as well as Bushi Matsumura had. Tawada was also a Pechin.

    Also one cannot simply say that Shuri was the palace town and so there the noble Kobudo evolved. In Naha's Kumemura not only the 36 families lived, but also many people worked and lived there, like Nago Oyakata, Shitahaku Oyakata, the Kojo - who were in charge of guarding Shuri's castle gates, and so on.

    Peasant or humble origin??? No!
    Best regards

    Andreas Quast

    We are Pope!

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    Andreas,
    Thanks for a very informative reply.
    As I said it was a point of debate (as you state much made up in west or on mainland) especially in relation to peasants and agricultural tools and about the history of Ryuku Kobudo weapons and their so called 'humble' origins. Did not say where I stood on this debate, I was just following the original thread when I referred to the possibility of 'humble' origins.

    My understanding is that the 36 Naha families (Originally Chinese Merchants and Artisans, and so as you state they were certainly not peasants)had a very strong Chinese basis in style and technique as would be expected from their origins and that the Kojo family(originally named Sai) used Chinese based Kobudo weapons, with Kojo Uekata's grandson having studied weapons and a grappling art or at least an art that involved grappling in China for a while.

    Be interested to know if the traditions you are referring to/study (Kojo and Oyakata and other Naha traditions) make use of Katana,Yari, Naginata and Tanto as does the Motobu Udun Ryu which was associated with the castle at Shuri (At least as taught by the present headmaster Seikichi Uehara at his Seidokan and his former Uchi-deshi Seitoku Higa at his Bugeikan).

    Regards
    Chris Norman

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    Default re

    I was just following the original thread
    completely my fault: didn't read carefully enough...

    Katana, Yari, Naginata and Tanto
    I didn't knew that Katana and Tanto were in use, even not in the ending final Ryukyu Dynasty. I think pictures of Ryukyu kingdom officials with swords are rare and they would only have been allowed to learn with Japanese permission.

    However, there are accounts on weapons similar to Yari or Naginata in Ryukyu Kingdom time, used by a student of Sakugawa.

    But usually Katana, Yari, Naginata and Tanto are associated with mainland Japanese styles. So what is the reason for Motobu Ryu having a Kenjutsu Ryu (and others) and where did it stem from? Did they develop it by themselves? And if yes, when did they develop it? Or was it the heritage of those Ryukyu people who studied Jigen Ryu Kenjutsu, like Matsumura Sokon???

    (Note: Uekata is the same as Oyakata, the same Kanji, the same meaning)
    Best regards

    Andreas Quast

    We are Pope!

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    Hm... interesting stuff. But I have always found it strange that common weapons such as spears (except for the short tenbi) and daggers are overlooked in okinawan arts.
    Jakob Ryngen

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    Well, Basil Hall told Napoleon that Okinawans had no weapons. However, Basil Hall's completely positive view of Okinawa has not been affirmed by following visitors. By the way, that was the visitors own fault; they did things the Okinawans didn't want, for example freely visiting certain places they wanted etc. They also wanted to bring christianity to the island people. So it is clear that they were not dealt like Basil Hall was. But Basil Hall's account only shows what Okinawans played act to him; and that was not all reality.

    Charles Gutzlaff in his "Journal of Three Voyages" (London 1834) wrote:

    "They are, however, by no means those simple and innocent beings which we might at first suppose them to be. Upon inquiry we found that they had among them the same severe punishments as at Corea; that they possessed arms likewise, but are averse to use them."

    Gutzlaff's account also shows the Okianwan awareness concerning the Metsuke, or Japanese spies. Gutzlaff didn't know what that meant but it gets clear through his descriptions of certain behaviour.

    Non of the Pictures in the old narratives show Okinawans wearing weapons, at least as far as I have seen. On the other hands, it seems like suicide to travel to China by sea with a ship full of gifts to the Chinese court and Emperor without having men armed with sharp weapons.

    One must assume that edged weapons have been used by certain people of Ryukyu class system. If the Rochin originally really was a short halberd or spear is questionable. Many things developed later. For example, Hayashi Teruo sometimes used a Tanto as the Rochin and used Tonfa against life swords... Did the Okinawans in Ryukyu Kingdom time did also???

    And what about Kata? Bo, Sai, and Tunfa all have old Kata. I wonder if Katana, Tanto, Naginata only were adapted after the abolishment of samurai ranks in Japan, and also after the abolishment of Ryukyu kingdom. And I wonder if the former Ryukyu Pechin and higher class people would have become Shizoku - like in mainland japan - or only have been made "normal" people and were forced to become peasants and such??? Waht did the officials of Ryukyu kingdom become after the abolishment of the Kingdom??? This maybe would have been a reason for the upcoming of such weapons like Tinbe/Rochin, Kama, Nunchaku, Tekko...
    Best regards

    Andreas Quast

    We are Pope!

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    Andreas,

    'But usually Katana, Yari, Naginata and Tanto are associated with mainland Japanese styles. So what is the reason for Motobu Ryu having a Kenjutsu Ryu (and others) and where did it stem from? Did they develop it by themselves? And if yes, when did they develop it?'

    I must admit when I first came across this I was a little sceptical,
    and I do wonder about and suspect that there is a strong influence of Jigen Ryu on the development of the Motobu Ryu.

    My understanding of the history of Motobu Ryu's development is as follows:
    It apparently (allegedly) takes root with the sixth son of King Sho Shitsu (died 1688), it was Prince Sho Koshin who reigned as a puppet King under the Satsuma's between 1648-1688 who inherited what was to become the Motobu Ryu. Prince Sho Koshin is apparently where the origins of the Motobu family begins (So it would appear to have Satsuma Influence given these dates).

    Although there have been some claims as to earlier origins and an introduction from the Japanese mainland prior to 17th Century (even as early as 650AD!??) but these have obviously been dificult to substantiate except perhaps through the similiarity of some court dances (Especially the Seven womens Classical court Dances with some court dances on the mainland) which are part of the Motobu Ryu that the current headmaster Seikichi Uehara teaches. The story goes along the lines that Motobu Ryu was always a weapons based system introduced from the mainland.

    In my opinion there could easily be a Jigen Ryu influence on Motobu Ryu as the photographs that I have seen of Jigen Ryu weapons and empty hand grappling techniques seem to have some very close resemblance to the Motobu Ryu that I have had contact with, though some of the subtleties of the Motobu Ryu may be missing.

    There may also be some distortions of the Motobu Ryu history, especially as regards the use of Japanese weapons as the three senior members of the Ryu Seikichi Uehara, Seitoku Higa (Seidokan) and Seiki Toma (Bugeikan) all appear to be Okinawan Nationalists at least according to Stephen Chan's research on the islands.

    Regards

    Chris Norman

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    Hi Chris,

    thanks for your description, it was very helpul.

    It apparently (allegedly) takes root with the sixth son of King Sho Shitsu (died 1688), it was Prince Sho Koshin who reigned as a puppet King under the Satsuma's between 1648-1688 who inherited what was to become the Motobu Ryu. Prince Sho Koshin is apparently where the origins of the Motobu family begins (So it would appear to have Satsuma Influence given these dates).
    THIS PAGE states that one lineage goes back to Matsumura Sokon and Sakugawa, whom both are said to have been exposed not only to Chinese arts, but also to Jigen Ryu Kenjutsu and maybe Jigen Ryu Bo-odori. Choyu Motobu, who would have been the forefather of the style, is given there as a student of Matsumura. As Matsumura was security person to the kings family, it would be no wonder that Motobu Ryu is called „palace hand.“ And if the origin is traced back to Prince Sho Koshin (reigned 1648-1688): this era would also be possible for Sakugawa, thus the dates could correspond.

    THIS PAGE claims one Motobu Udun as the forefather of the style. Udun (simply the Okinawan pronunciation of the Japanese Goten) would again most likely would be some kind of knickname pointing to a palace or – as it is also translated – a stately home!!! And there were more than only one such stately homes. For example there was an Udun for the entertainment, tea ceremony etc. of Chinese tributary officials. Yama Goten Yakaa no Sai can also be pronounced Yama Udun Yakaa no Sai, meaning the Sai kata of the princes of the beach palace.

    The Japanese translation (Goten = palace) seems not to be perfectly correct in this case. In fact, Udun is the term that described the palace or stately homes of the Anji (feudal lords) and princes, and not explicetly the palace of the king, alos it maybe could have been some sort of refuge to him.

    I guess that Okinawan gentry at that time was “a small world“ and that all those old protagonists somehow stood in some connection. And they all did something what we now call Karate and Kobudo, simply because of their duties.

    With this coming back to the initial post:

    I have heard somewhere Te was not usually practised by people of "humble" birth if you look at their names. If so, why is the weaponry in the Okinawan arts so "humble"?
    Both were developed by the same men. The names of the early protagonists are given with the suffixes for ranked people: Chikudun, Satunushi, Pechin, Oyakata (same as Uekata), and may be others. Of course, those ranks were lost with abolition of the Ryukyu Han in 1879 (or 1872). However, it would be easier to show those Okinawan karate and kobudo lineages which can NOT be traced back to ranked people of the Ryukyu Kingdom than to show those which clearly go back to such people.
    Best regards

    Andreas Quast

    We are Pope!

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    Andreas,
    I would be very wary of any lineages that include Rod Sacharnoski in relation to Motobu Ryu, his claims are rather (extremely) dubious and cannot be substantiated except in relation to those that relate to Shian Toma. I have had contact with some of Sacharnoski's people and did at one point train under the vice President of his organization, but what they do does not resemble Motobu Ryu in any way whatsoever.

    Shian Toma has recently posted a disclaimer on his Seidokan web site claiming that he has no relationship to Mr. Sacharnoski or his organization.

    Shian Toma did train for a while at Seikichi Uehara's Seidokan Dojo in Ojana, but the Seidokan organization of Shian Toma is very, very different from the Seidokan Dojo's practising Motobu Udun Ryu Te as ran by Seikichi Uehara (who has never taught Karate), Seiki Toma (The latter is no relation of Shian Toma and is not his teacher) and Seitoku Higa, (who was originally taught basic Te techniques by Kishimoto Sokon and who only began training seriously with Uehara in 1967).

    Shian Toma's karate organisation does have some Motobu Ryu influence, he trained under Seikichi Uehara for a while at the Ojana Dojo. But what Shian Toma does lacks the subtleties of Motobu Ryu and the weapons are very different (i.e Shian Toma does the more traditional Okinawan weapons).

    My understanding is that Shian Toma calls his organisation Seidokan after Uehara's Dojo out of respect for one of his teachers (but there may be other highly complex political issues involved as well).

    I had a long conversation a few years back with Dr. Stephen Chan who heads the Seidokan Style of Shian Toma's organization in the UK (and who is now Dean where I did my postgraduate studies in Anthropology)and I have had some contact with the Shian Toma's Seidokan style and their version of Te.

    The difference between what Shian Toma does (essentially Karate) and what is done by Motobu Ryu as taught and practised by Seikichi Uehera (Seidokan at Ojana), Seitoku Higa (Bugeikan) and Seiki Toma (Seidokan Goya Rd, rumour has it this was recently destroyed in a storm) is that the latter employs a lot of grappling techniques with some subtleties not seen in Shian Toma's Seidokan organization which has a very strong Naha influence. The Motobu Ryu weapons are also very different, though I believe that there may be some Jigen Ryu influence.

    For a variety of reasons Karate and kobudo is taught alongside/at Motobu ryu Dojo's to appease the karate fraternity on the island, this is in part due to Seitoku Higa's involvement with the style from 1967 though. Seitoku Higa holds a 7th Dan from the JKA from some time on the mainland and had an organisational structure that helped to popularise the Motobu Ryu.

    The Motobu Ryu Udun Te is a family system pased from father to eldest son, Choyu's teacher was his father Choshu Motobu. The system is not simply a system for body guards it was taught by the Motobu Udun Family to successive Ryukan Kings. I.e. Chosho Motobu taught Sho Ken/Sho Kai ((d. 134) and Sho Tai (1841-1901) and Choyu Motobu taught Sho Ten (1864-1921).

    Choyu Motobu opened a dojo in Naha in 1924 but this was not successful, the system differed too radically from what is usually seen on the island.

    I have also seen some lineage charts that suggest that Choyu Motobu was taught by Sokon Matsumura, but this is different from the Motobu ryu lineage.

    Motobu Ryu in no way looks like karate it is very, very different in weapons employed and techniques and Seikichi Uehara the current headmaster of Motobu Udun Ryu does not as I understand it teach any form of Karate.

    Regards

    Chris Norman

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    Default re

    Hi Chris,

    would be very wary of any lineages that include Rod Sacharnoski in relation to Motobu Ryu, his claims are rather (extremely) dubious and cannot be substantiated except in relation to those that relate to Shian Toma.
    I only intented to point to the Sakugawa - Matsumura thing.

    The Motobu Ryu Udun Te is a family system pased from father to eldest son, Choyu's teacher was his father Choshu Motobu. The system is not simply a system for body guards it was taught by the Motobu Udun Family to successive Ryukan Kings. I.e. Chosho Motobu taught Sho Ken/Sho Kai ((d. 134) and Sho Tai (1841-1901) and Choyu Motobu taught Sho Ten (1864-1921).
    And Matsumura was body guard to the last three kings. And the famous later Hama Higa Pechin (Machu Hija) was an assistant to the last king Sho Tai, and died unhappy knowing that their efforts to keep up Ryukyu Kingdom have been useless. King Sho Tai saw the Japanese take away his kingdom.

    ...and Choyu Motobu taught Sho Ten (1864-1921).
    I'am pretty sure that Sho Tai was the last king!?1? Assuming that Sho Ten never was king, Motobu Udunti was taught to the last two kings... while Matsumura was (at least) body guard of the last three kings. Anyway, this is not what one can call a very old lineage in Ryukyu Kobudo.

    Motobu Udun Ryu does not as I understand it teach any form of Karate
    Don't they call it Motobu Ryu Bujutsu??? Also we do not know how Karate at that time looked like, I wonder if King Sho Tai had ever performed other than maybe some court celebrations like dances, if at all.

    I can't see from this lineage what makes Motobu Ryu more sophisticated than any other style of Ryukyu Kobudo. And I am not able to derive from it humble origins of Ryukyu Kobudo styles, because those I can easily trace back to high ranks of Ryukyu kingdom at least 100 years earlier. Furthermore it sounds more like Motobu Ryu belongs neither to Karate nor Kobudo.

    Best regards
    Best regards

    Andreas Quast

    We are Pope!

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