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Revisionist Okinawan Karate History

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    Something that has also diminished its effectiveness is this.

    Think about how these people lived, they were not overweight, lazy, out of shape people. They were farmers with hard hands and a tolerance for pain and hard work. The kata they practiced was a primary thing due to the fact that their strength was not deficient and their hands were not soft.


      Which is why we have to supplement our training with weights and such


        "I for one am very confused at the idea of a noble using a rice flail or a harpoon head as a weapon."

        The nobles didn't and neither did the peasents. We've talked about it before, a rice flail sucks as a weapon and takes a lot of skill to use effectively. A simple club, on the other hand almost anyone can use. But the facts are there is not any documented evdience that the Okinawans ever picked up the sickles and flails in anger and fought against Samurai with them. The incorporation of farm tools into their martial arts most likely is a tribute to their agricultural roots and is more about self expression than actual combat.

        "Think about how these people lived, they were not overweight, lazy, out of shape people. They were farmers with hard hands and a tolerance for pain and hard work. The kata they practiced was a primary thing due to the fact that their strength was not deficient and their hands were not soft."

        Yes, think about how they lived. They were under s strict fuedal system. They were basically slaves. When did they have time to practice all these kata? Daylight hours were most likely spent working in the field. And if they did their training at night say by lamp or fire light, how did they keep it secret from their oppressors?

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          how were they slaves


            Well, they existed under the fuedal system. They were forced to work on someone elses land for the food they were given to eat. They basically didn't have anything that the Japanese or their own nobles couldn't take away at a whim. And the fact that the nobles probably consider the peasents their property, makes them pretty much slaves.

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              Do you have something i can read on this? and congratz on light heavyweight


                Sensei Mak, are you unfamiliar with the feudal system?


                  no but i want to know what literature he is reading about this subject


                    Basically any general history reference on Okinawa, like the encyclopedias.

                    Even the more in depth Okiawan histories I have read rarely have anything more than a passing reference to karate, and almost nothing notable about individual peasents. They evidently were far too busy to lead eventful lives.

                    From what I can tell the peasents were almost as bad of before the Japanese took over things. The weapons ban wasn't anything new, the Okinawan noble had instituted it long before, the Japanese just extended it. The nobles weren't really effected by the occupation, if you can call it that. The Japanese bascially wanted some tribute, the nobles keep their lands and their soilders. Japan even let Okinawa pose as indepentent in dealing with the Chinese. The peasents had to work even harder to make up for the rice and what not that was going to Japan.

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                      Here is a starting point.


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                        I did read the Weaponless Warriors by Richard Kim years ago and I'll keep my comments pithy because we've already proved on this thread that my memory is not perfect.

                        I recall that it involved a lot of stories about various Okinawan martial artists, some who came from poor families. I've seen columns by Kim in various martial arts publications and the theme generally seems to be, master x with his knowledge of kata stopped bully y when the latter swung at him with no warning, by effortlessly avoiding or grabbing his strike, such is the glory of Karate, no source mentioned.

                        Its evident I have a more serious bone to pick. Kim advised John Corcoran and Emil Farkas on Okinawan karate when they wrote "The Original Martial Arts Encyclopedia, Tradition-History-Pioneers" (revised in 1993) which is generally a good book dispite its efforts to kiss up to every martial artist trying to make it in the movie business. (pp. 89, 279, 292-294) On p. 186 the following howler appears. [My original comments are in brackets]

                        "A Japanese military expedition in 1609 ended Okinawan autonomy. The subjugated Okinawans were again denied weapons. In clashes with the victors, the Okinawans used the only weapons they possessed, their bare hands and feet. [I don't think they would be that dumb]

                        Okinawans, especially the owners of property, trained diligently to make their hands and feet into weapons in order to protect their lives and property. Martial arts experts never exchanged their techniques with other experts; [Never? how does Kim know, was he alive in 1640?]therefore the development of fighting techniques proceeded in secret. At night, Okinawans went to caves or mountain hideouts [Never evidently in their backyards] and trained, using the trees as their enemies.

                        on the trunk and shoots of the tree called "gajimaru" (banyan tree) they practiced jump kicks, kicks, punching and chopping and hardened their fists. [No padding?] The "kakidameshi" was a fight to the death between two experts. Relatives of the slain expert would never seek revenge because they were ashamed to be seen. [Never, and like they wouldn't even go outside?] Many techniques were developed at the expense of human life. [Nice thought Richard, but once again do you have any actual proof beyond supposition?]

                        Gaining little from such disunited resistance, the various Okinanwan ch'uan fa groups and tode societies banded together in 1629; the result was a new fighting style, a combination of Okinawa-te and chuan fa called simply te. During this period, and after, many Okinawans were secretly sent to China to learn. [Okay we have the Okinawa resistance story again and the writer, Richard Kim as told to Corcoran seems to be channeling this group's business minutes.]

                        Such famous Chinese as Saifa, Seiunchin, Ason, Waishinzan, Ananku, Chinto, and Kusanku either taught the Okinawans or provided inspiration by their deeds. [In other words we really don't know who did what, inspire by their deeds, come on]

                        The third book of the Oshima Hikki, a reliable chronicle, mentions that a shipwreaked Chinese boxer named Ko Sokun (Kung Hsiang-Chun) with a group of followers introduced in 1692 a special kind of martial art to Okinawa. It uses not the term karate, but the word kumiai-jutsu meaning 'fighting technique.'

                        At any rate, a monument to karate [more precisely some fighting art] exists at the foot of Chuzan Castle (Shuri Castle) containing written evidence that the Chinese lion and tiger schools of boxing were brought to Okinawa. (Written accounts of the development of karate are rare; one of the few is a an 1830 book entitled Gokansen Tode Ko, or Okansen Karate Ko, by Sennan Choho.)

                        [Translation: not until I get to the Oshima Hikki are my stories connected to any evidence, that tree kicking stuff, just take my word for it, after all it sounds like someone could have done this.]

                        Ok I've let my sarcasm out of its cage, time to reign it in again.


                          I agree that Kim can be...creative. The main reason for bringing him up was his acknowledgement of the Chinese connection between karate and kung fu systems. That connection and influence has never been denied by people who were honest about the origins and formations of karate. Visiting dignitaries{these would be Chinese nobles and court officals,{{pretty much the same thing}}} have been attributed with many of the kata found in Okinawa. Wheather they were tought on the island or to men having previous training who went to mainland China is not really mentioned.

                          Now, open resistance I haven't heard before, interaction and isolated cases of self defense against moody, boored or drunken samurai types I have heard of, finding a relable source might prove problematic. What samurai is going to report losing to a lowly Okinawan? What Okinawan is going to write down evidence he was ina fight with legal holders of authority? And training was just as backyard as it has been everywhere else. Yes, usually at night, don't want to show off what your doing, and pretty dang busy during the day earning a living somehow, sort of like most martial artists now. Work during the day, train during the evenings/nights.

                          Punisher, the time period during which teaching started becoming more open was right around the turn of the century. This is postal fudal erra, with still only those who could afford not to be in the fields all day getting a chance to train. Nobility were the ones with the training. Aso the the five big kobudo weapons, the ones I think most likely to see use were the staff, considered a good weapon throughout the world and not below the use of higher ranking citizens and the sai. The sai also seems very likely to see employ, the Japanese used the Jitte, a very similar weapon{yes, I know they were not identical and usages would have varied}. A sai could be tucked away under the rather large peices of clothing often worn by traditional folks, at least enough it would be hard to recognize right off. Chucks are yes, a very high risk weapons that require a high degree of skill to employ, the tonfa is a practical design, similar to the old police batons and the kama, its a hand sickle, very good weapon to have. The origins of kobudo though, I'm not very familar with though, so I don't know how strongly they are attributed to the weapons ban, occupation and the full formation of karate. It seems that sai and bo forms were most often taught when older instructors transmitted their skills, leading me to believe they were the most often, or perhaps only, two weapons used.

                          {edited for spelling}

                          Edited by - Kail on June 17 2003 16:52:20


                            damn i like this thread


                              Hi Kail:

                              As for open resistance that's why I included the Richard Kim inspired quotation. It features such a claim and this thread can't be revisionist if there is nothing to revise. :)

                              I'm sure that an occasional Okinawan peasant had a dust up with a occasional samuri but I doubt the creation of karate was caused by such situations as verses a generalized need for self defense. I don't think anyone denies Chinese influence on Okinawan karate, the question is when did the majority of the influences that we see today take hold?

                              I'll post more on this subject using Bishop, but the revisionist answer is that the major Chinese influences are more recent than 1800. The 19th century Okinawan masters were more influenced by their own trips to China then from Chinese masters who had visited Okinawa several generations previously. This makes Okinawan karate less "ancient" then previously supposed, and in the martial arts ancient lineage is generally considered good so the more recent past get short shrift.


                                Well, the Shotokan stressed that karate has no relationship with Chinese Kung Fu. Judge for yourself



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