A Short Story About
Part 2: The Two-Story Shoulders of
Kanna, Azato's Political Force & The
Lesson in Azato Village
By Gichen Funakoshi
Translated & Edited
Patrick & Yuriko McCarthy
Editor's Note: This article is the second of two
excerpts from a new book, "Karatedo Tanpenshu,"
a collection and new English translation of early
writings of Funakoshi, historical photos and other
materials compiled and translated by Patrick and Yuriko
McCarthy. The orignal Funakoshi articles were written
in 1934 for the Keio Gijuku Taiiku-kia Karate Bu Kaiho.
The Two-Story Shoulders of Kanna
A close friend of mine, named Shoko, told me the
story of Kanna Yoshin. The story of Yoshin is quite
familiar among the educated in the Chinese or Japanese
classics. Illustrating the importance of combining
physical training with scholarly pursuit in order
to master martial arts, "Bun Bu Ryo Do"
is an old proverb understood by all martial artists
and aptly described the kind of person Kanna Yoshin
His dedication to training and study was unprecedented,
and he was build like a house. His arms, shoulders
and neck muscles were virtually the size of a two-story
building. Hence, he acquired the nickname "two
Like Azato, so too did Kanna love swordsmanship.
However, in spite of his physical prowess he could
never defeat Azato Sensei, though having tried on
several occasions. Kanna was extremely disappointed
with himself, as he could never seem to get the better
of Azato, in spite of stepping up his training. Actually,
it was never Kanna's physical skill which prevented
him from overcoming Azato, but rather his mind set
and my teacher's unique ability to read an attack
and destroy it in progress.
I remember Sensei speaking to me about such issues
and importance he placed upon strategy if one was
to overcome any adversary. "From a martial arts
point-of-view, one must study three separate issues
to develop a kind of clairvoyance about judging a
person's character," Sensei told me.
The first is "Man" (Japanese pronunciation)
meaning to fulfill. The second is "Soon,"
meaning a short measure of distance. The third is
"Etsu," meaning to surmount, or go beyond,
like in the first example of "Man," Kanna
was a typical over-achiever and his over-confident
character reflected such. "Therefore," Sensei
said, "If one is able to correctly evaluate the
condition of one's opponent, then it merely becomes
an issue of addressing his weakness." In
the case of Kanna's ongoing attempts to defeat Azato,
that is just exactly what he did. Azato simply used
"Soon" and "Etsu" to overcome
"Actually," Sensei told me, "it doesn't
matter if it is swordsmanship or karate, the principles
of combative engagement remain the same, regardless.
For example, if I purposely make an opening in an
attempt to deceive my opponent, the chances are that
he will try to attack it. Expecting such a thing,
I can exploit his movement and overcome his weakness."
The Political Force of Azato
As I mentioned previously, my teacher was a typical
scholar warrior of Ryuku Kingdom and did much to contribute
to the culture of Okinawa. In addition to his martial
arts prowess he was one of two well-known political
figures during his time. His counterpart was a man
named Mr. Ishado Seiei. Judging by his close relationship
with various celebrities and Japan's top politicians,
including the Prime Minister himself, Azato was intelligent
and as skillful, and he was influential.
After Japan made the transition from feudalism into
democracy, and Okinawa officially became part of the
Japanese empire, much of the confusion and unrest
over cultural assimilation was left in the hands of
men like Azato and Ishado.
With political strengths radically shifting in Okinawa
after the Sino-Japanese war of 1894/95, Azato's upward
mobility strengthed both the foundation and directions
of his campaign. It was just about then that his Excellency,
the Sho Marquis sought out the advice and political
assistance of men like Azato and Ishado in seeking
to strengthen the economy and morale of Okinawan society.
Supporting the Marquis, the collective efforts of
Azato and Ishado laid a political foundation upon
which the Kodokai (the precursor of Okinawa's present
day parliamentary government) was established.
During the Meiji Restoration, a time of great political
change in Japan, the Kodokai reformation supported
mainland policy implicitly and sought to facilitate
its movement in Okinawa. Among the many social changes
was abolishing the Chongmage (topknots) hairstyles.
In spite of some opposition, it was largely because
of the widespread support of the Kodokai that reformation
During that time Okinawa's royal family had been
relocated to Tokyo's Kojimachi, near Yotsuya. However,
it was because of his administrative prowess that
master Azato remained at the forefront of political
power in Okinawa until his retirement. Azato was really
considered a local hero by many.
The Lesson in Azato Village
An old saying maintains that people of lower rank
like to copy the actions of the upper ranks. During
Azato's time there were a group of brave young men
in his village with little or no moral constitution.
They often took pleasure in showing off, and sometimes
even picked on weak or helpless passers-by at night.
As such, Azato's village developed a terrible reputation
for unprovoked violence.
Learning of this situation, Azato Sensei decided
to remedy the problem and developed a plan. Changing
his cloths to look like a commoner, he strolled through
the village late one night. Sure enough, not long
after he entered the village district, a person jumped
out from the cover of night and attacked him without
warning or provocation. With no intention to mortally
injure the man, Sensei dropped him with a single blow
to the head.
The following morning Sensei petitioned the village
chieftain to quickly assemble everyone in the center
of the village. Curiously, everyone gathered to see
what all the commotion was about. Everyone showed
up except one young man. Sensei asked why the young
man was not present, and he was told that he was sick.
Assuming that the sick man was the culprit Sensei
sent his private palanquin (symbol of status and a
conveyance: a covered wooden couch mounted on poles
which can be carried on the shoulders of two or four
men) to fetch him. Soon the young man with a fresh
bandage on his face arrived in the palanquin.
In front of all the villagers, Sensei asked him what
was wrong? Unable to lift up his head from pain, the
man murmured, "I was drunk last night and fell
in the ditch." Outraged, Sensei screamed at the
fellow, "Don't lie to me boy, now tell me the
truth or else." Finally, the young man confessed
to the assault on Azato and begged for forgiveness.
Sensei publicly told the villagers that, in an effort
to rid the district of their terrible reputation,,
he had been out trolling for the gang and been attacked
by the man in question. "It was me," said
Sensei to the man. "I was the one who knocked
you senseless last night."
After Azato's lesson in the village that day the
district became safe again to travel at night and
ultimately regained its reputation as a safe and quiet
In spite of the countless anecdotes surrounding Azato
Sensei, I believe that I have written enough for now.
One thing, however, I would like to say is that Master
Azato had planned to write a training manual on martial
arts when he retired from public service. Unfortunately,
he passed away before starting the project. It is
this writer's humble opinion the martial arts world
suffers greatly not having the work of Azato Ankoh.
Sensei used to say that, "The purpose of martial
arts is not just to build a strong and healthy body,
but also to educate one's mind and forge the spirit.
Martial arts seeks to build the body, improve one's
character and find inner-harmony. It cannot guarantee
Among his favorite books were Sun Tsu's "Art
of War," and "The Six Strategies of War,"
Lao Tsu's "Tao Te Ching," San Lue,"
Wei Ryao Zi," Su Ma Fa," and Tang Ling Wen
Dui." Master Azato believed that the "Art
of War" was the Bible for all martial artists.
Whenever I recall the fact that Sensei had not published
his knowledge, philosophy and application for future
generations, I cannot but feel empty.
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