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#419241 - 05/13/09 10:18 PM Are karate kata true martial arts
kakushiite Offline
Member

Registered: 02/06/03
Posts: 266
Loc: Ithaca, NY, USA
The term martial comes from Mars, the Roman god of war.

Dictionary.com defines martial as “of, suitable for, or associated with war or armed forces”

Oxford’s English dictionary defines martial as “of or appropriate to warfare.”

My study of karate centers on my attempts to better understand to what degree karate kata are true martial arts. To what degree are kata suitable, associated or appropriate to warfare?

We know that the origins of many karate kata have no written record. Funakoshi and Nagamine both point to Chinese origins for many Shorin Ryu kata. Higashionna studied in China for a number of years before returning to teach Miyagi and others his Naha-te art.

When looking at the question of whether the origins of older Shuri-te and Naha-te kata were martial in nature, this really is a question as to whether some or many of these Chinese kata that have survived to the present had true martial origins. Were they designed to be used on the battlefield?

A better question is to what degree do kata teach movements that would be useful in being successful on a battlefield? Success on the battlefield means successfully evading attacks from multiple armed enemies, and killing them quickly. There should be an expectation that your enemies have some skill with their weapons.

I would argue that quickly killing multiple skilled armed enemies requires skillful use of a weapon.
For centuries, the weapons of choice for many armies were spears and swords.

So to what extent is it possible, that kata may contain some (or many) underlying true martial or military applications, movements designed for use with weapons of warfare.

Please note that I am not implying here that Okinawan kobudo, specifically kata that use household implements such as bo, sai and kama, were designed for armed combat, army against army. Household implements are not weapons of warfare. No military leader would ever choose Okinawan implements for use in warfare, when long bladed weapons are what are needed to be successful.

My question here is limited to the extent that the Chinese kata that were passed down in Okinawa may have had martial or military origins in China.

Has anyone else thought about this issue? Has anyone read a good source that makes this argument?

On a related subject, I have read that both Matsumura, and perhaps Itosu, due to their positions under the Ryu Kyu king, may have had official relations with Chinese Military authorities. Does anyone have good sources for this?

Kakushidi

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#419242 - 05/15/09 02:44 PM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: kakushiite]
cxt Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 09/11/03
Posts: 5822
Loc: USA
kakushite

Perhaps a good place to start is using a "western/english" dictionary to define terms that perhaps more properly should be defined by the culture that birthed them.
Why would you be surprised that "eastern/asian" terms might have a bit of ambiguity/less than 100% corespondence with a "western" dictonary meaning?????

"Kata" means something a bit different to Chinese/Japanese/Okinawan applications---its a "form" or "shape" that helps one learn specific skills---everything has a "kata" a "pattern" that helps the student learn---everything from flower arranging to painting to storytelling etc.
So a kata could, from that perspective, have every reason to be a litteral "battlefield" art even if it does not actualy teach you how to cut a man out of the saddle with a glaive...or it could do just that.

My guess is that your mixing terms.

Also not sure that "karate" kata or even many Chinese kata were supposed to be "battlefield" arts...depnding on just how narrowly or broadly one defines "battlefield".....how many people makes a "battlefield?"...3?..5?..10?....1100? Does it have to be on a "field?"...what if its 5 guys in a paved alley fighting with axes and swords? How about fighting on a ship?
NOT trying to be a pain...but maybe your defining "battlefield" a bit loosely?

Japanese koryu "kata" are often litteally "battlefield" arts......not sure that Okinawan or many Chinese arts make that SPECIFIC claim.

So I'm not sure that your base presumption is either accurate or warrented or all that supportable.

My read on your question...essentialy.... are "kata are sutitable for or did they have their origen on the battlefield??
Would be.

A-Not sure that anybody claims that they are.

B-Not sure that the question---as it mixes terms and outlooks from one culture and then tries to use them to define terms/meanings from another culture in a fashion that might not be all that accurate--is a good way to phase it.

C-Might be a little to narrow in framing.....maybe.

D-Overall--sucess on the "battle field" can mean many things---the army uses a wide range of H+H combat skills--and those folks have GUNS which are generally superior to even "long bladed weapons" so I'm not sure that empty hand stuff is really uneeded or not worthwhile.
On this point you can argue with the Armed Forces if you like--just not sure that they will care much what you think about how they run their training.

Its probably certain that at least "few" Chinese kata had their origen in "martial" application as YOU use the term.....its certain (with some degree of accuracy) that at least a few of the folks that created/used them were military people so it stands to reason that military experiences were drawn upon to create or train in their kata....hard to imagine a guy/gal saying "sure I spent 20 years fighting in the army but I'm NOT going to use ANY of that experience in working on my kata."

Yes, many Okinawans had offical, semi-offical, and noon-offical contact with various Chinese individuals of various function.

On a strictly personal note...its my belief that "kata" are ONLY ONE section of a training methodology that involves all sorts of training---strength training, heavybag work, resitant drills and partner work, conditioning,sparring/grappling, etc needed for developing fighting/self defense skills.....so in my view Chinese and Okinawan/Japanese kata ALONE are not going to be enough.......the history of the arts rather strongly suggest that back in the day many of the "old masters" did much more than "just" kata to develop skills.

Just an opinion....like always could be wrong


Edited by cxt (05/15/09 03:02 PM)

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#419243 - 05/15/09 05:00 PM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: cxt]
kakushiite Offline
Member

Registered: 02/06/03
Posts: 266
Loc: Ithaca, NY, USA
cxt,

There are many ways to consider applications for the martial arts we practice today. I am specifically asking about their use in pre-firearm times, on the battlefield.

It does not really matter whether one uses a Chinese term, an English term, an Arabic term, or an Incan term. Groups of armed men have fought groups of armed men since the beginning of man. Warfare is warfare. In pre-firearm times, successful armies trained their soldiers to use their weapons, primarily spears, effectively.

Some have been taught that the movements in Okinawan kata have been combat tested, that they enabled one to have success on the battlefield. This thread asks the question "how effective were Okinawan empty hand kata movements (at least those that have Chinese origins) for use on the battlefield, where large groups of armed men fought each other."

One answer might be "not very effective". One might argue that the movements of Chinese kata practiced in Okinawa had little use on the battlefield, where large groups of armed men fought each other. One might argue that the movements of these Chinese kata would were strictly developed for empty hand fighting and would only be useful in the rare circumstances that two soldiers might face each other, when neither had a weapon.

Another answer might be "somewhat effective". One might argue that in the event a soldier lost their weapon, their empty hand movements would be effective in overcoming the attacks of multiple armed enemies.

Both of these answers might imply that Okinawan kata have movements different and distinct from weapons movements. In these cases, soldiers would have separate training for weapons movements and empty hand movements, with at best, modest overlap between the two.

Another answer might be "effective". One might argue that Okinawan empty hand kata contain some movements that provide for effective use of a spear-like weapon.

And yet another answer might be "very effective". One might argue that Okinawan empty hand kata contain many movements that provide for effective use of a spear-like weapon.

I would appreciate, cxt, if you would share whether in the course of your martial arts training, you were taught that kata movements practiced today had been effective, many years ago, on the battlefield. I have heard this argument many times. And I believe it to be true. For those that believe it, I am interested in how they would consider these movements effective, according to the various circumstances I have described above.

-Kakushidi

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#419244 - 05/16/09 01:52 PM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: kakushiite]
Ames Offline
Veteran

Registered: 05/29/05
Posts: 1117
Quote:


The term martial comes from Mars, the Roman god of war.[...] Dictionary.com defines martial as “of, suitable for, or associated with war or armed forces” [...] [My question is]
To what degree are kata suitable, associated or appropriate to warfare?




I think that when you look at the older material out there, it becomes clear that kata were, at one time, primarily methods for training to be physically prepared for the ancient (pre-modern weapon) battlefield. By 'physically prepared' I mean both on a conditioning (stamina) level, and on a 'technique' level. These 'kata's' were almost certainly different from anything taught now, but they would still have some movements (horse stance being a likely one) that would be recognizable. So in this sense, yes they are 'martial' as they are "associated with war or armed forces." Yes, they are mostly associated the war of a past time, but so is modern military drills and marching, and that is still considered 'martial'.

Quote:

My question here is limited to the extent that the Chinese kata that were passed down in Okinawa may have had martial or military origins in China.




Difficult to prove in terms of specific kata, I would imagine. But the movements and technique's in those kata are seen in much earlier depictions, so I would say the chances of Okinawan kata having been influenced in a large way via the somewhat circular and obscure route of early Chinese 'kata' (using the term fairly loosely here) is a good one. Of even more interest to me is going even earlier than that, but it murkier and murkier the further back you go. However, I do think that ancient Greece (possibly preceded by developments in the Near East) will be your eventual 'stop' point if you continue to trace this back further and further.

--Chris
_________________________
"Seek not to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought."
--Basho

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#419245 - 05/18/09 07:12 PM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: kakushiite]
cxt Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 09/11/03
Posts: 5822
Loc: USA
kakushite

Your not getting me......using an "english" dictionary to translate an "incan" term might just give you a LESS THAN ACCURATE translation........just something to consider as you compare and contrast why the "meanings" don't always add up.

"some have been told that Okinawan kata have been "combat tested and...that they have enabled succes on the battlefield"

A-I don't ANYBODY of any repute that would say something like that---Okinawan arts like many the chinese arts they are based upon were less "battlfield" and more "personal protection."

B-Its 2 DIFFERENT THINGS "combat teasted" and "battlefield" are not the same meaning...ones art could well be "comabt tested" and yet not be on a "battlefield."

Just depends on exactly how LITTERAL you want to be useing the term "battlefield.

"one might answer not very effective....large groups of armed men fought each other"

Again, your mixing your examples and NOBODY I know with any actual info thinks the UNARMED sections of the Okinawan karate are meant or designed to take on "large groups of armed men."
Whomever told you so is either ignorant or they think you are.

"okinawan kata have movements are diffent and distince from weapon movements"

Many don't, some do.......some can quite readily be used with a staff etc......so what?

I tried to explain before...but your not listening....a "battlefield" and "combat effective" are 2 RATHER DIFFERENT THINGS.

Most Okinawan karate---like most of their Chinese for-runners were more for personal protection than anything else......does not mean they lack "effectiveness" just that they don't seem to have been devloped with the idea of mass armies fighting it out, in mind.

There are a few a few exceptions of course which might indeed be closer to the "battlefield" defiantion you seem so hung up an.

I was taught that "karate" was a "last ditch" form of self defense for when you didn't have a weapon, couldn't get to something you could use as a weapon and couldn't run/get away.

Karate was pretty much the in the hands of nobles, government officals/operatives, rich merchents etc until pretty recently in its "life."
Karate was not really developed by unarmed peasents to fight off invading Samurai.


Edited by cxt (05/18/09 07:16 PM)
_________________________
I did battle with ignorance today.......and ignorance won. Huey.

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#421150 - 07/29/09 03:52 PM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: kakushiite]
kakushiite Offline
Member

Registered: 02/06/03
Posts: 266
Loc: Ithaca, NY, USA
I have been planning to post video of my art for a long time. In May, I started this thread to see if any fightingarts readers had considered the potential overlap between Chinese-Okinawan kata movements and the military arts of spear and sword.

A couple of weeks ago I began a videoblog of my art. www.cayugakarate.com/blog Please feel free to visit and review my spear fighting concepts. The purpose of the blog is to share my interpretations of Chinese-Okinawan kata with the worldwide karate community.

I practice a spear art based on the movements in Chinese-Okinawan kata. Over the next several years, I will share interpretations for all the movements of over 40 Chinese-Okinawan empty hand kata. It is my belief that these kata were designed in China for military purposes. Only through instruction and explanation of a broad cross-section of Chinese-Okinawan kata, can I present the evidence to support my belief.

I have an hour of video up so far. There are some spear forms posted a couple of weeks ago, and there is some repetitive training mixed with additional spear forms in more recent posts. Altogether, I show movements from 10 complete kata, and two partial kata. In the training videos I practice repetitions of specific movements from three complete kata, as well as segments of other kata. It is the repetitive training that I intend to focus on, presenting 20-40 minutes per week.

I am just getting this videoblog up and running and it is missing some components that will be part of future posts.

1. There is no weapon-to-weapon application yet. In the future, I will demonstrate all sequences with weapons during the instruction.

2. The posts to date do not have voiceovers. I expect to add narration/instruction to much of what I post. But I wanted to focus on getting some content on-line, and the voiceovers will be done on future videos.

The 40 kata I will share have over 300 sequences of movements. I have no specific order for much that I will present. If anyone would like to see a kata sequence using the spear, please provide a youtube link and a start/finish time. I would be happy to share my thoughts on how the movement can be used to propel a spear for useful spear fighting.

One last point. Although I believe that the Chinese kata that were taught to Okinawans in the 18th and 19 centuries were likely developed for military (armed) purposes, I also firmly believe that the movements also have remarkable empty-hand applications. Where I have fairly effective empty and self defense applications for kata sequences, I will share those as well.

Mike Eschenbrenner
www.cayugakarate.com/blog

Note: For what it's worth, I do expect these ideas to be controversial and unsettling to many.

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#421217 - 08/02/09 02:11 PM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: kakushiite]
shoshinkan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 05/10/05
Posts: 2662
Loc: UK
Mr Eschenbrenner,

Thank you for your post, very interesting.

I would be very interested in seeing some of your empty hands application work and also to understand if this was passed on to you via a Sensei of a certain Ryu or something developed yourself from your experience (I do both of these things).

I need to get my head around your 'spear' theory, I work with an instructor from the Kodo Ryu group in the UK and they have some similair research in terms of the 'prigional' Chinese forms meaning for the Kata (ie weaponry), it's great stuff IMO and well worth looking at although im on the fence with my conclusions apart from their Naihanchi kata 2 man excersise found here (old version)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Kt6iCrS8Oo





Edited by shoshinkan (08/03/09 11:14 AM)
_________________________
Jim Neeter

www.shoshinkanuk.blogspot.com

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#421375 - 08/07/09 04:24 PM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: shoshinkan]
kakushiite Offline
Member

Registered: 02/06/03
Posts: 266
Loc: Ithaca, NY, USA
Mr. Neeter,

Thanks for taking the time to respond. I will regularly be posting my spear art on my blog for the next several years. I will cover 40 Okinawan kata in full.

What I seek from readers of this forum and others is requests of spear application for the movements of common Okinawan kata. I would be grateful if any reader would post a link of youtube clip of a kata, with a start/stop time. I think there is a pretty good chance that I can provide a useful instructional segment regarding those movements.

What I have chosen to post so far is not really that instructional. It is more of a demonstration of ways to practice Okinawan kata that would improve a soldier's capability on the battlefield and off. In so many cases, propelling the spear is little different than propelling an empty hand block or strike.

It is my belief that each kata was likely a full-blown battlefield art. There was probably a lot of theory and application behind all the movements of a spear. There are lots of potential variations within the sequences of movements.

It will take several years to go through these movements in detail. I have yet to begin voice-overs on the videos. I am trying to just get some basic content up. I will do that shortly.

Budoka Mike Eschenbrenner

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#421786 - 08/21/09 04:45 PM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: kakushiite]
kakushiite Offline
Member

Registered: 02/06/03
Posts: 266
Loc: Ithaca, NY, USA
In response to cxt's concerns about definitions, I do recognize that translations of words, across different languages, can be a challenge, especially when going from Asian to Western languages.

I would also agree with cxt's point that the term combat is open to interpretation and is not necessarily associated with warfare.

However, the common Chinese/Japanese character used for "martial" does have a fairly strong link to warfare.

The Japanese character bu (Chinese - wu) is widely translated as martial. The character has two radicals, one whose meaning has been constant, and one whose meaning has changed over time. The first radical (which has changed) is currently defined as "to stop". This character also appears to have once been defined as "foot". There is some discussion on the web on the interpretation of the term foot. It could be for stopping, but it is also likely that it would be interpreted as "advancing".

The second radical in bu/wu is "spear". No real ambiguity there.

So the current reading for bu (martial) is "to stop a spear" and the older reading may have been more associated with "advancing spear".

Interestingly, as the use of martial arts have lost effectiveness on the battlefield, there also has been a shift from the offensive systems required for warfare (advancing spear), to the more defensive systems common in empty hand fighting today (to stop a spear).

If any Chinese scholar knew the timeframe that the radical "foot" evolved to the radical "to stop" I would be grateful if they would share it.

-Mike Eschenbrenner

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#423104 - 10/25/09 01:20 AM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: kakushiite]
reboot Offline
Stranger

Registered: 10/24/09
Posts: 2
Loc: St. Augustine, FL
kakushiite,
you have a lot of questions, and I would like to make a few comments , not sure if this will answer your question though.
I believe 'cxt' tried to steer you in the right direction. I believe you should read George Kerr's book 'Okinawa:The History of an Island People'. You can buy inexpensive used copies and new copies from Amazon.com. This would help your understanding of the Okinawan people and their culture and history. It's not a martial arts book. Why I suggest this, is because Okinawa was not a warring country (Island) of people.I believe you have an idea or understanding of this. They were farmers, fishermen, etc. but they were in a position of being in the trade between two countries, Japan and China. Okinawa did not have armies to fight these two neighbors and generally they did not need too. China and Japan used Okinawa as a exchange. Japan did not need to bring armies in to Okinawa to overthrow it, if they did it would be destroying their trade with China. (not saying Japan didn't ever show Okinawa its might). In this trade situation, China and so did Japan, had military guard and escorts of their merchant ships. There were a lot of pirates in this area. China even had placed some of these military people to live on Okinawa. In the era of Sokon Bushi Matsumura who you know was the king's bodyguard and head of security got to know many of these military people from China and he augmented his fighting skills (martial arts) with what he learned from the Chinese. Chinese katas were introduced and new katas were developed. Remember Okinawa had there own systems of martial arts before all these influences (but I'm sure that even came from somewhere else). My point is the Okinawan were basically 'tode'/ 'te' or hand. Only the guard of the king had military weapons (swords, etc.) but not an army to ward off an opposing army such as Japan or China. The most fighting they did were agaist the pirates who came inland at times to steal or raise 'hell' when going into the towns. The Okinawan people other than the guard and royal class, had only their kobudo weapons (oars, sai, tonfa, staff, etc.) to fight these bandits. Is this classified as military (martial arts, could be in my opinion) You ask if katas are of the martial arts, again I believe, (I only can se your first post at present) someone below stated it depended on what you were practicing the kata with, a bo, sai, etc. or Te empty hand. Many katas you can incorporate the use of a weapon with it, you may do this with your spear training? But katas of te/empty hand are for training on a more close contact as opposed to weapons, but again can augment weapon training. I won't get into details about kata itself, whole different subject, but to me it all comes down to the application if it's martial arts or defense against your neighbor. You see some schools teaching handguns and rifles as martials arts. Is a FA18 pilot a martial arts practitioner? It's getting late and I'm losing my train of thought, sorry. Hope this helps some.


Edited by reboot (10/25/09 01:23 AM)

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#423653 - 11/21/09 12:17 PM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: kakushiite]
shoshinkan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 05/10/05
Posts: 2662
Loc: UK
Originally Posted By: kakushiite
Mr. Neeter,

Thanks for taking the time to respond. I will regularly be posting my spear art on my blog for the next several years. I will cover 40 Okinawan kata in full.

What I seek from readers of this forum and others is requests of spear application for the movements of common Okinawan kata. I would be grateful if any reader would post a link of youtube clip of a kata, with a start/stop time. I think there is a pretty good chance that I can provide a useful instructional segment regarding those movements.

What I have chosen to post so far is not really that instructional. It is more of a demonstration of ways to practice Okinawan kata that would improve a soldier's capability on the battlefield and off. In so many cases, propelling the spear is little different than propelling an empty hand block or strike.

It is my belief that each kata was likely a full-blown battlefield art. There was probably a lot of theory and application behind all the movements of a spear. There are lots of potential variations within the sequences of movements.

It will take several years to go through these movements in detail. I have yet to begin voice-overs on the videos. I am trying to just get some basic content up. I will do that shortly.

Budoka Mike Eschenbrenner



Im going to take a chance and call you Mike,

in relation to your spear art Mike, I have to say at this time my interest is minimul, I don't 'get' the theory you have and I disagree technically, and based on the actual lineages passed down from the 18th/19th cen I feel there is very, very little evidence to support your theory - however that doesn't de-value it martially, I just don't think it is historically accurate at all.

So back to my request here - 'seeing some of your empty hands application work and also to understand if this was passed on to you via a Sensei of a certain Ryu or something developed yourself from your experience'

I would be keen to understand or see these things a little better.

By the way, good luck with your research/development of the spear art, it is an extremley valuable way to train IMO, just not for me!
_________________________
Jim Neeter

www.shoshinkanuk.blogspot.com

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#423677 - 11/22/09 11:27 PM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: shoshinkan]
kakushiite Offline
Member

Registered: 02/06/03
Posts: 266
Loc: Ithaca, NY, USA
Jim,

I have a new post at my blog that describes the historical perspective on which I base my analysis. I lay out a simple hypothesis that Okinawans learned spear arts from the Chinese.

I understand that many might find unsettling, my views on the battlefield origins of today's empty hand kata. In response, I would ask if there any posters who would argue that at the time of the 1609 weapons ban, that there were no Okinawans that knew Chinese spear arts? And if so, I would be interesed in the reasoning.

If one accepts this hypothesis (that Okinawans knew Chinese spear arts in 1500 and 1609), then I would also be interested in what historical record exists to support the claim that the Okinawans discarded their spear arts.

I draw a conclusion that the Okinawans did not throw away their spear arts once the weapons bans were imposed. I argue that the historial record shows that the weapons bans were watershed events in Okinawan history. But the historical record stands fairly mute on the degree that the Okinawans may have chosen to keep their old arts and not discard them for new empty-hand designed from the ground up for empty hand fighting.


-Mike Eschenbrenner

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#424156 - 12/27/09 03:02 PM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: kakushiite]
Gesar Offline
Member

Registered: 06/16/07
Posts: 77
Loc: England, UK
Kakushidi wrote 'No military leader would ever choose Okinawan implements for use in warfare, when long bladed weapons are what are needed to be successful'.

Reality is that many of these implements were not household implements as you state, that is a bit of a myth created around another myth of the weapons ban and the emergence of agricultural and household implements. The Rokushakubo is seen in Chinese as well as Japanese military traditions, in fact some techniques in some traditions are or may be the same as spear.

As to the issue of Okinawan Karate and martial arts generally being battlefield arts, this is extremely unlikely, it is a civilian fighting tradition, perhaps with soem extention to bodyguarding nobles, so again still civilian tradition.

The argument that Kata movements were tested on the battlefield I am afraid is to my mind at least absurd. As cxt correctly states the Okinawan traditions for self protection were based on Chinese systems of self protection. There appears little evidence to support what it is that you arguing, or at least you have not presented any.

Kakushidi wrote 'It is my belief that each kata was likely a full-blown battlefield art'.
I doubt that was the case, Sanchin most certainly was not and I have my doubts about Naihanchi as well. Some of the Kata can be traced to tehir Chinese origins and there is no suggestion of what you are proposing here. What is more intringuing is that you seem on your website to link spear to a Pinan Kata, Pinan's were created by Itosu for the schools system in Okinawa.

I do not doubt that there were spears on Okinawa and that these were used in a martial sense at some point, but have you looked at dance drama's of Okinawa?

There is a picture in Mark Bishop's (2009) Okinawan weaponry: Hidden Methods, Ancinet Myths of Kobudo and Te. Way Publications on page 91 of a picture from the 1900's showing some children preparing to do a dance with Yari or spear.

Have you looked to Matayoshi Kobudo were they use Tinbe and Rochin?

Have you considered traditions in Okinawa that still use the spear, the Motobu ryu Udun Ti and the Bugeikan?

Regards

Chris Norman LL.B (Hons) MA (SOAS, London)

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#424161 - 12/27/09 09:36 PM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: reboot]
dongdwaeji Offline
Newbie

Registered: 12/18/09
Posts: 14
Quote:
Another answer might be "effective". One might argue that Okinawan empty hand kata contain some movements that provide for effective use of a spear-like weapon.

And yet another answer might be "very effective". One might argue that Okinawan empty hand kata contain many movements that provide for effective use of a spear-like weapon.


I think some of the spear hand striking attacks and strikes using the blade of the hand could certainly be adapted if one was carrying a spear or a sword.

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#424166 - 12/28/09 08:31 AM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: dongdwaeji]
Gesar Offline
Member

Registered: 06/16/07
Posts: 77
Loc: England, UK
dongdwaeji wrote that: 'I think some of the spear hand striking attacks and strikes using the blade of the hand could certainly be adapted if one was carrying a spear or a sword'.

Indeed in Ryukyu Oke Hiden Bujutsu what is called Kasshin-di which is like Nukite but where the thumb is in line with the second finger can and is adapted to the holding of a spear. Given that Ryukyu Oke Hiden Bujutsu comes in a large part from Motobu Ryu Udun Te who use both sword and spear, but the latter do not use kata in the sense seen in Okinawan Karate generally.

As for sword, it has to be borne in mind that the Okinawan sword was shorter than the Japanese variation, and many believe that the Okinawan swords were used in pairs. However there is a very big difference between the way that shuto or sword hand works in Karate Kata and how a sword is used. So the adaption would be both an adaptation and a modification from any originally Karate Kata, unless of course someone could provide an example of an exception to this.

Regards

Chris Norman


Edited by Gesar (12/28/09 08:31 AM)

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#424167 - 12/28/09 08:50 AM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: kakushiite]
shoshinkan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 05/10/05
Posts: 2662
Loc: UK
Originally Posted By: kakushiite
Jim,

I have a new post at my blog that describes the historical perspective on which I base my analysis. I lay out a simple hypothesis that Okinawans learned spear arts from the Chinese.

I understand that many might find unsettling, my views on the battlefield origins of today's empty hand kata. In response, I would ask if there any posters who would argue that at the time of the 1609 weapons ban, that there were no Okinawans that knew Chinese spear arts? And if so, I would be interesed in the reasoning.

If one accepts this hypothesis (that Okinawans knew Chinese spear arts in 1500 and 1609), then I would also be interested in what historical record exists to support the claim that the Okinawans discarded their spear arts.

I draw a conclusion that the Okinawans did not throw away their spear arts once the weapons bans were imposed. I argue that the historial record shows that the weapons bans were watershed events in Okinawan history. But the historical record stands fairly mute on the degree that the Okinawans may have chosen to keep their old arts and not discard them for new empty-hand designed from the ground up for empty hand fighting.


-Mike Eschenbrenner




Hi Mike, seasons greetings to you.

first off, well done for the work your doing and presenting to the world, great effort I have looked around your blog and various videos.

To awnser some specifics, just my views of course -

1. I have no doubt as well that certain Okinawans learned spear arts from China, for several hundred years China was considered the 'culture' to learn in old Ryu Kyu, it was held in high esteem and 'martially' much was learnt/taken from China.

However for the most part the classical kata cannot/are not found in China and the majority of Chinese Arts look significantly different form the Okinawan ones, my view is that this is because the classical kata are indeed Okinawan creations based on various learning sources of Chinese Kung Fu.

2. Because you make the point that it is highly unlikeley that no Okinawans knew spear arts (I agree with you of course) doesn't mean that many did (personally I see the spear as a light infrantry weapon and in use within the Shuri Guard mostly (there most definatly IS a link between spear and Bo), hence it's practical absence in the vast ammount of Okinawan Kobudo avaliable, same with sword), and they kept the secret technique in the classical kata (despite the interesting technical connections you make), seems highly unlikely - Motobu Undon Ti does contain actual spear methods, but no classical kata!

Mike, I do like what you are doing but I feel that you may be jumping to conclusions in your presentations, Im not sure what classical Okinawan Karate background you have, or indeed what spear art background - understanding this would help me get where your coming from.

But I salute your efforts and hope you continue to research this interesting area, but the main points you raise, I simply disgree with and I feel that Okinawan Karate & Kobudo lineage's, actual historical references, strategic, technical and practical methods within kata and indeed the surviving Okinawan Masters support my view on this one.


Edited by shoshinkan (12/28/09 02:12 PM)
_________________________
Jim Neeter

www.shoshinkanuk.blogspot.com

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#424169 - 12/28/09 07:05 PM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: shoshinkan]
Victor Smith Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 06/01/00
Posts: 3219
Loc: Derry, NH
I wonder if all historical analysis about Okinawa should be set aside until a translation of the Okinawan Karate Encyclopedia is available. In most historical issues I think if the Okinawan's haven't addressed it, there is no chance of finding a historical answer which then only leaves logic and not proof.

It is a certainty that there is no serious Chinese arts that Karate resembles enough to make a direct parallel. If that existed I rather suspect the Chinese would really enjoy showing the true history.

Off hand I think the strongest logic is that various Chinese sources 'inspired' the Okinawan creators, both from the Okinawan Chinese villages and mainland forays over time.

Another logical answer actually given by the Chinese years ago in the now defunct O'Neil's karate magazine from England proposed the answer is the Chinese instructors were not really aligned with the more serious National arts, and those systems died with the instructors. They then hastened to add that doesn't mean they were bad, just didn't last.

Frankly it may also be:
1. Nobody trained long enough to really get the source system (Some Chinese systems require several decades of study). or
2. The Okinawans really weren't very good students and simply forgot things and changed the results in turn.

I see this as a 'proof' that logic gives us very little.

If you can use logic to make your own practice more poweful, good, but one's personal acceptance rarely sways others who use a different logic chain.

I focus on what I do and how to make it better for my students, seems enough.
_________________________
victor smith bushi no te isshinryu offering free instruction for 30 years

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#424172 - 12/29/09 05:49 AM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: Victor Smith]
shoshinkan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 05/10/05
Posts: 2662
Loc: UK
Hi Victor,

whilst I will, of course be getting the English translation when it happens of the recent 'Okinawan Karate Encyclopedia', and I remain really hopeful it is complete and factual I think we need to realise it simply may not be.............(but im told it is a rather excellent book overall).

My hope is that it gives me more accurate information to digest.

The issue for Mike is that he is making some fairly bold claims (and interesting ones) but has little evidence (IMO) to support his theories, which are fairly radical - he decided to come on line (which I applaud) and tell us all about it so questions should and will be asked.
_________________________
Jim Neeter

www.shoshinkanuk.blogspot.com

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#424257 - 01/04/10 08:11 AM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: kakushiite]
Ninja Master Offline
In the shadows awaiting...
Stranger

Registered: 01/04/10
Posts: 4
Originally Posted By: kakushiite
The term martial comes from Mars, the Roman god of war.

Dictionary.com defines martial as “of, suitable for, or associated with war or armed forces”

Oxford’s English dictionary defines martial as “of or appropriate to warfare.”

My study of karate centers on my attempts to better understand to what degree karate kata are true martial arts. To what degree are kata suitable, associated or appropriate to warfare?
"Martial" is only half of what you're supposed to be learning; there is also some "Arts" involved.

If your primary concern is with the "Martial" aspect, buy a gun, a can of pepper spray and a Rottweil Metzgerhund. If you feel you've something else to express aside this basic "Martial", however, keep practicing your kata and pay attention to what you're doing. If your feelings become overwhelming, try another style that does not include forms.


Edited by Ninja Master (01/04/10 08:13 AM)

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#424319 - 01/08/10 04:46 PM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: Ninja Master]
kakushiite Offline
Member

Registered: 02/06/03
Posts: 266
Loc: Ithaca, NY, USA
Ninja Master wrote:
Quote:
"Martial" is only half of what you're supposed to be learning; there is also some "Arts" involved.

If your primary concern is with the "Martial" aspect, buy a gun, a can of pepper spray and a Rottweil Metzgerhund. If you feel you've something else to express aside this basic "Martial", however, keep practicing your kata and pay attention to what you're doing. If your feelings become overwhelming, try another style that does not include forms.


The issue of arts, in my mind, is a given. The Chinese passed on kata-based arts to the Okinawans. The question I have asked here is to what extent the "Bu" of Budo represented true martial or military arts. It is believed today that these Chinese forms were geared solely, or at least primarily for non-military empty hand purposes. My study leads me to believe otherwise. I have posted here on this topic since this forum concerns kata and the application of kata.

I believe the historical record is such that we should at least consider the possibility that some of the Chinese kata passed on to Okinawans were designed, at least in part for military purposes. Prior to the advent of firearms, military fighting was conducted primarily with the spear.

Some time ago, I began looking at how empty hand kata might work in propelling different kinds of weapons. It began as a way to enhance empty hand kata, but along the way I have found that many Okinawan kata work remarkably well in propelling a spear in effective fighting combinations. I believe that others, over time, once they try some of these concepts, may come to see kata in a different light.

Six months ago I began a videoblog (www.cayugakarate.com/blog) of the application of Okinawan empty hand kata for use with a spear. To date I have published over 30 hours of video (some instruction, but mostly training) in an effort to document these concepts. I have demonstrated 20 kata on my blog, and over the next several years I plan to extend this to 40 kata total.

I, like many, find great value in the repetitive practice of kata. I have shifted my practice from empty hand, to the use of the spear. Now I find it even more rewarding. I used to have serious doubts about the effectiveness of many kata combinations for empty hand fighting. Now I have far greater confidence in the utility of the kata passed down by the Chinese. My study has led me to appreciate the great spear fighting combinations within, and this has motivated me to train even more intensively in these kata. For example, just in the past 3 weeks, I began training in a form that I had little experience in, and in that time, I have documented over 600 repetitions, which I consider a good start towards my progress in that form.

Based on my study, it is my belief that one does not have to abandon karate kata to train in a true martial or military art. Neither does one have to abandon forms to practice ancient military arts. One just has to look at kata a bit differently, and one can practice the old Chinese forms, and true military arts at the same time.

-Mike Eschenbrenner
Cayuga Karate

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#424320 - 01/08/10 05:53 PM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: shoshinkan]
kakushiite Offline
Member

Registered: 02/06/03
Posts: 266
Loc: Ithaca, NY, USA
Mr. Neeter wrote:

Quote:
I don't 'get' the theory you have and I disagree technically, and based on the actual lineages passed down from the 18th/19th cen I feel there is very, very little evidence to support your theory - however that doesn't de-value it martially, I just don't think it is historically accurate at all.


It will take some time for me to amass all the documentation that will help me better support my hypothesis that the Chinese kata that have survived until today may have been taught for military purposes and should be examined as such.

I put a post on my blog that touches on some of the literature. It is just a first step, but all things must have a beginning.

Okinawan Martial Arts - An Historical Overview

In summary, there are two key points. First we have two seminal historical figures, Funakoshi and Miyagi, that point to Chinese military personnel as having a major role in the transmission of Chinese forms (kata) to Okinawans.

The second point is a review of the potential requirement for this transmission of military skills to the Okinawans. First, a point not covered in my blog post. Both the Chinese and the Okinawans, even after the Satsuma invasion, had ample motivation to ensure the protection of the Chinese community at Kume Mura. Today we expect foreign governments to provide protection for our embassies, and I don't believe there is evidence today proving that was not a practice of the past. The Chinese did have military or security personnel at Kume Mura. It is noted by Miyagi. Naha is a port city, and as such was vulnerable to a Naval assault from a hostile nation. The protection of the Chinese trading community was in both the Chinese and Okinawan national interests, and as such, it should be assumed that the Okinawans would have had the need for skilled military personnel for this purpose, and that the Chinese would have been the natural source for this training.

My blog post was focused on another military requirement, one that I believe has support from the available documentation. The Tribute system was an integral part of the both the Chinese and Okinawan economies and tribute vessels required military protection. I would be grateful if anyone could point to historical records that this protection was solely the responsibility of Chinese military personnel. If Okinawans had any role whatsoever, which they likely did, then they had a fundamental need for training in the military weapons of the time.

In summary, both Miyagi and Funakoshi point to the role of Chinese military personnel in the transmission of Chinese kata. And the historical record is clear on the critical importance of tribute trade to the Okinawans. It is also well documented that these ships needed to be protected from piracy, and in the absence of contradictory information, it is likely the Okinawans played a fundamental role in that protection.

I believe that there is an obvious hypothesis to be proposed here. The Chinese had strong incentive to teach Okinawans the military arts of the times. For the vast majority of the time, the spear would have had a substantial role in the defense of tribute ships. And if that is the case, it is possible that the Chinese kata, passed down at least in part, by Chinese military personnel, could have been taught for military purposes.

How can we test this hypothesis? We can examine the Chinese forms that have survived until today to see if there is evidence of military capabilities.

I have found that a careful analysis of many of these Chinese forms shows that they can indeed be used for military purposes. For many of these kata, all the movements work remarkably well in propelling a short spear in useful fighting combinations. To date, I have recorded on my videoblog 20 of these kata, and plan to review 40 total over the next several years.

-Mike Eschenbrenner
Cayuga Karate

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#424323 - 01/08/10 07:16 PM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: shoshinkan]
kakushiite Offline
Member

Registered: 02/06/03
Posts: 266
Loc: Ithaca, NY, USA
Jim Neeter wrote:

Quote:
So back to my request here - 'seeing some of your empty hands application work and also to understand if this was passed on to you via a Sensei of a certain Ryu or something developed yourself from your experience'

I would be keen to understand or see these things a little better.


I have a variety of empty hand applications that I teach my students. This past fall, I included just a few on my my videoblog and will continue to do add to that over time. Here is a post from a class in November. The last link in this post shows five empty hand applications, three from from Pinan Shodan, two from Pinan Yondan.

And in an earlier post, I taught two movements from Pinan Shodan, first with a spear, and then two empty hand applications derived from the movements. (My apologies on the sound quality. There is a very loud air handling system in the gym where we train.)

As far as my background, I began training under a student of Hayashi in the mid 1970s. And over the past 30 years have worked hard to learn how other systems interpet kata. Over the past 10 years, I have trained with a number of senior students of Iha and Oyata, and since 2003 have been under Shihan Fracchia who is well known for his fighting interpretations of kata.

Regarding sources of kata application, fortunately we now have youtube and DVDs which document quite a few concepts that are practiced today.

However, in spite of my seeking out kata applications over the past 30 years, I teach little of what I have been taught. Most of my applications are of my own creation. I use what I believe are good fighting principles, but the combinations are pretty much my own.

-Mike Eschenbrenner
Cayuga Karate

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#424324 - 01/08/10 09:19 PM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: shoshinkan]
kakushiite Offline
Member

Registered: 02/06/03
Posts: 266
Loc: Ithaca, NY, USA
Jim Neeter wrote:

Quote:
However for the most part the classical kata cannot/are not found in China and the majority of Chinese Arts look significantly different form the Okinawan ones, my view is that this is because the classical kata are indeed Okinawan creations based on various learning sources of Chinese Kung Fu.

... Mike, I do like what you are doing but I feel that you may be jumping to conclusions in your presentations, Im not sure what classical Okinawan Karate background you have, or indeed what spear art background - understanding this would help me get where your coming from


Jim,

First, I would like to address the issue of my background. I have had a variety of training over the years in empty hand arts and kobudo arts. But in my opinion, my training is not really all that relevant to my study of the use of karate kata for use in propelling a spear.

It is my opinion that anyone with little training could do what I have done, and that is use the movements in empty hand kata to propel a spear. Part of my efforts on my videoblog will be to document this. I have begun training complete novices in the martial arts, and will show that one does not require any special training in the kata, or in the koryu weapons arts, to quickly learn the body mechanics inherent in the Chinese kata for use in propelling a spear.

Here is a clip of a student with 20 hours of karate training, and about 2 hours of training in Naihanchi Shodan with the spear. I can assure you, that at the end of the next semester, she will be able to make that spear fly. (She was very nervous to be filmed and her performance reflected that. But two night before, she performed these movements accurately and quite gracefully.)

My motivations for looking at kata as useful in propelling a spear have been numerous. Initially I began using weapons of various sorts as mechanisms solely to improve my empty hand kata, kind of like light-weight chishi, using weight to increase strength. Rather than just practice bo kata, I tried to adapt empty hand kata for bo movements to strengthen empty hand movements. Two things happened. One, it worked. I did feel stronger and faster mixing this kind of training with empty hand training. The second is that some movements really seemed to be very well designed for a bo staff.

But not all. So out of curiousity, I tried the sword, and the same thing occured. Some movements have the hands close and moving together, and seemed to be designed to hold a weapon with the hands together. But again, not all. As noted above, some work well for a bo-like weapon where the hands are held apart using push-pull mechanics.

One day I was spinning a hanbo and thought how much that movement seemed like a movement from a kata that I had known for years but chosen not to practice (I am a Shito Ryu student, the system of too many kata). So I looked further, and upon analysis, every movement of that kata worked for a long stick, held primarily at the end. To me, the kata just came alive. Mysterious movements made great sense. Suddenly instead of a host of movements that seemed ill-suited for actual empty hand fighting made great sense as spearfighting in the melee of numerous attackers.

From there, I turned my attention to the kata that I did train in, and again, the same thing. Movements that appeared to be of dubious value in actual empty hand fighting just came alive with meaning. In reality, propelling a bladed spear tip at high speed has an inherent effectiveness that just can't be matched with puny hands and feet. But the way that karate kata generate power, and the way that power can generate speed in the blade of a spear is to me simply astounding.

Since that time, I have had a real challenge in trying to find a balance of practice in the kata that have made up my training (about 10), with an exploration of many other Okinawan forms. And I mean that. It has been a real challenge. I have announced on my blog, and on this forum and others that I will demonstrate 40 kata over the next several years. What is important to note is that I don't feel it appropriate for me to do a kata a few times and demonstrate to the world that it works in propelling a spear. I need to have some bare minimum of competence. Mastery requires years of training. I am not going to wait until I have mastered all these forms before sharing any of them. I am 52 and wouldn't survive the length of time needed.

So I have decided to roll this art out somewhat deliberately, one kata at a time. I will document months of training in repetitions, 1000, maybe 2000, maybe more, and when I achieve some bare minimum of competence, I will show what the training has taught me in terms of applications, and general fighting principles. To demonstrate 40 kata in this way will simply take a number of years.

To complement this study, I will conduct an extensive review of the available literature to further document what I believe are clear indicators that Chinese military personnel taught Okinawan people military arts for the purpose of supporting the tributary system, the trading relationship with China that was the foundation of Okinawan economic life. That too will take some time.

I will look to contributors to this forum and others for useful sources and references in support of this effort.

In the meantime, I invite all comments and inquiries, and will attempt to answer them all, over time. I fully expect that my ideas will result in responses of utter disbelief. I am not naive. I recognize that my concepts are iconoclastic, and that many would never accept them, regardless of the information I present. There is simply no getting around the terrible state of the historical record. The supporting evidence, pro and con, is fleeting at best. I am hopeful that some on this forum and others will helpfully point out where I have overlooked some important documentation.

For example, in an earlier post on this thread, Reboot noted the following:
Quote:
I believe you should read George Kerr's book 'Okinawa:The History of an Island People'. You can buy inexpensive used copies and new copies from Amazon.com. This would help your understanding of the Okinawan people and their culture and history. It's not a martial arts book.

Reboot followed up with a discussion of evidence supporting his view. In response, I would point out first that Kerr's text is indeed is a wonderful resource that all karateka should read. I will be referencing it extensively in future posts. I used it as a reference in a recent post post I made on my blog. Reboot saw no support in Kerr's work for my hypothesis that it is arguable that the Chinese had strong motivation to teach the Okinawans military arts rather than non-military empty hand arts. I believe the text supports a very different conclusion, that indeed the Chinese had good reason to teach military arts for the protection of tribute trade. Much of Kerr's text deals with tribute trade. Further research and publication will be a fundamental part of my blog, one that one that will draw on Kerr and a number of other sources. (For those unfamiliar with Kerr, or with the Chinese Tribute system, I recommend you read what is available on Google books which has pages 42-104 online.)

Now I would like to address another couple of statements you made above.
Quote:
"my view is that this is because the classical kata are indeed Okinawan creations", and "I feel that you may be jumping to conclusions"

Above I noted that I am seeking sources so that I do better job of not jumping to conclusions. Can you provide any historical resources that "classical kata are indeed Okinawan creations." Nagamine in the Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do wrote
Quote:
Through oral tradition and hand-to-hand training, the secret performances of Chinese masters in the art of self-defense came to be known and the kata integrated with te.
My reading of Nagamine leads me to conclude that his research, to some extent, contradicts your view. It appears to me that Nagamine states the kata were Chinese in origin and not Okinawan creations. And in my reading of Miyagi's Three Hypotheses (As translated in McCarthy's "Ancient Okinawan Martial Arts") he really doesn't give us much guidance on the Okinawan role regarding the origins of kata.

I would greatly appreciate any historical references you may have that touch upon the origins of kata in support of your view. Many thanks for any references you can provide.

-Mike Eschenbrenner
Cayuga Karate

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#424327 - 01/09/10 11:58 AM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: kakushiite]
kakushiite Offline
Member

Registered: 02/06/03
Posts: 266
Loc: Ithaca, NY, USA
Jim Neeter wrote:

Quote:
So back to my request here - 'seeing some of your empty hands application work and also to understand if this was passed on to you via a Sensei of a certain Ryu or something developed yourself from your experience'

I would be keen to understand or see these things a little better.


I posted on this yesterday, but missed an application I teach my students from Naihanchi that I posted on my videoblog in November. It's the first clip in the post. (The remaining clips are discussions of Naihanchi Shodan for use with a spear.)

-Mike Eschenbrenner
Cayuga Karate

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#424344 - 01/10/10 05:59 PM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: kakushiite]
Gesar Offline
Member

Registered: 06/16/07
Posts: 77
Loc: England, UK
Mike
Nagamine may very well have been translated as having wrote:
'Through oral tradition and hand-to-hand training, the secret performances of Chinese masters in the art of self-defense came to be known and the kata integrated with te'.

The integration of kata with the indigenious Okinawan Te meant that the Kata were in fact Okinawan and not Chinese creations. They may very well have been based on original Chinese Forms, many of which have been lost in history, but they are not necessarily preserved in their original form. The integration of Okinawan Te into these kata meant change of the original form not only in terms of their composition but also their dynamics.

Regards

Chris Norman

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#424345 - 01/10/10 10:09 PM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: Gesar]
kakushiite Offline
Member

Registered: 02/06/03
Posts: 266
Loc: Ithaca, NY, USA
Chris Norman wrote:

Quote:
The integration of kata with the indigenious Okinawan Te meant that the Kata were in fact Okinawan and not Chinese creations. They may very well have been based on original Chinese Forms, many of which have been lost in history, but they are not necessarily preserved in their original form. The integration of Okinawan Te into these kata meant change of the original form not only in terms of their composition but also their dynamics.

I have found the historical documentation on this subject to be so lacking that it is very difficult to make firm conclusions. There are some references to kata being of Chinese origin.

I noted the Nagamine quote above regarding the Chinese origins of Okinawan kata. There are others. In Bishop's text Okinawan Karate, Chozo Nakama is quoted as stating:

Quote:
Many of the karate katas taught today are simplified versions of the Chinese forms and consist of block-and-then-strike techniques in two separate movements, as opposed to the original Chinese block/strike-in-one-movement techniques.

In an interview, Keigo Abe is quoted as saying "the origin of many Kata and techniques were Chinese." Abe began training in 1953 under an Okinawan student of Toyama.

Several kata are also connected specifically with Chinese in Okinawa including Kusanku, Wanshu and Chinto. I recognize there are variations of these kata, and there is no doubt they likely have evolved over the years. It is possible that the Chinese taught variations of forms during their residence in Okinawa.

You also wrote: "Nagamine may very well have been translated as having wrote..."

I may be misreading your statement, but it appears you may doubt the accuracy of the translation. In his preface, Nagamine lists a team of 10 people responsible for the translation work for his text. I would find it highly unlikely that they erred in the translation of the following sentence: "... the secret performances of Chinese masters in the art of self-defense came to be known and their kata integrated with te."

I believe we would all benefit if the existing historical documents regarding the origins of Okinawan kata were more publicly available on the web. I would be grateful if you could provide sources in support of your statement: "Kata were in fact Okinawan and not Chinese creations."

Many thanks for your taking the time to explore this issue further.

-Mike Eschenbrenner
Cayuga Karate
Ithaca, New York

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#424354 - 01/11/10 04:14 PM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: kakushiite]
Gesar Offline
Member

Registered: 06/16/07
Posts: 77
Loc: England, UK
Mike Eschenbrenner said that:
'I have found the historical documentation on this subject to be so lacking that it is very difficult to make firm conclusions. There are some references to kata being of Chinese origin'.

You would of course be correct to come to this conclusion, there does lack documentation, which has proved to be a major issue when researching anything Okinawan.

There is little doubt that Kata are of Chinese origin,
the point I am trying to make is that these kata were taken by the Okinawans and modified in accordance with their preferences and were integrated with the various forms of Te. They were probably further modified through experience of individuals and teachers. Consider how many variations there are of Passai and Seisan to name two (one Shorin and the other Shorei)

You state yourself, quoting Mark Bishop, that 'karate katas taught today are simplified versions of the Chinese forms' Some of them are, but unless some one can give me clear evidence of some of these forms in Chinese systems that are the same I shall continue to be sceptical.

There are also several references in the same book by Bishop to the modification of Kata and the incorporation of Okinawan Te. In fact at then end of the second edition Mark Bishop provides a list as to which kata are practised in various schools and the Okinawan or Chinese origin of these forms. Please note the word origin, here we mean some form of prototype.

Ok as for actual Okinawan creations of Kata lets try: Pinan/Heian, Fukyu and Gekisai series of Kata. In Uechi Ryu lets try Kanshin, Kanshiwa. Other kata include Soshin, Niseshi, Naihanchi Sandan.

Lets consider Passai Dai, a very old Okinawan Kata, according to Ushiro, K (2003) when speaking of the transition of movements in this kata (known as tsunagi) he states: 'Long ago during the period when Karate was called Tei, that this term was said to have originated in the Okinawan traditional dance called Maikata. This Maikata dance has been preserved to the present day and it is possible to discern traces of movements, postures and use of fists and legs in karate' (page 109).

There are also numerous references from a large number of divergent sources to Chinese practitioners witnessing Okinawan Kata and pointing out that they can see some similarities, but the kata are actually in a different form.

Actually Nagamine does not offer a list of 10 people responsible for translation at all, he is expressing a deep appreciation of certain people who assisted him with his research in the acknowledgements, which ends with Charles C Goodin of hawaii who proof read. The likes of Kikuzato Kyobun and Kinjo Setsu were not involved in translation. Yes I am sceptical as I know that language is a difficult thing gto translate and maintain any real accuracy.

However although I may be sceptical of cross cultural translations, I do not doubt the following statement as being true: 'The secret performances of Chinese masters in the art of self-defense came to be known and their kata integrated with te'.

You earlier made reference to the Chinese community near Naha in Kume village, however you will note that the reference in Nagamine's book is to Kanryo Higgaonna as the restorer of Naha Te, implying it had died out. Making the Shorei Ryu line, which is perhaps (according to some) the closest to the Chinese lines, quite modern.

Ok lets consider Takao Nakaya (1986) who considers two main schools of thought on the origin of Karate: 1. Karate came from China. 2. Karate is of Okinawan origin, Nakaya goes for the latter and state he believes that 'Okinawa had a unique martial art which was influenced by various Chinese martial arts as contact between China and Okinawa increased' Nakaya bases his conclusions on teh basis of a njumber of propositions:
1. Long history ogf Okinawan family martial arts, he makes reference to Motobu family here.
2. Karate is not known to have existed on the otehr Ryukyu Islands, but China traded with these too. If karate cam efrom China it is reasonable (so he argue) that the other Ryukyu Islands would have the same art, but interesting to note weapons systems do seem to exist on the other Islands.

In discussing Kata he suggests that the Okinawans may have named these out of respect for the Chinese who may have shown them, but this does not mean that they necessarily exist in other Chinese systems. Kusanku and Chinto may very well have been named after Chinese martial artists, but this does not mean that they existed in complete Chinese systems and especially not Chinese battlefield systems.

Ok lets consider some one more well known Eihachi Ota, you mentioned Chinto: 'Most versions of Chinto derive from one of the following: Matsumura of Shuri, Matsumora of Tomari, or Chotoku Kyan' (Ota transl Ravens and Polland 2006).

Ok what about Kusanku may have been the name of Kung Shang K'ung a Chinese military envoy from 1761, but the term can also be translated as 'to view the sky' describing its opening movements (Ibid page 219). Now here in this kata I would go with Chinese origins, but again there are a number of variations of this kata.

Another reference this time from a Chinese system Ngo Cho Kun and Alexander L. Co. (1983 1996) who places the influence of Chinese martial arts on Okinawan martial arts in the eighteenth century, the claim here is that Karate borrowed from Ngo Cho Kun (Five Ancestors). The kata Sam Chien in Ngo Cho Kun may be similar to Sanchin, but it is not the same. But what about In Tin Tat form from the same system and its relationship to Okinawan martial arts?


Regards

Chris Norman

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#424366 - 01/12/10 11:40 AM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: Gesar]
kakushiite Offline
Member

Registered: 02/06/03
Posts: 266
Loc: Ithaca, NY, USA
Charles,
Thank you for that excellent post, which was filled with important and useful historical information.

I have developed an hypothesis that I recognize many will never accept: Chinese military personal likely taught Okinawans military arts to defend tribute vessels, and that these arts survive until today.

But there are some who may be open to the examination of this hypothesis. For those willing to consider this hypothesis further, I think it productive to begin with a review of some fairly well-accepted concepts.

  • The Chinese established a significant presence in Okinawan to support the Tribute trading system between the two countries.
  • There is valid reason to speculate that the Chinese had a vested interest in ensuring the viability of that trade and would take measures to ensure its success. This would necessarily include measures to protect Okinawan tribute vessels from piracy.
  • Prior to the advent of firearms, a primary weapon in the defense of a ship was the spear, a military weapon for which the Chinese had extensive experience with.
  • There is ample documentation that Chinese, in Okinawa, taught Okinawans fighting arts.
  • There is some documentation that Chinese military personnel were involved in this instruction. In McCarthy’s translation of Miyagi’s Three Hypothesis, Miyagi refers to the source of karate as coming from Chinese security personnel. Funakoshi in “Karate-Do Kyohan” refers to by name, five Chinese who taught Okinawans. Four of them he refers to as Military Attaches.
  • There is some documentation that speculates that many kata have Chinese origins.
  • The Okinawans, without question, made modifications to kata. Passai is perhaps the best example of a commonly named form with many radically different versions. Today we find that there are a number of ways in which Okinawan kata fundamentally differ from Chinese systems practiced today.


Based on the statements above, I believe it is reasonable to speculate that the arts taught by the Chinese to the Okinawans, could at least in part, have been useful in the protection of Tribute vessels. If we are to further evaluate this hypothesis, there are several additional points to consider.

1. After 1609, any military-type training in Okinawa would have to be done under the strictest of secrecy.
2. It is documented that the Japanese had an elaborate spy system designed to inform the Japanese rulers on all aspects of Okinawan conformance with Japanese decrees.
3. Okinawans caught training in any spear (military art) would have faced several punishment.
4. Due to the presence of spies, the practice of spear arts outside, in the light, even behind fences, would have been inherently risky.
5. The practice of spear arts, inside, with spears, was likely very problematic due to space constraints in the dwellings of the day.
6. The practice of empty hand arts would have carried a less significant penalty than the practice of spear arts. Therefore, the practice of spear arts, as empty hand arts, would have carried less risk.
7. One should expect that the practice of spear arts as empty hand arts would not have been an odd practice. Many military arts have movements that translate well into empty hand fighting. A variety of Aikido and Jujutsu movements descend from the movements of the sword.
8. Under the weapons ban, it is widely believed that the Okinawans adapted their arts for empty hand. (There are several historical refences to phrases similar to: “Use your hands as spears”).
9. If one accepts the natural overlap of many movements common to both spear arts and empty hand arts, then one should be able to appreciate that the Okinawans could have developed empty hand arts after the 1609 ban, without abandoning their spear arts.
10. While there are significant differences between Okinawan kata and Chinese forms, I believe much of this can be attributed to tempo. Chinese forms are flowing and continuous, compared to Okinawan forms which are punctuated with a great deal of start/stop motions. Both have elements of linear and circularity. Many would argue that Okinawan kata, in general, have more linear movements. These more linear, start-stop approaches to kata, may well comprise much of the differences found between Chinese and Okinawan kata today. In other words, the integration of the traditional Okinawan arts of te, with kata (many of supposed Chinese origin), may have had more to do with the Okinawans modifying the tempo (start-stop) of kata, rather than wholesale creation of new Okinawan forms.

This points discussed above provide additional background support for the hypothesis that the Chinese martial arts, taught to the Okinawans, may have been designed, in part, to aid the Okinawans' ability to protect tribute trade. The statements are not made in any attempt to prove the hypothesis, just to establish that the hypothesis is worthy of investigation. The actual support for the hypothesis lies within the movements of the kata themselves.

There has been discussion on this thread regarding the differences between Okinawan and Chinese martial systems. These differences are readily visible when comparing current Chinese spear arts with Okinawan empty hand arts. Spear arts, at least as practiced by the Chinese today, are flowing arts. They contain a blend of linear and circular movements. Stabbing is a fundamental spear skill and stabs are made in part by linear arm movements. But in general, the Chinese spear arts are more continuous, more flowing.

Okinawan arts also contain both linear and circular movements, but kata are done in a start-stop tempo with lots of pauses. However, one can readily eliminate the pauses, with the result being that the movements can be used to propel a spear in a rich mix of linear and circular movements.

What I will be sharing on my videoblog over the next several years is that a broad cross-section of Okinawan kata work remarkably well at propelling a spear in combinations that would be useful in fighting in the confined environment of a ship.

In summary, I believe the historical documentation supports the argument that the Chinese had vested interests in ensuring the viability (including protection) of tribute trade. There is some documentation, that many kata came from the Chinese. There is some documentation that Chinese military personnel had a role in teaching Okinawans martial arts. The hypothesis I am exploring is that the arts, the kata, taught by the Chinese, were military arts, spear arts, taught in part, to better enable the Okinawans to protect their Tribute vessels bound for China.

Regarding these old arts, much has certainly been lost, and without question, much that has survived has been changed to one degree or another. The hypothesis requires an analysis of kata for support. If the kata movements don’t seem useful in propelling a spear, then the hypothesis can’t be supported. If, however, the movements of a broad cross-section of kata can be used to effectively propel a spear, then I would argue that this is evidence supporting the hypothesis.

There is only really one way to begin testing the kata for evidence. One must train in kata as spear kata, and do so intensively. On my videoblog, over the next several years, I will document my training in 40 of these kata. As a result of that training, I expect to gain some proficiency in the spear movements of each kata, after which I will be able to share what my training has taught me regarding the uses of the spear movements in fighting applications. As I present this evidence, over time, I anticipate that some will find the evidence convincing.

Although I don’t expect all that many will find my arguments compelling, I do expect to persuade some. I think we all recognize that within the world-wide karate community, many are baffled by some kata movements which just don’t seem to make sense in fighting. My goal is to provide these karateka with fighting concepts whose effectiveness leaves little to the imagination. Okinawan kata movements can generate enormous power. When you apply that power to the handle of a spear, then the blade at the far end can be accelerated to remarkable speeds. Few will argue that a fast moving blade, with the mass of a fast moving body behind it, won't do great damage to pretty much any part of the human body.

And if some find more value in the kata they practice, as a result of my studies, then my efforts will have been worth the investment.

I do appreciate your digging into the historical documentation further. The record is sparse, and since there is not all that much out there, we should all know it. Dialogues like this help the general community better understand the historical record and that can only be for the better.

-Mike Eschenbrenner
Cayuga Karate


Edited by kakushiite (01/12/10 03:54 PM)
Edit Reason: Many corrections to improve clarity

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#424374 - 01/13/10 04:30 PM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: kakushiite]
Gesar Offline
Member

Registered: 06/16/07
Posts: 77
Loc: England, UK
Mike
Ok lets look at your hypothesis:
'Chinese military personal likely taught Okinawans military arts to defend tribute vessels, and that these arts survive until today'.

So you have stated that Chinese military (Independent variable) taught Okinawans Military arts and that these Chinese Military arts survived until the present day. I assume that the dependant variable is the Okinawan martial arts practitioner. This is way too woolly for me and also very difficult to prove.

How will you isolate these variables from all of the other extraneous variables? The analysis of Kata may support the hypothesis, but I cannot see how it can be very empirical. Nevertheless its an interesting idea, but I will take a lot of convincing.

You state that 'Today we find that there are a number of ways in which Okinawan kata fundamentally differ from Chinese systems practiced today'. You need to consider what the issues are of reverse engineering something when that is the case.

Just curious but have you actually studied any Chinese Martial Arts in which the spear is used?

Otherwise your point: 'If the kata movements don’t seem useful in propelling a spear, then the hypothesis can’t be supported. If, however, the movements of a broad cross-section of kata can be used to effectively propel a spear, then I would argue that this is evidence supporting the hypothesis'. Is this not highly subjective?

You also state that 'One must train in kata as spear kata, and do so intensively'. I suppose that takes me back to my the question, do you have any training in Chinese arts that involve spear, or have you observed any such arts. Personally I think it may be worth doing so.

You state that many empty hand kata movements do not make sense unless they are spear movements, I am unable to see this, certainly the Kata that I have studied I can find applications for the movements, but I cannot see how any of these realte to spear. So could you be more specific as to which kata you intend to analyse for such movements?

Many of your other points listed beneath your hypothesis are to mind a bit presumptious. However I do recommend that you look at some of the articles on by Gregory James Smits on this link: http://www.east-asian-history.net/Ryukyu/

You seem to be forgetting the history of Okinawa and the purpose behind the Satsuma invasion of 1609. The Satsuma were broke and not in favour by the Japanese rulers at Edo at the time, they needed Okinawa because of its merchant trade with China. This filled the Satsuma coffers, during Chinese state visits to Okinawa Satsuma military personnel were low key but they were nevertheless there. You would need to prove that those who worked protecting ships, such as Sagukawa and Matsumura were not under the Satsuma yoke. However I am unaware of any spear techniques in the Matsumura system.

There are still a number of issues about the tribute trade and yes it is possible that the Okinawans learnt Chinese arts, but these would have been in the capital. So you need to make a distinction between Northern and Southern systems. Many are of the view that any military arts that Sokon Matsumura may have learnt from the Chinese came from Northern not Southern China.
Sokon Matsumura seems like the most likely candidate to me to have studied anything military in China.

So you might want to look at General Yeuh Fei and the Eagle claw and also Fan Tzu Ien Jao in relation to Chinese arts as these clearly have a military origin, which is unlike much of what is to be found in Fukien. The Fukien is another variable that you need to take in to account.

You also seem to forget that much of Okinawa's written history in document form is no longer in existence, that of course assumes that it was in existence in the first place. Okinawa sufferred heavy bombing during the war which means a lot of stuff was lost forever.

Good luck with it.

Regards

Chris Norman






Edited by Gesar (01/13/10 05:08 PM)

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#424380 - 01/14/10 09:30 AM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: Gesar]
kakushiite Offline
Member

Registered: 02/06/03
Posts: 266
Loc: Ithaca, NY, USA
Chris,
Thank you for taking the time to respond. I have commented on most of what you have written.
Quote:
OK, let’s look at your hypothesis:
'Chinese military personal likely taught Okinawans military arts to defend tribute vessels, and that these arts survive until today'.

So you have stated that Chinese military (Independent variable) taught Okinawans Military arts and that these Chinese Military arts survived until the present day. I assume that the dependant variable is the Okinawan martial arts practitioner. This is way too woolly for me and also very difficult to prove.


Proof is a relative term. I will present evidence supporting the hypothesis. That proof lies in each and every movement of 40 surviving kata. They work remarkably well in propelling a spear in useful fighting combinations. There are some who will look at the evidence and find it compelling, and many, many others who will not. I do believe that many would find this concept unsupportable, regardless of the evidence presented. I will address the concept of usefulness (utility) in a reply to a statement you made below.

Quote:
How will you isolate these variables from all of the other extraneous variables? The analysis of Kata may support the hypothesis, but I cannot see how it can be very empirical. Nevertheless it’s an interesting idea, but I will take a lot of convincing.

You state that 'Today we find that there are a number of ways in which Okinawan kata fundamentally differ from Chinese systems practiced today'. You need to consider what the issues are of reverse engineering something when that is the case.


By fundamentally different, I mean that the art of karate, in its entirety does not look like any art practiced in China. The Chinese may strike certain objects, but, in general do not train against a makiwara. The arts of Chinese today practice remarkable conditioning drills, as do the Okinawans, but I would be surprised if you would find the same mix of conditioning that many Okinawan schools have trained in, common to any Chinese system. Chinese forms are continuous and flowing. Okinawan forms are punctuated.

The first videoclip is of Chosin Chibana practicing Naihanchi Shodan. It was filmed in the 1960s. The second clip is of a student of a system that descends from Chibana, recorded nearly 45 years later.

Aside from Chibana’s movements being a bit slow. (He was near his death, and ill, when this film was made), the tempo of the two kata are very similar. There is a pause between virtually every move. This tempo is drastically different from the way contemporary Chinese forms are practiced which are smooth and flowing. Regarding the use of Okinawan kata with the spear, once the pauses are removed, then the kata can be made smooth and flowing, much more Chinese in tempo.

Quote:
Otherwise your point: 'If the kata movements don’t seem useful in propelling a spear, then the hypothesis can’t be supported. If, however, the movements of a broad cross-section of kata can be used to effectively propel a spear, then I would argue that this is evidence supporting the hypothesis'. Is this not highly subjective?


Subjectivity is in the eye of the beholder. Some will view these movements and claim that they differ from the movements of the kata to some degree and therefore are not representative. This will be a subjective analysis. Others will view them and claim that they are not useful, that they wouldn’t work in real military combat.

Others will see both the remarkable similarity to kata movements, as well as the utility of the movement. Regarding utility, the final analysis is not all that subjective. While we call all argue whether an empty hand application has usefulness, whether the strike will really take down a large motivated attacker, I believe we all can recognize the utility of a fast moving blade striking human tissue. It is inherently destructive. At certain speeds, it destroys all parts of the human anatomy upon contact. I have not yet measured the speed of the blade, but will do so when I procure a better camera (28 frames per second) and software that can do a frame-by-frame review. I believe the blade at the end of a personal spear in some movements, travels at speeds over 50 feet per second, and may be closer to 100 feet per second. However, I need to purchase the tools to accurately compute that speed, and that won’t be for some time.

Spears have mass, and in many movements, they have, to some degree, the mass of the body propelling them. The physics of the effect of energy transfer of fast moving sharp blade, to human flesh and bone is very well understood. It is devastating. In the end, there is really no subjectivity here. Kinetic energy equals one half of the mass times the velocity squared. At high velocity, a sharp blade at the end of a 5 foot stick will deliver kinetic energy enough to cause overwhelming tissue damage.

Quote:
You also state that 'One must train in kata as spear kata, and do so intensively'. I suppose that takes me back to my the question, do you have any training in Chinese arts that involve spear, or have you observed any such arts. Personally I think it may be worth doing so.


I have had no opportunity to study the Chinese spear. However, we all have the benefit of youtube to gain exposure to all sorts of arts we have no formal training in. Over my 30 plus years in the arts, I have trained in numerous bo kata, and I have had training in the Chinese Gun (cudgel) by a visiting Chinese scholar. There is quite a diversity of Chinese spear arts to be found on youtube, but most are with an 8 foot spear. Many movements common to this 8 foot weapon can be found in Okinawan bo arts. And many of these movements can be found in the Chinese short spear arts. However, the short spear can be wielded much like a sword, something that is uncommon in the arts of longer weapons. The Chinese gun is the height of your brow, and can be propelled very quickly in broad circles when holding it at the end.

Regarding the utility of studying Chinese spear arts, to some degree, I agree with you. However, I am not sure to what extent the arts that have survived are all that representative of the arts that may have been taught by the Chinese to the Okinawans between the 1400s and the early 1800s. I put up a post on my blog to discuss this further. It’s not meant to be a complete analysis, only a brief introduction to the subject.

Quote:
You state that many empty hand kata movements do not make sense unless they are spear movements, I am unable to see this, certainly the Kata that I have studied I can find applications for the movements, but I cannot see how any of these relate to spear. So could you be more specific as to which kata you intend to analyse for such movements?


Regarding the use of kata movements for the spear, I am most interested in engaging this kind of discussion. I have performed twenty common kata to date on my videoblog. What kata movements would you like to see. If you pick a kata on youtube, and give me time sequence of movements that you could not understand for use with the spear, I would be happy to provide my analysis.

Regarding the applicability of kata movements, this is a delicate subject, one that has been discussed at such length in karate forums. Some kata movements have great utility.
But there is a kata where I think even the most ardent kata enthusiasts would have trouble making convincing cases in the use of movements as they are practiced in the kata.
I have put up a post regarding the movements of Chinto. I would like to make a comparison of the empty hand applications of any of these movements, compared to the use of a spear. Would you like to trade comparisons? One ground rule that I would like to add. I would like to see the kata movements only. Not kata movements to begin a combination, with other movements added to make complete combinations. If these are indeed empty handed fighting sequences, then I would argue that they should work, as handed down.


Quote:
Many of your other points listed beneath your hypothesis are to mind a bit presumptious.


I would appreciate a discussion of each point on its merits. They are numbered. Please feel free to take issue with any specific points.

Quote:
You seem to be forgetting the history of Okinawa and the purpose behind the Satsuma invasion of 1609. The Satsuma were broke and not in favour by the Japanese rulers at Edo at the time, they needed Okinawa because of its merchant trade with China. This filled the Satsuma coffers, during Chinese state visits to Okinawa Satsuma military personnel were low key but they were nevertheless there.


I am not sure why the purpose of the Satsuma invasion would bear on my analysis. Certainly the invasion itself is the central historical event of the time, affecting virtually all aspects of life among both the Okinawan aristocracy, as well as the peasant farmers. It is well documented that the Satsuma clan employed numerous spies among the Okinawans. There is no doubt they monitored Chinese visits to some extent. I am not sure what bearing these points would have on my analysis, other than to support the my speculation that the Okinawans and Chinese were hiding more than just empty hand training. They had far more reason to hide military arts training, and, due to the severe consequences of caught, would have done so only under the strictness of secrecy.

Quote:
You would need to prove that those who worked protecting ships, such as Sagukawa and Matsumura were not under the Satsuma yoke. However I am unaware of any spear techniques in the Matsumura system.


My blog is devoted to showing how kata that descend from Matsumura and others work remarkably well in propelling a spear in useful fighting combinations. I would be eager to discuss any kata movements that descend from Matsumura. If you would reference movements from on-line videos, I would be happy to share my ideas.

Quote:
There are still a number of issues about the tribute trade and yes it is possible that the Okinawans learnt Chinese arts, but these would have been in the capital. So you need to make a distinction between Northern and Southern systems. Many are of the view that any military arts that Sokon Matsumura may have learnt from the Chinese came from Northern not Southern China.

Sokon Matsumura seems like the most likely candidate to me to have studied anything military in China.


The Okinawans and Chinese maintained tribute trading relations from the late 1300s until the about 1870. In the latter years of this trade, it should be expected that there would have been a progressive shift towards firearms in the protection of tribute trade. Matsumura is believed to have been born in 1809, although there are sources citing an earlier birth. His rise to the leadership of the Ryu Kyu Royal guard was not likely until around 1850 or later. This was not only at a time of waning tribute trade, but a time when firearms would likely have played an increasingly important role in the defense of tribute trade. We do not know which arts the Matsumura may have learned on his trips to China, that wound up being passed down as kata we practice today. It is quite possible that none of it may have. Under the Chinese, he may have trained in empty hand or both empty hand and weapons. The details of his training are lost to history.

Quote:
So you might want to look at General Yeuh Fei and the Eagle claw and also Fan Tzu Ien Jao in relation to Chinese arts as these clearly have a military origin, which is unlike much of what is to be found in Fukien. The Fukien is another variable that you need to take in to account.


While it is always a good academic exercise to better understand any Chinese system where there is an overlap between empty hand and spear systems, I am not sure there really can be any way to trace any Chinese systems to the Okinawan kata practiced today. Some have tried, but the fact remains that Okinawan kata are very different from arts practiced in China today. I would argue that of all the military arts practiced in China, only a few survive, so we should not be surprised if the Okinawan kata have little in common with existing Chinese forms. I made a post on this subject last night.

Quote:
You also seem to forget that much of Okinawa's written history in document form is no longer in existence, that of course assumes that it was in existence in the first place. Okinawa suffered heavy bombing during the war which means a lot of stuff was lost forever.


I have mentioned throughout my postings that I have a blog devoted to this study. I have several posts that touch upon the history. On January 5th, I posted an entry on my blog where I included Nagamine’s description of the devastation of WWII.
Quote:
[T]he entire populated areas of great Naha, including Shuri and Tomari, were completely annihilated by the horrifying air and naval pounding they took during the assault on Okinawa in WWII. Anything not destroyed by the direct strikes, was incinerated by the perpetual fires which ensued. Countless thousands of lives were lost in the holocaust, national treasures were destroyed, ancient landmarks obliterated, important property vaporized, and records of every sort simply vanished.


The practice in secrecy over hundreds of years, combined with the devastation of WWII leaves a very sparse historical record. From my perspective, the kata are virtually all that survive. And that is why they are indeed worthy of this examination.

-Mike Eschenbrenner
Cayuga Karate
Ithaca, New York USA

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#424383 - 01/14/10 05:26 PM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: kakushiite]
Gesar Offline
Member

Registered: 06/16/07
Posts: 77
Loc: England, UK
I see far too many problems in your original logic, let me explain:

You have not clarified your dependant variable, nor have you stated how you will isolate the independant and dependant variables from the extraneous ones.

You state that:
'By fundamentally different, I mean that the art of karate',
in reply to my point about your original statement which was, I quote:

'Today we find that there are a number of ways in which Okinawan kata fundamentally differ from Chinese systems practiced today'.

You appear to have changed tact on this point. Besides some would say that Kata is the heart of karate anyway.

As regards subjectivity is in the eye of the beholder. The point is that any hypothesis that is empirically tested should be able to have the method repeated and have at least some chance of getting the same results, the more times the method is repeated the more likely we are to establish a rule from which we can in future make deductions about such matters.

But that is actually impossible, in fact you state yourself that actually you cannot prove this

Mike Eschenbrenner wrote
'I am not sure to what extent the arts that have survived are all that representative of the arts that may have been taught by the Chinese to the Okinawans between the 1400s and the early 1800s'

But your hypothesis is:
'Chinese military personal likely taught Okinawans military arts to defend tribute vessels, and that these arts survive until today' (Mike Eschenbrenner).

Do you not see this as a major problem in proving your hypothesis?

Yet you also state:
'I am not sure there really can be any way to trace any Chinese systems to the Okinawan kata practiced today' (Mike Eschenbrenner).

It seems to me that you must be bluffing something here, you cannot say that I am going to prove this, but actually what I am going to prove cannot be in anyway verified.

Chinese military arts survive until today in Okinawan Kata, but you cannot trace any Chinese systems to Okinawan kata.

Or as you have put it (direct quotes are indicated by your name in paranthesis at the end of each quote):

'Chinese military personal likely taught Okinawans military arts to defend tribute vessels, and that these arts survive until today' (Mike Eschenbrenner)

Your method: Through showing that the Chinese spear movements are still in the kata...but at the same time stating the following two points:

'I am not sure there really can be any way to trace any Chinese systems to the Okinawan kata practiced today'. (Mike Eschenbrenner)

and

'I am not sure to what extent the arts that have survived are all that representative of the arts that may have been taught by the Chinese to the Okinawans between the 1400s and the early 1800s' (Mike Eschenbrenner).

Do you see why nobody is going to accept the theory that you are proposing?
However as Mr Neeter said it does not devalue what you are doing martially (I agree).
Mr Neeter disagrees on the basis of technical inaccuracy in the interpretation of Kata (I also agree) and also historically inaccuracy (with which I also agree) however in addition I disagree on the basis that your logic is entirely flawed.

I must admit that I was also somewhat bemused by your comment about 40 surviving kata. I would be interested in knowing exactly which 40 kata that you are saying these spear techniques can be found in. Can you provide a list?

I made a suggestion, which was a sensible one. However you appear to have ignored it. If you are going to test your hypothesis then surely you have got to look at possibilities, especially when they may provide evidence or otherwise of the proposition that you have put forward in your hypothesis.

So you still might want to look at General Yeuh Fei and the Eagle claw system and also Fan Tzu Ien Jao, as these were clearly military arts that included a number of weapons, most certainly spear.

Personally I really do not think that looking at this particular system and Chinese spear arts is actually in anyway a mere academic exercise. Even so you are proposing a hypothesis, most would say that is an academic matter. Whilst you say that

'Some have tried[studying Chinese systems], but the fact remains that Okinawan kata are very different from arts practiced in China today'.

But you are looking at the spear in this systems, that is what I am suggesting, how is it used in those systems, what are the movements like, can you correlate these with any Okinawan Kata movements. You may even be able to prove that the movements of Okinawan Karate kata can be shown to have been influenced by Chinese spear techniques.

As I said Good luck with it.

Regards

Chris Norman










Edited by Gesar (01/14/10 05:55 PM)

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#424384 - 01/14/10 10:41 PM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: kakushiite]
kakushiite Offline
Member

Registered: 02/06/03
Posts: 266
Loc: Ithaca, NY, USA
Chris,

I am going to address your issues later, since I have to organize your statements so I can deal with them in a less random way. You certainly have provided a number of questions, but in my opinion, many skirt the major points I have made, and revolve around unimportant issues. You seem quite interested in the role of dependent and independent variables, the notion of proof, when not can exist, and the benefit of studying unrelated Chinese arts. These are all side issues. Since you have contributed so much time in participating here, maybe you could answers some questions. I would like to have your opinions on a number of issues, many that could never be proved.

Let me begin by making some statements. I request that you to specify which of these 12 statements you have concerns with.

1. For kata practiced as early as the late 19th century, there are no sources describing the actual developers of these kata.

2. Since there are no records on who developed the kata, there are no records on the original purpose of the movements.

3. Without actual records of developer’s intent, all statements regarding the initial purpose of movements can never be proved.

4. There are a number of sources that describe the Chinese as being a major source of Okinawan karate movements

5. There are some sources that point to the role of some Chinese military personnel as having taught Okinawans.

6. There are some sources that point to the Chinese as being originators of at least some kata.

7. There are a number of sources that state that prior to the Meiji restoration, all training in Chinese arts in Okinawa was done in secret.

8. If there were records kept about aspects of the Chinese teaching of this art, they almost certainly perished in the bombardment of Okinawa in 1945.

9. There are a variety of sources that describe the criticality of Tribute trade to the Okinawan economy, especially in the years prior to the Satsuma invastion

10. There are sources that state that piracy was a severe and deadly problem regarding tribute trade

11. There is at least one source that states that on Okinawan tribute ships, the crew had the responsibility to defend the cargo and vessel during attack.

12. Tribute trade continued until 1870.


Do you take issue with any of these statements. Please let me know which you find issue with. Now, I would like to ask you to answer a number questions. I would like to understand how you might speculate on the following issues, for which no records exist.

1. Prior to the Satsuma invasion, did the Chinese have a vested interest in ensuring that tribute trade was successful.

2. Prior to the Satsuma invasion, would the Chinese have a desire that Okinawan crew members were able to successfully defend their ships. (Please note that Kerr speculates that Okinawans seafarers likely served on Chinese vessels).

3. Prior to the Satsuma invasion would the Chinese have taught Okinawan seafarers, and possibly Okinawan travelers to China, skills in defending a ship from piracy.

4. Would you agree that in 1400 and 1500, among the Chinese military, the spear was the most common weapon of warfare.

5. Would the Chinese have taught Okinawan seafarers spear arts.

6. Would it be likely that the training in these spear arts would include the practice of prearranged movements, in other words, kata?

7. After the Satsuma invasion, did the Japanese have a vested interest in ensuring the ongoing success of Okinawan tribute trade.

8. After the Satsuma invasion, would Okinawan seafarers have continued their training in military arts.

9. Would the practice of any such arts be important up until the point that firearms assumed a central role in the defense of tribute cargo.

10. At the point of the development of firearms, and the ending of tribute trade, would the practice of military arts for the purposes of defending of tribute ships have any further value in Okinawa?

11. Since this was a period still under the weapons ban, what motivation would an Okinawan seafarer have to practice military spear arts as spear arts.

I would be grateful if you would take the time to answer these questions.

Many thanks for your assistance.

-Mike Eschenbrenner

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#424392 - 01/15/10 03:57 PM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: kakushiite]
Gesar Offline
Member

Registered: 06/16/07
Posts: 77
Loc: England, UK
Mike

You have stated that you have to organize the statements that I made so that you can deal with them in a less random way.

Yes, but I have actually only quoted what you have said, although I have analysed in terms of formal logic. So lets try this again, I shall put it in more simply terms by direct quotes from your previous post:

Mike Eschenbrenner states his hypothesis is:
'Chinese military personal likely taught Okinawans military arts to defend tribute vessels, and that these arts survive until today'

Mike Eschenbrenner also tells us (quotes from your posts) that:

'I am not sure there really can be any way to trace any Chinese systems to the Okinawan kata practiced today'

and Mike Eschenbrenner (again a quote from your post) also states that:

'I am not sure to what extent the arts that have survived are all that representative of the arts that may have been taught by the Chinese to the Okinawans between the 1400s and the early 1800s'


Here are the points that I am trying to make:
A. Yes I am interested in the burden of proof as you stated that you were going to prove that there was a relationship between Chinese spear arts and Okinawan Karate Kata!

B. Yes I mention variables, as you need them for your hypothesis to be VALID. Otherwise it is not a hypothesis at all!

C. You point out that I have provided a number of questions, each and every one of these is based on one thing and one thing only, your own reasoning, which I see as flawed.

D. If these skirt the major points you have made, and revolve around unimportant issues, why have you even bothered mentioning them.

I did try to provide you with a solution as to how you could make your hypothesis a serious one and which you might be able to actually prove something, but you do not really seem to want to take this on board, I practise some spear in what I do anyway, so my interest in this is actually minimal:

Chinese systems that I mentioned:
The Chinese systems that I have mentioned are not at all unrelated, they
can be found in Okinawan Martial arts and have their root in Chinese military system, Eagles Claw a Chinese Military system influenced White Crane, which is most definitely an influence on Okinawan martial arts.

Why I mentioned them
If I am going to say that I am going to prove that Chinese spear arts were taught to the Okinawans and that these arts in some form survive until this day, then really I need to show what Chinese spear arts look like and then I need to show a correlation.


Ok as regards your 11 points, you ask me whether I take issue with them, Ok points 1-11

Point 1: The Chinese may have had a vested interest in ensuring the tribute trade was successful

Point 2: Is a possibility

Point 3: whilst this is possible it would have been the Okinawans who were most liekly to have sought out the training, but they could have sought it from a variety of sources, the evidence for this is in Okinawan Kobudo, most of the weapons had their origin in South east asian and not necessariuly China.

Point 4: Whilst the spear would have been a weapon of warfare, it was one amongst many, if you are talking about warfare you are talking about battlefields, but you are then somehow drawing links to the shipping trade.

Point 5: We really cannot say that the Chinese taught Okinawan seafarers spear arts, one way or other. There is no evidence that this was or was not so.

Point 6: Point 6 relates to point 5, but if we assume for a moment that such arts were taught in kata form, then you still need to look at Chinese Spear arts to determine this.

Point 7: Yes the Satsuma had a vested interest in ensuring the tribute trade

Point 8: There were some after the Satsuma invasion who are believed to have trained in military arts, examples are Sokon Matsumura and the Jigen Ryu, as Japanese art, as well as the other arts that he studied, we can also same the same of Tode Sakugawa. Both of whom were involved in protecying merchant ships at various points in their lives, at least so the stories tell us.

Points 9 - 10: These are about firearms and have little or no relevance to what you are arguing.

Point 11; You should really look at the articles by Gregory Smits concerning this weapons ban which has been over emphasised and which as it turns out is more fiction than fact.

Now please provide the list of the 40 kata that you are proposing you can show that these spear arts can be found in.

In your response please kindly refrain from:

Asking me to indicate a kata on youtube and you will demonstrate what these are.

Return with another set of questions without answering the original questions that have been posed to you on this forum, most especially as regards the problems with your hypothesis and other issues.


Regards

Chris Norman.

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#424394 - 01/15/10 08:07 PM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: Gesar]
kakushiite Offline
Member

Registered: 02/06/03
Posts: 266
Loc: Ithaca, NY, USA
Chris,

Now you have provided me some information I can work with. Thanks. It will take time to create the reply.

I have not yet decided on the full list of 40 and will probably not do so for a couple of years. But it is doubtful that I will do fewer than 38 of the following 40 kata. If I so chose, I have some other good candidates.



  • 26 kata practiced by Shotokan(I don't include Taikyoku)
  • 7 Kyan kata
  • 5 Goju kata not brought back from China
  • Matsumura Rohai, Matsumura Passai


To date I have shown the movements of 20 of these kata.

You were eager to discuss dependent and independent variables.

The dependent variables are the specific movements in the 40 kata that I have chosen to demonstrate with a spear. These movements are individual movements, as well as short and long sequences. Kata is designed to fight multiple attackers, so groupings of movements that provide this function are each a dependent variable, as are the individual directional sequences. Kata movements are constant, they do not change. They are by definition the dependent variables.

The independent variables are the applications, spear and empty hand. Each individual reviewer will consider two aspects of each comparison. The reviewer of the evidence (individual martial artists) shall typicall determine, in their own minds whether:

1. the spear applications or the empty hand applications appear to be more effective for their respective combat environments.

2. the spear applications or the empty hand applications map closely to what is found in the kata. (Fidelity to the kata movements). This is a critically important factor. Many schools use applications that bear little resemblence to the kata movements. For example, often all kinds of non-kata movements are included.

The evidence is to be judged by those that train in arts. Each will make an individual judgment on each set of movements they review. The 40 kata contain literally hundreds of dependent variables. It will take years to amass the evidence. In most cases, the independent variable of empty hand applications will be those movements taught in the specific school of the viewer. The question will be simply: do the movements I show, compare favorably with what is taught. In each reviewers mind, my concepts will either compare more favorably with the applications they are familiar with, or they won't.

For those doing the evaluation, they can consider reviewing the movements of kata they practice, or they can look at a larger body of evidence. Over the years, I anticipate some will find the evidence I present compelling. Others will not.

Where there are applications in video available on youtube, I will reference that material for comparison. There is a growing body available and in 5-10 years there likely will be substantial content. In some cases, I may be able to persuade some martial artists to share previously non-public fighting concepts on the web for comparison. I am especially eager to engage those who are enthusiastic supporters of kata as the source of great fighting combinations.

So in order to conduct the statistical analysis you have argued is so important, I ask your participation. You have the opportunity to demonstrate the compelling evidence of empty hand kata. The evidence you believe is proof that empty hand kata were designed for empty hand fighting.

And I have the opportunity to demonstrate the evidence of the utility of empty hand kata in propelling a spear in useful fighting combinations.

I only ask that you demonstrate the movements of just one kata. I have 39 more to go after this. So how about it. In the 19th century, Naihanchi was widely taught to beginners. Would you be willing to share at least some of your movements from Naihanchi (any of the 3) to compare with spear applications?

-Mike Eschenbrenner
cayuga Karate
Ithaca, New York - USA

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#424397 - 01/15/10 11:19 PM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: kakushiite]
Gesar Offline
Member

Registered: 06/16/07
Posts: 77
Loc: England, UK

Mike
You made some point that I suggested statistical analysis, I made no such mention of any statistical analysis at all at any point. Variables can still appear in a qualitative research hypothesis.Hypo = low Thesis = Theory. But something has to be proposed to be tested against something else in order to get some result.

You state that:
'The dependent variables are the specific movements in the 40 kata', and that 'the 40 kata contain literally hundreds of dependent variables'.

You also state that 'the independent variables are the applications, spear and empty hand' and that 'the independent variable of empty hand applications will be those movements taught in the specific school of the viewer'.

So you are going to look at specific movements in 40 kata and measure the effects of those specific movements on the applications for both spear and empty hand in those same kata.

Well the only words that comes to mind now is that this is tautological.

This now seems a long way from what was originally proposed:
'Chinese military personal likely taught Okinawans military arts to defend tribute vessels, and that these arts survive until today'.

Actually you are not really proposing a hypothesis at all, what you are suggesting is that you can see that the spear can be used with Kata. Ok I will grant you that, but so can the Sai, Tonfa, Rokushakubo, Hanbo, Tankon, Nunchaku, Tinbe and Rochin to name a few.

It does not strike me that you are going to be able to prove any influence of Chinese miliatry spear arts surviving in Okinawan kata other than by your own subjective interpretation (not that there is anything wrong with that). You certainly would not be able to prove your original hypothesis with much of what you suggest anyway:

26 kata practiced by Shotokan(I don't include Taikyoku)
These are recent kata and developed for state physical education in Japan, they differ from Okinawan versions and have been subject to Japanese influence.

5 Goju kata not brought back from China: Then these are not Chinese and are also quite modern, again physical education.

So that is 31 kata out of the equation in proving the original hypothesis, good, that makes a bit more sense.

You might have something of a chance with Matsumura Passai and Rohai, but then you would have to accept that the earliest kata that you are going to have that has any possible Chinese influence is from Sokon Matsumura, which takes you back to what Chinese systems Matsumura studied.

As for the 7 Kyan kata: I assume you mean Chotoku Kyan, he was allegedly from Motobu clan, which had its own martial art, which uses spear, which in all probability came from the Chinese. So you might want to follow up on my original suggestion in the first post I made and look at Motobu Ryu Udun Ti, if you have not already that is.

I dont think that there is anything wrong with you are doing in terms of practice or even the value martially of the following two points you made:

1. the spear applications or the empty hand applications appear to be more effective for their respective combat environments.

2. the spear applications or the empty hand applications map closely to what is found in the kata. (Fidelity to the kata movements).

As to your point:
Many schools use applications that bear little resemblence to the kata movements. For example, often all kinds of non-kata movements are included.

It does appear that many modernists, especially those coming from Japanese Karate styles do this, but I think that you will find that many Okinawan stylists keep their application to the movements of the Kata. A lot of this comes about from such people modifying the movements of the original kata, it seems you are as guilty as the rest on this point:

As I note that from your blog November 29, 2009 Naihanchi that you state the following:
'In Clip 1 (2 minutes) – I practice the opening with modified footwork'.

I looked at some of your clips on your blog and it appears to me that you are adapting the kata in order to facilitate spear movements, again there is nothing wrong with that either in terms of a method of practice and I am sure that you and your students will gain something from it.

Regards

Chris Norman.

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#424400 - 01/16/10 05:08 AM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: kakushiite]
shoshinkan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 05/10/05
Posts: 2662
Loc: UK
Hi Mike,

Thanks for awnsering my questions so openly, that is appriciated.

Mr Norman (Chris, why so formal........), is doing a great job discussing this with you and I couldn't hope to match the level of sensible discussion and questioning around the topic.

So with respect im going to bail from the discussion in full, not that im not interested I just do not have the time, patience or indeed resources to prove or disprove anything, I have my experience and opinion of course.

One thing to bear in mind is that if spear was indeed significant and represented in Okinawan Classical Karate Kata then it simply would be known, somewhere by someone of the major Ryu.

It isn't, nor is it sensibly represented in the kobudo (which has different kata from the empty hand kata) of the island.


The burden of proof is yours Mike, and good luck with it.



Edited by shoshinkan (01/16/10 05:09 AM)
_________________________
Jim Neeter

www.shoshinkanuk.blogspot.com

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#424404 - 01/16/10 01:46 PM Re: Are karate kata true martial arts [Re: shoshinkan]
Gesar Offline
Member

Registered: 06/16/07
Posts: 77
Loc: England, UK
Hello Jim,
Personally I think that pretty much everything that can be said about this hypothesis has now been said. Like you my time is also limited, I have a philosophy and critical theory course to prepare to teach this coming semester, so I am going to be busy with that whilst running the dojo.

I agree that if the spear was significant in Okinawan classical kata, we most certainly would have seen it by now, it would be known. As you say it is not sensibly represented in kobudo either. The nearest we get is from Matayoshi Kobudo with Tinbe and Rochin. We see spear in Motobu Ryu Udun Te but it is not related to Karate Kata and there are many issues about that anyway.

As we know the use of spear by Okinawans even in demos leaves something to be desired.

Given that Seitoku Higa collected all of the old kata he could find on the Island and has lineage to some older traditions, I think my comments on Okinawan use of the spear by Okinawan Karateka of old schools can be summarised by this clip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOukiIAnxSg

As you say, Jim, the burden of proof is with Mike, even if he does not prove his original hypothesis, he may come up with many good things.

So Good luck with it Mike.

Regards

Chris

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