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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 McCarthyís translation of Miyagiís Three Hypothesis, Miyagi refers to the source of karate as coming from Chinese security personnel. Funakoshi in ďKarate-Do KyohanĒ 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: ďUse your hands as spearsĒ).
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 donít seem useful in propelling a spear, then the hypothesis canít 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 donít 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 donít 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 donít seem useful in propelling a spear, then the hypothesis canít 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, letís 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 itís 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 Chibanaís 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 donít seem useful in propelling a spear, then the hypothesis canít 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 wouldnít 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 wonít 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. Itís 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 Nagamineís 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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