Mr. Neeter wrote:

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