Chris,
Thank you for taking the time to respond. I have commented on most of what you have written.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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[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