The Chibana Project

A blog where I post my research on a certain Okinawan named Chibana Choshin.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Busy, Busy, Busy

I have found myself recently swamped with work as I edge closer to graduation, so my work on this project has been somewhat neglected. I anticipate completing my other tasks soon so that I can continue to focus on researching the life and karate of Chosin Chibana.

I would like to express heartfelt thanks to Mr. Ernest Estrada for sharing some of his knowledge with me as well as for volunteering to help research pre-1930's information on Chibana - information I have found in short supply.

I have decided to proceed with attempting to translate the two 1957 articles from Okinawa Times myself, and judging from some of the kanji, it looks to be a daunting task. I have the good fortune of having several Japanese friends, and most of the kanji in the article are in their modern form (though a handful are written in the classical manner). Interestingly enough, I can read the kanji of all the names of the karateka mentioned in the article, while my Japanese friends cannot make heads or tails of them (e.g., my friends were wide eyed when I easily spotted "Itosu Ankoh", even though I couldn't read the kanji for "Shuri").

I would be completely remiss without writing a little something about any research inroads I have made so far, so here is information I have recently uncovered.

Kakidamashii - "Fighting Spirit" (a loose translation)
Chibana, the Fighter

In "the old days", before the onset of sport and competitive karate in Okinawa and Japan, famous praticioners of karate or their dojos were often subject to kakidamashii, or challenge matches meant to test their skills. Stories abound of infamous, sometimes mythical battles between karate legends and random ruffians where the karateka is either challenged openly to fight, or suddenly set upon. Enough of these stories exist, however, to corroborate the fact that "a karate match [was] a matter of life and death" (1), as many fighters became seriously injured and/or died as a result of these. In Tales of Okinawa's Great Masters, for example, Shoshin Nagamine details the story of a ruffian who set upon Ankichi Arakaki - a student of Chibana - in a tea house; the attacker grabbed Arakaki's arm, but Arakaki yanked his assailant's arm and toe kicked the him in the armpit, rendering him unconscious. The assailant died six months later, reportedly of injuries suffered from "a karate expert" (2).

Given the seriousness of kakidamashii, and the fact that one could suffer grievous bodily harm or die as a result of a challenge match, choosing an individual to defend the reputation of a dojo was not a decision taken lightly. In the Itosu dojo, the dai-sempai or chief assistant instructor was typically the disciple who rose to meet challenges of the dojo's strength. Throughout his teaching career Itosu had three dai-sempai: Kentsu Yabu, Chomo Hanashiro, and...Chosin Chibana (3). Thus, Chibana's fighting career begins at least before 1915 before Itosu's death when he is the dai-sempai of the Itosu dojo. In the historical introduction to his instructional book Okinawan Goju Ryu II: Advanced Techniques of Shoreikan Karate, Seikichi Toguchi - a student of Chojun Miyagi - mentions that among Okinawan practicioners of karate, Chibana was one of the most frequent targets of kakidamashii. Given how well his students fared (Arakaki's ability to fell opponents with a single blow was not unique to him; other Chibana students were also famous for their "ippon kowashi") , the results of Chibana's challenge matches do not appear to leave much to speculation.

1. Quote attributed to Sokon Matsumura, Gichin Funakoshi, Karate-Do: My Way of Life, (Tokyo: Kodansha Int'l, 1975), pg. 23.
2. Shoshin Nagamine, Tales of Okinawa's Great Masters, (Boston: Tuttle Martial Arts, 2000), pg. 106.
3. Interview with Mr. Patrick Nakata, a student of Chosin Chibana, by Terry Garrett


Blogger John Vesia said...

Chosin Chibana, at the age of 80, was quoted as saying that he had "a long way to go" to realize his potential as a karate-ka. It's good to see somebody writing about one of Okinawa's pre-eminent grandmasters!

9:58 PM  
Blogger Stephen Irwin said...


Excellent site and great information. I found you through John's "Martial Views".

I'll add your link to my blog at


12:36 PM  
Blogger Onimitsu2004 said...

Thanks a lot! I appreciate the feedback.

12:38 AM  

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