The Chibana Project

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

Monday, January 07, 2008

Gekkan Translation II

What follows is the next chunk of the Gekkan Karatedo magazine article on Chibana Choshin. Again, these chunks are not congruent with how the article is organized in the magazine. The picture at left is one of a series of photos of Chibana Sensei performing Naihanchi Shodan in October 1953 in his yard at his home.

The Birth of Shorin Ryu

Plausibly, at the Itosu home in Shuri's Ishimine District, for about two or three years, Chibana's episode with Itosu was kept a secret. Whenever there was a visitor to the Itosu home, Chibana would hide in the bushes near the Itosu mansion. Occasionally, he would continue hiding even if he got wet from rain, and he would accept instruction after the visitor departed. There was a reason to keep it that secret.

In those times, in general it was believed that karate was the means to fighting. So, if it was known that you were learning karate, you would be unknowingly set upon by a surprise attack. "At that time, Tori-Hori, Akita, and Sakiyama (Shuri districts) were full of thugs. Also, at my home, they would frequently come to try to duel with me, but they would leave quietly," Choshin said (1).

While Itosu taught P.E. style karate at school, at his dojo he taught Te that had the marked aroma of Bujutsu. Karate became a required subject at Okinawa First Middle School (2) and at the Okinawa Teacher's College. You could probably say that Choshin was part of the last generation to learn both P.E. style and Bujutsu style karate.

Chibana studied under Itosu until Itosu's final years, and afterwards in Taisho 7th year (1918) at age 34, he opened a dojo in Tori-Hori Village (the following year he established a dojo at Naha Kumoji Village. After this, he taught at both dojos). That same year, Chibana founded the Karate Research Club with Funakoshi Gichin, Oshiro Chojo, Yabu Kentsu, Hanashiro Chomo, and Tokuda Anbun. The Karate Research Club was held at Mabuni Kenwa's house, and the club served the purpose of researching karate ideas, and it created the field of technique refinement.

In Taisho 15th year (1926), Choshin participated in the Okinawa Tote (Karate) Club with Motobu Choyu, Hanashiro Chomo, Mabuni Kenwa, Teruya Kamesuke (3), and Gokenki (4). The Okinawa Tote club was a Te club that was formed in Taisho 13th year (1924) as a cooperative research group, and at that time many karate experts participated. Also, in Showa 4th year (1929), Chibana established the Tote Research Club at the courtyard of Naha Tori-Hori's Baron Nakijin (5). While continuing to teach with enthusiasm, in Showa 8th year (1933), he named his karate Shorin Ryu. This was the birth of Okinawa Shorin Ryu Karatedo.

However, in that era, war was steadily approaching. In Showa 6th year (1931), on 18 September, the Mukuden Incident (6) signaled the beginning of the outbreak of the Manchuria Incident (7). With Manchuko established, and news received of Japan's withdrawal from the disapproving League of Nations, even on Okinawa the footsteps of war gradually swelled (8). Soon after, hostilities were opened. The long suffering of the Second World War began (9).

(1) As mentioned previously, in Seikichi Toguchi's Goju-Ryu II Advanced Techniques of Shoreikan Karate, he says in his history section on karate that Chibana was a frequent target of kakidamashii or challenge matches. Chibana was being modest about the fate of his challengers when he mentions, "...but they would leave quietly."

(2) The kanji reads "Okinawa Ichi Chu", and for those with Japanese character capabilities on your web-browsers or computers, "沖縄一中." This is probably a reference to Okinawa Prefectural Public First Middle School or "Okinawa Kenritsu Dai-Ichi Chugakko" (沖縄県立第一中学校 for those able to read Japanese characters) from where Chibana dropped out to train full time with Itosu.

(3) I am not sure who this person is. Cursory research in both English and Japanese sources pulled up nothing on this individual.

(4) Gokenki was a Chinese tea merchant named Wu Hsien Huei who was a praticioner of Hakutsuru or White Crane. His hand was felt across Okinawa karate circles through his collaboration and exchange with several Okinawan masters. He was an acquaintance of Uechi Kanbun while Uechi trained in China before his assignment to Okinawa as a representative of a Chinese tea company. Later, he reportedly traveled to China with Miyagi Chojun, and it is believed they were good friends. He taught White Crane katas to several Okinawan masters to include Mabuni Kenwa and Hohan Soken.*

*John Sells, Unante, 2nd Edition (Hollywood: W.M. Hawley Library, 2000), pg.67-69, 82, 92, 226

(5) As his title implies, Baron Nakijin was a descendant of Ryukyu Kingdom royalty. It is highly probable that he was descended from the King of Hokuzan who ruled from the castle bearing his family's name. Hokuzan competed with Chuzan - the kingdom that under the Sho dynasty would eventually unite all of the Ryukyus - for trade status with China, but maintained a tentative alliance with Chuzan due to a lack of Chinese translators in Hokuzan. It is possible that intermarriage occured while this alliance was maintained. Thus, on the Sho end of the spectrum, the Baron's bloodline runs to the third son of King Sho Iku. His ancestor, Nakijin Chofu, retained the title of Prince of Gushikawa, and his family were no less retainers to the king as bodyguards or warriors. Nakijin appears to have offered his property to several karate instructors in Shuri as it was a popular location for lessons and demonstrations. It was also no less a hearkening to his royal warrior ancestry.

As a descendant of a Sho king, it is probable that Baron Nakijin was in some way related to Chibana Sensei.

(6) At the end of the Russo-Japanese War, Japan emerged victorious and became the dominant foreign military power in northern China. The "Mukden Incident" is a reference to the event where on 18 September 1931 Japanese soldiers destroyed a portion of a railway near Mukden (present day Shenyang) in Manchuria, China owned by a Japanese rail company. Falsely accusing dissident Chinese, the Japanese Imperial Army used this incident as a pretext to invade and occupy Manchuria.

(7) "Manchurian Incident" is a euphemism for Japan's occupation of Manchuria following the Mukden Incident and throughout the Second World War.

(8) Manchuko was the name of the puppet state established in 1932 by the Japanese in place of Manchuria. The League of Nations, the predecessor of the modern day United Nations, condemned the Mukden Incident and refused to acknowledge Manchuko as a legitimate state, causing Japan to withdraw from the League of Nations and precipitating the war in the Pacific.

(9) And suffer Chibana did. He lost several students, several friends, his son, probably his first wife, and probably a significant portion of the wealth his family had built as sake brewers. Chibana would be homeless in an American refugee camp and a field laborer before resuming his instruction of karate.


Blogger Bujutsu Blogger said...

Excellent work! Happy New Year!

10:59 PM  
Blogger gijoe said...

Thanks. Translation is always kind of a pain since not everything makes sense in English.

4:22 PM  
Blogger frotoe said...

Wow!! That is very interesting.
thanks for all your hard work!

1:30 AM  
Anonymous viet said...

What could possibly be "P.E. karate" ?

9:55 PM  
Anonymous Mr. Martial Arts said...

Informative and very interesting. Thanks!

4:45 PM  

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