The Chibana Project

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

Monday, March 31, 2008

Gekkan Translation III

What follows is the next chunk of the Gekkan Karatedo article on Chibana Choshin. Pictured at right is a copy of Chibana's "Shinobi."

As a Teacher

After the end of the dark and long Second World War, Choshin returned to Shuri. And, he resumed karate instruction at Shuri's Gibo Village. In Showa 23rd year (1948), he founded the Okinawa Shorin Ryu Karatedo Association and became its first president. In the five years between Showa 29th year (1954) and Showa 33rd year (1958), Chibana served as the instructor for the Shuri Police Department.

As for Choshin's kata, he was noted for his Patsai and Kunsanku katas. In the 1938 publication Karatedo Taikan (edited by Nakasone Genwa), he is featured performing the Patsai kata (1).

"Beautiful techniques are sharp" and "Strong techniques are beautiful" were his favorite sayings. Chibana emphasized as important both learning kata without distraction and practicing and defining technique within kata. In those days his sayings were called "Chibana's Churadi" or Chibana's Beautiful Ti (2).

Chibana received praise for his beautiful martial exercises. As for his techniques, his kick was famous. There is an anecdote from around those times that he once kicked a boar, and afterward the boar couldn't move. When asked about this, he neither confirmed nor denied it. It seems as far as his kick was concerned that Choshin kept it a secret. Normally, you kick with the ball of the foot. However, Choshin used a "Tip of the Foot" kick where he kicked using the tips of his toes (he would overlap his big toe with the second toe to reinforce it) (3).

How did he develop so much power? One story has it that he would lightly crack two 7 bu (two 12 cm) pieces of cedar planks (4). There is another episode like this when he is a little over 60 years old. This is Nakazato Shuguro's story. At that time he says he saw Choshin hold and crush a 2 sun (5) (approximately 6 cm) diameter long jointed bambo pole. Nakazato tried to do it, but he found it impossible to split. He says he saw Choshin crush the bamboo very easily.

"Sensei's grip strength was an incredible thing. During a physical exam, the mercury in the hand dynometer seemed like it was going to burst" (Nakazato in "Okinawa Karate's Great Stars") (6).

Naturally, Choshin was of modest character, and he found it against his conscience to talk about his own martial prowess. Therefore, there is very little on his martial story. However, as far as his instruction goes personal opinion holds, and his life as a teacher is one-sided. When he spoke of Karatedo's true meaning, it is said that it was like he was speaking about Okinawan music. In 1957, in the Okinawa Times newspaper, the following speech remains:

"Young colleagues would break roof tiles and boast about it, but it was just frivolous thinking; if the practicioner of karate sufficiently drills kata, kumite, makiwara, and others (hojo undo), and when that power reaches a suitable limit, the power of karate will naturally emerge. Even people of weak constitution can do karate. Normal people can't make these kinds of people do karate. Like lightly getting someone to dance, when you make the mind cheerful, you will completely forget the illness. Karate teachers not only teach kata; they have a responsibility to make people's bodies splendid. With this work as my life's work, even now I continue to study karate."

The great number of students who adored Choshin beat down his gate. Choshin's students include Zanami Jiro (7), Higa Yuchoku, Miyahira Katsuya, Shimabukuro Katsuyuki, Nakazato Shuguro, Nakama Chozo, Arakaki Ankichi, Nakazato Akira (8) and a great many other superior disciples grew under his tutelage.

(1) These can be found on pages 28-34 of the 1991 reprint edition.

(2) This is my extrapolation. "Chura" or チュラ (美ら)is a Hogen word that means "beautiful."

(3) Chibana was probably embarrassed by the boar incident if it occurred, hence his reluctance to confirm or deny it. A related story told by Mr. Patrick Nakata is that when Chibana was demonstrating the proper way to execute a front kick using the tip of the toes, Chibana accidentally kicked the wall and cracked it. He was incredibly embarrassed by the accident. However, Hirokazu Kanazawa says that when he visited Chibana in 1964, Chibana demonstrated kicking a bundle of bamboo with the tips of his toes ("An Interview with Kirokazu Kanazawa Part II", Classical Fighting Arts, Issue 8, pg 26).

(4) Before conversion to the metric system in 1924, the Japanese adopted a measurement system from the Chinese Tang Dynasty in 701 and called it shakkanho (尺貫法) where length is based on the shaku. Most kobudo enthusiasts are familiar with the shaku in terms of bo length (e.g., the roku-shaku bo). The modern shaku is based on the measurement carpenters used where a shaku was roughly 30.3 cm or 11.93 in; this was approximately the distance between the bottom of the elbow and top of the wrist. A bu is roughly 1/100 of a shaku.

(5) A sun is roughly 1/10 of a shaku.

(6) According to Mr. Patrick Nakata, Chibana used to cut his lawn with a pair of household scissors. When asked why, he replied it was good training for his grip and his forearms. The Chibana lawn was at least 100 square feet.

(7) An extrapolation on this person's name that in the original text reads "座波二郎." Cursory research has not turned up anything on this individual.

(8) Nakazato Akira, unrelated to Nakazato Shuguro, was Chibana's grandson and Chibana's designated successor to his karate organization. Events following Chibana's death in 1969, however, led to the rise of Miyahira Katsuya as the successor.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


The restriction has been modified as we continue our "Period of Reflection."  I am now free to move about the island with restrictions on off-installation activities and a strict curfew.  Fortunately, the restrictions and curfew will have little effect on my research efforts; thus, the project resumes!  Our status will be reviewed regularly, and as long as SOFA personnel conduct themselves properly, we will in a step-wise function be granted more of our original liberties until we return to status quo (no restrictions).  

I am pleasantly surprised to see our lock-down end early.  I only hope that events over the last month have not injured local relations to the point that they are detrimental to research.