On December 3, 1978, at the Okinawa International University, the 1st All Okinawa Karatedō Championship sponsored by the Uechi-ryū Karatedō Association was held. In the tournament’s program can be found the congratulatory address of Nakaima Kenkō, Chairman of the Ryūei-ryū Karatedō Kobudō Hozonkai (Preservation Society) that we have translated below.
The above photo of Nakaima sensei was used in the program. However, it was originally published in the 1977 book "Okinawa Karatedō - History and Techniques" by Uechi Kan-ei sensei.
Congratulating you on this event, I humbly would like to address the following message.
A secret martial art of self-defense for common people known as “Tī”, karatedō in Okinawa was developed, nurtured and inherited in the historical, geographical and social specific environment of Okinawa. In the midst of its development process, we cannot denied the possibility that it was influenced by Chinese kenpō. As an evidence, today still, some systems still inherit Chinese martial arts.
When the Japanese feudal system and the Ryūkyū dynasty system collapsed, martial arts that prospered as the main accomplishments of Bushi also temporarily declined. However their value was once again recognized, and they were introduced in the military, police and school education, so called kendō, judō, etc. They came to the light again as practical methods, a way to improve the quality of the youth, a physical and mental training, and a path to character building.
In the shadow of other martial arts, karate did not easily surface socially. However, after it was registered as a martial art of the Dai Nippon Butokukai at the beginning of the Shōwa era (1), it began to stand side by side with other martial arts as “karatedō”. As the birthplace and origin of karatedō, Okinawa is proud that karate is a part of the Japanese martial arts history.
The Manchurian Incident of 1931 triggered the Chinese Incident (2) and Japan eventually entered WWII. The world became a place of truly turbulent disturbances. “If you don't have the same level of national power or more, you shouldn't go to war.” This is the ABC of the Art of war. However, a reckless war was started and even the traditional expressions “Uchi shite yaman” and “Ichi oku gyokusai” (3) were lost in vain.
Among the many generals, General of the Army MacArthur was a unique figure as he researched the Japanese spirit. He stressed that it was the "Yamato-Damashī" (4) that defined the mental attitude of the Japanese who started a war although Japan’s national power was disproportionate to the one of the United States. As this spirit was rooted in Japanese martial arts, thus he banned martial arts completely. Particularly, kendō and jūkendō (5) were strictly prohibited. However, he didn’t mind about karatedō as he knew the virtue of this martial art seeking peace in which there is no first attack.
After the end of the war, all martial arts achieved a 180 degrees turnaround transformation and re-started a a sport, and became as prosperous as they were before the war. Especially, in the case of karatedō, it seems better to say that its flourishment was amazing. Japanese people have a genius ability to take in, assimilate and master the excellent things of other countries and ethnic groups. On the mainland, "Sun-dome jiyū-kumite” and “Bōgu-tsuke jiyū-kumite” (6) were quickly devised. Although there was some controversy over the pros and cons of jiyū-kumite for a period of time, it became popular without people having the time to discuss metaphysical and physical issues. Promoted as “This is Japanese karatedō”, jiyū-kumite spread not only in Japan but also in Western countries and conquered the world. Four karatedō world championships have already been held since (7).
Up to this day, the karatedō world in Okinawa has never though too much about this issue. However, I have heard that some styles already practice free sparring, and that other schools are doing their own research. The Okinawa Prefectural Senior High School Physical Education Federation has been using "free-kumite wearing an armor" for several years and the All Japan Senior High School Karatedō Federation is using both "armor-wearing" and "armor less" sparring methods. It seems that it is no longer the time of objecting to karatedō becoming one of a sport. While some people may be worried, if we misunderstand its philosophy and method, then I fear that karatedō, which is a world-famous cultural heritage of Okinawa, will be transformed into something different and that is not worth to be named karatedō.
The Christ said, "If salt loses its taste, it loses its purpose”. In addition, Chinese calligraphy grand master JAHANA Unseki (8) who was born in Okinawa said, "No true calligraphy art can be born without going back to the original calligraphy of Wang Xizhi.” I think that these teachings mean that in both religion and arts, the spirit and origin must always be kept in mind. I believe that the original martial art qualities of karatedō can be deepened through the harmony of karatedō’s "traditional" and "modern" aspects. Therefore, I think that "kata" and "jiyū-kumite" should be the two sides of the same coin, and complement each other like the wheels of a car. I think that if there is a tendency toward either one or the other side, it will result in a loss of the original nature of karate.
Now, in view of the international and historical trends in which this jiyū-kumite is generalizing, it is important for the Okinawa karate world to cope with this issue, decide on a direction based on a though principle and develop this free sparring matter. I believe that we are standing at a critical crossroads. Which direction should we pursue?
I think that the 1st All Okinawa Karatedō Championship sponsored by Uechi-ryū held this fall, is a landmark in the history of Okinawa karatedō, a great wake-up call, and a touchstone.
I would like to extend my deepest homage to the hard work and great dedication of all concerned parties, and pray for the success of this tournament and the brave fight of all players.
Ending my message, allow me to congratulate this event once again.
(1) Shōwa era: 1926 to 1989, period of the reign of Emperor Shōwa also known as Hirohito.
(2) In Japanese “Shina jihen” or “Chinese incident”, it is one of the Japanese names of the Sino-Japanese War at that time.
(3) Wartime Japanese slogans. The first could be translated as “I will not stop firing” or “Stop the battle after crushing the enemy” while the second could be translated as “100 million crushed jewels”, meaning One hundred million people die for the glory in fighting against enemy forces rather than surrendering.
(4) Japanese spirit or soul. It is written with 大和 for Yamato and 魂 Tamashī and pronounced damashī.
(5) The Japanese art of bayonet fighting.
(6) Respectively “Non-contact free-kumite" and "free-kumite wearing an armor."
(7) 1st time in 1970 in Japan, 2nd time in 1972 in France, 3rd time in 1975 in the USA, 4th time in 1977 in Japan.
(8) Jahana who lived from 1883 to 1975 studied Chinese calligraphy in China and became one of the most famous calligraphers of Okinawa.
In the past, we have introduced Yanagihara Shigeo’s serial publication “The present of Okinawa traditional karate”.
Mr. Yanagihara has started a new series related to karate titled "Nagamine Shōshin Monogatari - The ups and downs of Okinawa Karate". Scheduled to be 12 episodes long, already 3 articles have been published. Although in Japanese, using an online translating software might be a good way to read through this interesting series.
WEB Daisan Bunmei: https://www.d3b.jp/npvolumn/10642
Note: The opinions expressed in the series and on this website are only those of the authors, not the opinions of the Information Center.
The Okinawa Prefecture Government has issued an “Emergency Declaration” on July 31st. On August 14th, the period of this emergency situation was extended to August 29th. During the period, the prefecture requests refraining from nonessential and non-urgent outings and travels.
Therefore, this information center will suspend its coordination work until August 29th. On that date, ｗe will re-determine the start of our activities based on the covid-19 pandemic situation in Okinawa.
The Okinawa Prefecture has begun preparations for the “1st Okinawa Karate Youth World Tournament”. Details will be announced in the future, but here is the basic information that we are aware of at this moment.
Name: The 1st Okinawa Karate Youth World Tournament (tentative)
Organizers: Tournament’s executive committee, Okinawa Prefecture, ODKS
Support: National related organizations, prefecture municipalities, etc. (planned)
Dates: August 11~18, 2021 (8 days including preliminary days)
Venues: Okinawa Prefectural Budōkan, Okinawa Karate Kaikan
* In addition to changing the content of the event, be aware that it may be suspended or postponed in light of the status of new coronavirus pandemic.
In May 1922, Funakoshi Gichin introduced Ryūkyū karate at the "1st Athletic Exhibition" sponsored by the Ministry of Education. After that, a public demonstration was also held at the Jūdō headquarters, the Kōdōkan. At that time, Gima Shinkin (1896-1989) also known as Gima Makoto served as an assistant to Funakoshi sensei.
Mr. Gima graduated from Okinawa Prefectural Normal School where he learned karate from masters Itosu Ankō and Yabu Kentsū. Later, he went on to Tōkyō College of Commerce (now Hitotsubashi University). Following the demonstrations, he strived to popularize karate. His teachings have been inherited as Gima-ha Shōtōkan-ryū Karatedō (Website in Japanese).
Below, we introduce an article written by Gima sensei titled “Perseverance makes one stronger”.
Furthermore below, we also introduce a translation of a message depicting Gima sensei by Higaonna Morio sensei, intangible cultural asset holder designated by the Okinawa Prefecture. The message was written for the celebration of the 23rd anniversary of the death of Gima sensei and the celebration of his successor Higuchi Shihan’s seventieth birthday on September 23, 2011.
“Perseverance makes one stronger”
81 years old
(Forewords) I was born in Shuri Kinjō-chō, Okinawa. The place resembled a valley bottom, and anywhere one would go, there were steep zigzagging stone paved slopes. When I was young, I climbed them up and down with bare feet, so my legs became strong. In addition, because I was from an extremely poor family, we lived a frugal life. When it was time to move to a higher education, we couldn’t afford school expenses so I had to work part-time among others. Furthermore, as I had a weak body as I was born from a 57 years old father and a 46 years old mother, I devoted myself to karate and seiza sitting from the age of fifteen in the sake of health first. I also read Smiles' Saikoku Risshi Den (1) and self-improvement books. Upon such reading, I was highly inspired as it seems that great men also had gone through hardships.
Next, at the request of the Karate Shimbun, I would like to say a few words about karate from my poor experience for my promising juniors.
“A correct fist starts with a correct heart”. Originally, the purpose of karate is to train the mind and body. In other words, through karatedō one tries to achieve personality completion. In this sense, in the old days in Okinawa, karate masters were called Bushi. They were men of character, namely, true gentlemen.
Well, by improving his/her skills, one can reach a certain level, but in the mental aspect, there is no ending point in life. By training hard constantly, it resembles Zen practice hence the saying “Ken Zen Icchi” or the fist and Zen are one.
In addition, although one should train rigorously (2), the meaning of the Japanese kanji ‘Keiko’ is to observe ancient times; ‘Kei’ means to observe while ‘Ko’ means ancient times. Therefore, following the precept “Onko Chishin” – to develop new ideas based on study of the past, one should learn (to learn is to copy), and practice by repetition the kata that were devised with great pain and time by past grand masters. Based on this, one should develop naturally. And then, rather than being a three-day priest, one should make efforts over efforts, and continue for a lifetime as the proverb “Perseverance makes one stronger” says.
Old soldiers fade away. I write these words with the hope that young people who have a promising future will spring over seniors and go forward eagerly. Finally, my dear gentlemen, a poor poem of mine.
Let man be the model (mirror) of many people
Young people, polish the spirit of karate
And I will lay down my pen.
(The author is an advisor to the Tōkyō Karatedō Federation and chairman of the Shibuya district Karatedō Federation)
Published in the Karate Shinbun Issue 98
Publisher: Karate Shinbun Corporation
Date: Auguste 20, 1977
(1) Refers to Samuel Smiles’ book “Self-Help” published in 1859.
(2) In Japanese, “Yoku keiko seyo”
Gima Shinkin sensei
By IOGKF Higaonna Morio sensei
From a letter from Higuchi Ikuo Shihan, I was made aware of the 23rd memorial service for Gima sensei, and I remembered the times of the Yoyogi Shūrenkai Dōjō 40 years ago. Realizing that 23 years have gone since the passing of Gima sensei, I felt that time passes fast.
Gima sensei was a martial expert as well as an educator. It can be said that he was a Bushi who had mastered the way of the pen and the sword. I believe that Gima sensei’s achievements in promoting karate in mainland Japan are great.
On the invitation of Kanō Jingorō sensei, he performed a karate kata demonstration along with Funakoshi Gichin sensei at the Judō headquarters Kōdōkan. This was a great opportunity (effort) for the popularization and development of karate.
I think I met Gima sensei for the first time in the 1960s through the Yoyogi Shūrenkai at the banquet hall on the second floor of the Nagasaki Hanten restaurant. After that, at the request of Aragaki sensei (3), I think he taught three times a week (Tue, Thu, Sat) at the Yoyogi Shūrenkai Dōjō.
I believe that Higuchi Ikuo Shihan instructed as an assistant on behalf of Gima sensei. Gima sensei retired from the education world, worked for Kashima Construction Co., Ltd. and instructed at the karate club of the said construction company. I have seen demonstrations of Gima sensei with Higuchi Shihan at the All Japan Karatedō Championships at the Nippon Budōkan in Tōkyō. The throwing techniques were so splendid that I still have them in mind. It can be said that ordinarily, Gima sensei was a calm and quiet person.
I have been impressed by Gima sensei knowledge on the history of Okinawan karate, especially about people and their birthdates etc. Once, Gima sensei taught me a kata of bō (stick) that he had learned it from Gigō, the 3rd son of Funakoshi Gichin sensei. I was especially impressed and can’t forget the extreme power of his way of striking with the bō.
The dōjō-kun (4) were also teachings from Gima sensei. Regardless of style, all those who trained at the Yoyogi Shūrenkai Dōjō were touched by his virtues and so he is alive in everyone's heart. I would like to devote myself to the gratitude of the teacher as a treasure of my life. I would like to persevere engraving in my heart the kindness of Gima sensei as a treasure of life.
The Gima-ha Shōtōkan style has been passed on to the fine martial artist that is Higuchi Ikuo sensei to whom I extend my deepest homage.
To Gima sensei, I extend my heartfelt gratitude.
Joining hands in prayer
(3) The owner or the Yoyogi Shūrenkai Dōjō.
(4) The precepts of a dōjō, often exposed on a board inside a dōjō.