Special feature articles

About Rei – Part 1: Mabuni Kenei

 The article below written by Mabuni Kenei sensei, son of the founder of Shitō-ryū Mabuni Kenwa sensei, is part one of a series of two articles relating to Rei.

 Rei can mean “to bow” as in “Shomen ni rei – Bow to the front”, but also translate as gratitude, etiquette and proprieties as in “Shurei mon”, the Gate of proprieties at the entrance of Shuri Castle.

 Part two is an article written by Nakamoto Masahiro sensei, intangible cultural asset holder for Okinawa karate and kobudō as designated by the Okinawa Prefecture. (Coming soon)

 (Photo courtesy from Mr. Sam Moledzki, President, Karate-do Shito-Kai Canada)



Mabuni Kenei

JKF Central Qualification Examiner


 In all martial arts, sports, and in daily life, one of the most important things is “Rei.”

 It is the same in karatedō. It is the most important matter, the first thing to be learned. Rei is not simply a formal lowering of the head, but a method of first correcting one's heart when facing someone, and then correcting one's posture to give a bow.

 As for Rei, there is no problem for us Japanese people, but I was made to think about it by some foreigners.

 At a dōjō in Central and South America, all the seniors and students lined up to perform Rei at the beginning of the lesson. As all of them were sitting upright in "Seiza", they prepared to bow on the command “Rei”. So far, it was very good but the essential aspect of "Rei" was wrong. All kept their hands on their knees and just knocked lightly their heads down. As all the students were enthusiastic and praiseworthy, I couldn’t understand what happened so I asked the seniors. I thus found out that the Japanese teacher who had been teaching before was so doing when being bowed to by the students. I think that if both the teacher and the learners had corrected their minds first, they would never have done this kind of bowing. (1)

 Another episode that happened in a city. It was decided to hold a karate demonstration with the students of a university in this area. The venue, the gymnasium was soon overcrowded with the crowd that had come early. The space where we would perform was narrow, and the audience was only about two meters away from us. In the front row, women were sitting in chairs. If we sat in Seiza and “bow” toward the front as usual, it would inevitably be a respectful salute to the ladies. Somehow it didn’t seem correct. At that moment, I decided to stand in the front and executed a mutual bow with the students.

 In the case of bowing, as a custom, I thought it should not be done as a formality. If needed, the method should be considered depending on the place.

 In the demonstration of karatedō kata, there are also some movements that express Rei. These moves are aimed at warning against pride, and when performing in front of a large crowd, as our masters and seniors look upon our performances, we ask for their future guidance. The lessons of karate are "Karate ni sente nashi – There is no first attack in karate" and "Kunshi no ken – A gentleman’s fist”. These saying mean to train the fists and feet silently, to never hurt people and always treat people with a gentleman's attitude. In this way, the true purpose of karate is to cultivate a noble character and attitude by respecting etiquette.


  Published in the Karate Shinbun Issue 93

  Tenbōsha column

  Publisher: Karate Shinbun Corporation

  Date: March 20, 1977



(1) the proper way to execute Rei when kneeling:

From seiza (kneeling) with your hands on your thighs, facing the front of the dōjō, place first your left palm and then the right palm on the floor in front of you and then keeping your neck in alignment with your back bow. After a short pause, and after the instructor has completed his/her bow, raise again to the seiza position, retracting first your right hand and then your left placing them on your thighs.

1969 article on master Yagi and Sūpārinpe

Okinawa Kōkai no Yūbe
National special invitation exemplary demonstration (Part III)

(Published on September 23, 1969)

Striving to spread karate

Yagi Meitoku Hanshi (Gōjū-ryū Meibukan)


 When Mr. Yagi was told that he had passed entrance to middle school (Nicchu) (1), he was immediately taken by his grandfather to become a student of Gōjū-ryū Miyagi Chōjun sensei. His grandfather had studied kanji and karate in the province of Fujian, China. Since he was a descendant of Jana Uēkata who was well versed in the pen and the sword, his grandfather believed that martial arts were compulsory and Mr. Yagi was forced to learn karate.

 Mr. Yagi received tuition from the age of 14 years old until after the war, when Miyagi was still alive. Miyagi sensei was a very strict person, and rather than teaching karate at the beginning, he had people sit and listen to him for one to two hours. As this was both mentally and physically difficult, it is said that not many students stayed for a long time. However, it was the master’s principle to teach only the ones who would keep up with him.

 Since being in fourth grade at Nicchu, Yagi Hanshi instructed students at a club in Kume district, and after the war he has worked on popularizing karate teaching at the Budō hall of the Customs office. Currently, he has built the Meibukan in his home in Kume district and is working on nurturing the successors of Gōjū-ryū.

 Yagi Hanshi will demonstrate Sūpārinpe that he learned from Miyagi sensei. In kanji, this kata’s name is written “One hundred eight hands” and is also called hyaku hachi no te (108 hands). By the way, the watch-night bell also rings 108 times. As Goju-ryu's Sūpārinpe is the last kata to be taught, it is a kata learned by 5th dan and higher people. It is a long and very sober kata which doesn’t have the flashiness of Kūsankū or Passai.

 Yagi Hanshi said, “I have shown this kata to mainland Japan’s Gōjū-ryū dōjō as I had filmed it with an 8 millimeter camera, but with the coming special demonstration at the Nippon Budōkan, I wish to perform in front of many karate people and it would be great if it could serve as a reference for Gōjū-ryū.”

 Vice Chairman of All Okinawa Karatedō Federation, Gōjū-kai Chairman, from Kume district, Naha City, 57 years old.




(1) Nicchu was the 2nd middle school of the Okinawa Prefecture, while Icchu was the 1st middle school. They are respectively today’s Naha Senior High School and Shuri Senior High School.


1969 article on master Higa and Passai Dai

Okinawa Kōkai no Yūbe
National special invitation exemplary demonstration (Part III)

(Published on September 23, 1969)


Performig with pride

Higa Yūchoku Hanshi (Shōrin-ryū Kyūdōkan)
Passai Dai


  Although Higa Hanshi is a robust type of man, when young he was stooped and weak. Then, at the age of seventeen, he was introduced to his father's friend Mr. Shiroma Jirō and started karate to develop physical strength. After receiving tuition from Mr. Shiroma for five years, he also received guidance from Shinzato Jin-an sensei of Gōjū-ryū and Miyahira Seiei sensei.

  After the war, having had his kata Passai Dai and Naihanchi Sandan checked by Chibana Chōshin sensei, he became a student at Chibana sensei’s. While Higa Hanshi received guidance of Gōjū-ryū before the war and Shōrin-ryū after the war, even today his use of the waist and his way of stepping among others are filled with Gōjū-ryū’s blood. The Passai Dai that Higa Hanshi will perform is Chibana sensei’s specialty. Higa Hanshi is also eager to proudly perform at this performance.

  It is said that this Passai Dai was created by Matsumura Sōkon sensei, who served as an instructor during the Ryūkyūan dynasty. It is a representative kata of “Shurite”. It is said that at his time King Shō Kō (Buddhist Lord) (1) also exerted himself in the training of Passai Dai.

  Higa Hanshi has been working hard on researching karatedō for more than 40 years, and today, as the chairman of the board of the All Okinawa Karatedō Federation (2), he is also putting a lot of effort into nurturing the karate of the cradle. Higa Hanshi said, “Okinawa’s karatedō is in the spotlight of the world. However honestly, there are many worries about karatedō like the differences in styles and various complicated problems. Particularly, competitive karate, which is contrary to Okinawa's view on karate, is popular in mainland Japan. While we need to establish a firm direction for the future of karatedō, we also need to exert ourselves in strengthening our federation’s organization and strive for the sound development of karatedō.” Born in Wakasa district, Naha City, 59 years old.



(1) On the monument in the graveyard of the Matsumura family is written “He served as a guard of the royal government for three generations, including the 17th King Shō Kō, the 18th King Shō Iku and the 19th King Shō Tai of the second Shō Dynasty. Although the character is different, it is probably King Shō Kō who served as king from 1804 to 1834.

(2) In Japanese, Rijichō of the Zen Okinawa Karatedō Renmei


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1969 article on master Shimabukuro and Ānankū

Okinawa Kōkai no Yūbe
National special invitation exemplary demonstration (Part II)

(Published on September 21, 1969)



The agile action of Mr. Shimabukuro
Shimabukuro Zenryō Hanshi (
Head of Shōrin-ryū Seibukan Dōjō)


  A small man of approximately 150 cm (1). Having been a fan of karate since his childhood, he was a mischievous student who, using the classroom wall as a substitute for makiwara, was looking forward to drilling holes while the teacher was in the staff room. In 1933, he moved from Kubagawa Shuri City to the current district of Jagaru in Chatan Village.

  While working in the confectionery wholesale in Jagaru from the age of seventeen, Shimabukuro Hanshi visited the home of karatedō master Kyan Chōtoku sensei who lived at that time next to Hija bridge in Kadena Village. Shimabukuro Hanshi recalls “For 8 years until the age of 24 years old, I travelled by bicycle to receive the master’s instruction. The hard karate life of those days is a happy memory of my young years.”

  Although he runs the Shōrin-ryū (1) Seibukan Dōjō in Jagaru, there are also many foreigner students due to the area. Foreigners park their deluxe cars next to the entrance of the dōjō. Shimabukuro Hanshi said, “It's a difference of times. We didn't dream of it when we were young. A dōjō is a good thing.” Regardless of his small body, huge foreigners are being conditioned. The eldest son, Mr. Zenpo (27 years old) is also a Renshi instructor. While he works at a foreign trading company, he absorbedly acts as his father’s assistant to instruct the students in the evening.

  Shimabukuro Hanshi will perform Ānankū, which he learned from Kyan sensei. It seems that Ānankū is based on the motto “the quickest possible movement”, and this kata is a favorite of Shimabukuro Hanshi. Rather than being a powerful performance, Shimabukuro Hansi's agile movements in performing Ānankū may be noticed by small build persons. He is 61 years old.


[Correction] In the introduction of Nagamine Hanshi, it was written that Nagamine Hanshi received instruction from both Matsumora Kōsaku and Matsumura Sōkon. Correctly it should have say that he received instruction from direct students of these masters, namely Motobu Chōki and Kyan Chōtoku.



  1. Five shaku is approximately 152 cm.
  2. This Shōrin-ryū can also be pronounced Sukunai-hayashi-ryū to differentiate it from the Shōrin-ryū founded by Chibana Chōshin.
  3. In the book 'Shorin Ryu Seibukan - Kyan’s Karate' by Shimabukuro Zenpo and Dan Smith, it is written: "He did not start karate training until he was 27 years old. (...) He continued to train until the war came to Okinawa in April of 1945".


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1969 article on master Kushi and Wankan

Okinawa Kōkai no Yūbe
National special invitation exemplary demonstration (Part II)

(Published on September 21, 1969)



The theorist of the karate world
Jokei Hanshi (Matsubayashi-ryū dōjō instructor)


 He is a direct disciple of Nagamine Shōshin Hanshi. An expert in Okinawa sumō, Kushi Hanshi was a classmate of Nagamine Hanshi at Naha Commercial School (1). At that time, Mr. Nagamine was already devoting himself to the training of karate. Following his repeated suggestions, Mr. Kushi became fascinated by karate, a lifelong learning sport. Since then he received instruction from Mr. Nagamine, and today, he is passionate about teaching the juniors at the Nagamine Dōjō as a Matsubayashi-ryū instructor.

 Blessed with a solid physical strength, he is a sumō wrestler who before the war won three times the Naminoue Dedicatory Sumō Tournament. Even in karatedō, he was able to greatly improve his skills because of his predisposition. In 1944, on the recommendation of the Okinawa branch of the Butokukai, he was supposed to go to the title/rank examination board in Kyōto, but the war didn’t allow him to do so. Said to be the theorist of the Okinawa karate world, the writing activities of Kushi Hanshi in the field of karatedō are also always receiving much attention from related parties.

 Sportification of karatedō as it can be seen on the mainland have been criticized for losing the essence of karate. At the demonstration, he will display his favorite kata Wankan (Wankwan). Wankan is said to be a “Tomari type of Tī” but the creator is unknown. However, it is said to be a kata that has a long history. This is because the new kata, such as Pin-an and the likes created by Mr. Itosu Sōkō (2) start from the left. However Wankan starts from the right, like Kūsankū, so it is presumed to be an old kata.

 One characteristic of this kata is that it contains many makite (machidī) techniques, in which the performer catch the hand that attacked and without letting it escape strikes a deadly blow. It is said to be a kata particularly suitable for people with large body, and the dynamic performance of Kushi Hanshi is interesting. He was born in Tomari, Naha and is 61 years old.



  1. At that time, Naha City Business School. Today, it is the Okinawa Prefectural Naha Business Senior High School, located next to Matsuyama Park in Naha City.
  2. As written in the original text. Most likely to be Itosu Ankō.
  3. Part two of the article introducing Shimabukuro Zenryō sensei will soon be available.