Kobudō 3: Nakamura Shigeru and Higa Yūsuke
[ Okinawa Times ] November 17, 1961
Studying with Chanmī-gwa and others
Nakamura Shigeru (67)
He was born in 1894 in Nago Town (1). When he was 15 years old, he entered the Okinawa Prefecture Junior High School (2), joined the school’s karate club and started to learn karate. From a young age, Mr. Nakamura was extremely interested in karate, listening to many tales and stories from elders and seniors. For this reason, and because he redoubled of enthusiasm, he quickly progressed in karate. During the coming demonstration, he will perform “Niseshi” kata that he learned from the nicknamed “Kuniyoshi no Tanmē” (3). The kata itself doesn’t have many various techniques, however there are very few experts of it in Okinawa making this kata a precious work of art.
In the past, Mr. Nakamura zealously studied karate together with Chanmī-gwa and Motobu-sārū (4) which makes him a karateman from the roots. Next to karate, he also knows Bō (staff) and Sai (trident) amongst others.
However, in the 50 some years of his martial art life, he had to face many hardships. He explains that he had to go to training sessions in cold winter nights and travel on many journeys in order to study karate. Such types of hardships built Mr. Nakamura’s temperament and helped him nurture an indomitable force of will that never bends in front of something. Today, he has a dōjō in his house and it is said that the number of his students goes up to 1,000.
Nowadays in Okinawa karate, there are many various styles, however, Mr. Nakamura said that “In the past, there were no styles in karate. To develop Okinawa karate, all styles must be united (5).”
In the dōjō of Mr. Nakamura hangs a framed picture on which is written in large letters “Jinkaku Kansei” (6). There, obeying the teaching of their master, students zealously train days and nights.
(Lives in 489 Nago Town)
(1) Today Nago City.
(2) Today’s Shuri Senior High School was once the “1st Okinawa Prefectural Junior High School” while today’s Naha Senior High School was the “2nd Okinawa Prefectural Junior High School”.
(3) Alias for Kuniyoshi Shinkichi (1848-1926), “Tanmei” being a word that could be translated into grandpa or old man. According to the “Okinawa Karate Kobudo Encyclopedia”, Kuniyoshi was born in Kumoji Village (present Naha) and learned Nahate from Sakiyama Chikudun nu Peichin (who himself studied in China with Ru Ru Ko). Kuniyoshi’s mastery was considered equal to Higashionna Kanryō’s mastery. When 60 years old, Kuniyoshi Shinkichi moved to Nago.
(4) Nicknames for respectively Kyan Chōtoku (1870-1945) and Motobu Chōki (1870-1944).
(5) The word “united” could also be translated in “standardized”.
(6) “Character completion” as in personality brought to perfection.
Extra note: According to the “Okinawa Karate Kobudo Encyclopedia”, Nakamura studied under Itosu Anko when in junior high school and passed away in 1969.
Father and son demonstrating Tenbē together
Higa Yūsuke (70)
As kobudō is slowly being forgotten, the only person who performs “Tenbē”(1) today is Mr. Higa. Devoting himself to the preservation of Tenbē, the role of Mr. Higa is very important. Showing a strong volition, Mr. Higa explains: “With the fear that the art of Tenbē might cease to exist, I had some helpless feelings but today, as I am speaking with kobudō concerned people in order to restore this martial art, I am quite happy. With people capable of performing Tenbē all passing away, we cannot spare our efforts. Myself, although I am getting old, I wish to perform Tenbē in my own way.”
Tenbē is a fight between someone armed with a woven hat (2) and a sword and someone armed with a spear. During the demonstration, Mr. Higa will perform with a hat and a sword while his 5th son named Yūfuku will perform with a spear. As a familial combination with good spirit, they will do their best for the resurrection of Tenbē. In the case of the sword and hat handler, he must jump freely over the opponent. It is said that it is because it is hard to jump high over someone that this martial art is not really popular.
Imitating the jump and speaking in Okinawan, Mr. Higa says, “When I was young, it was nothing for me to jump over you.” A small but solid and muscle tightened man, it is easy to imagine that when he was young, this energetic old man could jump freely over somebody.
Born in 1891 in Kudeken, Chinen Village, he joined the Oita Infantry 72 regiment in 1911. He was discharged in 1913. He explains than after being discharged, when he was 24 years old, he received instruction from Arakaki sensei from Shuri. The hard training he received when in the infantry helped him in the study of Tenbē, an art that he quickly mastered. After the death of Arakaki sensei, he taught the art to the youth of Chinen, Takagusuku and Sashiki but the incessant hard training was too much to cope with and many quit training, letting him with his son Yūfuku as only partner.
Keeping himself busy working on a farm on one side, Mr. Higa trains hard in view of the demonstration.
(1) Also called Tinbē.
(2) Written kasa in Japanese, it could also mean umbrella.