History of Toshu Jutsu (Karate) part 5: 1970-2014

Everything in martial arts is a cycle and everything in martial arts is a paradox.

We began our journey with Karate (or Toshu Jutsu) as a network of knowledge in Okinawa circa 1700-1870. In those halcyon days of Karate men like Hama Higa, Tode Sakugawa, Chatan Yara, Sokon Matsumura and Seisho Aragaki had a thirst for knowledge.

They didn’t know where they would find their Holy Grail. The Okinawans looked to the Northern Shaolin Temple, to Beijing, to the Southern Shorei schools of Fujian, to the Jigen Ryu of Japan, to the fighters of Thailand, Vietnam and Taiwan. Karate was in a state of perpetual change. The more the Okinawans learnt about China and Japan, the more Okinawan Karate became.

Then in the early 20th century men like Itosu and Funakoshi set about standardising Karate, cleaning it up and making it palatable for mass consumption. Karate became a success, a sport, a way of building health, of making friends, of bonding.

But like every cycle, eventually Toshu Jutsu has come back to its root. Today in 2012, as half the Karate community dreams about their sport one day making it into the Olympics, those of us who would seek to emulate the original Okinawan way of approaching Karate are making slow and steady progress.

Not for nothing did I call my own system Hakuda Kempo Toshu Jutsu. My not using the term Karate is intentional. It is Karate but it isn’t Karatedo.

The journey of discovering Karate’s past is how we can secure its future.

Everything in martial arts is a cycle and everything in martial arts is a paradox.

We began our journey with Karate (or Toshu Jutsu) as a network of knowledge in Okinawa circa 1700-1870. In those halcyon days of Karate men like Hama Higa, Tode Sakugawa, Chatan Yara, Sokon Matsumura and Seisho Aragaki had a thirst for knowledge.

They didn’t know where they would find their Holy Grail. The Okinawans looked to the Northern Shaolin Temple, to Beijing, to the Southern Shorei schools of Fujian, to the Jigen Ryu of Japan, to the fighters of Thailand, Vietnam and Taiwan. Karate was in a state of perpetual change. The more the Okinawans learnt about China and Japan, the more Okinawan Karate became.

Then in the early 20th century men like Itosu and Funakoshi set about standardising Karate, cleaning it up and making it palatable for mass consumption. Karate became a success, a sport, a way of building health, of making friends, of bonding.

But like every cycle, eventually Toshu Jutsu has come back to its root. Today in 2012, as half the Karate community dreams about their sport one day making it into the Olympics, those of us who would seek to emulate the original Okinawan way of approaching Karate are making slow and steady progress.

Not for nothing did I call my own system Hakuda Kempo Toshu Jutsu. My not using the term Karate is intentional. It is Karate but it isn’t Karatedo.

The journey of discovering Karate’s past is how we can secure its future.

My mentor Shihan Handyside with his mentor Hirokazu Kanazawa

My mentor Shihan Handyside with his mentor Hirokazu Kanazawa

THE SHORIN ORIGINS OF SHOTOKAN

Hirokazu Kanazawa, who received his 10th Dan from Kokusai Budoin (IMAF) journeyed to Okinawa to discover the source of his Shotokan.

He and his colleague Keinosuke Enoeda sought tuition from Shorin Ryu masters Chibana and Higa and Enoeda was declined.

Higa cited Mr Enoeda’s “aggression” as the reason for not teaching him.

Chosin Chibana however agreed to teach Kanazawa in 1964.

In an interview with Graham Noble, Kanazawa told of his being impressed by the then 80 year old Chibana. Mr Kanazawa said: “We met him at his house, sitting round, drinking tea and talking, many questions. Sometimes the questions were not very good, but of course the students were young. But one asked a question about technique, and Chibana Sensei said, “OK you try and attack me, any technique.” So the student went to attack, I’m not sure what attack, I think he tried to grab Chibana Sensei’s wrist, but before he could get the grip–“Bam,” he was thrown across the room. Chibana Sensei remained sitting down.”

Like his teacher Itosu, Chibana could also thrust his fingers through a bundle of bamboo.
Kanazawa said: “Some of the students held it and he hit it with nukite–Agh! Agh!–then kicking with his toes, his toes were pulled together like this, and Bang! Bang! I was surprised, and the students were–“Ohh!”

Mr Kanazawa also remarked that Chibana’s stances were much higher than those of Shotokan, saying: “He thought that was better for power. He explained… when you are punching, your body must expand–Bam! so that your power goes in to the punch.”

He added: “I think his training was reality training. That was my impression.”

Comparing the Shuri Te (Shorin Ryu) with the Naha Te (Goju Ryu) he saw, Mr Kanazawa said: “Naha-te is I think more Chinese Style, the technique is more round, (circular). Shuri-te is maybe more Okinawan. Some Okinawan people say, “Our style is not from China we had our own Okinawan techniques. This is Shuri-te.”

Mentor: With Shihan Handyside

Mentor: With Shihan Handyside

Mr Kanazawa is of course correct. As we saw in part 1, Shuri Te dates back to at least 1680, whereas Naha Te was very much the result of Chinese communities in Kume.

He added: “Naha-te is more from contact with China, Chinese technique and Okinawan technique brought together. Tomari was similar, close to China. Shuri-te is more in keeping with the original Okinawan karate. This is what they say, thought I don’t know really.”

Mr Kanazawa also advocated Karateka studying Tai Chi.

He said: “The reason I can still do karate at seventy-three years old is because I do tai ch’i. Tai ch’i is so different, extremely different from karate. In karate speed is very important, but in tai ch’i you much not use speed. Power is very important in karate, but in tai ch’i you must not use power: you must only move by intention, don’t use muscle. Focus is very important in karate, but in tai ch’i you must not use focus: in tai ch’i before you can focus you are already starting the next movement. But of course I understand the reason for this. Because in karate “no focus,” means that at any time you can make focus. If you move slowly and relaxed, any time (any instant) you can make speed. And if you really understand relaxing, you can really understand power. So by doing tai ch’i I can see my karate very well. So tai ch’i supports my karate.”

Just like Mr Kanazawa attempting to discover the Shuri Te roots of Shotokan, various attempts have been made to discover the White Crane roots of Goju Ryu.

My teacher Kyoshi Reiner Parsons with his teacher Hanshi Tadanori Nobetsu

My teacher Kyoshi Reiner Parsons with his teacher Hanshi Tadanori Nobetsu

THE FUJIAN ORIGINS OF GOJU RYU

Tadanori Nobetsu (9th Dan Kokusai Budoin IMAF) founded the Nisseikai school of Goju Ryu in 1965. He did so by combining his study of Goju Ryu with the art of Feeding Crane Kung Fu.

According to Patrick McCarthy, the style of Kung Fu that Goju Ryu Karate was based upon was Whooping Crane (also called Calling Crane or Screaming Crane).

This art was based on the Fujian White Crane apparently passed to Ryuryu Ko by Pan Yuba who’s teacher was Lin Shixian (who was a student of Feng Qi Niáng, the originator of the first White Crane style).

Another branch, the one studied by Nobetsu Sensei, is the Feeding Crane tradition.

In 1922 four masters of Crane Fist from China’s Fujian arrived in Taiwan They were Er-Gau, Yi-Gau, A-Fong and Lin Dé Shùn.

Simon with Hanshi Nobetsu, master of Feeding Crane

Simon with Hanshi Nobetsu, master of Feeding Crane

After his arrival in Taiwan Lin De Shun started to work for a sugar company and in 1927 Liu Gu (1900-1965) heard about the skills of that master, and immediately invited him to be his teacher, offering some expensive gifts. Liu learnt thee full syllabus and became the next grandmaster.

Liu Gu was succeeded by his son Liu Yín Shan and he by Liu Chin Long who is Nobetsu Sensei’s teacher.

An interesting aspect of Liu family Shi He Quan is that the family had a book called “The Secret Shaolin Bronze Man Book” – apparently almost identical to the Bubishi.

In his commentary of the Bubishi, Patrick McCarthy recalls: “Having met Liu Yinshan’s brother, Liu Songshan in Fuzhou, I came to learn of a “secret book” on gongfu that had been in the Liu family for the last seven decades. After meeting him in Fuzhou, hosting him at my home in Japan and visiting him in Taiwan, I have become familiar with that book, entitled The Secret Shaolin Bronze Man Book and can testify that it is, in almost every way, identical to the Bubishi. Master Liu’s Bubishi is dvided into 17 articles in three sections, whereas the Okinawan Bubishi contains 32 articles. However the same data is covered in both works though it is categorized differently.”

Tiger Boxing was another style that influenced both Karate (Uechi Ryu) and Feeding Crane was taught by Zhou Zi He.

Following in the footsteps of Aragaki and Higaonna, Uechi Kanbun arrived in Fujian and like them settled at the Ryukyukan, a Okinawan enclave of buildings including a boarding house, homes and businesses established for those who visited and lived in the area – including the famous Kojo Dojo.

Uechi didn’t like training at the Kojo Dojo because he was bullied so Uechi eventually became the student of Shu Shi Wa or Zhou Zhi He. Uechi’s teacher, Zhou Zhi He (1874-1926) originated from Minhou, Fujian.

Zhou reportedly practiced Tiger boxing, in addition to hard and soft qi gong and was noted for his iron palm technique. It has also been speculated that Gokenki and Tang Daiji studied the same style as Zhou Zhi.

THE PRESENT DAY

I have ended this historical journey with Masters Kanazawa (to represent one modern face of Shuri Te) and Master Nobetsu (to represent one modern face of Naha Te) not for any other reason than they are a tangible link to the past.

Master Kanazawa is one of the few living masters to have trained with Shorin Ryu masters like Gichin Funakoshi, Choshin Chibana and Higa. Let us not forget, Funakoshi trained with Matsumura whose own training began in around 1812, therefore just from four generations we have 200 years of Karate history.

Master Nobetsu, as well as training with the likes of Yamaguchi and Asada is also a tangible link to Karate’s Quan Fa origins.

They are also two masters with who’s methods I am somewhat familiar. In the Shuri based traditions, Kanazawa is my teacher’s teacher’s teacher. In the Naha based arts, Nobetsu is my teacher’s teacher. I have also graded in divisions headed by these two men.

In 2003 I was lucky enough to be accepted in the Tokyo-based Kokusai Budoin, where my grades which at the time were 2nd Dan, were recognised in Hirokazu Kanazawa’s Shotokan Karate division, and in Shizuya Sato’s Nihon Jujutsu division. I was lucky enough to train with masters like Tadanori Nobetsu (founder of Nisseikai Karate) and Mitsuhiro Kondo (one of the founders of the European Karate movement in 1956). Soon after I met the aquaintance of Terry Wingrove, one of the first generation of British Karateka circa 1957 and a man who trained 21 years in Japan in the old ways of Karate Jutsu and Yawara, and who introduced me at last to Patrick McCarthy who although I only trained with him in person one time, it was an honour to finally meet the man whose Bubishi I have long treasured.

Bushinkai instructor Simon with world renowned Bubishi expert Hanshi Patrick McCarthy

Bushinkai instructor Simon with world renowned Bubishi expert Hanshi Patrick McCarthy

AUTHOR’S NOTE:

The history that you have just read over 5 sections, is not just my school’s history it is every Karate school’s history. We are all brothers, sisters and distant cousins. Like my father and uncles, and great uncle before me, I have followed on the path of Karate, Jujutsu and Kung Fu and as well as my blood ancestors, the men I have mentioned in this piece are also my ancestors, my Budo ancestors.

My main teacher for my 32 years has been my father Sifu David Keegan. My main teachers for nine years each when I was a young man were Stephen Bullough (a system called Bushido comprising Karate, Judo, Aikido and Kobudo) and a Tai Chi teacher who taught me mostly Taiji Quan as well as some Hsing-I Quan and Chinese sword.

My principle teachers for the last ten years or so have been Shihan Robert Carruthers 7th Dan and Kyoshi Reiner Parsons 7th Dan.

Bob Carruthers Sensei commenced his Karate study in 1972 under British pioneers John Smith and Danny Connor. The system was Bujinkai, a mix of Wado Ryu Karate, Shotokan Karate and Preying Mantis Kung Fu. His next teacher in the 1980s was Shihan Phillip Handyside of the Shobukan school, whose style was based on the Shotokan of Hirokazu Kanazawa, and the Malaysian Budokan of Chew Choo Soot. Bob trained under various instructors, including Hakuda and Jujutsu master J Carslake who was on the panel that awarded him his 5th Dan, J Hogan (Ryukyu Kempo) who awarded him 6th Dan and currently with a group based in the Phillipines, headed by Grandmaster Rene Tongson and Angelo Baldisonne, who awarded Bob his 7th Dan and Shihan title. Bob’s previous senior student Stephen Brennan introduced me to a type of Karate called Koryu Uchinadi and I have never looked back.

Reiner Parsons Sensei commenced his Judo study in 1960, followed by boxing and then Goju Ryu Karate in 1974, studying under various Liverpool Goju Ryu pioneers including the likes of Tony Christian, Bob Greenhalgh, Gary Spiers and Dennis Martin. He later trained in Goju Ryu and Kobudo with Morio Higaonna and Kai Kuniyuki and also trained in other styles with masters such as Kazuo Sakai (Wado Ryu Karate) and Shizuya Sato (Nihon Jujutsu). Reiner’s main influence in Karate however has been Nisseikai master Tadanori Nobetsu who graded Reiner 5th Dan before he was awarded 6th Dan by Shoto Ryu master Ikuo Higuchi, the successor to Makoto Gima.

My father Sifu David Keegan first commenced his study of Jujutsu in 1959, spent some time training in the park with the Red Triangle Karate club (Masters Enoeda and Sherry) before studying various methods of weaponry. Travelling to China in the mid 1980s when his brother John Barrie (Shotokan black belt under Enoeda and Cook) he fell in love with the art of Tai Chi and later graded in Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu Iaido. He currently practises Yang Style Tai Chi, Sun style Tai Chi, Chinese sword and various types of Chi Kung including the Ba Duan Jin, the Animal style of Huo Tao and various Shaolin methods.

These are the instructors who have taught me for any significant length of time. Others who have helped shape my understanding of Karate, Jujutsu, Kung Fu or other martial arts even if I have only attended brief or informal training or seminars with them including:

Phil Handyside, Steve Rowe, Tadanori Nobetsu, Patrick McCarthy, Jaimie Lee-Barron, Terry Wingrove, Joe Carslake, Shizuya Sato, Ray Walker, Jack Hearn, Mitsuhiro Kondo, George Scarrott, Mike Newton, Li De Yin, Alan Ruddock, John Dang, Nejc Sever, Bruce Miller, Zhang Xiu Mu and Allan Tattersall.

Thank you for reading

Yang style family: Shikon head Steve Rowe, Metal Tiger headteacher David Keegan and Bushinkai chief instructor Simon Keegan

A new friend and teacher: Steve Rowe 8th Dan

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