A Brief Introduction to Okinawan Martial Arts

December 28, 20120 Comments

One could say that Okinawan Martial Arts, and Okinawan Karate styles in particular, are the progenitor of most later systems of Karate.

The first recorded history of Karate or Tode is in the late 18th or early 19th century by a Chinese named Kusanku. Kusanku was an ambassador of the Qing (dynasty) sent to Okinawa in the mid-18th century.

Founder of Goju-ryu Karate, Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953), teaching Karate. Photo taken in 1929

His name is well known by Karate practitoners as one of Kusanku’s students, Tode Sakugawa, created a kata called Kusanku (Kushanku / Kankudai) that is still being practiced by many Karate-ka.

Since then there have been many who have brought back various types of Tode (T’ang hand – referring to China hand) to Okinawa.While Tode is relatively “modern” invention, it was preceded in Okinawa by a form of martial arts simply called Ti which has had some technical influences in Karate.

Ti was typically reserved for the royalty and the warriors of the Ryukyu empire; while Karate (Tode) was developed by the commoners in the areas of Shuri, Naha and Tomari (and the systems practiced are still often classified as Naha-te, Shuri-te and Tomari-te).

There are many systems that have come out of Shuri, Naha and Tomari villages as well as systems with a direct Chinese influence.

Some of these commonly known systems of Karate (Naha-te, Shuri-te and Tomari-te) are:

  • Goju Ryu
  • Uechi Ryu
  • Ryuei Ryu
  • Shorin Ryu
  • Tou’on Ryu
  • Shito Ryu
  • Shorinji Ryu
  • Isshin Ryu
  • Motobu Ryu Kenpo
  • Okinawa Kempo
  • Matsumura Seito Shorin Ryu (Suidi)
  • Kobayashi Shorin-ryu
  • Matsubayashi Shorin ryu
  • Shobayashi Shorin-ryu

Many of these systems have various off-shoots, such as:

  • Chubu Shorin Ryu
  • Ryute
  • Shorin Ryu Seibukan
  • Shorin Ryu Shudokan
  • Shorin Ryu Shidokan
  • Shorin Ryu Shorinkan
  • Shorin Ryu Seibukan
  • Shorin-ryu Kishaba Juku
  • Shorin Ryu Kyudokan
  • Motobu Ryu Kenpo
  • Okinawa Kempo
  • Isshin Ryu (hybrid system include Goju Ryu and Shorin Ryu kata)
  • Goju Ryu Jinbukan
  • Goju Ryu Jundokan
  • Goju Ryu Kenshikai
  • Goju Ryu Shobukan
  • Goju Ryu Shodokan
  • Goju Ryu Shoreikan
  • Goju Ryu Meibukan
  • Goju Ryu Shinjikan
  • Pangai Noon Ryu
  • Okikukai Shohei-ryu
  • Jiteki Juku

There are also some popular schools of Ti (tuidi / toide), such as:

  • Motobu Udundi
  • Bugeikan
  • Seidokan (which is basically Motobu Udundi)

While Ti is taught by these schools (as well as others), probably the most prominent and well-known system is the Motobu Udundi taught by Uehara Seikichi sensei (1904 – 2004) which is now headed by Soke Motobu Chosei (the grandson of the Motobu Choki) of Motobu-Ryu (the official school name is: Nihon Denryu Heihou Motobu Kenpo).

In the video below, you can see Uehara Seikichi Sensei demonstrate the entering skills of Udundi.

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