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Wado Heretic
Green Belt
Green Belt

Joined: 23 May 2014
Posts: 387
Location: United Kingdom, England, Shropshire
Styles: Wado-Ryu , Kobayashi Shorin-Ryu (Kodokan), RyuKyu Kobojutsu

PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 10:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Apologies for the delayed reply to this. Now, I would question both assertions with some degree of vehemence, gentleman.

First, I would challenge the notion that Funakoshi Gichin “watered down” karate or that he was not a primary contributor to what became Shōtōkai-ryū. If one looks at the 1925 book, Karate Jutsu, by Funakoshi one sees instances of him displaying the combative techniques of Karate in the early pages. His stances are also wider and larger than the more compact stances of Shōrin-ryū and Shi-tō-ryū even in 1926, although not to the extent of modern Shōtōkai-ryū. I suspect the influence of his other primary teacher, Ankō Asato, on the difference in stances.

If we move ahead to the 1935 book Karate-Do Kyohan, the original, then Funakoshi Gichin has adopted even wider and deeper stances by then, if again not to the extremes Nakayama and Egami would take them. We also see Funakoshi show examples of the application of kata movements and the practice of Yakusoku Kumite with Obata and Ohtsuka. He also demonstrates Idori no Goshin (Seated Self-Defence), Nage-Waza (Throwing techniques: the infamous nine forgotten throws), Bukiwaza (Weapon techniques), and Bukidori (Defences against Weapons). Although, Ohtsuka and Konishi appear to have taken the lead on the Bukidori admittedly, however, Funakoshi is the main actor in the rest of the material.

I would also like to quote the man himself: “In karate, hitting, thrusting, and kicking are not the only methods, throwing techniques and pressure against joints are included. All these techniques should be studied referring to basic kata”

Regarding Jiyu-Kumite, Ohtsuka and Konishi were innovating the practice of free-sparring the 20s and it formed part of their philosophical disagreements with Funakoshi. This was before Yoshitaka was asked to take the lead of instruction at the Shōtōkan in 1936.

We should also remember that Funakoshi was also a Tegumi player in his youth, and a Judoka and thus familiar with the effort needed to stop a resisting opponent. He also came from a generation where the practice of Kake Dameshi was still a regular occurrence, and it is not implausible that Funakoshi refereed or even partook in his youth. I suspect he recognised, as we do today, that the no-contact/light contact form of sparring, especially when it becomes a game of tag, is not an effective way of developing self-defence skills. At least in Ippon Kumite your opponent can attack with power and intent.

We should also remember that Funakoshi Gichin was writing for an audience searching for Modern Budo, and in the society of post-feudal Japan, the notion of modern Budo was highly specialised and distinct. Judo was Jacket Wrestling, not a branch of Jujutsu and a pragmatic form of self-defence. Kendo was fencing, not the art of the battlefield sword. Thus, Karate became a form of Boxing in the hands of the Japanese second generation, who sought to make it distinct from the other martial traditions of Japan. Funakoshi evidently by his own words, and the material presented in Karate-Do Kyohan which presents Karate as a pragmatic system of self-defence did not intend to diminish his karate but he could not fight the times alone.
We should also remember that Karate only avoided the post-war Budo Censure placed on University Budo associations because of two factors:

1. It was actively compared to Western Pugilism as a similar sport but one that included kicks.

2. Its Chinese origins were exemplified over its adoption of the Militaristic Era’s Budo culture.

It did not suit, politically, for anyone including Funakoshi to continue to exalt Karate as an effective tool of physical education for soldiers. Thus, displaying it as the pragmatic form of self-defence karate originated as would not have been done following 1945, and it would take until Ōyama’s 1958 work “What is Karate?” for the martial art to once again be talked about in terms of effective self-defence. At least with regards to the printed word. Rather, karate as a form of physical education for all, a sport, and as a vehicle for a philosophy of violence as a final and last resort became the model going forward.

Regarding the theory of Yoshitaka being the primary architect of Shōtōkan-ryū I would offer the opposition that it does not adequately explain the post-war development of the style by people such as Masatoshi Nakayama, Isao Obata, and Hidetaka Nishiyama. Said people had never studied with Yoshitaka but had been students of Gichin and had been peers of Ohtsuka and Konishi when they were Gichin’s primary assistants. Even if we acknowledge that Genshin Hironishi became the primary instructor at the Shōtōkan in 1943, had been a close student of Yoshitaka’s, and was the leading force in re-establishing the Dai-Nippon Karate-Do Shōtōkai in 1949/50 this is insufficient to argue that Yoshitaka was a significant influence on the Karate of the Japanese Karate Federation: the system of karate commonly called Shōtōkan.

In 1949, the leading figures of the JKA were Obata Isao, Saigo Kichinosuke, Takagi Masatomo, and Nakayama Masatoshi. All men who had not been students of Yoshitaka. These men were also the ones most responsible for the University clubs and associations. In contrast, the close students of Yoshitaka: Egami Shigeru, Okuyuma Tadao, and Genshin Hironishi, were nowhere to be seen in the leadership of the JKA. Indeed, of all those who credited Yoshitaka as a teacher, Kase Taiji alone remained with the JKA. They instead continued the legacy of the Dai-Nippon Karate-Do Shōtōkai after the death of Funakoshi Gichin in 1956.

Yet, even in the Shōtōkai significant parts of Yoshitaka\'s karate are no longer practised. For examples, the stance Yoshitaka formulated Fudodachi (unmoveable stance), and his \'Ten-no-kata\' are rarely seen nowadays in any branch of the Shōtō Ha Karate Tree. The Ten-no-kata is only one kata of a series consisting of Ten-no-kata, Ji-no-kata, and Jin-no-kata, standing for Heaven (Ten), Earth (Ji) and Man (Jin). As far as I am aware Ji-no-kata and Jin-no-kata no longer exist. Instead, the karate of the Shōtōkai is very much a reflection of Egami’s personal reflection on the Karate of Funakoshi Gichin, an exploration of the physical feats he attributed to Yoshitaka, with influences and ideas from Okuyama Tadao, and his own thorough experimentation with technique and body dynamics.

The the creation of JKA Shōtōkan, and the so-called University Shōtōkan, was in the hands of men who never trained with Funakoshi Yoshitaka, or if they did, they did so very briefly. Even the Shōtōkai whom credit Funakoshi Yoshitaka as a great teacher has not perpetuated much in the way of his innovations. I suspect Yoshitaka’s legacy is the dynamic kicking he introduced through the war years, that were then adopted by returning senior students, however, I would not credit him as the real architect of Shōtōkan or Shōtōkai. I believe one must argue Nakayama and Egami deserve the credit, respectively.

With regards to Funakoshi’s competency or lack of training, I believe that is entirely superfluous. Funakoshi Gichin, by most accounts, started his training in karate no later than the age of eleven. He was born in 1868 and thus began training no later than 1878/79. His primary teacher Asato Ankō did not die until 1906, and his other teacher Itosu Ankō died in 1915. Giving Funakoshi at least 27 years of training under Asato, and 36 with Itosu.

I believe rumours of this nature come from remarks from Konishi and Ohtsuka about their training with Mabuni Kenwa and having their Pinan Kata corrected. As far as we know, the final version of the Pinan was not created by Itosu until 1905. At this point, Funakoshi was already 37, had started a family, and was active as both a school teacher and karate instructor. He had completed his regular karate instruction with Itosu some years earlier. There is an interesting tale from Motobu Choki that is relevant:

“I was interested in the martial arts since I was a child and studied under many teachers. I studied with Itosu Sensei for 7-8 years. At first, he lived in Urasoe, then moved to Nakashima Oshima in Naha, then on to Shikina, and finally to the villa of Baron Ie. He spent his final years living near the middle school.

I visited him one day at his home near the school, where we sat talking about the martial arts and current affairs. While I was there, 2-3 students also dropped by and sat talking with us. Itosu Sensei turned to the students and said, ‘show us a kata.’ The kata that they performed was very similar to the Channan kata that I knew, but there were some differences also. Upon asking the student what the kata was, he replied ‘It is Pinan no Kata.’ The students left shortly after that, upon which I turned to Itosu Sensei and said ‘I learned a kata called Channan, but the kata that those students just performed now was different. What is going on?’ Itosu Sensei replied ‘Yes, the kata is slightly different, but the kata that you just saw is the kata that I have decided upon. The students all told me that the name Pinan is better, so I went along with the opinions of the young people.’ These kata, which were developed by Itosu Sensei, underwent change even during his own lifetime.”

It is likely that Funakoshi learnt this same Channan kata as Motobu did, and that is why Funakoshi’s version of the Pinan have some idiosyncratic details such as age-uke not found in the Shōrin-ryū and Shi-tō-ryū versions. I suspect the Shōrin-ryū and Shi-tō-ryū versions are the final versions intended by Itosu as Mabuni and Chibana regularly trained with him right up until his death. Funakoshi Gichin did have a friendship with Mabuni Kenwa and it has been theorised he learnt the Pinan series in a brief period off of Mabuni before his move to Japan in 1922. It is plausible as Funakoshi and Mabuni were both members of the Karate Kenkyokai from 1918 onwards. My guess is that the “errors” in the Heian kata come from the older Channan version of the kata or are a result of Funakoshi’s own approach to karate, rather than actual errors implied by the wording “corrected by Mabuni” as used by Ohtsuka. However, the idea that Funakoshi had insufficient training with either of his teachers is at best absurd, even if we accept that he might have not had perfect knowledge of the Pinan no Kata.

I would also argue that the choice of Ohtsuka and Konishi to train with Mabuni and Motobu does not truly speak ill of Funakoshi’s abilities but rather the brilliance of Mabuni and Motobu. Mabuni was considered a peerless technician by his peers, including Fanakoshi, and Motobu was considered an expert on fighting who had proven his reputation true by defeating a foreign boxer in a fight. What bujutsu enthusiast would have refused the opportunity to train with the two if they could.

Now, I do have a question about where this claim of Ōyama Masutatsu being award a Yondan from Funakoshi comes from. I can find evidence of a Yondan in Judo under Sone Koji, and a Rokudan from Yamaguchi Gogen in Karate (Though I have seen as high as Hachidan claimed too), and a teaching licence in Daito-Ryu but I can find no evidence of a grade awarded by Funakoshi.
R. Keith Williams

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