Okinawa Kenpo History

BodhidharmaMost martial arts historians agree on the legend of a man who journeyed across the Himalaya Mountains from India into China around 520 A.D. His name is known as Bodhidharma (Daruma in Japanese). He came to China to spread his philosophy of Buddhism. Bodhidharma arrived in Honan ( Hunan ) province at the Shaolin temple, only to find the monks practicing meditation, but in very weak physical condition. In an effort to help the other monks withstand many hours of meditation, he taught them breathing techniques and several exercises to increase their stamina and build strength.

It is believed that these same exercises, which were derived from imitating animals, are the source of the Shaolin ch'uan-fa (fist law) or Shaolin Temple Boxing. Using these exercises, the monks were able to develop their spiritual and physical strength. The monks of the Shaolin temple were known throughout China for their courage and fortitude.

This temple is recognized by most martial artists as being the birthplace of gung-fu. And Bodhidharma is sometimes called Tamo or Da Mo, and is credited with originating gung-fu and karate. As these fighting skills became famous, they spread to nearby Fukien province, through tradesmen and merchants, and eventually to Okinawa. Okinawa, known as the RyuKyu islands, is situated southwest of the islands of Japan. Because of its strategic location between Japan and China, both nations vied for domination of the island. In the 14th century (1372) Okinawa became a Chinese satellite. It was during this time that ch'uan fa (fist law) was probably introduced. Chinese style fighting was greatly admired by the Okinawans, and they began to merge it with an existing native form of fighting called te (fist ), or bushi no te (warrior's hand). At that time, this hybrid Okinawan martial art was referred to by one of it's two names: To-de (Chinese hands) or Kara-te.

Regarding the use of the name Kara-te:
In China, there was a province by the name of Kara, which was responsible for unifying the old country during the Tang dynasty. It is believed that during the period of the Kara Kingdom, Chinese martial arts leaked out to many satellite countries (Japan, Okinawa, Korea, etc.). There are two ways of writing in kanji, (kanji is one of the three alphabets in Japan), the characters for the word karate. When written one way, it reads "Chinese hands", and when written the other way, it reads "empty hands". The kanji for the "Chinese hands" may also be interpreted as "Kara hands", or "hand of the Kara Kingdom".

The Japanese later changed the kanji that read "Chinese hands" to the kanji that reads "empty hands".

Okinawa (formerly Ryu Kyu Kingdom)In 1429, an Okinawan by the name of Sho, Hashi united what was known as the three kingdoms: Hokuzan (north), Chuzan (middle), and Nanzan (south), and made his capital in the city of Shuri. In 1477, Sho, Hashi was succeeded by another Okinawan by the name of Sho, Shin, who put a stop to all feudalism on Okinawa, made all of the anji (feudal lords) move to the capital city of Shuri and imposed a ban on all weapons even rusty swords, by the peasant class. Sho-shin encouraged people to focus on art and philosophy, so they might be dissuaded from te. However, the martial art continued in secrecy.

This was a good time for Okinawa. The Ryukyu kingdom expanded and prospered through trade with China, Asia, Korea, and Japan. Then, in 1609, the reigning king of the dynasty found himself obliged to outfit an army for sake of repelling an invasion of the islands that had been launched by Shimazu, the daimyo of the clan of Satsuma, who had been exiled from Japan. The newly armed Ryukyuan warriors fought with conspicuous bravery and gallantry against the soldiers of the Satsuma clan, known and feared throughout the country for their fighting skill, but, after Ryukyuan success in a few pitched battles, a surprise landing by Shimazu's forces sealed the fate both of the islands and of their monarch, who was forced to surrender. The Sansura clan of Japan invaded and took over control of Okinawa. Shimazu reissued the edict banning weapons.

Okinawan Ch'uan fa groups and To-de societies banded together to produce a solid front against the Japanese . Many Okinawans were secretly sent to China to learn fighting arts. Okinawa for many centuries engaged in trade with the people of Fukien province in southern China, and it is probably from this source that Chinese kempo ("boxing") was introduced into the islands. As well as empty handed fighting, the use of the Bo, Sai, Tonfa, Nunchaku, Kama, and other farm and household items were secretly developed into effective weapons with their own individual methods or system. Combined, these weapons systems are known as kobudo.

SakugawaDuring the 1700s, an officer called Sakugawa, who was in the Okinawan Palace Guard, learned Chinese fighting from a Chinese military officer, Kusanku, who arrived in Okinawa in 1761. At this time of Japanese occupation, it was still permitted for some Chinese attaches to come and go in Okinawa, for envoy purposes. It was also allowed for the nobles or royal classes to practice To-te, and it was definitely a requirement for the Royal Guard ). Sakugawa traveled many times to China with Kusanku, and learned to combine Ch'uan fa with te to form Okinawan-te. In fact, Sakugawa's nick-name was "karate" or To-te" Sakugawa ( sometimes spelled ' To-de' ), which literally meant, "Chinese fist Sakugawa." The name karate, in those days, meant, "Chinese hand". Later on in Japan, the character for "Chinese," was changed to one meaning "empty," so the new translation meant "empty hand." ( From Kusanku we have the name of two high level katas, Kusanku Sho and Kusanku Dai, which is interesting because Kusanku supposedly did not teach kata! The katas may have been formed from the techniques taught by Kusanku).

ItosuIn 1904, karate became even more popular with it's introduction to the Okinawan public schools. The man responsible for this was Yatasune "Anko" Itosu, who helped make karate part of the physical education requirements. Yatasune "Anko" Itosu ( "Anko," means 'horse,' and referred to the horse stance at which Itosu was superb in demonstrating ) was an educator in Shuri, a south city in Okinawa. Itosu was born in 1830 into a shizoku, or noble family. He became an educator, but was also a learned master of karate. From Itosu came the Pinan katas. These katas were stated by one source as coming from the Kusanku kata, before it was broken down into Sho ( lesser ) and Dai ( greater ). However, another source says that Itosu learned a form from a Chinese man, and the form was called "Chiang Nan" or ( Channan in Okinawan pronunciation ) from which he produced the Pinan katas.

Itosu taught anyone who wanted to learn, in contrast to some of the other masters, who would not permit a student to learn from more than one teacher. According to Gichin Funakoshi, student of Itosu and founder of Shotokan karate, Itosu was of average height, with a great round chest like a beer barrel. Despite his long moustache, he rather had the look of a well-behaved child. Itosu was so well trained that his entire body seemed to be invulnerable. Once, as he was about to enter a restaurant in Naha ( near Shuri), a sturdy young man attacked him from the rear, aiming a blow at his side. But Itosu, without even turning, hardened the muscles of his stomach so that the blow glanced off his body, and at the very same instant his right hand grasped the right wrist of his assailant. Still without turning his head, he calmly dragged the man inside the restaurant.

There, he ordered the frightened waitresses to bring food and wine. Still holding the man's wrist with his right hand, he took a sip of the wine from the cup that he held in his left hand, then pulled his assailant around in front of him and for the first time had a look at him. After a moment, he smiled and said, "I don't know what your grudge against me could be, but let's have a drink together!" The young man's astonishment at this behavior can easily be imagined.

Itosu had another famous encounter with a rash young man, this one the karate instructor of a certain Okinawan school. Belligerent by nature and full of pride at his strength, the youth had the rather unpleasant habit of lurking in dark lanes, and when a lonely walker happened to come strolling by, he would lash out at the poor soul. So self-confident did he finally become that he decided to take on Itosu himself, believing that, no matter how powerful the master was, he could be beaten if set upon unawares.

One night, he followed Itosu down the street and, after a stealthy approach, aimed his strongest punch at the master's back. Bewildered by the quite evident fact that he had made no impression whatsoever, the young bully lost his balance and at that same instant felt his right wrist caught in a viselike grip. Now Itosu had very strong hands, able to crush a thick bamboo stem in his bare hand, as attested by Funakoshi himself. The youth now tried to free himself with his other hand, but of course he did not succeed. Itosu now walked on, hauling the other behind him without even bothering to look back. Realizing that he had failed completely, the young man begged the master's forgiveness. "But who are you?" Itosu asked softly. "I'm Goro," replied the youth. Now Itosu looked at him for the first time. "Ah," he murmured, "you really shouldn't try to play such tricks on an old man like me," With that, he let go and strolled away.

Another time was from a well-known incident when Itosu was set upon by a group of young thugs, but before long the hoodlums were all lying unconscious in the street. An eyewitness, seeing that Itosu was in no danger, rushed off to tell Itosu's friend Azato what had transpired. Interrupting his account, Azato said, "And the ruffians, of course, were all lying unconscious, with their faces to the ground, were they not?" Much surprised, the witness admitted that that was true, but he wondered how Azato could have known. "Very simple," replied the master. "No karate adept would be so cowardly as to attack from the rear. And should someone unfamiliar with karate attack from the front, he would end up flat on his back. But I know Itosu; his punches would knock his assailants down on their faces. I would be quite astonished if any of them survive.

Funakoshi & MotobuThe next development took place in 1922 at Tokyo and Osaka, Japan. Two karate men, Funakoshi, Gichin and Motobu, Choki, gave a demonstration of Okinawan karate for Japanese approval. Funakoshi impressed the emperor Horohito so much, that by 1932, karate became part of the educational system of Japan. After his demonstration, Funakoshi was asked to stay in Japan and teach Okinawan karate-do. Even though it meant many years of separation from his wife, Funakoshi agreed to stay and teach at one of the local universities. The karate-do as Funakoshi knew it would have to change in order for his Japanese students to understand it's complexity. Stances were altered and names of katas changed. His new system was titled Shoto-kan, but Funakoshi disliked the name; he thought that all karate should be the same.

At this time, the Okinawan martial art was referred to by one of it's two names: To-de (Chinese hands) or karate (Empty hands). The Okinawans wanted everyone to agree on one name, so during a meeting between Miyagi, Chojun; Hanashiro, Chomo; Motobu, Choki; and Kyan, Chotoku, the decision was made and one name was finally agreed upon. In 1936, the Okinawan martial art was given the name karate-do, meaning "an empty-handed self defense art", or "weaponless art of self defense." Some would even go on to call it kute-do, ku meaning "sky", which was associated with being "empty", and "te" of course meaning hand.

Shigeru NakamuraMaster Nakamura was born on Jan. 20, 1894. His karate training started whilst in attendance of Icchu Middle School in Shuri. It was here that both Kanryo Higashionna (1845-1915) and Chomo Hanashiro (1830-1945) were the karate instructors. Yatasune Itosu (1830-1915) as well as Kentsu Yabu (1863-1937) also made visits to the school. Upon Graduation from middle school, Nakamura Sensei returned to Nago city where he continued his training under Shinkichi Kunioshi, the successor to the legendary Naha "Bushi" Sakiyama. In 1953, Nakamura Sensei opened his own dojo in Nago city where he called his form of karate "Okinawa Kenpo".  Later, Master Nakamura gained additional fame for his introduction of "bogu gear", protective equipment permitting full contact sparring.

GRANDMASTER SEIKICHI ODO

DeValentino Shudokan Schools International (D.S.S.I.) is fortunate today to have a link to the past; Okinawa Kenpo and Kobudo Grand Master (Hanshi) Odo, Seikichi.. Master Odo was one of the worlds foremost weapons practitioners. D.S.S.I.  Director, Shihan Sensei DeValentino, studied for several years under Hanshi Odo who personally awarded Sensei DeValentino his Renshi (teaching license) and his sixth degree Black Belt in 1997.  

Grand Master OdoSeikichi Odo, whose name means "world walker" in Japanese, was born in Okinawa in 1923. Of samurai descent, he was small in stature and introverted as a youth, making him the target of much teasing and practical jokes by older boys. At age 9 Odo began his martial arts training in Judo, but found it not to his particular tastes. At age 13 Odo met Koho Kuba of Kawasald, Okinawa. Kuba Sensei taught Odo the art of Okinawa-te. At the age of 20, Odo began to study Okinawan Kobudo. He was soon to fall in love with the weapons arts, and studied them tediously to ensure the preservation of the old ways. Over time, Odo's kobudo instructors included many of the leading practitioners of Okinawa, such as Mitsuo Kakazu, Kenko Nakaima, Shimpo Matayoshi and, Seike Toma. At 23 Odo began to study karate under Nakamura Sensei. Odo studied both kobudo (with Mitsuo Kakazu) as well as karate and kobudo with Seike Toma, whom was a senior student of Chotoku Kyan (1880-1945). However, Odo Sensei still considers Master Nakamura as his primary instructor as well as mentor.Shihan Sensei DeValentino & Grand Master Odo

It was during his studies with Master Nakamura that Nakamura Sensei asked Odo to incorporate the kobudo with Nakamura's own karate teachings. During the last few years of Nakamura's life, Odo began to undertake the teaching responsibilities of the dojo. Sensei Odo began to fully incorporate kobudo training with the Okinawa Kenpo Karate system in the mid 1970's. This produced a new system, the Okinawa Kenpo Karate-Kobudo Shudokan. The use of the word "shudokan" is important to the development of this traditional fighting art because it describes Master Odo's commitment to teaching. Defined, "shudokan" means "one way, keep straight, don't change." 

Although Marcus resigned in 1998 as technical advisor from Odo sensei's federation (Ryukyu Hon Kenpo Kobujutsu Federation) of Okinawa Japan, he continues to independently preserve the ancient arts with honor as a International Director of the National Karate and Kobudo Federation.

 

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