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"China Hand"

My friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, is very good about teaching me the history, culture, and traditions of Okinawa Karate. He is also very patient. Sometimes he tells me the same thing, spaced out over many months or even years. Then, I will "suddenly" get what he is saying. (I will get it suddenly, even if he has told me many times.)

Here is the latest gem. Nakata Sensei has told me often that his Sensei, Chosin Chibana, would talk about Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu and say that Goju-Ryu more closely reflected Chinese techniques. This made sense, since the Goju-Ryu founders and pioneers had more recently studied in China. Shorin-Ryu was older in the sense that the contact with Chinese teachers had taken place longer ago.

But that was not exactly it. Shorin-Ryu, according to Nakata Sensei, featured techniques that were largely developed in Okinawa. This Okinawan art was known as Te, or Ti, or Di. What the Okinawans adopted from the Chinese was the kata system -- not necessarily the techniques. Shorin-Ryu reflects the Okinawa art using the Chinese kata method of teaching.

That being so, it would make sense that the Shorin-Ryu kata would not necessarily exist in China. If the techniques of the Okinawan art were placed in the kata format, the kata themselves would have been new.

This might also explain why the Shorin-Ryu techniques do not always have Chinese counterparts. Shorin-Ryu is not simply Chinese martial arts taught in Okinawa.

I know that this is an obvious point, but it was one of those "Oh I get it" moments for me. "Tote" or "Tudi" meant China Hand. What this really meant was the Chinese approach with the Okinawan techniques... or generally.

Of couse, Okinawans did learn from Chinese instructors. They would have learned a wide range of techniques. But they would have also known their own Okinawan art. It is that art, using the format of the Chinese martial arts, that we now know as Shorin-Ryu.

Or something like that.

By the way, Nakata Sensei's instructor, Chosin Chibana, is recognized as the first to use the term "Shorin-Ryu." I understand that he used this name to give recognition of the "Shorin" ("Shoalin" in Chinese) connection of the art. Chibana Sensei never used the term "Kobayashi-Ryu" to describe the art that he taught. "Kobayashi" is the Japanese pronounciation of the same character that Chibana Sensei used.


Charles C. Goodin