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Okinawan Dialect

I am not an expert at the Okinawan language but I have learned a few things during my Karate studies.

"Shiro" means "castle" in Japanese. In the Okinawan dialect, this would be "Gusuku."

Thus, the name Miyashiro would have been Miyagusuku, and Shiroma would have been Gusukuma.

There are no "e" and "o" sounds in the Okinawan dialect. Thus, they would not have said "Karate." In the Okinawa dialect, the word for the art would have been "Tudi." Japanese might have said "Tode" or "Tote," but Okinawans would not have used the "e" and "o" vowels.

"Tudi" meant "Tang hand" with Tang representing a great dynasty of China, and thus China in general. Tudi thus meant China hand. China could also be pronounce "Kara" but Okinawans would not have said "Karate," they would have said "Karati."

So when we say that Karate was an alternative pronuncian of Tote, that is only partially correct.

Our Yamani-Ryu bojutsu kata show these pronunciation patterns:

Shuji Nu Kun
Sakugawa Nu Kun
Shirataru Nu Kun

Do you notice that there are no "e" and "o" vowels. The Japanese pronunciation for the second and third words in usually "No Kon."

The name Higaonna is also a Japanese pronunciation. I spoke to an elderly Okinawan woman here in Hawaii and she pronounced it "Hijaunna" with the "j" sound like a buzzing "z."

I do not understand the Okinawan dialect, or Japanese for that matter, but these word and pronunciation patterns are very interesting. I think that it would be useful to have a comprehensive glossary of Karate terms in the Okinawan dialect(s).


Charles C. Goodin