INTERVIEW WITH CHOTOKU KYAN SENSEI
Chotoku Kyan (喜屋武 朝徳, December 1870 – 20 September 1945) (also spelled Chotoku Kiyan) was an Okinawankarate master who was famous for both his karate skills and his colorful personal life. He had a large influence on the styles of karate that would become Shorin-Ryu and its related styles.
By Nisaburo Miki
(Reviewed for editorial comment for Seibukan Shorin Ryu by Dan Smith)
The advent of modern communications has opened up the opportunity to find information through out the world over the Internet. We can get the latest news instantly or play our favorite casino games directly from our phones, for which you can read more at this link, with people from anywhere in the world. During my efforts to produce the video, Kyan’s Karate demonstrated by Hanshi Zenpo Shimabukuro, I came into contact with several people that had access to information in Japan that we in Seibukan were not aware was available. In 1929 a young Japanese karate enthusiast by the name of Nisaburo Miki went to Okinawa to uncover as much background information on Okinawan karate, which was becoming a Japanese martial art. Miki had the opportunity to interview several senior Okinawan teachers and recorded the interviews in his book, Kempo Gaisetsu. The book was published in January of 1930 and had a limited distribution. The interview with Chotoku Kyan produced the only written record that we have of Kyan’s thoughts, philosophies and training directions for his karate. I have taken the translations of this work and edited the work to match the comments that have been passed to me from Zenryo Shimabukuro and my teacher, Zenpo Shimabukuro. Kyan addressed three areas in his interview with Miki:
1) What the student should be told of karate before engaging in training,
2) what to concentrate on when training and 3) what to remember when fighting. I have taken the translated work and attempted to relate them to the principles of Seibukan Shorin Ryu in an effort to give a better understanding of Kyan’s Karate. The methods of teaching karate and its history 1. Teaching should take place in the following order: (A) First explain what karate is, (B) what the training attitude is, (C) learn the forms and movements, (D) then learn how to strike with the fist and the elbow, how to kick, the corresponding blocks with grabbing and immobilizing techniques, (E) and finally kata. After you have learned kata well then you can begin sparring (the original is kumite or tegumi). It is the belief of the commenter that sparring is a literal translation and is not in reference to sports sparring. 2. Traditionally kumite training was performed without any protection, and so accidents happened. It is necessary therefore to use some protection as in ken-jutsu, and to wear padded gloves. Then accidents can be avoided. This reference to there being a form of free fighting before 1929 gives an indication that the free fighting introduced on the mainland of Japan was not the first time free fighting was practiced. It could have been the first time for competition. 3. For training, apart from the makiwara, and the protection mentioned above, there is no need for any other equipment or even a partner or a large space. This is one of the advantages of karate. Kyan said in summary “In the course of everyday training, it is necessary to strengthen your body, to practice punches and kicks, to learn how to move your limbs in a supple fashion, and how to move about freely, while understanding the principles of training well. By training for a long time in this manner, you will acquire subtle principles of application and know how to move suitably in every situation, which might arise. However if you only train the physical technique without enlightening your spirit, which is fundamental, you will be unable to use the art. You must become clear-sighted in life and seek to develop modesty, a calm spirit, alertness, and bravery at the same times as you train in the physical techniques. Training Advice 1. Martial arts aim to prevent violence, calm trouble and defend yourself. That is why those who learn martial arts must always display a modest, reserved attitude and behave correctly with a spirit of loyalty and dedication. 2. In a martial art it is essential to act at the critical moment by using all your spirit, force and body. Anyone whose force makes him arrogant and sneering is a bad influence in society; hated by others he will make his own bad luck. You must take account of this. A proverb says, “The punch stays like a treasure in the sleeve. You must avoid using it without any discrimination.”(Quote was used in the video, Kyan’s Karate) 3. The goals of karate are to contribute to physical education, train in the martial arts to enlighten your spirit. 4. You must keep your stance by staying still and sinking the ki to the base of the stomach, and taking care that it does not rise again. However it is necessary to avoid becoming immobile (to set in the stance). 5. When you practice kata, you must practice with the same will and the same feelings as the moment when you are facing your enemy. 6. Speed is necessary in all actions and movements. Placing force in your toes will make all movements faster as you advance or retreat. (this is the principle of pushing with the opposite leg)(no matter which stance you always push forward over the knees from the ball of the feet). 7. When practicing a kata, it is necessary to know its meanings; you must not be mistaken s to the targets, and distinguish jodan, chudan, and gedan. Training without comprehension of the meaning of the kata is in vain. 8. You must train well on the makiwara and strengthen the impact of the blow. However rapid, the strike will be useless without force on impact. Furthermore, however strong the blow it will be useless if you are lacking in agility and speed in your hand and foot techniques and your movements. Therefore neither force of blows nor agility must be deficient; they are like the two wheels of a chariot, you cannot have one missing and they must not be out of balance. 9. You must always struggle to integrate spirit, body and eyes. (The reference to spirit here is the mind or Zanshin) Tips on fighting 1. Before you move you must be aware of the capabilities of your opponent. If he is powerful it is inevitable that he will rely on force and will tend to attack. In that case I will concentrate on blocking until he uses more and more force and I will launch my attack at the moment when he reveals an opening. It is a technique, which borrows the opponent’s force. 2. If the opponent is not powerful, he will be on the defensive and he will multiply his movements be retreating often. In this case you must only throw definite attacks. Then you must use punches and kicks both to make him retreat and to make your attack. When I take the initiative of the attack I must watch out for unexpected counter-attacks. 3. I must not overestimate my force and my speed when I attack. An agile person will be able to counter-attack fast before I move by guessing the movements of my hands and feet. 4. You must hide the technique that you are going to use from your opponent by concealing your own intent. Whatever the capability of your opponent you must neither go forward nor back more than three steps. 5. At the moment of combat, you must take care to defend your centerline from the eyes to the groin. You must take care to avoid punches between the eyes, kicks in the testicles and do not let yourself be grabbed. As a general rule it is better not to use too much force for defense. If you use too much force for blocks, every gesture will be slowed down, which runs the risk of losing an opportunity. 6. When you grasp an opponent’s arm you must do it strongly and loosely at the same time, but the spirit must be strong, so that you can react adequately to your opponent’s reaction. 7. Any punch must be above all fast. When it is blocked and deflected from its target it must continue on its path and strike anywhere (included in Kyan’s Karate). And, even if the attack did not have a strong impact, it will trouble your opponent. Then you must continue to do all possible punches and kicks without stopping at all, spontaneously and gradually. 8. It is not necessary to block your opponent’s kicks with your hand. You can block them with your leg and throw a punch the same time. Even if your opponent falls, do not attack him too carelessly, as you may receive an unexpected attack. 9. When your opponent seizes your leg there is no danger if you put your foot on the ground very strongly. But you must take care not to fall when the ground is uneven. 10. When facing your opponent, take care not to play into his strategy. Some use their feet while punching, or pretend to grab a hand. Others use fists while pretending to throw a foot attack. React according to voice and noise. Never relax. 11. When you are facing several opponents you must never fight close in; above all, keep your distance. If one attacks my right I move to the left. As soon as I have attacked the one facing me I attack the opponent behind me. It is the only good way. These instructions are for combat, but these are just a few. There are many more as the variety of a martial art is subtle and limitless, it is impossible to describe all the techniques. Kata teaches you to move with suppleness and without thought in the many possible situations. Anyone can acquire this ability with hard training and long research. Other teachings of Kyan 1. A mastery of karate does not depend on the learner’s physical constitution, but mainly on constant practice.
2. The daily practice of makiwara striking can produce power destructive enough to break boards or bricks, but powerful fist can easily be weakened through negligence of constant practice.
3. Merely an excellent physical constitution cannot guarantee mastery of karate-do. You must understand the strategy and applications of the kata. I strongly urge all serious Seibukan members to study fully the interview of Kyan. There is a wealth of knowledge contained in his words. I am working on an additional commentary that will include the related teachings of Master Zenryo Shimabukuro and Hanshi Zenpo Shimabukuro. I will also include information from interviews that I have conducted with other direct students of Kyan such as Joen Nakazato, Shinpo Matayoshi and Shoshin Nagamine. The entirety of this document is the proprietary information of Dan Smith and is solely for the use of the International Okinawan Seibukan Shorin Ryu Karate Association. Any use of this information outside of the normal relationships of the association without permission is prohibited. Any reproduction of this document without the consent of Dan Smith is prohibited.
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