April 21, 2010
Shuri Castle (and lots of other stuff)
Karate training at Shuri Castle, Okinawa, circa 1930s.
Reconstructed castle today.
A friend has requested more Okinawa pictures, so here goes. As I've mentioned before, my main goal in making the trip was to train in traditional karate but I did have some time to make some side trips.
One site played a major role both in Okinawan history and in the history of karate. For several centuries, Okinawa was an independent kingdom with the seat of government in Shuri, close to the port city of Naha which kind of absorbed it.
According to tradition, many masters of Shorin ryu karate (Shorin is Japanese for Shaolin) were associated with the court and some may have been bodyguards for the royal family. Bodyguarding was a bit complex in Okinawa since most people were forbidden to carry arms, which is where the karate came in. Things got even tougher in the 1600s when the Satsuma clan from Japan invaded. The monarchy wasn't eliminated, but its power was curtailed and Okinawa was forced to pay tribute. It was probably around that time that karate became a clandestine activity, one often practiced at night in secret locations.
The original castle, alas, was destroyed in WWII but has since been rebuilt. It's full of gardens, walls, ponds, statues, monuments and walkways.
A word about the style itself. Shorin-ryu is a name for several related karate styles that are associated with Shuri. It is characterized by fast, whiplike movements that generate power from the body's center of gravity, known as hara in Japanese and tandein in Chinese. I was lucky enough to spend some time with several prominent Shorin-ryu masters and to learn the correct traditional forms of several karate forms or katas, which are pre-arranged series of movements that contain the essence of a style.
In particular, I was able to learn the traditional form of three Naihanchi katas, which were the favorite of Motobu Choki (1870-1944), pictured above. These are symmetrical katas performed moving back and forth in the horse stance without turning the body, as if one is literally up against a wall or the edge of a cliff. Motobu, by the way, was something of a brawler in the day, and he believed Naihanchi had everything a karateka needed to know.
Any how, here's to Shuri and Shorin.
MORE ON THE MINE DISASTER AND SUCH here.
AND MORE OF THE SAME from the other side of the country here.
AND MORE ON THE IMPORTANCE OF UNIONS here.
A LOUSY LINK. Literally.
MIGHT AS WELL THROW IN something about space aliens.
GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED