Techniques of Matsubayashi Ryu: Japanese with Kanji

From The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do by Shoshin Nagamine, Typed up by Matt Sheridan, so all mistakes are mine alone. :p

Kamae-Kata (構え方)

  • Soto-Hachiji Shizentai-Dachi (外八字自然体立ち)
  • Chokuritsu-Fudo-Dachi (直立不動立ち)
  • Heisoku-Dachi (閉足立ち)

Tachi-Kata (立ち方)

  • Shizentai-Dachi (自然体立ち)
    • Soto-Hachiji Shizentai-Dachi (外八字自然体立ち)
    • Hidari-Ashi-Mae Shizentai-Dachi (左足前自然体立ち)
    • Migi-Ashi-Mae Shizentai-Dachi (右足前自然体立ち)
  • Jun-Shizentai-Dachi (准自然体立ち)
    • Chokuristu-Fudo-Dachi (直立不動立ち)
    • Heisoku-Dachi (閉足立ち)
    • Neko-Ashi-Dachi (猫足立ち)
  • Jigotai-Dachi/ Shiko-Dachi (自護体立ち・四股立ち)
  • Naihanchi-Dachi/ Kiba-Dachi (ナイハンチ立ち・騎馬立ち)
  • Zenkutsu-Dachi (前屈立ち)
  • Naname-Zenkutsu-Dachi (斜め前屈立ち)
  • Kokutsu-Dachi (後屈立ち)
  • Kosa-Dachi (交差立ち)
  • Ippon-Ashi-Dachi (一本足立ち)
  • Iaigoshi-Dachi (居合越し立ち)

Seme-Kata (攻め方)

  • Seiken Waza (正拳技)
    • Jodan-Zuki (上段突き)
    • Chudan-Zuki (中段突き)
    • Gedan-Zuki (下段突き)
    • Kaku-Zuki (角突き)
    • Tomoe-Zuki (巴突き)
    • Sayu-Zuki (左右突き)
    • Kakushi-Zuki (隠し突き)
    • Oi-Zuki (追い突き)
    • Wari-Uke-zuki (割受け突き)
    • Morote-Zuki (両手突き)
  • Yubi Waza (指技)
    • Nukite-Zuki (貫手立ち)
    • Morote-Nukite-Zuki (両手貫手突き)
    • Shi-Zuki (嘴突き)
  • Uchi Waza (打ち技)
    • Uraken-Uchi (裏拳打ち)
    • Kentsui-Uchi (拳槌打ち)
    • Shuto-Uchi (手刀打ち)
      • Kyobu Shuto-Uchi (胸部手刀打ち)
      • Kyoubu Morote Shuto-Uchi (胸部両手手刀打ち)
      • Kyobu-Soete Shuto-Uchi (胸部添え手手刀打ち)
    • Haito-Uchi (背刀打ち)
  • Ate Waza (当て技)
    • Hiji-Ate (肘当て)
      • Tate Hiji-Ate (縦肘当て)
      • Yoko Hiji-Ate (横肘当て)
      • Ushiro Hiji-Ate (後ろ肘当て)
      • Sasae Hiji-Ate (支え肘当て)
    • Shotei-Ate (手底当て)
      • Jodan Shotei-Ate (上段手底当て)
      • Chudan Shotei-Ate (中段手底当て)
      • Tomoe Shotei-Ate (巴手底当て)

Uke-Kata (受け方)

  • Seiken-Ude-Uke (正拳腕受け)
    • Jodan Uke (上段受け)
    • Chudan Soto-Uke (中段外受け)
    • Chudan Yoko-Uke (中段横受け)
    • Chudan Uchi-Uke (中段内受け)
    • Gedan Uke (下段受け)
    • Gedan Yoko-Barai-Uke (下段横払い受け)
    • Sasae-Uke (支え受け)
    • Sayu-Barai-Uke (左右払い受け)
    • Jodan Wari-Uke (上段割受け)
    • Chudan Wari-Uke (中段割受け)
    • Jodan Kosa-Uke (上段交差受け)
    • Gedan Kosa-Uke (下段交差受け)
    • Morote Soe-Uke (両手添え受け)
    • Chudan Soto-Mawashi-Uke (中段外回し受け)
    • Morote-Barai-Uke (両手払い受け)
    • Hazushi-Uke (外し受け)
    • Otoshi-Uke (落とし受け)
  • Shuto- / Haito- (手刀・背刀)
    • Chudan Soto-Shuto-Uke (中段外手刀受け)
    • Jodan Uchi-Shuto-Uke (上段内手刀受け)
    • Chudan Yoko-Shuto-Uke (中段横手刀受け)
    • Gedan Shuto-Uke (下段手刀受け)
    • Gedan Shuto Yoko-Barai-Uke (下段手刀横払い受け)
    • Chudan Hasami-Uke (中段挟み受け)
    • Makite-Uke (巻手受け)
    • Magetori-Barai-Uke (曲げ取り払い受け)
    • Torite-Uke (取り手受け)
    • Sagurite-Uke (探り手受け)
    • Gedan Heito-Yoko-Uke (下段背刀横受け)
  • Shotei-Uke (手底受け)
    • Chudan Shotei-Uke (中段手底受け)
    • Gedan Shotei-Uke (下段手底受け)
  • Hiji-Uke (肘受け)
  • Hangetsu-Barai-Uke (半月払い受け)

Keri-Kata (蹴り方)

  • Kyobu-Geri (胸部蹴り)
    • Josokutei-Geri (上足底蹴り)
  • Fukubu-Geri (腹部蹴り)
    • Tsumasaki-Geri (爪先蹴り)
  • Kinteki-Geri / Kintama-Geri (金的蹴り・金玉蹴り)
    • Sokko-Geri (足甲蹴り)
  • Sokuto-Geri (足刀蹴り)
  • Nidan-Geri (二段蹴り)

Kamae-Kata: Part 2 (構え方)

  • Suirakan no Kamae (酔ら拳の構え)?
  • Ryu-no-Shita no Kamae (龍の舌の構え)
  • Sagurite no Kamae (探り手の構え)
  • Hotoku-Gamae (仏構え)?
  • Tenshin no Kamae (転身の構え)
  • Ura-Gamae (裏構え)

Bunkai, Ōyō, and Henka

(Originally written around 2015…?)

There are three karate terms that are pivotal concepts in karate training, however two are often neglected while the third is confused to be more than it actually is.

The first term in Bunkai (分解), which almost all karate practitioners, and even those from other styles have heard, but usually misunderstand.  Bunkai is often used to mean something along the lines of “applications of forms.” However this is not what Bunkai is at all.  Bunkai literally translates to “breakdown” or “analysis.”  This can be done when taking a form and examining a section of it, but can also be done with an individual technique.

So why is this process of breaking down and analyzing (Bunkai) forms and techniques important?  Most people know the answer to this. It is done so that an application can be found and experimented with.  This leads us to our second term, the often neglected Ōyo (応用).  Ōyō is the actual application that we seek.  As soon as something is being applied it is now ōyō.  Are all applications viable? Absolutely not!  So what happens when a movement does not fit what we want to apply it to? As students often ask, “what if…?”

This is where we get into slightly modifying a technique, so that it’ll do what we want it to. This change is called henka (変化) and is a natural and integral part of training in karate.  Techniques can be modified for a variety of reasons, such as: to accommodate a height difference, weight difference, footing, angle, a perceived counter, setting up a counter, etc.  This is why there is such variety in how kata are performed throughout styles. Slight changes were introduced throughout history and even under the same teacher you’ll find students doing things differently, and often enough you’ll find it’s because, “that’s how Sensei showed me to do it.”

So remember bunkai is not an application of forms but a way of studying it’s parts. Applications are actually ōyō. And change is not always bad.

I Failed my Shodan Exam! :D

There are those in the martial arts who have never been given the opportunity to fail. They’re held by the hand and led along by those who came before them, and when something arises that they’d fail at they’re held back or guided around it. This is most unfortunate.

Many instructors, coaches, sensei, etc. do this because they’re concerned that failure will somehow have a detrimental impact on their student… and dare I say, the instructor’s pocketbook. The concern being that if the student faces failure, they’ll be so discouraged that the student will simply walk away and not return. Perhaps from embarrassment… Perhaps from frustration… Perhaps simply for not getting an expected return on their investment.

For the past several years I’ve been working with my Matsubayashi Ryu instructor to modify my Kihon and Kata, to make them align with expectations held within the World Matsubayashi Ryu Karate-Do Association (WMKA). Due to the global pandemic, we have worked primarily via video exchanges and conferences to train me up.

So, after several years of being a Shodan-Ho within Matsubayashi Ryu a testing board was arranged, a date was decided, and on September 5th, 2020 I tested for my Shodan in Shorin Ryu Karate for the very first time in my life.

The evaluation board for the testing comprised of two Yondan via the WMKA (one of whom is a Rokudan in Shogen Ryu), a Sandan via the WMKA, and a Nidan via the WMKA. These 4 would evaluate my physical skills and academic knowledge and decide the outcome.

The evaluation from start to finish lasted a bit longer than two hours, with myself being the only individual under evaluation. Needless to say I was drenched in sweat and quite breathless afterwards.

Now, if you read the title you already know the outcome: I failed. The evaluation was conducted in two parts, Physical and Mental, with each part being graded on a 100 point scale. To pass the evaluation a score of 70 or higher was required on both sections. On the Mental portion of the test (which included knowledge about Karate’s history, Matsubayashi Ryu’s history, Japanese and Uchinaaguchi terminology, physics, theory, etc.), I scored a 93. The examiners even admitted I knew some things that they didn’t. However on the physical portion I scored a 63.

Having been doing martial arts since the age of 6, and having promoted as high as 4th dan in other styles, this is the first promotion I ever failed.

Concerned about how I would react, several of the evaluators checked up on me in the weeks to follow and were relieved to find that I was laughing and in good spirits after failing. To be honest it was a relieving experience. For the group that evaluated me, I was glad that they could use me as an example for others.

When I trained in Youn Wha Ryu the standards for testing dropped dramatically over the years. I was very vocal (as their Historian and Record Keeper of the time) about raising the standards back up, making the tests more comprehensive, and failing those who deserved to fail. Instead of just passing everyone who wrote a check.

So, it actually filled me with joy and jubilation to know I now belonged to a group of practitioners that maintained more rigorous standards. Though, I can only vouch this for the sub-branch of the WMKA I currently belong to, as another branch I attended previously did not hold such high standards.

Yet, those other branches don’t concern me and their leaders can lead as they please. The freedom to do so, is why I joined the WMKA in the first place. I could uphold and set my standards, use whatever systems I wished, without being micromanaged by those who think they’re above me just because of how many “Rank Stripes” are on their belt. I don’t utilize rank stripes, so… meh.

The day after the testing I retired my Youn Wha Ryu Belts (as previously blogged about). Furthermore, I was instructed, by my Matsubayashi Ryu instructor, to begin wearing my Kuro Obi with the kanji 空手道 (as it is a general karate obi, not specifically a Matsubayashi Ryu obi, and I’ve been given permission to wear it by my previous instructors as well, RIP).

Have you ever failed a rank exam? Have you ever passed one in which you know you should of failed? No need answering, those are just reflection questions.

PS. Six months later I was reevaluated and rewarded my official Shodan in Matsubayashi Ryu.

Judo Techniques: Names or Not?

When it comes to the “names” of most Judo Waza (技), there is one fact that is extremely important to memorize, most Judo Waza DON’T HAVE NAMES! Radical idea to some, but for those who know what these “names” translate to it becomes extremely evident that most are just generally agreed upon descriptions of the techniques.

Let’s break down the Gokyo no Waza (五教の技), starting with Dai Ikkyo (第一教).

  1. De Ashi Barai (出足払)
  2. Hiza Guruma (膝車)
  3. Sasae Tsurikomi Ashi (支釣込足)
  4. Uki Goshi (浮腰)
  5. Osoto Gari (大外刈)
  6. Ogoshi (大腰)

Before we delve into the techniques lets look at Gokyo and Dai Ikkyo. (Skip this paragraph if uninterested.) Many will translated Gokyo into something akin to “Five Groupings,” but I’m going to propose another translation. Go (五) does indeed mean five, however Kyo (教) is teachings or doctrines. So “Five Teachings” or “Five Doctrines,” would be a more accurate translation. As for Dai Ikkyo (第一教), “Dai Ichi” (第一) is “first” or “foremost,” (literally, “number one”) but you’ve probably noticed it is “Dai Ikkyo” instead of “Dai Ichi Kyo.” This is again due to blending and devoicing of sounds mentioned in a previous post. Same way that when referring to the rank system, 一級 is “Ikkyu” instead of “Ichi Kyu.” (We’ll cover this more in depth in a later post.)

Now on to the techniques.

Lets start with De Ashi Barai (出足払). Already people are thinking to themselves, “Matt, my dear simple chap, don’t you mean, De Ashi Harai?” The answer is, no. When we take the kanji, 出足払, and break it down into its phonetic characters (Hiragana) we get, であしばらい.

出 is で (de) and means several things, but in this case “protruding” or “put out,” are the pertinent translations.

足 is あし (ashi) and in this case means foot, though a legitimate argument could be made that in this case it means the whole leg as well.

払, shortened from 払い, is ばらい (barai). If you have been keeping up to date on these language posts you’ll remember we talked about Rendaku, Dakuten, and Handakuten; a changing of the consonant sound based on where it is in a compound word and the markings used to represent such. In this specific case, because Harai is later in the compound word it is pronounced Barai. The Ha (は) becomes a Ba (ば). And Harai/ Barai is the adjective form of the verb, to sweep.

Putting all that together we get “Protruding Foot Sweep” or, as it is more commonly known as, “Front Foot Sweep.”

Hiza Guruma (膝車) is far easier to translate. Hiza (膝), very specifically refers to the knee joint. Guruma (車), like Barai and Goshi has a Rendaku. When presented alone, or at the beginning of a compound word, this Kanji is pronounced Kuruma represented in phonetic characters as くるま. However since it is later on in the compound the K softens to G getting us Guruma (ぐるま). Kuruma/ Guruma is Wheel. Many who have started learning Japanese in classes or with a tutor will argue that it actually means “car,” but this is a half truth. You’ve probably noticed by now I will say “a kanji means many thing, but in this case…”. In this case Kuruma/ Guruma is wheel.

Sasae Tsurikomi Ashi (支釣込足). This one has more character than anything else we have dealt with, but don’t let that discourage you. We got this! I hope… Lets break this one down like we did with De Ashi Barai.

支, is short for 支え (Sasae), which is again short for the verb 支える (Sasaeru). This verb means, to check. Not as in to look, but as in to hold back or hold at bay.

One might think 釣 or 釣り (tsuri) is next, but that’s not quite right. Inside the compound word 支釣込足 (sasae tsurikomi ashi) we have another compound word, 釣込, which is short for 釣り込み (tsurikomi). This is why Tsurikomi is often represented as a single word when put into Romaji (ロマ字) or Roman Characters. This means “to take in” or “to attract” or “to lure.” (Bonus Word will be given at the end.)

足, as we already covered, is referring to the foot.

So we are luring in the other Judoka and checking their foot. Some say Sasae Tsurikomi Ashi is very similar to Hiza Guruma, but many will point out that it is less of a Wheeling technique.

Uki Goshi (浮腰) is another easy one to translate. Uki (浮) is floating. Goshi (腰) is Koshi, which means hip.

Osoto Gari (大外刈) is also relatively easy, so lets make it harder just for fun!

To start with, I always think it is important to look at 大 in its phonetic form, as it is an odd one.

In Japanese an U or O sound can be extended. There are two ways to go about this. We see one way in the word Judo, itself.
Judo is 柔道 or じゅうどう.
じゅ is Ju.
う is U, which continues the sound.
ど is Do
う is U, but only represents that the O sound in Do is extended.

In 大 we see the second method. Instead of adding an う to extend the O sound we simply add another O. So in Hiragana 大 is おお. And of course it means “big” or “major.”

Soto (外) is Outside.

Gari (刈) is a shortening of 刈り, but this also has a Rendaku. When represented by itself or at the beginning of a compound word, it is Kari, which is from the verb Karu (刈る). Either was it still means “reap.”

Ogoshi (大腰) is probably the easiest because we already covered both Kanji up above. O (大) is Major. Goshi (腰) is hip, with rendaku.

Bonus Word:
Due to the fact this is the internet I wanted to include a slang meaning of Tsuri (釣り). Tsuri is a fishing term in general. It can mean fishing, angling, and trollings. And just like the English slang for Troll and Trolling refers to someone online who writes deliberately inflammatory posts, unlike this post, Tsuri means the same thing.

Ukekata of Matsubayashi Ryu: Part 2, Seiken-Ude-Uke

I’ll be quite honest that tackling the Ukekata has been an intimidating task, due to the quantity of individual techniques within this category. As such we are going to approach translating these in a slightly different manner. Instead of going through every term individually we will break down the compounds used to form the descriptions of said techniques. However, before we get to breaking them down that lets list the individual Seiken-ude-uke first.

Nagamine Sensei discusses seventeen distinct Seiken-ude-uke:

1. Jodan uke
2. Chudan soto-uke
3. Chudan yoko-uke
4. Chudan uchi-uke
5. Gedan uke
6. Gedan yoko-barai-uke
7. Sasae-uke
8. Sayu-barai-uke
9. Jodan wari-uke
10. Chudan wari-uke
11. Jodan kosa-uke
12. Gedan kosa-uke
13. Morote soe-uke
14. Chudan soto-mawashi-uke
15. Morote-barai-uke
16. Hazushi-uke
17. Otoshi-uke

Shall we start with Seiken-Ude-Uke itself? They are receiving techniques utilizing the Correct Fist (Seiken, 正拳) and Forearms (Ude, 腕). Though it is worth mentioning Ude can also refer to the entire arm.

Lets investigate Gedan, Chudan, and Jodan. These terms are part of a methodology of dividing techniques and wide sections of the body. Gedan utilizes two Kanji 下 and 段. Ge (下) means Low but can also mean Below. Dan (段) can have many meanings but in this case it is Level. So our Gedan-Uke are Low Level Receiving techniques, representing not just a single technique but a category of techniques in its own right. It is also worth mentioning that 下 can have multiple pronunciations but in this case only “Ge“ is correct, thus the other pronunciations are not worth mentioning at this time as it can cause confusion. (Overloading people with information is not a good teaching practice, nor a polite discussion tactic.)

Next we have Chudan (中段). Chu is 中 and again has that extended vowel sound, ちゅう. It means Middle. As Dan (段) doesn’t change we will not cover it again. So our Chudan-Uke (中段受け) are a collection of varying Middle Level Receiving techniques.

Finally we have Jodan (上段). Jo is 上 and like Chu it also has an extended vowel sound, じょう. Jo (上) is both Upper and Above. Meaning our Jodan-Uke (上段受け) is an Upper Level Receiving technique, but also an entire collection of varying Upper Level Receiving techniques.

After this, we have three directional terms: Soto, Yoko, and Uchi. Soto is 外 meaning Outside, while it has other pronunciations they again are irrelevant at this juncture. Yoko is 横 and can be thought of several ways, such as Side, Besides, Next To, etc. Personally I like Next To as it seems to give a decent mental depiction of the hand techniques and can help differentiate between “Outside” and “Side.” Uchi is 内 and is Inside. It is worth expressing that in Nagamine’s book Chudan-uchi-uke is described as, “…it blocks toward the inside…”

Remember how I keep bringing up Rendaku or Sequential voicing? Our next one -barai (~払い), is again only pronounced this way in the middle of a compound word or as a suffix. As a stand alone word or prefix this is pronounced Harai (払い) and comes from the verb Harau (払う), which means To Sweep. Harai/ -barai describes that the technique is more of a horizontal, sideways movement rather than a vertical movement.

Sasae (支え) is simply a support or prob, and comes from the verb Sasaeru (支える).

Sayu (左右) we have seen before and actually means Left-and-Right.

Wari, seems to be a somewhat obscure term in karate and uses the kanji, 割, though you may also see it as 割り. This means to Divide or to Separate, and comes from the verb Waru (割る). Note: there are multiple kanji with similar meanings and pronunciation, so you may occasionally see them as well.

Kosa (交差) has an extended O vowel (こうさ) and means Crossing or Intersecting.

Morote (両手) is a compound that is best taken as a single word meaning Both Hands. You may see it written in an overtly poetic “Husband and Wife Hand,” but Both Hands is a better direct translation.

Soe (添え) comes from the verb Soeru (添える) which means roughly, To Add Support or Supplement, which can also mean Augment in English.

Mawashi (回し) are the clothing worn by traditional Japanese sumo wrestlers. Sorry, I enjoy that joke. Mawashi (回し) just implies that something is rotating. Note: Do not google the kanji without parent controls on, as Mawashi has a slang use that is not safe for work nor children.

Now you remember when I mentioned kanji can have multiple meanings and pronunciations? Hazushi is one such case, as the kanji are 外し and comes from the verb Hazusu (外す). However this means To Remove, To Evade, or To Get Out Of, such as “to evade capture” or “to get out of their grasp.” The description of this technique (as techniques don’t actually have names) comes from one possible application (read: Ōyō).

Lastly we have Otoshi or 落とし which just means Drop, but can also mean Trap, so feel free to play with that concept.

With all these terms you should be able to mix and match them to figure out all 17 of the Seiken-Ude-Uke, presented in The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do by Shoshin Nagamin.

Semekata of Matsubayashi Ryu: Part 2, Seiken

Up to this point we have taken the time to do a deep linguistic delve into the five main categories of techniques, and their subsequent subcategories, as laid out by Nagamine Shoshin Sensei in his book The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do. From this point forward we are going to be looking to translate individual techniques into their literal and nuanced meaning. Due to the vast number of techniques contained in this book, we are going to breach from our previous practice of making no assumptions of previous knowledge. Instead, I will be labeling the following installments something along the lines of, “… of Matsubayashi Ryu: Part [insert number],” to help those following these mini-articles keep track of which ones they have, and have not, read. (I will also copy and paste this paragraph in each new write up, so next time feel free to skip it if desired.)

This time we are going to look at the ten Seikan Waza Nagamine Sensei discusses:

  1. Jodan-zuki
  2. Chudan-zuki
  3. Gedan-zuki
  4. Kaku-zuki
  5. Tomoe-zuki (pronounced Tomo-eh)
  6. Sayu-zuki
  7. Kakushi-zuki
  8. Oi-zuki
  9. Wari-uke-zuki
  10. Morote-zuki

Before we get into this I’m sure most have noticed that all these techniques have the same suffix attached to them, -zuki (~突き). It is important to note that this term, which means Thrust or Stab, is only pronounced such as a suffix. When it is presented as a stand alone word or a prefix it is actually Tsuki (突き). For example, all of these techniques could be classified/ described as Tsuki Waza (突き技) as well as Seiken Waza (正拳技). Again, this is due to the process of Rendaku (連濁) or Sequential Voicing, where sounds change based on placement within a compound word or phrase.

Next we are going to translate Jodan-zuki, Chudan-zuki, and Gedan-zuki. As we have already discussed the suffix, -zuki, lets focus on the prefixes and roots of these term, starting with dan (段). Dan is used in several different contexts with martial arts: level, rank, part, etc. In the context of Jodan, Chudan, and Gedan it is referring to Level. Jo (上) is Upper, so Jodan-zuki (上段突き) is an Upper-level-thrust. Chu (中) is Middle, so Chudan-zuki (中段突き) is a Middle-level-thrust.
Ge (下) is Lower, so Gedan-zuki (下段突き) is Lower-level-thrust. It is also worth noting that both Jo (じょう) and Chu (ちゅう) have extended vowel sounds, represented by the additional う when written in Japanese phonetic characters.

Next we get to Kaku-zuki (角突き). This is often translated as a Square Punch, however like we discussed before our suffix -zuki, isn’t really the same as “punch,” and Kaku isn’t square in the way most people think of the term. In other words, it isn’t square like a four sides figure, but rather square as in an Angle. Thus Kaku-zuki (角突き) is more of an Angled Thrust. *

Next we get to Tomoe-zuki (巴突き). This is another one where there is a bit of nuance to wade through. Tomoe (巴), is a word that is harder to translate as it is more of a proper noun rather than a description. While many translate Tomoe to circular, that simply doesn’t take into consideration the nuance. Similar to how we spoke of Hachiji (八字) describing a shape/ symbol, Tomoe is a shape consisting of two camas, or tadpoles, that are circling each other. Similar to a “Yin-Yang” (In-Yo: 陰陽) or Taichi (Taikyoku: 太極), but in the depiction of Tomoe the tadpoles usually aren’t touching. It is also worth noting this symbol is used throughout Japanese martial arts.

Sayu-zuki (左右突き), is pretty forward. We have already seem the kanji previously when we spoke about specific Tachiwaza, but here they are pronounced differently. Sa (左) is Left, Yu (右) is Right, and as we know the suffix -zuki (突き) is thrust. Sayu-zuki (左右突き) is a thrusting technically that goes out to the left and right simultaneously. Please not the the vowel sound in Yu (ゆう) is extended.

Kakushi-zuki (隠し突き) is pretty straight forward. Kakushi (隠し) is Hidden or Concealed. So a Kakushi-zuki, is a Thrusting technique that where the first starts from a hidden position. Which is great when carrying concealed weapons, but you didn’t hear that from me.

In Oi-zuki (追い突き), Oi comes from the verb Ou (追う). This means to Pursue, Chase, or Follow. So either a Pursuing Thrust or Chasing Thrust work great.

Wari-uke-zuki (割り受け突き) is an interesting technique. Wari (割り) is Mixed or Matched. Uke (受け) as we discussed previously is to Receive. Again -zuki is our suffix for thrust. Thusly Wari-uke-zuki (割り受け突き) is a Matched Receiving and Thrust, implying you are doing some sort of Uke Waza (受け技) and Tsuki Waza (突き技) simultaneously.

Finally we have Morote-zuki (両手突き). To be honest I have never been happy with the usual translation for Morote (両手), as I feel the literal Japanese does a better job expressing this concept. Morote (両手) literally translates to Both Hands or Two Handed. A Morote-zuki (両手突き), is simply where Both Hands Thrust.

Of the Semekata (攻め方), these were the methods of attacking involving thrusting with the Seiken (正拳). Next time we will finish the rest of the Semekata.

*for those wishing to do followup research but are against animal cruelty, kindly refrain from putting the kanji for Kaku-zuki into a search engine. Besides Angle, Kaku can also mean Horn and “Ushi no Kaku-zuki” is a type of Japanese bullfighting.

Tachikata of Matsubayashi Ryu: Part 2

Up to this point we have taken the time to do a deep linguistic delve into the five main categories of techniques, and their subsequent subcategories, as laid out by Nagamine Shoshin Sensei in his book The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do. From this point forward we are going to be looking to translate individual techniques into their literal and nuanced meaning. Due to the vast number of techniques contained in this book, we are going to breach from our previous practice of making no assumptions of previous knowledge. Instead, I will be labeling the following installments something along the lines of, “… of Matsubayashi Ryu: Part [insert number],” to help those following these mini-articles keep track of which ones they have, and have not, read. (I will also copy and paste this paragraph in each new write up, so next time feel free to skip it if desired.)

Tachikata (立ち方) are the methods of standing in Matsubayashi Ryu and Nagamine divided these methods into these subcategories:

  1. Shizentai-dachi (自然体立ち)
  2. Jun shizentai-dachi (準自然体立ち)
  3. Jigotai-dachi (自護体立ち)
  4. Naihanchi-dachi (ナイハンチ立ち)
  5. Zenkutsu-dachi (前屈立ち)
  6. Naname zenkutsu-dachi (斜め前屈立ち)
  7. Kokutsu-dachi (後屈立ち)
  8. Kosa-dachi (交差立ち)
  9. Ippon-ashi-dachi (一本足立ち)
  10. Iaigoshi-dachi (居合腰立ち)

We have already done deep translations of all but the individual techniques within Shizentai-dachi and Jun Shizentai-dachi. As such, these are what we will focus on in this installment.

1. Soto-hachiji Shizentai-dachi
2. Migi-ashi-mae Shizentai-dachi
3. Hidari-ashi-mae Shizentai-dachi

Jun Shizentai-dachi
1. Chokuritsu-fudo-dachi
2. Heisoku-dachi
3. Nekoashi-dachi

We have already translated Soto-hachiji Shizentai-dachi when we looked at the Kamaekata (構え方), but lets recap. Soto (外) is Outside. Hachiji (八字), refers to the shape of the Japanese Character (字) Hachi (八), which is like such / . Shizentai (自然体) is a Natural (自然) Body (体). Ending in the suffix for stances, -dachi (~立ち). So Soto-hachiji Shizentai-dachi is a Natural (body) Stance, where the feet make an / \ shape and the toes are pointing slightly Outside.

Before moving on, you might think, “well, that doesn’t sound like a name at all!” If so, you are absolutely correct. Most of the individual techniques don’t have proper names. They are simply described to us using the Japanese Language and Uchinaaguchi (the language of the old Ryukyu Kingdom). This is why, this author, feels it is important to do a literal and nuanced translation of these techniques. So we can properly understand what Nagamine Sensei was trying to teach us.

Keeping that in mind, lets move on to Migi-ashi-mae Shizentai-dachi (右足前自然体立ち). That’s a bit of a mouth full. Almost like saying a full sentence? Migi (右) is Right, as in, “your right side.” Ashi (足) is one of the pronunciations for Foot. Mae (前) is one of the pronunciations for Front or Forward. By now we should have remembered that Shizentai-dachi (自然体立ち) is a Natural Body Stance or Natural Stance. Lets string these back together, Right-Foot-Forward Natural-Stance.

Being of a sound mind, I am confident you have already translated Hidari-ashi-mae Shizentai-dachi (左足前自然体立ち)without my help. However, that would make my task of translating these super boring, and as it is possible that such an assumption could be incorrect, lets go through it together. Just in case. Hidari (左) is Left. Ashi (足) is again Foot. Mae (前) can be both Front or Forward. And typing Shizentai-dachi (自然体立ち) so many times is going to give me carpal tunnel. So again stringing these back together we get, Left-Foot-Forward Natural-Stance.

Did you remember that Jun Shizentai-dachi (準自然体立ち) is a semi-natural stance? If not, that’s why we do review as we go along. It is practically impossible to remember something upon first hearing it, or reading it, which is why a student should never get frustrated when/ if they are acquiring a new language or skill. If you find yourself getting frustrated, just take a break and allow the information to “soak in” for a little while before returning refreshed. Sometimes in our zeal to acquire more, more, more, I SAID MORE, we forget that it is important to pace ourselves. Learning should be thoroughly rather than skimmed, and the speed an individual acquires such things change from person to person, so try to enjoy each step of the journey

Pedagogical humbugs and philosophical musings aside, Chokuritsu-fudo-dachi (直立不動立ち) was also discusses before with Kamaekata. Chokuritsu (直立) is to Stand (立) Straight (直). Remaining Non-Moving, or Fudō (不動). We could also just call this Standing at Attention or an Attention Stance. It is important to note some nuanced differences here. While Attention Stance and Ready Stance may sound quite similar in English, in Japanese one is a subsidiary of the other. Chokuritsu-fuso-dachi (直立不動立ち) is a Kamaekata (構方) and a Tachiwaza (立ち技), but the reverse isn true.

Moving right along we have our third Kamekata, which is also an individual Tachiwaza, Heisoku-dachi. Previously I gave you one translation, this time I am going to give you a different one using a different Kanji. Why would I do this? Because you will find this happens a lot in karate, so I’m simply preparing you for such. This time we will translate Heisoku-dachi using the kanji, 閉足立ち. Hei (閉) is Closed. Soku (足) this time being Foot/ Feet. Ending with our suffix of -dachi (立ち). Regardless of which kanji and translation is used the general description is the same. A Closed-Footed-Stance.

Lastly lets cover one of the most important stances in Shorin Ryu, Neko-ashi-dachi (猫足立ち). Neko (猫) is Cat. Ashi (足) is Foot. And our wonderful suffix -dachi (~立ち). While Cat-footed-stance or Cat Stance is a literal translation, this is again a description of not only how the stance should look but also how it should function.

Now here is a bonus something that even experienced instructors often forget about at they read through The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do, and as they teach classes. Remember Migi-ashi-mae (右足前) and Hidari-ashi-mae (左足前)? While the only time Nagamine Sensei mentioned this is with Shizentai-dachi, these two phrases apply to every stance where the feet are staggered. So we have Migi-ashi-mae Neko-ashi-dachi (右足前猫足立) as well as Hidari-ashi-mae Neko-ashi-dachi (左足前猫足立), as well.

This continues with:
Migi-ashi-mae Zenkutsu-dachi
Hidari-ashi-mae Zenkutsu-dachi
Migi-ashi-mae Kokutsu-dachi
Hidari-ashi-mae Kokutsu-dachi

This completes our translation for Kameakata and Tachikata. Next we will discuss Semekata (攻め方), but will probably only being looking at the techniques done with Seiken (正拳).

Kerikata of Matsubayashi Ryu

Rounding out the basic movements of Matsubayashi Ryu, as discussed by Nagamine Shoshin Sensei in The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do, are the Kerikata (蹴り方) or Methods of Kicking. Note that the actual word for kick in Japanese is Keri (蹴り) and not Geri. It is due to the process of Rendaku (連濁), or Sequential Voicing, that when Keri gets used as a suffix the initial K sound is softened to a g. This is the only time the Japanese word for Kick is pronounced -geri (~蹴り). It is important to note this because the Japanese word Geri actually means diarrhea, and we (or at least the author, along with most instructors) do not want people practicing such while Kicking. As I’m sure Nagamine Sensei would have agreed.

Speaking of Nagamine Sensei, he has divided the Kerikata into five main subcategories:
1. Kyobu-geri
2. Fukubu-geri
3. Kinteki-geri
4. Sokuto-geri
5. Nidan-geri

Again our goal here is to look at the literal, and nuanced, translation of these Japanese terms, making no assumptions of previous knowledge.

Starting right off with Kyobu-geri (胸部蹴り). Before translating Kyobu lets establish that the phonetics for this word きょうぶ has an extended O sound, represented by the character う here. As far as the meaning of 胸部, taken seperarely Kyo (胸) is Chest or Breast and Bu (部) means Part. In English we don’t feel the need to say “Chest Part,” so simply “Chest” will do. Kyobu-geri are kicks targeting the chest.

In this section, of The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do, instead of listing individual techniques, Nagamine Sensei, lists the part of the foot that makes contact whilst kicking. Here he lists the Josokutei (上足底). Again we should note that there is an extended O sound in Jo (じょう). Jo (上) refers to the “upper part of…,” and Sokutei (足底) is the sole of your foot, comprised of the kanji for Foot (足) and Base (底).

Moving down the body we get to Fukubu-geri (腹部蹴り). Fuku (腹) is the abdomen and again Bu (部) is Part. Again in English there is no need to say “Abdomen Part,” so “Abdomen” will suffice nicely. Thusly Fukubu-geri are kicks targeting the abdomen.

According to Nagamine Sensei the Tips of the Toe, or Tsumasaki (爪先). In a previous installment we discussed Tsumasaki-geri, but as we are making no assumptions of previous knowledge: Tsuma (爪) are Nails or Claws and Saki means Precede. As such “Tips of the Toes” is a pretty decent loose translation of Tsumasaki.

Again, headed farther down the body we get to Kinteki-geri (金的蹴り). Kinteki (金的) is a bit of a slang term, in that the nuanced translation doesn’t exactly match a literal translation. Separately Kin (金) means Gold and Teki (的) means Bullseye or Target. It just so happens that the Golden Target this term refers to is the Male Groin, which in this case Nagamine explains it also includes the upper-inside of the thigh. In Japanese you will also see this term referred to as Kintama-geri (金玉蹴り) or Golden Ball Kick, which usually doesn’t include the upper-inside of the thigh. It is further worth mentioning, kin is pronounced like the English word Keen.

Nagamine Sensei suggests that the Sokko (足甲) be used for this. It is worth mentioning that the O in -ko is extended. Also this is a relatively obscure pronunciation combining “soku” plus “ko” to get Sokko, this same word would usually be written 足の甲 and pronounced “Ashi no Ko” in Standard Japanese. Soku (足) is again an alternative pronounciation for the word Foot, and Ko (甲) in this context refers to the Instep. Thusly Sokko is the Instep of the Foot, or just the Instep.

This next Kerikata (蹴り方) switches things up and refers to the part of the foot used, rather than the part of the body which is targeted, Sokuto-geri (足刀蹴り). Soku (足) is again the Foot. To (刀), with an extended O sound, refers to a Blade. So Sokuto (足刀) is the Foot’s Blade. Though we will usually see this translated to Foot’s Edge.

Finally we get to Nidan-geri (二段蹴り). While this is often seen translated as Flying Front Kick, the literal translation is not nearly as sensational. Nidan (二段) can be taken in one of two ways, both of which are contextually correct: Two Steps or Two Levels. Both are linguistically correct and both match the context of what the practitioner is doing when they execute Nidan-geri.

That is all for the five major categories of techniques laid out in The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do used in Matsubayashi Ryu as well as their major subcategories. While it is tempting for me to move right along to the Intermediate Techiques, we will instead go deeper to the individual techniques within Tachikata (立ち方), Semekata (攻め方) and Ukekata (受け方). Then once we have completed all that, we shall move on to the Intermediate Techniques.

Tachikata of Matsubayashi Ryu

In this third installment we will look to translate the Tachikata (立ち方), or Methods of Standing, presented by Nagamine Shoshin Sensei in The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do. He has broken these down into ten subcategories:

  1. Shizentai-dachi
  2. Jun shizentai-dachi
  3. Jigotai-dachi
  4. Naihanchi-dachi
  5. Zenkutsu-dachi
  6. Naname zenkutsu-dachi
  7. Kokutsu-dachi
  8. Kosa-dachi
  9. Ippon-ashi-dachi
  10. Iaigoshi-dachi

This first one, Shizentai-dachi (自然体立ち), was covered in the last installment. However, continuing the theme of making no assumptions of previous knowledge, lets reestablish what this means. Tachi (立ち) is our general term for Stance/ Stances and when used as a suffix it becomes -dachi (~立ち), due to a process known as Sequential Voicing or Rendaku (連濁). Shizentai (自然体) is a compound word consisting of Natural (自然) and Body (体). However, due to nuances between Japanese and English, we would usually say Neutral rather than Natural. Thusly Shizentai-dachi (自然体立ち) is a Natural Body Stance, Neutral Body Stance, which often gets shortened in English by removing the term “body.”

Nagamine lists three specific Shizentai-dachi:
1. Soto-hachiji Shizentai-dachi
2. Migi-ashi-mae Shizentai-dachi
3. Hidari-ashi-mae Shizentai-dachi

Next we get to Jun shizentai-dachi, (準自然体立ち). This should be relatively easy to translate as it only has one additional kanji, 準. Jun (準) is the Japanese prefix comparable to the english semi- or quasi-. Thusly Jun shizentai-dachi (準自然体立ち) are Semi-Natural Stances.

Nagamine lists three specific Jun shizentai-dachi:
1. Chokuritsu-fudo-dachi
2. Heisoku-dachi
3. Nekoashi-dachi

(The following eight are all specific stances in their own right.)

Jigotai-dachi uses the kanji, 自護体立ち. This one was a bit of a pain to find, as it seems to be an antiquated/ obscure term, in two ways. In Jigotai (自護体), Jigo (自護) is an odd term for “Self Protection,” and Tai (体) again refers to the Body. Those with previous knowledge about Japanese Martial Arts, probably know that “Self Protection” in the Japanese language is Goshin (護身), and that the more common name for this stance is Shiko-dachi (四股立ち). However both of those are Standard Japanese terms, whereas it seems Jigotai-dachi isn’t.

For example, Shiko-dachi (四股立ち) refers to the stance used by Sumo wrestlers, and the term comes from Sumo. In Sumo, Shiko (四股) is the ceremonial raising and stomping of the legs at the beginning of a Sumo match. Furthermore a Sumo wrestler’s ring name is referred to as Shikona (四股名).

Naihanchi-dachi is a pretty simple one, as it doesn’t need to be fully translated. Naihanchi-dachi is simply called such because it is the main stance used in the Naihanchi kata. As Naihanchi is a proper noun, a translation is not needed. Furthermore, while many people over the years have attempted to assign kanji to Naihanchi (including the translator of The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do), it is my professional opinion that it is best to stick with kana in this case. As such Naihanchi-dachi is just ナイハンチ立ち, and simply translates to Naihanchi Stance.

Zenkutsu-dachi is going to need a bit more work than that, though still pretty straight forward. The kanji are 前屈立ち. Zen (前) is In Front. Kutsu (屈) has several translations but in this context it is Bending (especially when referring to the knee). Followed by our dear suffix -dachi (~立ち). Thusly Zenkutsu-dachi is a Front Bending Stance, which often gets shortened in English to simply Front Stance.

Naname zenkutsu-dachi only adds one more kanji (斜め) which literally means Slanted or Diagonal. So Naname zenkutsu-dachi (斜め前屈立ち) is a Slanged/ Diagonal Front Bending Stance.

If we have a Front Bending Stance (前屈立ち), than it kind of makes sense that we would have a Back Bending Stance. Kokutsu-dachi (後屈立ち), is that Back Bending Stance. Remember when we talk about kutsu (屈), in this context, there is a nuanced implication that we are referring to which knee is bending.

Kosa-dachi is also quite easy to translate. Kosa (交差) is another compound that is best taken as a whole, and means Crossing or Intersecting. Thus Kosa-dachi (交差立ち) is a Crossed Stance. Many people will specify it as a Crossed Legged Stance in English.

Second to last we have Ippon-ashi-dachi (一本足立ち). While in some of the other stances when we say the name in English we will superimpose the word foot or leg, Ippon-ashi-dachi already has this in the Japanese name. Ippon (一本) is the number 1 (一), combined with the general Japanese counter for objects (本). While 本 has many meanings, it is important to note that here it is just a general counter. Ashi (足) is the Japanese term for both Foot and Leg. Ending again with our suffix -dachi (立ち). Thusly Ippon-ashi-dachi (一本足立ち) is a One Legged Stance.

Our last entry for this installment is Iaigoshi-dachi (居合腰立ち). This one probably has the most nuance even though the translation is relatively simple. The kanji for Iaigoshi is 居合腰. This combines Iai (居合) and -goshi (~腰). This is the same Iai as in Iaido (居合道), the art of drawing a sword, and Iai translates roughly to Be Prepared. Here -goshi (~腰) is the word for Hip, Koshi (腰) in Japanese, used as a suffix. In fact the name for this stance comes from Japanese swordsmanship, where Iaigoshi (居合腰) is a one legged kneeling position that allows for both stability and freedom of movement.

This is all we have for the Tachikata (立ち方), The Methods of Standing. Next time we will take a linguistic delve into what Nagamine Sensei describes as Semekata (攻め方), Methods of Attacking.

Ukekata of Matsubayashi Ryu

Out of the five main categories of techniques (Kamaekata, Tachikata, Semekata, Ukekata, and Kerikata) Ukekata definitely consists of the largest grouping of individual techniques. However it should be noted that many westerners misunderstand what Ukekata are and how they should be used. As such lets start off by establishing Uke (受け) does not translate to Block. Ukekata are much more general than such a concept. Uke (受け) comes from the verb Ukeru (受ける) which in its most general sense means to Receive. However, as we established in our first installment, Ukekata (受け方) can mean Methods of Defense, as an Uke (both the person and the technique) are often Receiving an attack. (Again this goes well beyond the general concept of Blocking.)

In The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do, Nagamine Shoshin Sensei divides the Ukekata into five main subcategories:
1. Seiken-ude-uke
2. Shuto- and Haito-uke
3. Shotei-uke
4. Hiji-uke
5. Hangetsu-barai-uke

Again we will make no assumptions of previous knowledge.

Seiken-ude-uke (正拳腕受け), as the romaji (Roman Characters) suggest is divided into three main parts. Seiken (正拳) is a Correct Fist possition with all fingers curled in. Ude (腕) refers to the Arm or Forearm. These Receiving Techniques are thusly performed with a closed fist utilizing the forearms.

Nagamine Sensei discusses seventeen distinct Seiken-ude-uke:
1. Jodan uke
2. Chudan soto-uke
3. Chudan yoko-uke
4. Chudan uchi-uke
5. Gedan uke
6. Gedan yoko-barai-uke
7. Sasae-uke
8. Sayu-barai-uke
9. Jodan wari-uke
10. Chudan wari-uke
11. Jodan kosa-uke
12. Gedan kosa-uke
13. Morote soe-uke
14. Chudan soto-mawashi-uke
15. Morote-barai-uke
16. Hazushi-uke
17. Otoshi-uke

Next we get to the pairing of Shuto-uke (手刀受け) and Haito-uke (背刀受け). Shuto (手刀) is pretty straight forward. Shu (手) is one of the pronunciations for Hand. The suffix -to (~刀) means Blade, and can realistically imply anything from a small chisel (彫刻刀) to the massive anti-calvary swords that were sometimes wielded by multiple men (斬馬刀), but considering the size of a human hand, the translation Knife is sufficient. It is also important to note, -to is とう in Japanese phonetics meaning the O sound is slightly extended. Also you may see 手刀 pronounced as “Tegatana” in mainland Japanese arts such as Aikido, Judo, Jujutsu, etc.

I have to be honest that Haito (背刀) was a pain to translate. Reason being is that Haito is an obscure compound, with the more common usage being Tohai (刀背). I do not know why the kanji are switched around, but I can tell you that regardless of the order they mean the same thing, the back of a blade. Hai (背) in this context means Back (such as the part of a body, rather than the direction), and again -to (~刀) is Blade. If you research the term Haito on your own, you may come across two other compounds that are homonyms: 廃刀 and 佩刀. However, while they are worth noting for those interesting in the history and culture of mainland Japanese martial arts, these are not the same as what we use in Karate.

In The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do, eleven techniques are discussed in this subcategory:
1. Chudan soto-shuto-uke
2. Jodan uchi-shuto-uke
3. Chudan yoko-shuto-uke
4. Gedan shuto-uke
5. Gedan shuto yoko-barai-uke
6. Chudan hasami-uke
7. Makite-uke
8. Magetori-barai-uke
9. Torite-uke
10. Sagurite-uke
11. Gedan haito-yoko-uke

Shotei-uke (掌底) is another straight forward translation. Sho (掌) is the palm of the hand. Tei (底) is the bottom or base. When you put those together we get what we call in English, the palm heel.

Nagamine only discusses two Shotei-uke:
1. Chudan shotei-uke
2. Gedan shotei-uke

Hiji-uke is a single technique rather than a subcategory like the previous. Hiji (肘) is the elbow. Done! Moving on!

Hangetsu-barai-uke (半月払受け) as you can see is a little more involved, but still straightforward. Han (半) is Half. Getsu (月) is Moon. So Hangetsu (半月) is the half moon shape. Next we have -barai (~払い). Hopefully you are noticing the pattern involving Rendaku (連濁), -barai (~払い) is the noun form of the verb Harau (払う), which in this context is to Sweep. Interestingly this is the only defensive technique Nagamine Sensei discusses in The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do involving the feet.

That is all for now on Ukekata of Matsubayashi Ryu. For those curious, we will eventually go deeper and translate each and every individual technique. However we are working our way from the outside in. We started with the five major categories, now we are looking at subcategories within each of those five, then we will get into individual techniques. Next time will will translate the Kerikata (蹴り方) of Matsubayashi Ryu, presented in The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do by Nagamine Shoshin Sensei.