Research by authors such as Patrick McCarthy and Mark Bishop seems to suggest that there is some evidence to support the theory that the Okinawan's had developed a martial arts tradition that had utilised sword and spear and ancillary to this was a form of hand to hand combat which was used in cojunction with weapons or when weapons were not available. This empty handed form of combat known as Kempo was characterised by striking, kicking and grappling techniques known as Tuite, Te, Ti or di. How early these techniques began to develop (7th or 10th or 15th Century) appears to be a matter of conjecture.
The two most well known lines of Okinawan Te Motobu Ryu Udun Ti and Bugeikan became known to us in the west through the writings of Mark Bishop (1989 & 1996) whose own Ti; known as Sogo Bugei No Kai had been influenced by these and other Ti styles.
Motobu Udun Ti is simply one version of Ti and is that which was inherited by Seikichi Uehara from the Motobu Family and which has now passed back to the Motobu line. During the period that Seikichi Uehara was 12th Grandmaster of Motobu Udun Ti he exercised a profound influence on the grappling aspects of Okinawan Martial Arts.
The Bugeikan was founded by Seitoku Higa who had originally studied an old form of Shuri Te under Soko Kishomoto (1862 - 1945), a student of Bushi Takemura (Tachimura) who was a contemporary of his elder Sokon Matsumura (1809 -1901). Seitoku Higa also trained in Motobu Undun Ti under Seikichi Uehara from 1961 (Bishop 1996:140).
Both of these lines at some point show the influence of Sokon Matsumura,whose son Nabe Matsumura taught Hohan Sokon teacher of Fusei Kise
In 1967 Seitoku Higa founded the All Okinawan Karate and Kobudo Association, also known as Zen Okinawa Karate Kobudo Rengokai which formed an umbrella group for several styles of Karate, Te and Kobudo styles and which Seikichi Uehara's Motobu Ryu Kobu-jutsu Assocation joined in 1969 (Ibid).
Below I outline one version of the history of these Okinawan Martial Arts and the possible Japanese influence from the 12th Century, which in part may help to explain the apparent similiarity of Okinawan Tuite to Japanese Aikido.
Minamoto Clan (Aka Takeda)
Tametomo (1139-70) the eighth son of Minamoto Tameyoshi (1096-1156) of the Japanese Minamoto clan following military defeat by the Taira in 1156 were exiled to the Aizu region of Japan which was controlled by the Hojo clan, at that time a branch of the Taira clan. The Hojo had originally been palace guard at Nara in the time of Prince Shotoku and later became Regents.
Minamoto Tametomo eventually gained control of the Aizu region where the original art of Kage Ryu was founded by Aizu Ikosai.
Minamoto Tametomo later worked his way south to the Ryukan Islands of Okinawa and made contact with Ozato Aji, ruler of Urazoe Castle.
Minamoto Tametomo married Ozato's sister and became Lord of Urazoe and begot a son called Shunten who in 1186 defeated the last ruler of the Tenson dynasty, Riyu, establishing the Shunten dynasty, that was to last until 1253 (NB. Okinawa was unified in 1429 by Sho Hanshi).
What is certain is that the Minamoto clan were a powerful family of warlords in Japan and it is to them that the original birth of Aiki-Ju Jutsu, from which Aikido, Hakko Ryu and Shorinji Kempo originate.
There is little doubt about the similarity between Te (Tuite) and Aikido to the on looker although a great difference in the subtlety of technique is noticed by practitioners. The principles of Tuite, Aiki Jutsu and Aikido are undoubtedly alike but the manifestation of principles differs.
The similarity and differences between the arts of Te and Aikido may be due to how the martial arts in different branches of the Minamoto clan developed. For example the Okinawan branch developed from Shunten where as the most well known Japanese branch of the Minamoto clan martial arts was that passed down by Takeda Sokaku, one of the teachers of Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido.
Jigen Ryu, Taisha Shin Kage Ryu, Taisha Ryu and Jigen Ryu
Another possible but later Japanese influence on Te or Tuite is through the Jigen Ryu, or more specifically the Taisha Shinkage Ryu as interpreted in the later part of the Taisha Ryu, which for all intents and purposes became Jigen Ryu.
When the martial arts scholar and historian Pat McCarthy spoke to 11th generation headmaster of Jigen Ryu, he was told that there was definitely a connection between Jigen Ryu and Okinawan indigenous fighting traditions but there lacks certainty over which influenced which.
Given the emphasis of both weapons and dance (O Dori) in Motobu Udun Ti it is possible that what is called Jigen Ryu Bo Odori may hold the answer;
In the Nihon Budo Taikei it is stated at volume 8 page 51:
'Lord Shimizu instructed the second generation headmaster Togo Bizen no Kami Shigekata (1602-1659) to teach self defence tactics to farmers and peasants in Satsuma' (Quoted from McCarthy 1995:51).
Pat McCarthy points out that these techniques were disguised as Jigen Ryu Bo Odori, a folk dance.
2. Jigen Ryu Bo-Odori includes:
Jo vs Katana, (Short Staff vs Sword)
Bo vs Yari. (Staff vs Spear)
Other weapons included in Jigen Ryu were:
All of these weapons are to be found in Motobu Udun Ti (A Te of the Motobu Family passed on by Seikichi Uehara).
Given the link of music to dance and that Jigen Ryu Bo Odori was translated as a folk dance it is likely that when the dance was performed at village festivals that Shakuhachi (Flute) would be played. The flute is certainly present in Okinawan Kumi Odori.
The Satsuma Samurai who had occupied Okinawa from 1609 practised Jigen Ryu which can be traced to Marume's Taisha Shin Kage Ryu. Murame had when a student of Kamiizumi Nobutsuna, the founder of the Shin Kage Ryu, assisted in a demonstration before Ashikaga Yoshiteru Shogun.
Sakugawa who is believed to have been a student of Kusankun who practised what was called Kumiai-Jutsu. Sakugawa was also in charge of security for a large commercial shipping firm and had studied martial arts in Beijing and Fuzhou in China and Satsuma in Japan.
There is little doubt that Sakugawa's influence of on Okinawan martial arts combined methods from both China (Kumiai Jutsu) and Japan (Jigen Ryu).
Another important influence is Sakugawa's student Sokon Matsumura who had also studied in Hakutsuru (White Crane) in Fuzhou and had opportunity to study under Ason and Iwah, Chinese Military Attaches of China in Okinawa. It is believed by many that Sokon Matsumura was also initiated into the Jigen Ryu the art of the Satsuma clan under Yashichiro Ijuin in Japan.
Matsumura as a youth living in Shuri learnt the basics of Okinawa's indigenious fighting art Te and had served as body guard to Sho Ko, Sho Iku and Sho Tai, the last three Okinawan Kings. There is some evidence to suggest that Matsumura was the Te instructor to the Okinawan Royal Family of Motobu Udun.
Matsumura like his teacher Sukagawa was also responsible for security on ships trading in the pirated seas between Okinawa, Japan and China.
The Jigen Ryu has its origin in the Taisha Ryu founded by Murame Kurodo No Suke Nagayoshi (1540-1629) using part of the name of his teacher’s (Kamiizumi Nobutsuna) school the Shin Kage Ryu, for Marume had originally called his school Taisha Shinkage Ryu.
It was Marume who had assisted Kamiizumi Nobutsuna in a demonstration before Ashikaga Yoshiteru Shogun. This moment is regarded by some as the origin of the Shin Kage Ryu.
Apparently one of Murame's own students had trained under Kamiizumi Nobutsuna (Murame's original teacher) and then returned to Marume.
Marume then dropped Shinkage from the styles name as the Taisha Ryu style had evolved differently from that of its founders teacher Kamiizumi Nobutsuna. Murame sought out his original teacher Kamiizumi Nobutsuna again but not in time before the latters death.
Murame's Student Togo Shigejura (1561-1643) then founded the Jigen Ryu which Sokon Matsumura is said to have learnt from Yashiciro Ijuin.
However there is also another possible conection between the Okinawan Martial arts and a Shin Kage Ryu, a style that was popularised at one point in China.
The term Kage Ryu, means shadow school. This Ryu represents the sword techniques of the Aizu clan, which were passed on by Aizu Hyuga No Kami (Aisu Ikosai 1452-1538) who was involved, although in what capacity is unknown, in piracy along the Korean and Chinese Coasts.
Aisu Ikosai was born Aisu Tarozaemon Hisatada and was part of the Aizu/Aisu Samurai clan, a branch of the Kii family of Kumano. The Kii family had been put in charge of five castle areas in the Muromachi period (1336 - 1568) by Shogun Morinaga Shinno (1308-1335). Aisu Ikosai claims to have studied what became Kage Ryu in Ming China. Ikosai's Kage Ryu is based on animal behaviour and the rhythm of the waves.
1. On animal behaviour (This is common to many Kung Fu/Chaun Fa styles)
2. The Rhythm of the waves (Ikosai could be refering to lessons learnt whilst at sea).
Aisu Ikosai was sword teacher to the chief retainer of the warlord Uesugi at Orgo castle. The Uesegi clan served the Ashikaga Shogunate (1338-1572). The chief retainer of Orgo Castle was in the hands of the Hidetsuga family. The post of retainer in the Hidetsuga family passes from father to eldest son. Kamiizumi Hidetsuga and his father served as retainers to the Uesugi clan during periods of war and alliance with the Takeda clan.
The battles between these two great warlords of Uesugi and Takeda resulted in mounting casualities on both sides, eventually an alliance was formed between the Takeda clan and the Uesegi clan retainers the Hidetsuga clan. Kamiizumi Hidetsuga was awarded the name Nobutsuna by Takeda Shingen, who had taken this name when he was a monk.
The aims of the Shin Kage Ryu according to Aisu Ikosai student Kamiizumi Nobutsuna were:
`The school aims to come up with a series of measures by changing in response to the opponent, just as one handles the sail by watching the wind and releases the hawk upon seeing a rabbit`.
Yagyu Munenori, the son of Yagyu Muneyoshi a stident of Nobutsuna, states in the Tsuki no Sho (Notes on the Moon):
`The sword of the Shin Kage Ryu is not a yang blade, but a Yin (Kage) blade; it does not employ any posture, its posture being posturelessness. The position of the Shin Kage Ryu is to do things in response to the opponents moves. It is a Ryu that does not aim to slash, not to take,not to win, not to lose`.
The Chinese influences on this school are clear both in terminology and concepts
From the International Hoplology Society homepage - "AISU KAGE RYU",
translated from "Zusetsu: Nippon Kengo-shi", by Imamura Yoshio; pgs. 23-28:
Today, there remains virtually no contemporaneous material on Kage no ryu. There is one important piece though; a reference to Kage no ryu in a collection of Chinese martial essays called the Bubishi. The Bubishi was the work of the Ming Dynasty Chinese military writer, Bo Gengi (Chinese. Mau Yuanyi). In a total of 240 volumes, he expounded on important points of military preparation. In volume no. 86, parts of the Kage no ryu syllabus – accompanied with images of monkeys – are found:
Kage ryu no mokuroku (Catalog of the Kage ryu)
Enpi (Monkey Flying)
Seigan (Blue Shore)
Inken (Shadow Vision)
Enkai (Monkey Twirling)
Dai-san Yamakage (Mountain Shadow, Number Three)
We notice here the combination of Seafarers expressions such as Shadow Vision, Blue Shore, Mountain Shadow with Chinese Shaolin animals such as Monkey and Tiger. It is likely that Kage no ryu or the Shin Kage Ryu had gained attention among Chinese military authorities from Japanese warriors and pirates who raided China’s coasts during that period. Obviously, the military authorities were impressed with the swordsmanship of these fighters. (Records of Military Preparation). The
The link to this page can be found here along with pictures of Aisu Empi or Monkey Jumping:
From The Sword and Same, by Henri L. Joli/ Inada Hogitaro. Holland Press. 1979; pg 57:
In recent days (ca. 1737) there have been many people calling themselves fencing experts (kenkaku), as it is said in China. According to the Bubishi of (Ming) Bobengi:
"Shoho Sekikeiko, a general who lived in the time of Seisokotei of the Ming dynasty, went to Japan in the 40th year of Kase (Chia Tsing), and became initiated into the style of fencing of the Shin Kage school (Kage No Ryu). The 40th year of Kase is the 4th year of Eiroku (1562), in the reign of Ogimachi Tenno (1558-1587). It appears that someone went to China and learnt this fact. I think they appreciate highly the Japanese style of fencing, as they are adopting it…"
The date 1562 is 42 years after Aizu Ikosai the founder of the original Kage Ryu had died, so it seems likely that Shoho Sekikeiko had studied under Shin Kage Ryu under Kamiizumi Nobutsuna or one of his students.
Note: Although the text in translation reads "Shin Kage Ryu" the Kanji that follows it actually reads "Kage no ryu".