23 Nov

Sakugawa no kon

Sakugawa, Kobudo, Karate, Vancouver, Goju-ryu, Kitsilano

Performing Sakugawa no kon (sho) at Yoshimura sensei’s dojo

The other day we held a seniors kobudo training session. We’ve started doing these every now and then to practice subjects that we may not spend enough time on. At this session we focused on the kata Jigen no sai and Sakugawa no kon (sho) bunkai as taught to me by my teacher Minowa Katsuhiko. I’m not 100% sure, but I think that this two-person application set was created by Taira Shinken and Akamine Eisuke.  At least that’s what I remember Minowa sensei telling me, but again I could be wrong – I’ll have to check with Yoshimura sensei. It was a great way to start off the day by practicing Kobudo and everyone worked very hard. Read More

21 Nov

Historical Karate Film

Karate, Goju-ryu, Vancouver, Kitsilano, Kobudo, Shotokan, Lessons, Dojo

French Boxing Military 1900

The other day I posted a youtube video of a film from around 1900 of French troops practicing savate en mass on the dojo Facebook page. They were training outside and if you swapped out the background to Shuri Castle, then you might have thought they were practicing kata. As I mentioned in my facebook post, you could see the influence of European military and educational systems on the direction Okinawa Karate-do took in the early 20th century. Indeed, this influence is spelled out in Itosu Anko’s 1905 ‘Ten Precepts of Karate’.

Students practicing Karate at Shuri Castle

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17 Nov


Kengaku, Vancouver, Karate, Kobudo, Kitsilano, Goju-ryu, Shotokan, Martial Arts, Kengaku

Yoshimura sensei checkign a student’s sanchin kata

Injuries, illness, burn-out and boredom happen to all Karate students and teachers from time to time during training. This doesn’t include the additional daily stresses we have in our lives with work and family which exacerbate things even more. It’s a miracle that some students can even come to practice at all! Yet in Japan and Okinawa you’re expected (within reason) to come to practice and watch even if you aren’t physically able to join in.

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10 Nov

Breathing in Sanchin

sanchin, breathing, Uechi-ryu, Goju-ryu, Karate, Vancouver, Kitsilano

The other day I was teaching a short seminar on Uechi-ryu Sanchin at Vancouver Mind Body (1). It was a good mix of students from a variety of “styles” including Shotokan, Goju-kai, Shito-ryu, etc., and I had a very enjoyable time teaching the class. During the break a participant asked me why the breathing was done the way it is in the kata. I looked at her and in all honesty replied, “I don’t know”. Read More

04 Nov

On Karate Dancing

Ethnography of Amami Oshima

Iha Fuyu and Higaonna Kanjun were probably the two most well-known researchers in Okinawa studies in the early 20th century – essentially founding this field of study. One of their projects included the Southern Islands Study Group which looked at the anthropology of the Ryukyu island chain from the north in Amami Oshima to the south in Iriomote. What readers may not be aware of is that these researchers were involved with local Karate teachers, such as Funakoshi Gichin and Miyagi Chojun, in shaping the history of Okinawa and consequently the history of Karate-do. Read More

31 Oct

Suparempei – Itoman Morinobu (Seijin)

In my last post I talked about Suparempei and its variations. I mentioned that in at least one publication [Itoman Morinobu’s 1938 book “Karate-jutsu no Kenkyu” – (唐手術の研究) – Research on Karate Techniques], he listed “Dai” and “Sho” versions of Suparempei and Pechurin as a separate kata. So, today I thought I would translate that section of Itoman’s book. It is basically a kata list, but there are some interesting little bits of information that pop-up from it. The cynical side of me says that after reading this list some internet karate “masters” will magically resurrect some of these lost kata….

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28 Oct


If you look over Sakagami Ryusho’s Japanese language book on Shito-ryu (Karatedo Taikan, 1978, pg. 272) you can see some interesting differences between Goju-ryu and Shito-ryu Suparempei kata. In the Goju-ryu version, there is a section of the kata where you retreat in cat stance and perform mawashi uke in three directions. In the same section in the Shito-ryu version as seen in Sakagami’s book, the accompanying text says to perform ura-uke (back of the hand block) – although it’s hard to see in the photos. Read More