Fighting Tradition of Japan
is doubtful whether the Japanese people and the country as a whole can really
be understood or appreciated by anyone without a degree of knowledge of
their martial culture." -Donn F. Draeger
Jinen-ryu, established in 1933 by Yasuhiro Konishi
(1893-1983), is deeply rooted in a rich tradition
of Japanese warrior culture. To understand the tradition
and the philosophies that this style of karate-do
represents, we must first visit the origin of budo
and trace the path on which it was formed.
Birth of Japan
land around the current Japanese islands was formed
about 70 million years ago. According to archaeologists,
humans lived on the land as early as 2.5 million
years ago. During the last ice age (50,000 to 10,000
years ago), a massive movement of the earth separated
the land from the Eurasian Continent, and the Japanese
islands were formed. This geographical isolation
from the continent provided the Japanese with protection
and the opportunity to develop their own unique
10,000 B.C through 300 B.C., the prehistoric peoples
of Japan followed a hunting and gathering way of
life. Collective farming began around 300 B.C.,
triggering the development of irrigation systems
and iron-edged tools which increased harvests, in
turn stimulating a massive population explosion.
As social hierarchies and political structures developed,
competition and warfare between villages intensified.
Bronze and iron weapons were initially obtained
from the continent, but soon the Japanese were making
their own weapons such as swords, pikes, and spears.
However, many of these early Japanese-made weapons
were not practical; they were used for religious
ceremonies and rituals, indicating a relatively
peaceful island nation during its early years.
Unification and the Earliest Military Actions
the fourth century A.D., Japan was unified under
the imperial family which continues to this day.
The Yamato dynasty, centered around the current
Osaka area, established official diplomatic relations
with Paekche (one of the three kingdoms in the Korean
peninsula) in 367 A.D. Two years later, the Yamato
dynasty sent soldiers to the Korean peninsula to
defend Paekche against its adversary, Silla. This
alliance continued until 663, when Paekche was defeated
and vanquished by the powerful joint military forces
of Silla and the Tang dynasty in China.
of Buddhism and Confucianism
Shinto had been the indigenous religion of Japan,
in 593 A.D., Empress Suiko declared her acceptance
of Buddhism (which was introduced through the Korean
peninsula in the mid sixth century) and encouraged
the construction of Buddhist temples. In 604, crown-prince
Shotoku issued the Seventeen-Article Constitution
and instituted the court ranks, the first step in
the process of establishing imperial authority,
the social order, and a moral standard. Heavily
influenced by Confucian ideals, Shotoku's constitution
defined that civility, or courtesy, is the foundation
Earliest Martial Arts Competitions
oldest documented form of martial art in Japan is
sumo. The Kojiki, Japan's first book on history,
written in 712 A.D., describes a sumo match between
two Shinto gods (Takemikazuchi and Takeminakata)
on the beach of Izumo. Takemikazuchi won the match
by twisting Takeminakata's arm and throwing him
to the ground. By this victory, Takemikazuchi was
awarded the right to rule the region.
Nihonshoki, another ancient chronicle completed
in 720 A.D., documents a sumo match held in front
of Emperor Suijin in 23 B.C., where Nomi no Sukune
defeated Taima no Kehaya by kicking and breaking
Kehaya's ribs. In 726 A.D., Emperor Seibu hosted
a sumo tournament in July, which then became an
important annual palace ritual along with archery
contests in January and May. The archery contest
in January was without horses, while the contest
in May involved mounted bowmen shooting arrows at
targets while riding their horses at full gallop.
These earliest martial arts competitions in Japan
continued for 300 years. However, a major civil
war between the Taira and the Minamoto in the 12th
century put an end to that tradition.
Period and the Rise of the Warrior Class
established its own cultural, political, and economic
identity during the Heian Period (794-1185). Buddhism
flourished, and the separation of religion and state
was largely maintained. Literature and art thrived
under the aristocratic civilian government rule.
Until the 10th century, Japanese soldiers were mostly
a combination of lower-rank aristocrats, their servants,
and other civilians who took weapons whenever needed.
However, the formation of specialized full-time
warrior groups, consisting mostly of skilled archers,
brought about the birth of a warrior class. In rural
areas, warrior groups gained political power, and
civilian administrators could not control them.
This threatened state control over lands, and the
country was headed toward anarchy and corruption.
Furthermore, major Buddhist temples recruited and
trained warrior-monks for protection and used militant
force to make political demands on the government.
In 1167, Kiyomori Taira, the first warrior to become
a member of the high court, rose to dominate the
court, and the Taira warrior clan controlled the
government until 1185. This signified the beginning
of warrior rule in Japan, which continued for 700
Period and the Rise of the Samurai
1185, the Minamoto clan, commanded by Yoritomo Minamoto,
defeated their archenemy, the Taira clan. In 1192,
the imperial court granted Yoritomo the title shogun
(general) and gave him permission to start a government
in Kamakura. Away from the hedonistic capital city
of Kyoto, Yoritomo created a warrior society with
a distinct military aristocracy. In the Kamakura
Period (1192-1333), the term samurai indicated a
specific rank of mounted warriors. In later years,
the term came to denote all warriors.
society exalted loyalty, honor, modesty, and frugality-ideals
that later inspired the code of the warrior, or
sect of Buddhism that flourished in this period
was Zen. Its simplicity and emphasis on self-discipline
and meditation as the means to enlightenment particularly
appealed to the warrior class. The Zen ideal of
enhancing one's level of awareness to overcome fear
of death gave much needed mental strength to warriors
who had to fight constant battles. Under the guardianship
of the Kamakura government, many Zen temples were
constructed in the Kamakura area, and Zen became
the guiding philosophy for the Kamakura warriors.
In addition to refining their fighting skills, the
Kamakura warriors were expected to be proficient
in calligraphy, painting, poetry, music, and other
martial arts of the Kamakura period were rugged
fighting skills and are referred to as bugei. The
most important fighting skill was yabusame, or archery
overrunning Eastern Europe, the army of Kublai Khan
invaded Japan in 1274. The Kamakura government brusquely
rejected the Mongolian demand and fought off the
invasion force of 40,000 men. Fortunately for the
defenders, only a day after Khan's army landed near
Hakata, a sudden storm arose, destroying their fleet
and drowning many of the Mongolian soldiers.
1281, Khan attacked again with 150,000 men. After
two months of fierce fighting, a typhoon again destroyed
the Mongolian fleet and only 30,000 men returned
to their continent.
Mongolian invasions altered the way Japanese warriors
fought in battle. Before the invasions, all battles
were fought one-on-one, regardless of the number
of troops on each side. When the battle began, a
warrior from one side would step forward and announce
his name, family, and title. A warrior from the
opposing side with equivalent qualification and
skill would then step forward to accept the challenge
and announce his name, family, and title. If the
opposition was considered fair and worthy, a face-to-face
combat would begin. After the bout, the winner would
return to his army, while the loser's remains would
be withdrawn from the battlefield. The next warrior
would then step forward and another bout would begin.
This process was repeated until one side conceeded
defeat. However, this traditional form of Japanese
fighting etiquette did not work against the Mongolian
army, which attacked with numbers. New tactics had
to be implemented.
Immigration to Okinawa
of the surviving Taira warriors at the end of the
Heian Period (794-1185) escaped the pursuing Minamoto
army and immigrated to the islands of Okinawa, which
was then an independent but divided kingdom (Okinawa
was unified in 1429 by King Shohashi). Near the
end of the Kamakura Period, some Minamoto warriors
also immigrated to the islands. These Japanese immigrants,
along with immigrants from China, mixed into the
native Okinawan population. The Japanese dialect
spoken in modern-day Okinawa is rooted in the ancient
Japanese spoken during the Heian Period, preserved
without change in the isolated island environment.
Age of the Civil Wars
the sudden fall of the Kamakura shogunate in 1333,
a period of social disorder and civil wars lasted
until 1590, when warload Nobunaga Oda and his successor
Hideyoshi Toyotomi reunified Japan. During this
250-year span, the imperial institutions of local
control withered completely, and Japan was in a
constant warring state. Each regional warlord (called
daimyo) lived in their own domains, devoting their
full energies to improving their own military, political,
and economic strength. Although the civil wars caused
destruction, Japan witnessed a quantum leap forward
in economic activity and the emergence of two powerful
social forces: self-conscious merchants and increasingly
rebellious market-oriented farmers.
practices also spread rapidly in this period. Zen
monks (some of them retired warriors) taught meditation,
arts, and literature to the sons and daughters of
provincial warriors. The philosophy and training
of Zen, characterized by simplicity, serenity, and
tranquility, not only gave samurai warriors the
strength to overcome the fear of death, but contributed
to the development of traditional arts such as chanoyu
(tea ceremony), ikebana (flower arrangement), noh
(dance), and sho-do (calligraphy). These arts were
considered as expressions of the level of awareness
that the individual had attained, and were widely
practiced among samurai.
first Westerner to visit Japan was a Portuguese
merchant whose ship drifted ashore in 1543. The
Portuguese introduced rifles to the Japanese, and
within a short period of time, the Japanese were
producing domestic rifles. The firearm changed the
battle field strategies, and put an end to the traditional
hand-to-hand combat with swords and spears.
1588, just before completing reunification of Japan,
Lord Hideyoshi ordered all non-warriors to surrender
their swords in an attempt to disarm the farmers,
thus preventing a farmer's uprising which often
threatened provincial daimyos. Hideyoshi also prohibited
the transition between social classes; the samurai,
the farmer, and the merchant were kept distinctly
Hideyoshi invaded the Korean Peninsula in 1592 with
150,000 men. The invasion force was withdrawn when
Hideyoshi passed away in 1598.
the Civil War Period (sengoku jidai), many of the
martial arts techniques were systematically refined.
Specialized martial arts instructors appeared, and
warrior trainees, or bugeisha, traveled across the
country in search of a weapons expert under whom
they could study. The rugged fighting form of bugei
was slowly transforming into an art form, and bujutsu
tested their skill by engaging in a duel with well-known
experts. Little or no safety gear was worn, and
so many lost their lives or were crippled. The famed
Musashi Miyamoto lived in this transitional period.
Lord Hideyoshi's death, Lord Ieyasu Tokugawa's army
won a decisive battle in Sekigahara against the
remaining Toyotomi clan in 1600. Lord Ieyasu received
the title of shogun from the emperor in 1603, and
opened his shogunate in Edo (current Tokyo). Law
and order replaced chaos, and possession and use
of weapons were strictly regulated. During the Edo
Period (1603-1868), Japan isolated itself from the
rest of the world, and prospered in peace for over
two centuries through significant political, social,
economic, and cultural developments.
concept of budo was established in the early Edo
Period. Although Zen has been the guiding philosophy
for the samurai since the Kamakura Period in the
13th Century, the peace and social stability of
the Edo Period allowed bujutsu to be integrated
with Zen. The transformation from bujutsu to budo
persons who played the key role in this transformation
were Zen Master Soho Takuan and Sword Master Munenori
Yagyu who was the Tokugawa shogun's chief kenjutsu
instructor. Takuan wrote in his Immovable Wisdom
(a series of letters to Munenori) that the mind
of a Zen master is the same as the mind of a swordmaster;
"the mind that does not stop at all is called immovable
wisdom." Munenori defined his art as "the life-giving
sword," and wrote in his Family Book of Swordsmanship,
"No-sword is held to be the exclusive secret of
Miyamoto also accepted Zen and wrote in his Book
of Five Rings, "Then you will come to think of things
in a wide sense and, taking the void as the Way,
you will see the Way as void." The void (ku or mu)
is the essence of Zen teachings. Both "immovable
wisdom" and "no-sword" indicate the emptiness of
the mind. This line of thought was further developed
in the Meiji Period by Sword and Zen Master Tesshu
Yamaoka with his Muto-ryu (School of No-sword).
the Edo Period, bugei, bujutsu, and budo coexisted.
Bugei was the variety of combat skill required of
all samurai. Required bugei disciplines included
the sword, spear, pike, archery, jujutsu, horsemanship,
rifle shooting, swimming, and others, for the total
of 18 disciplines (bugei ju happan). Bujutsu were
the weapon arts for combat purposes which were more
refined and systematically developed. Budo was the
means to improve oneself through martial training.
in the mid-Edo Period, many kenjutsu schools geared
toward character development adapted bamboo sticks,
or shinai, and protective armor, or bogu, to reduce
injury during practice. These schools were heavily
criticized by other bujutsu-oriented schools as
1609, the Satsuma clan in Kyushu sent 3,000 soldiers
to Okinawa to conquer the islands. King Shonei was
captured and taken to Satsuma, but was later allowed
to return to Okinawa to govern the islands. Satsuma
maintained Okinawa's relative independence to enable
foreign trade with China and Korea which was banned
by the Tokugawa government. This independence ended
when the Meiji government officially incorporated
Okinawa into Japanese territory in 1879.
arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry in 1853 ended
Japan's isolation from the rest of the world. American
gun-ship diplomacy reopened Japan's diplomatic and
commercial relations with the Western world, and
brought down the Tokugawa regime, along with 700
years of warrior rule.
Meiji declared the restoration of direct imperial
rule in 1868. Feudalism was abolished, and the modernization
of Japan began.
Meiji Restoration significantly altered the culture
and lifestyle of the Japanese. The Meiji government's
first priority was to strengthen the national defense
by organizing a Western-style military force. The
Military Conscription Ordinance in 1873 required
all Japanese citizens to serve three years of active
service and four years in the reserves. The class
structure was eliminated, and the samurai class
was phased out. The traditional martial arts were
deemed as useless old-fashioned fighting techniques,
and were all but abandoned.
imperial rule was restored for the first time in
700 years, Buddhism (and Zen) was dismissed, and
Shinto became the national religion. The samurai
lost not only their privileges but also their guiding
philosophy. Some former samurai became aristocrats
while others became merchants or farmers to earn
a living. Most of them abandoned the practice of
martial arts altogether. However, as Western sports
such as baseball, gymnastics, and track & field
were introduced, the once forgotten martial arts
were gradually revived as native-Japanese sports.
The Ministry of Education supported the movement
to promote physical education among the nation.
Tesshu Yamaoka and Jigoro Kano opened their dojos
in 1882. Yamaoka's Shunpukan was to teach kendo
and Zen, while Kano transformed jujutsu to judo
and taught the art in his Kodokan. Kano promoted
not only judo but also sports in general. He established
the Dai Nippon Butokukai (Japan Athletic Association)
in 1901 which governed all sports, and became the
first Japanese member of the International Olympic
Committee (IOC) in 1909. Kano participated in the
5th Olympics held in Stockholm, Sweden in 1912 as
the head of the Japanese delegation.
Meiji government's economic policies produced a
rapid industrial revolution, and within a short
period of time, Japan joined the industrialized
nations. The Imperial Constitution, promulgated
in 1889, declared the emperor "sacred and inviolable."
However, the emperor himself reigned rather than
As a result of the war with China in 1894-95, Japan
acquired the island of Taiwan and a large indemnity
as well as its share of access to the Chinese market.
In 1904-05, Japan fought a war with Russia and won.
Japan gained recognition of its paramount interests
in Korea, took back the southern Manchurian leases,
and acquired the southern half of Sakhalin. Korea
was formally annexed to Japan in 1910. In 1914,
Japan took part in World War I on the side of the
series of war victories promoted national pride,
and the Meiji government decided to use martial
arts as physical educational tools to improve the
health of school-age children. Behind this decision,
there was persistent lobbying by Tesshu Yamaoka
and Jigoro Kano. In 1895, the Dai Nippon Butokukai
was established as the governing body for all budo.
Konishi and The Introduction of Karate to the Japanese
Konishi was born in 1893 on the island of Shikoku.
He started studying Muso-ryu jujutsu at age 6, kendo
at age 13, and Takenouchi-ryu jujutsu at age 15.
Konishi moved to Tokyo in 1915 and enrolled in the
elite Keio University. He was a captain of the varsity
kendo club, and after graduation was appointed the
university's kendo instructor.
in the university, Konishi was renting a room in
a jujutsu dojo and earned living as body guard or
bouncer. Just before his graduation, a junior member
of the kendo club, Tsuneshige Arakaki, an Okinawan
native, demonstrated at a club party a dance that
he called Kushanku dance. Konishi was intrigued
by this exotic looking art from Okinawa. Konishi
opened the Ryobu-kan dojo in 1923 and started teaching
kendo and jujutsu, while learning karate from Arakaki.
Gichin Funakoshi (1870-1957) came to the Japanese
mainland in 1917 for the first time to give a demonstration
of karate at Butokuden in Kyoto. By the invitation
of founder of Judo, Jigoro Kano. Funakoshi returned
to the mainland in 1922 to perform another karate
demonstration at Kodokan in Tokyo. For this demonstration,
Funakoshi hand-stitched white uniforms for himself
and for his partner Shinkin Gima, an Okinawan native
and a member of Kodokan.
demonstration was attended by over 350 people, including
newspaper reporters, and was a huge success. This
demonstration by Funakoshi and Gima marks the starting
point of modern-day karatedo. The newspaper articles
on the demonstration raised public interest in the
art and generated massive number of requests for
additional karate demonstrations and instruction.
Funakoshi postponed his return to Okinawa, and started
teaching karate in Meiseijuku, a dormitory for Okinawan
students in Tokyo.
1924, Funakoshi came to see Konishi at the Keio
University and asked for Konishi's permission to
use the kendo dojo during off-training hours for
karate practice. Konishi not only granted his permission
but also invited Funakoshi to come to his Ryobu-kan
dojo to teach him karate. The Keio University Karate
Club was established on October 15, 1924. In addition
to training at Funakoshi's Meiseijuku dojo, Konishi
received karate instruction from Choki Motobu and
Kenwa Mabuni (founder of Shito-ryu).
Konishi respected Funakoshi's personality and Mabuni's
technical refinement, he was most impressed by Motobu's
fighting abilities. Motobu was by far the best karate
fighter of his time. Konishi, a successful bonesetter
and a real estate investor, provided financial assistance
to these and other Okinawan karate instructors.
continued his kendo training under the instruction
of legendary master Hakudo Nakayama, who was called
"kensei," or kendo god. Nakayama suggested to Konishi
that karatedo had the potential to become "empty-hand
kendo." Konishi also studied Aikido under Aikido-founder
Morihei Ueshiba. Under Ueshiba's guidance, Konishi
developed a series of Taisabaki kata. The footwork,
the body movement, and the applications (bunkai)
in these kata are based on both Karate and Aikido
was the place-to-be for all serious budo-ka in Tokyo.
On the recommendation of Morihei Ueshiba and Shinto
scholar Danjo Yamaguchi, Konishi named his style
of karate Shindo Jinen-ryu Karate-jutsu in 1933
which was later renamed as Shindo Jinen-ryu Karate-do.
Shindo (godly) was a common prefix for many kenjutsu
styles. Konishi used this prefix to indicate that
his karate properly succeeded the heritage of traditional
Japanese budo. Jinen (also pronounced shizen meaning
natural) indicates his natural approach to the art.
Because Konishi studied under many renowned karate
masters of the time, his Shindo Jinen-ryu Karate-do
included cross-sections of kata and basics from
many different styles. However, the most influential
styles were Shotokan, Shito-ryu, and Motobu-ryu.
1934, celebrated boxer Tsuneo "Piston" Horiguchi
joined the Ryobu-kan, and studied karate and kendo
under Konishi. Horiguchi also received hands-on
instructions from Choki Motobu at the Ryobu-kan
dojo. A few months later, Horiguchi won the Japanese
Featherweight Boxing Title.
of Karate in the Early Showa Period
Keio University Karate Club was the first to change
karate (China hand) to karate (Empty hand) in 1929.
However, the substitution meant much more than a
mere cosmetic change. One of the founding members
of the Keio University Karate Club, Goro Shimokawa
was a member of the Enkaku Temple in Kamakura (the
garden of which contains a monument commemorating
Funakoshi with the inscription written by Zen master
Sogen Asahina which reads There is no first attack
in karate). After studying Zen at this temple, Funakoshi
was persuaded by his students at Keio to change
the character to Kara (Empty or Void) which contains
profound meaning in the Zen context.
adaptation of Zen signified that the Chinese/Okinawan
fighting art of karate had transformed itself into
a Japanese budo.
was one of the first group of students who received
Dan ranks from Gichin Funakoshi. However, Konishi
knew that if karate were to be respected by the
budo community, it had to be a part of the Dai Nippon
Butokukai. Konishi used his political influence,
as well as the fact that he was already a senior
member through kendo, so that the Butoku-kai would
recognize karate as a legitimate Japanese budo and
would issue official ranking certifications. This
became reality in 1935, when the Butoku-kai awarded
Konishi the title of Karate-do Kyoshi for the first
time. By 1941, the Butoku-kai awarded the Kyoshi
title to Yasuhiro Konishi, Chojun Miyagi, and Sannosuke
Uejima; and the Renshi title to Gichin Funakoshi,
Kenwa Mabuni, Takeshi Shimoda, Gigo Funakoshi, and
Japan prepared for an upcoming war with the United
States, public interest in budo ballooned. Along
with other budo masters, Funakoshi, Motobu, Mabuni,
and Konishi instructed in military schools. However,
in the age of modern-day warfare, budo was primarily
to give soldiers the strength to face fear of death,
much like what the Kamakura warriors looked for
only 15 years of Emperor Taisho's reign, Emperor
Showa (known to Westerners as Emperor Hirohito)
acceded to the throne in 1926 at age 25. However,
increasing right-wing movement and military intervention
into politics pushed Japan to gradually move away
from democracy and parliamentarianism toward militarism,
totalitarianism, and expansionism. By means of assassination
and intimidation, the Japanese military took control
of the parliament.
In 1942, the military regime took over the Dai Nippon
Butoku-kai and restructured it as a military-dictated
national budo organization. However, the new Butoku-kai
(also referred to as Tojo Butoku-kai) failed to
obtain the support of individual budo federations,
and expansion of the War made it impossible to hold
seminars or competitions.
escape the U.S.-lead economic sanctions and to establish
military dominance in Asia and the Pacific, the
military-led government of Japan attacked Pearl
Harbor in December 1941 to destroy the U.S. Pacific
Fleet. The War came to an end with the blast of
atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
Japan's unconditional surrender brought an end to
World War II.
Japan and Budo
Allied Occupation directed by General Douglas MacArthur
pushed through a sweeping series of reforms including
the disarmament of the military, a new constitution,
land reforms, the dismemberment of zaibatsu (plutocracy),
and major changes in legal codes. The Dai Nippon
Butoku-kai was ordered to dissolve, and all martial
arts were temporarily banned, with the exception
and Ryobu-kan survived the War which destroyed most
of Japan and killed many devoted martial artists.
As post-war chaos was replaced by rapid economic
growth, Konishi worked hard to revive both kendo
and karatedo. When Kiyoshi Yamazaki joined the Ryobu-kan
in 1956, there were approximately 50 adult students
practicing kendo and karatedo under Konishi's instruction.
Yamazaki, who also studied karate during his college
years, left Japan for the United States in 1969
to spread the art to the rest of the world.
Like Aikido Master Morihei Ueshiba, Konishi emphasized
that budo training is to build one's character and
create harmony between the body, the mind, and the
technique. Although bujutsu aspects still coexisted,
Konishi's karate became distinctively budo, which
is for building physical and mental strength through
the study of the martial principles.
17th Century Zen Master Takuan determined that "Kendo
and Zen are one and the same." Konishi applied this
philosophy to karate; "Karatedo and Kendo (therefore
Zen) are one and the same." The sword and the mind
disappeared into void, and karatedo became "Empty-hand
Kendo," as Kendo Master Hakudo Nakayama had foreseen.
Konishi wrote the following poem which describes
the principle of his karate:
Not to hit someone
Nor to be defeated
It is to avoid trouble
was one of the greatest budo masters of all time.
He was also a successful businessman, an educator,
and a political activist. He worked tirelessly to
bring respectability to karatedo, and his effort
and patronage moved karatedo forward.
Konishi died in 1982. His son, Takehiro took over
the Ryobu-kan, and is currently directing Shindo
Jinen-ryu as Yasuhiro Konishi II, assisted by Kiyoshi
Yamazaki, the International Director of the Japan
Karate-Do Ryobu-Kai. In April 1987, the Budo Charter
was established by a committee consisting of representatives
from all major budo disciplines. The Charter defines
the object of budo as "to cultivate character, enrich
the ability to make value judgments, and foster
a well disciplined and capable individual through
participation in physical and mental training utilizing
martial techniques." The tradition of budo lives