1621 Mao Yuan I published a work on military tactics.
Composed of 240 volumes, the Wu Pei Chih deals with
all aspects of Chinese military tactics, and includes
a section on empty hand methods. As I studied the
history of the martial arts I was intrigued to learn
that Chojun Miyagi had given the name "Goju Ryu"
(Hard/Soft Style) to his art from a line contained
in the Bubishi (Wu Pei Chih in Chinese). Determined
to find out more, I looked at copies of Mao Yuan
I's work in the libraries of Durham University and
Cambridge University, but I could not find the section
used by Miyagi. Finally after two years of looking,
the truth finally dawned on me-there must be a different
work with the same name! And of course, there is.
Okinawan Bubishi may have used the name of the Chinese
original for purposes of prestige, but the contents
are quite different. I believe the Okinawan Bubishi
is a product of an Okinawan martial artist (or artists)
and reflects a synthesis of knowledge and techniques
derived from South China (mainly Fukien) and Okinawa.
The technical aspects of the work are based on the
methods known as Fukien White Crane. The first chapter
of Bubishi is entitled "The Origins of White Crane
Boxing," and tells us that the White Crane style
was founded by a woman, Feng Chi Niang, who modified
a system taught to her by her father, Feng Shih
Yu of Fukien.
method is widely known in Taiwan and Malaysia, and
has also been included in the well-known Wu Tsu
Ch'uan or Five Ancestor Boxing. Interestingly enough
both styles employ a version of Sanchin kata, the
central kata of Okinawan Naha-te systems (Goju Ryu
and Uechi Ryu). The Bubishi has thirty-two chapters
dealing with history of White Crane Boxing, advice
and observations from Master Wang Yo Teng; information
on vital spots and how to attack them; time strikes;
grappling arts; six turning hands; 54 steps of the
Black Tiger hand; Sun Tzu's comments on war; and
a variety of chapters dealing with herbal medicine,
combat techniques etc. Recently a section of the
Bubishi has been published in Japanese by the Goju
master Tadahiko Ohtsuka, with a forward by the T'ai
Chi Ch'uan master Yang Ming-Shih. I have used this
work, the Okinawa Den Bubishi, Kenwa Mabuni's work
Karate-Do Kempo, and Okinawan Karate-Do by Takamiyagi
as sources for this article.
interesting aspect of the Bubishi is its widespread
use by all Okinawan Karate masters. Gichin Funakoshi
quotes it in his work Karate-Do Kyohan and the section
left untranslated by Tsutomu Ohshima in the English
language version comes from the Bubishi. Chojun
Miyagi took the name "Goju" from the third line
of the section "Eight Poems of the Fist", i.e.:
way embraces hard and soft, inhaling and exhaling."
last two characters of this line are very interesting
as they are key concepts in modern Fukien White
Crane and Five Ancestor Boxing. I quote from an
article on Five Ancestors Boxing published in Real
Kung-Fu magazine Vol. 2, #2, 1976:
exertion of force in a flexible manner so that you block or intercept the
opponents blow by directing your force in a circular motion, causing his blow
or strike to slide and miss the target.
strike in such a manner that the opponent feels like being swatted, pushed,
sunk and bounced away."
here we have the same terms being used in Goju Ryu,
Fukien White Crane, and Five Ancestors Boxing as
well as being found in the Bubishi. This historical
link is important in understanding the history and
evolution of Okinawan karate and explains the value
placed on the Bubishi by Okinawan Karate masters.
Tatsuo Shimabuku the creator of Isshin Ryu actually
uses the whole section of "The Eight Precepts of
the Fist" as his Code of Isshin Ryu; this has been
published in Official Karate magazine Sept. 1973,
and in Dynamics of Isshin Ryu Karate Vol. 1 by Harold
Long and Allen Wheeler. In both cases the translations
leave something to be desired, but it is quite clear
as to the source-the Bubishi.
source for the Bubishi is often ascribed to either
Kanryo Hiagaonna or Chojun Miyagi; and it is said
to have been brought from China. I think it is possible
that Chojun Miyagi did bring various books from
China, but the Bubishi (or sections of it) was already
in Okinawa. Certainly Gichin Funakoshi quoted from
it in his 1922 book Ryukyu Karate Kempo.
karate style of Ryuei Ryu was created by Kenri Nakaima,
a student of Ryu Ryu Ko (the teacher of Kanryo Higaonna).
When he returned to Okinawa, Nakaima brought a copy
of the Bubishi given to him by his teacher. As he
was older than Kanryo Hiagaonna, his copy of the
Bubishi must have entered Okinawa prior to Higaonna's
copy. It is also possible that some of the families
of Chinese descent in Kumemura may have had copies
of the Bubishi.
Methods of Boxing
section of the Bubishi is most interesting as it
shows the application of various techniques still
taught in various Okinawan styles. For example,
in Figure 1 we clearly see mawashi uke (roundhouse
block) being applied as in the Goju kata Seipai
or Suparinpei. In Figure 2 the armlock and back
elbow techniques of Kururunfa kata are obvious.
lot of other techniques are shown including locks
and throws, but what is most striking is that no
defences against weapons are shown. I have always
been suspicious of the story that the Okinawans
developed karate in response to rapacious repression
by armed Japanese samurai-if that was true, which
I seriously doubt, why doesn't the Bubishi show
defences against swords, and other weapons?
this question still needs a lot of research, but
these illustrations give us a good picture of the
type of tode (China Hand) practiced on Okinawa perhaps
two centuries or more ago. (Illustrations from Okinawan
Karate-Do by Uechi and Takamiyagi.)
The Bubishi includes charts
and diagrams that contain the core secrets of Okinawan karate. Obviously derived
from Chinese Boxing and medical systems, they show the targets and the times
of the day that they are most vulnerable to attack. The theory behind this
is the idea that the body's energy goes through a cyclical rise and fall and
there are times of strength and times of weakness. This is alluded to in the
second of the "Eight Precepts of the Fist" which
reads "The pulse of the body resembles the phases of
the sun and the moon."
The energy is seen to
rise and full in a definite sequence, and the chart details the specific spots
to be struck at the appropriate time. The origin of this knowledge lies in
China and is referred to by Robert W. Smith in his work Chinese Boxing: Masters
and Methods (Kodansha 1974) where he says "Shaolin theory
holds that the human body contains 365 vulnerable (soft) spots, 5 more than
are used in acupuncture and moxibustion. Striking has 36 and shutting, 24
major points. The attack is oriented to twelve time periods of two hours each
in the belief that the blood and neural activity is heaviest at the spots
at specified times."1
is difficult to be sure how accurate this information
is, but it is interesting to remember the ability
shown by the Shorinji Kempo teacher on the 1983
BBC programme The Way of the Warrior2 to knock out
his opponent, with a relatively light blow to a
vital spot. The author(s) of the Bubishi also follow
Chinese tradition in that they give herbal remedies
to heal the damage caused by the strikes. There
is also a section on seven points which must not
be struck as the results are irreversible.
Boxing: Masters and Methods Robert W. Smith (Kodansha, 1974), 15
Way of the Warrior: The Paradox of the Martial Arts Howard Reid & Michael
(Croucher Century Publishing, 1983), 207-213.