Hawaii Karate Seinenkai

The following article appeared in Dragon Times, Volume 15, 1999. See Dragon Times Online. It was also reprinted in Patrick McCarthy's Koryu Journal, 1st Quarter 2000, and in Masters of Combat, July 2000. Photographs have been omitted. Copyright © Charles C. Goodin. All rights reserved.

The 1940 Karate-Do Special Committee:
The Fukyugata "Promotional" Kata

By Charles C. Goodin

It is the first kata taught to a new student of Matsubayashi-Ryu and usually the last kata to be performed in rensoku (without count) manner by the entire class at the end of each training session. Consisting of just twenty-one movements, the kata known as "Fukyugata Ichi" was developed in 1941 by Grand Master Nagamine Shoshin (1907-1997), Hanshi, 10th dan, and the founder of the Matsubayashi-Ryu style of Shorin-Ryu. Although it is the most basic of the eighteen kata practiced in the Matsubayashi-Ryu system/1, to many it is also the most cherished.

I was very fortunate to conduct an interview of Nagamine Sensei about this kata, the only one he developed during his seven decades in Karate-Do. I was assisted by Kuniyoshi Shinyu, 5th dan, of the Nagamine honbu dojo in Naha, Okinawa, who translated and presented my written questions. Mr. Kuniyoshi and I also consulted Nagamine Sensei's son and successor, Master Takayoshi Nagamine, Hanshi, 9th dan. The interview was completed just a few weeks prior to Nagamine Shoshin's death on November 2, 1997 at the age of 91./2

"Fukyu" means promotional; something to be spread or shared. "Gata" is simply an alternate pronunciation of "kata" (the letter "k" changes to "g" when the character is preceded by another word or term) or form. Fukyugata therefore, may be thought of as a basic, promotional kata.

Introduction of Karate to the Okinawan School System:

The notion of "promotional" kata represented a major change in the approach to teaching Karate, a change which was begun a generation earlier by Itosu Anko. At the beginning of the century, Itosu formulated the five Pinan kata for introduction to the Okinawan school system. Prior to that time, Karate was generally taught privately and often in secret. Kata were not to be spread or shared--they were closely guarded secrets!

Itosu changed all that and the government readily agreed because of the realization that military recruits and conscripts who had Karate training were physically superior to and more disciplined that their untrained counterparts. Three of Itosu's students in particular--Kentsu Yabu, Hanashiro Chomo and Kenyu Kudeken--greatly impressed their physicians and distinguished themselves during military service. In his Ten Lessons of To-te, written in October 1908, Itosu states:

The primary purpose of karate training is to strengthen the muscles, making the physique strong like iron and stone so that one can use the hands and feet to approximate such weapons as a spear or halberd. In doing so, karate training cultivates bravery and valor in children and it should be encouraged in our elementary schools. Don't forget what the Duke of Wellington said after defeating Emperor Napoleon: "Today's victory was first achieved from the discipline attained on the playgrounds of our elementary schools.

* * *

With these teachings in mind, it is my conviction that if the students at the Shihan Chugakko (old name of Okinawa's Teachers College) practice karate they could, after graduation, introduce the discipline at the local levels; namely to elementary schools. In this way karate could be disseminated throughout the entire nation and not only benefit people in general but also serve as an enormous asset to our military forces./3

Itosu did in fact teach at the Teachers College, thus spreading the art to a new, and very prolific, generation of instructors.

In making the transition from very small, private or semi-private classes, to large classes of school children, Itosu decided that an easier form of kata was required. Drawing from such sources as the Kusanku kata, Itosu formulated the five Pinan ("Peace") kata./4 If you have ever practiced or taught the Pinan kata, you will recognize that they are not basic at all, but rather of an intermediate level. In a nutshell, the Pinan are too difficult for beginners, particularly for young children. Nagamine Sensei wrote that the Kusanku kata (from which the Pinan were drawn, among other kata) is the most advanced kata in the Matsubayashi-Ryu system, requiring more than a decade to master. It is usually the most advanced kata of other systems as well. Essentially splitting the kata into five parts did not make the task much easier.

Prior to the development of the Pinan kata, three basic kata were generally taught in Okinawa. For students of Shuri-Te or Tomari-Te (which generally became known as "Shorin-Ryu"), the introductory kata were either the three Naihanchi kata or the Seisan kata. For students of Naha-Te (which generally became known as "Goju-Ryu"), the introductory kata was generally Sanchin. The introductory kata were usually practiced for at least three years before more advanced kata were learned. Okinawan school students might or might not have previously learned these kata. It is to be expected that most had not (since the early masters generally taught very few students at any given time).

Itosu passed away in 1915 at the age of 85. During his life, he literally opened the doors to karate in Okinawa.

The 1936 Meeting of Masters:

In October of 1936, a meeting was held of the leading Okinawan masters./5 The martial arts participants included Hanashiro Chomo (1869-1945, shihandai of Itosu), Kyan Chotoku (1870-1945, student of Sokon Matsumura, among others), Motobu "the Monkey" Choki (1871-1944, student of Kosaku Matsumora), Miyagi Chojun (1888-1953, student of Higaonna Kanryo), Kiyoda Juhatsu (1886-1967, senior student of Higaonna Kanryo), Chibana Choshin (1885-1969, student of Itosu and founder of Kobayashi-Ryu), and Gusukuma Shimpan (1890-1954).

It was at this meeting that the term "Karate" (Empty Hand) was formally adopted in favor of the old "Tote" (China Hand). The masters observed that the new "Karate" was becoming very popular on the Japanese mainland. Okinawans such as Funakoshi Gichin (1868-1957, a student of Itosu and Azato Anko, and founder of Shotokan), Motobu Choki (1871-1944), and Mabuni Kenwa (founder of Shito-Ryu), among others, had moved to the mainland and successfully begun to spread the art. Funakoshi was quite an innovator, adopting Judo's kyu and dan system, and "modernizing" many of the kata. He had also changed the traditional names of the kata, many of which were Chinese in origin, in favor of Japanese versions. Okinawa's unique cultural art was at risk of becoming "Japanese."

The Okinawan Masters knew that something had to be done. They realized that the status quo in Okinawa had changed relatively little since the turn of the century. The art was broken into distinct "Te" systems. Generally, the Naha-Te practitioners trained among themselves practicing their own kata, as did the practitioners of Shuri-Te and Tomari-Te. The Pinan kata, while widely taught and practiced, were distinctly of Shuri-Te origin. It was time to attempt to bring the systems closer together and make Karate more accessible to the youth of Okinawa. One of the participants, Fukushima Kitsuma, a prominent military officer, recommended the creation of ten kinds of Japanese kata with Japanese names. Miyagi stressed the need to preserve the classical kata, but suggested that a national kata could be created.

The 1937 Okinawan Prefectural Karate-Do Promotional Society:

The following year, the Okinawan Prefectural Karate-Do Promotional Society was founded by several leading instructors, including Kentsu Yabu, Hanashiro Chomo, Kyan Chotoku, Chibana Choshin, Miyagi Chojun, Gusukuma Shimpan, Kyoda Juhatsu (student of Higaonna Kanryo), Chitose Tsuyoshi, and Nakasone Genwa. The photograph above, taken at the formation of this society is often attributed to the meeting of masters which took place the year before. The members of the society followed up on some of the proposals made at that earlier meeting and formulated up to twelve new kihon (basic) kata.

Later that year, Kentsu Yabu, the most senior disciple of Itosu passed away. Within a few years, almost all of the senior masters would pass away as well from old age, the war or both. Motobu died in 1944. Hanashiro, Kyan, Tokuda Anbun, Shinzato Jinan, and Matayoshi Shinko all died in 1945.

The 1940 Karate-Do Special Committee:

What became of the twelve kihon kata developed by the Okinawan Prefectural Karate-Do Promotional Society is unclear. But in 1940, the Governor of Okinawa, Gen Hayakawa, assembled a prestigious Karate-Do Special Committee to address the need for easier basic kata for children. It is important to note that the formation of the special committee was instigated by the government. Previous karate groups and societies had been privately organized. Except for the chairman, the members of the committee represented the new, or transitional, generation of karate instructors. The list of the nine members was given to me by Nagamine Sensei in this order: (1) Ishihara Shochoku (chairman), (2) Miyagi Chojun, (3) Kamiya Jinsei, (4) Shinzato Jinan, (5) Miyasato Koji, (6) Tokuda Anbun, (7) Kinjo Kensei, (8) Kyan Shinei, and (9) Nagamine Shoshin. Who were these men entrusted by the governor to help reshape the Okinawan karate curriculum?

The Work of the Karate-Do Special Committee:

Governor Hayakawa requested that the committee develop two new basic kata that would be easier for beginners. It also appears that he wanted kata that would break with the Shuri-te, Tomari-Te and Naha-Te distinctions. The new kata would be truly "Okinawan." Students from any area of the prefecture and with any type of karate background (or no previous training at all) could freely learn and practice them. Again, it must be remembered that the Pinan kata were of Shuri-te origin. Governor Hayakawa, through his selection of committee members, ensured that the Naha-te tradition would be fairly represented in the formation of the new kata.

The actual task of composing the kata fell upon Miyagi Chojun and and Nagamine Shoshin. Miyagi Sensei was 52 at the time, still young when compared to seniors such as Hanashiro, Kyan and Motobu who were in their seventies. Nagamine Sensei was only 33--what an enormous responsibility for such a young man!

Miyagi's Fukyugata Ni:

The kata Miyagi contributed became known as Fukyugata Ni. In Goju-Ryu it is known as Gekisai (to "smash") Dai Ichi. There are two Gekisai kata. Gekisai Dai Ni is a more advanced form of the first kata, primarily through the use of more open handed techniques. The Gekisai kata are generally acknowledged as having been created by Miyagi in 1940 to teach to school children.

I have not been able to find written evidence about whether Miyagi created the Gekisai kata prior to or after the formation of the special committee. Some senior instructors I contacted thought the kata were created shortly before the committee was formed and that Fukyugata Ni represents a modification. The photographs I have viewed of Gekisai Dai Ichi are very close to Fukyugata Ni. In any event, I am not a student of Goju-Ryu and certainly not an expert on the style.

As a Matsubayashi-Ryu instructor, I can say that we do actively practice Fukyugata Ni and teach our students that it was created by Miyagi in 1940 to teach to beginners. We add that Miyagi was a leading instructor of the Naha-Te tradition. In this way, we show respect to both Miyagi and his rich lineage.

Nagamine Sensei's Fukyugata Ichi:

Nagamine Sensei chose to create an entirely new kata, one firmly rooted in basics. After a few months of considering the existing kata and careful design work, he developed the kata now known as Fukyugata Ichi. According to Nagamine Sensei, he "drew in his mind a basic and an easier kata so that any beginner may start Karate with ease." The kata was accepted and ratified by the Special Committee in June of 1941. It should be noted that Nagamine Sensei states that the date of the kata was 1940 in The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do. He clarified in his interview that the actual date of ratification was in 1941. It may have been that the special committee was convened in 1940 but completed its assignment in 1941.

As with all the kata in Matsubayashi-Ryu, Fukyugata Ichi begins and ends at the same spot (referred to as "positional coincidence"). It consists of twenty-one movements covering the eight cardinal directions. I asked Nagamine Sensei whether there was any Buddhist or Zen significance to those numbers (21 movements and 8 directions)/16 and he answered that there was not. The numbers were simply arrived at based upon the balanced sequence of movements in eight directions.

In the first movement of the kata, the student steps to the left and executes a hidari gedan barai in hidari zenkutsu dachi. Nagamine Sensei stated that there was no significance to the fact that this first movement is to the left. He mentioned that other kata (Ananku, Wankan, Naihanchi Shodan and Naihanchi Nidan, for example) begin to the right. Direction does not matter. On a personal note, I am right handed and found that starting this most often practiced kata with a block to the left has helped me to develop my weaker side. In addition, I always begin makiwara training with my left hand since it is weaker.

In the last movement of the kata, the practitioner steps back with the left foot to the starting position. In Fukyugata Ni (Gekisai Dai Ichi), the last movement is a step forward with the right foot. I understand that the other kata in the Goju-Ryu system end with a step back. Describing Miyagi Sensei's rationale for this forward step given the prewar social conditions of Okinawa, Morio Higaonna writes:

The kata that Kanryo Higaonna had brought back from China always concluded with a step backward. In Gekisai Dai Ichi the student ends the kata by taking a step forward. Miyagi Sensei felt that this would portray the feeling of movement forward and he taught these kata both at Naha Shogyo Koko (high school) and at the Police Academy./17

With respect to Fukyugata Ichi, Nagamine Sensei stated that there was no significance to the backward step at the end of kata:

Normally in practicing kata (form), a man or waman, whoever may be be, is supposed to be on the same spot where they started. So if the first movement is a step forward, the final movement is to be finished by a step backward. So there is a vice versa.

Fukyugata Ichi is basically symmetric. A movement to the left is usually mirrored by a movement to the right. All of the blocking and striking movements are performed with closed hands. Aside from the opening and closing positions, it features only two stances (zenkutsu dachi and shizen dachi); three strikes (chudan-zuki, gyaku-zuki, and jodan-zuki); and two blocks (gedan uke and jodan uke).

Unlike Fukyugata Ni which has two kicks (mae geri from shizentai dachi), there are no kicks in Fukyugata Ichi. Compared to many other styles, Matsubayashi-Ryu generally emphasizes more hand techniques than kicks. Nagamine Sensei said:

...Fukyugata was composed and created as an easier kata (form) for the beginners of Karate. Kicking shall be used skillfully with prudence and caution.
As with most of the kata in the Matsubayashi-Ryu curriculum, a standardized bunkai is practiced for Fukyugata Ichi. An interesting characteristic of the bunkai concerns the eleven punches present in the kata. The punches are thrown in response to a punch by the attacker. For example, if the attacker throws a right punch, the nage immediately responds with a left punch aimed to the attacker's centerline (solar plexus or face). The attacker's punch is slightly parried by this action. This is in keeping with the Matsubayashi-Ryu maxim that a strike can be simultaneously used as a block and a block can be simultaneously used as a strike.

Technically simple and straightforward, Fukyugata Ichi is exactly what Governor Hayakawa requested. As a Matsubayashi-Ryu instructor, I can honestly say that Fukyugata Ichi is much easier to teach than Fukyugata Ni or any of the Pinan or ancient kata. It probably takes two or three times as long for a student to feel comfortable with the movements of Fukyugata Ni. Perhaps this is why it was designated as the second kata. This does not detract at all from Miyagi's contribution or composition. The two kata must be viewed together. After learning Fukyugata Ichi, the student should be ready for the challenges of Fukyugata Ni.

Despite its technical simplicity, Fukyugata Ichi is by no means an easy kata to properly perform. Anyone can leisurely walk through the movements, but executing them with proper timing, focus, balance, power, etc. requires years of dedicated practice. Students find themselves constantly relearning the kata. Just when they think they may be catching on, new and deeper levels appear. Perhaps this a testament to the greatness of Nagamine Sensei's design. He developed a kata which has withstood the test of time and the experiences of countless thousands of karate students worldwide. It is truly a kata to which nothing could be added and nothing could be subtracted.

Fukyugata Ichi is definitely one of the kata most cherished by Matsubayashi-Ryu students. In 1980, over 1,500 Okinawan school children gathered in Onoyama Koen (Park) to perform Fukyugata Ichi and Ni before the Emperor of Japan, Akihito Hirohito. Nagamine Sensei was present at the historic event. In the weeks prior to the performance, senior instructors from many systems had gathered at Nagamine Sensei's Naha dojo to practice the two kata under his watchful eye. In various forms, the kata are now practiced in several styles.

Nagamine Sensei developed Fukyugata Ichi in 1941 and continued to teach karate until his recent death in 1997 at the age of 91. Fukyugata Ichi is the only kata he developed during his over seventy years in karate, and it must be remembered that he did so upon the request of the Governor of Okinawa. He developed the kata to promote the art rather than himself. Nagamine Sensei often spoke and wrote about the perils of learning and practicing too many kata. Quality counts infinitely more than quantity. A traditionalist in the truest sense, Nagamine Sensei worked tirelessly to preserve the classical kata in their original forms. In Tales of Okinawa's Great Masters, he wrote:

Historically, it remains clear that "kata should never be changed, it is inappropriate." If someone wants to create their own kata, that is that person's own business. However, I believe that it is wrong to consciously alter a classical tradition just to meet the needs of a different culture, or for any reason for that matter." Page 94.

Impact of the Fukyugata Kata:

The Fukyugata (promotional) kata were expressly designed and adopted to make it easier for beginners, such as Okinawan school children, to learn karate. After the war, a new group of students appeared at the doors of dojo such as the Nagamine Kodokan--US servicemen. Although the members of the Karate-Do Special Committee could not have envisioned it at the time, the Fukyugata kata indeed made it easier for foreign servicemen to learn karate. Rather than grueling for months and years on the movements of long classical kata, the servicemen could learn the movements and sequences of the new kata in days or weeks.

Returning to the United States with the karate basics, the Fukyugata kata, and perhaps the Pinan kata, the servicemen began to promote and spread the art. The transition begun by Itosu during the first years of the century to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding karate, which was continued by Miyagi Sensei and Nagamine Sensei through their "promotional" kata, bore fruit in the postwar dojo that sprung up in the United States, Canada, South American and Europe.

There is a special place in the heart of every Matsubayashi-Ryu instructor and student for Fukyugata Ichi, the only kata developed by Nagamine Shoshin. Each time we practice the kata, whether in private, in the dojo, or in public demonstrations, we remember the legacy of Nagamine Sensei and the contributions of the members of the Karate-Do Special Committee to the history of our art.


/1 The eighteen kata practiced in Matsubayashi-Ryu are: (1) Fukyugata Ichi; (2) Fukyugata Ni; (3) Pinan Shodan; (4) Pinan Nidan; (5) Pinan Sandan; (6) Pinan Yondan; (7) Pinan Godan; (8) Naihanchi Shodan; (9) Naihanchi Nidan; (10) Naihanchi Sandan; (11) Ananku; (12) Wankan (or Okan); (13) Rohai; (14) Wanshu; (15) Passai; (16) Gojushiho; (17) Chinto; and (18) Kusanku. The movements of all of these kata, including Fukyugata Ichi, is shown in The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do, by Nagamine Shoshin, 1976 (depicting Nagamine Shoshin). The movements of Fukyugata Ichi were also shown in Kata: The Living History of Matsubayashi-Ryu Karate, by Charles C. Goodin. Martial Arts Illustrated, Issue #1, 1998 (depicting Nagamine Takayoshi).

/2 In Memory of Grandmaster Nagamine Shoshin, by Charles C. Goodin. Bugeisha: Traditional Martial Artist, Issue #4, Winter 1997.

/3 Tales of Okinawa's Great Masters, by Nagamine Shoshin. Page 72.

/4 The Pinan kata are also practiced in the Shotokan system, where they are known as "Heian." Pinan Shodan and Nidan are reversed in the Shotokan system (Pinan Shodan is known as Heian Nidan and Pinan Nidan is know as Heian Shodan), presumably because Pinan Nidan is simpler than Pinan Nidan. Other Japanese systems also practice the Pinan kata.

/5 See When Masters Meet: The 1936 Meeting of Okinawan Karate Masters by Patrick McCarthy. Furyu: The Budo Journal, Volume 1 #4, Spring-Summer 1995.

/6 See The History of Karate: Okinawan Goju-Ryu, by Morio Higaonna, page 72.

/7 The History of Karate: Okinawan Goju-Ryu, page 86.

/8 See Taira Shinken: "The Funakoshi Gichin of Kobudo," Part 2, by Patrick McCarthy. Bugeisha, Issue #3, Page 23.

/9 See Unante: The Secrets of Karate, by John Sells, page 91-92. Kinjo appears in a 1968 group photograph on the bottom of page 101 of Okinawan Karate: Teachers, Styles and Secret techniques, by Mark Bishop.

/10 See "Okinawan Christian" of Karate, by Robert Teller. Black Belt, March 1979.

/11 See Okinawan Journey: Legacy of the Past, by Anthony Marquez. Bugeisha, Issue No. 1.

/12 Journal prepared for the 85th Birthday of Nagamine Shoshin.

/13 Nagamine Sensei did not found Matsubayashi-Ryu until after the deaths of Kyan and Motobu. He chose the name to commemorate their respective teachers, Sokon Matsumura and Kosaku Matsumora.

/14 Nagamine Shoshin: "Karate and Zen As One," by Charles C. Goodin. Furyu: The Budo Journal, Winter-Fall 1997.

/15 A comprehensive listing of books and articles by and about Nagamine Shoshin and Matsubayashi-Ryu is available at the Official WMKA Website at Matsubayashi-Ryu.com.

/16 In Hyaku Hachi No Bonno: The Influence of The 108 Defilements and Other Buddhist Concepts on Karate Thought and Practice, by Charles C. Goodin, Furyu: The Budo Journal, Winter 1996-97, the numeric significance of such kata as Gojushiho (literally 54 Steps) was considered.

/17 The History of Karate, Okinawan Goju-Ryu, by Morio Higaonna. Page 92.

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Hawaii Karate Seinenkai.