The Bubishi has long been regarded as the ‘Bible of Karate’, an anthology of Chinese martial arts and related information that was taken to Okinawan in the 1800s.
But what if another document was taken to Okinawa even earlier in the 1700s? A document that became the very foundations on which Karate was built?
That document is THE LOST BOOK OF KUSHANKU and reveals the identity of the illusive master Kushanku.
WHAT IS IMPORTANT ABOUT KUSHANKU?
Kushanku the man is one of the most shadowy figures in the history of Karate. He was said to be a Chinese master who passed his skills onto Tode Sakugawa and Chatan Yara in the 1750s and the ultimate root of forms like Kanku Dai, Kanku Sho and the Heian forms. He was therefore the great grandfather of styles like Shotokan, Wado Ryu, Shotokai, Yoseikan, Budokan, Shukokai, Shito Ryu and even Taekwondo. But who was this mysterious man, what did he teach and how? Now finally Kushanku is revealed and what is more, the Lost Book of Kushanku is revealed!
What is more significant is that the uncovering of the Lost Book of Kushanku gives an indication to the way the Karate forms should be performed. My own system is named Hakuda Kempo Toshu Jutsu and developed hand in hand with the research presented in this book. Hakuda Kempo Toshu Jutsu aims to teach the original combative methods of Karate/Jujutsu referring to the postural and internal benefits of the Chinese martial arts from which they were derived.
HOW HAS THIS RESEARCH COME ABOUT?
This book began as a personal quest to understand the kata I had been taught. Like most Karateka in the Shorin family of styles, the first forms I learnt were the Pinan (Heian), Naihanchi (Tekki), Bassai, Empi (Wansu) and Kushanku.
Reading Hanshi McCarthy’s translation of the Bubishi in 1996 I was excited to see tangible origins of the kata. To my mind Hanshi McCarthy is one of the most significant Karate researchers of the last 100 years and the Bubishi is one of the most significant martial arts texts of all time.
The commentary accompanying the book suggested that Goju Ryu forms like Sanchin and Suparimpei and advanced Shotokan forms like Hangetsu, Jutte and Gojushiho, had their origins in the southern Chinese fighting systems which was great to know.
But what about the Heian, Bassai, Tekki and Kanku forms? Why did they have no origins in Fujian, China? Why was there a Fujian form called Usesihi (Gojushiho) but not one called Kushanku? I spent almost 20 years researching the true origins of these forms and now present my findings.
SHORIN AND SHOREI
Many early Karate authors split the kata into Shorin Ryu and Shorei Ryu, usually with some spurious explanation like “Shorin is for thin quick people, Shorei is for slower stronger people” but this definition aside, Empi, Kanku and Bassai are almost always referred to as Shorin Ryu, while the more Goju Ryu looking forms like Tekki and Hangetsu are Shorei Ryu.
When Gichin Funakoshi referred to Shorin Ryu and Shorei Ryu, we must understand that Shorin referred to the Northern Chinese Shaolin traditions (the older Shaolin traditions of Chang Quan), and Shorei to the Southern Chinese traditions of Fujian.
And the northern traditions are strongly associated with internal martial arts like Hsing-I Chuan which is considered one of the Wutang (Taoist) arts.
The history of Shaolin (Buddhist) and Wutang (Taoist) martial arts are forever intertwined. The Shaolin traces its skills back to Boddhidarma who showed Indian martial arts to the Shaolin monks. If Shaolin had a founder as devine as Boddhidarma, then Wutang had to go one better and have an immortal!
Therefore the founder of Wutang Kung Fu is Zhang San Feng, an Immortal who, if he had lived would have done so from about 1270. Zhang San Feng, said to be an expert in Chang Quan (Long Fist Boxing) developed what we call today vital point combat.
He developed a series of techniques based on his (Shaolin) Long Fist Boxing skills and developed 36 vital point strikes. These were later developed by a Taoist called Feng Yiquan. His student Zhang Zhuan Yi turn developed 72 postures and eventually 108 postures were taught.
Another legendary, but probably historic Taoist who lived at around the same time as Zhang San Feng was General Yue Fei, a great war leader, archer and spearman.
Over times Zhang San Feng came to be regarded as the legendary founder of Taiji Quan and Yue Fei as the legendary founder of Hsing-I Quan. He was also the founder of Eagle Claw and the Ba Duan Jin exercises.
But while Yue Fei is the legendary founder, one Ji Ji Ke is the historical founder. Ji lived much later than Yue and it was claimed he learnt the art after finding a book in a cave. Ji is much more pertinent to Karate because of the time he lived.
To put things in perspective, Ji, also called Ji Long Feng was born in around 1588 and began teaching in around 1610. In other words, around the time of the Satsuma invasion of Okinawa.
Since Ji Ji Ke claimed simply to have learnt Yue Fei’s martial arts from a book (unlikely) I have suggested that Bazi Quan (later Baji Quan) was the ancestor of Hsing-I, a claim enforced by the headmaster of Baji Quan.
Baji Quan master Su Yu Chang believes Bazi Quan is actually one of the oldest of all Chinese martial arts. He writes:
“Pachi Chuan [Baji Quan] is a very physically demanding style, utilizing the idea of 100% of available force in every technique. Differing from its sub-style, Hsing-I Chuan.”
THE PIONEER OF KATA
Bazi Quan was recorded in the book Ji Xiao Xin Shu by General Qi Ji Guang. We will return to General Qi but by way of a short introduction, Qi Jiguang (November 12, 1528 – January 5, 1588) was a Chinese military general and national hero during the Ming Dynasty.
He was best remembered for his courage and leadership in the fight against Japanese pirates along the east coast of China, as well as his reinforcement work on the Great Wall of China but in martial arts he is remembered for popularising the use of solo forms (Quan/Hsing) in other words he was a pioneer of Kata!
The very year that Qi Ji Guang died, Ji Ji Ke was born. If Ji studied any manual, then likely the manual he studied was the Ji Xiao Xin Shu.
Ji Jike created the martial art of Xinyiquan (Heart and Intention Boxing), which is the precursor of Xingyiquan (Form and Intention Boxing). He based the fundamentals of Xinyi on the spear techniques for which he was also famous. It was Li Luo Neng, a most famous descendant of Ji Jike, who modified Xinyi and called it Xingyi.
Ji Ji Ke travelled throughout China to refine his martial art. He eventually made his way to the Shaolin temple in Henan province to study Shaolin Wushu. At the temple, the monks were all amazed at his skill with the spear as well as his unarmed fighting skills. Welcomed by the monks, he stayed at the Temple, where he spent more than 10 years. It was here where he created Xinyi. Legend has it that during his time at the Temple, Ji once observed two cocks fighting, and was inspired to complete his development of the art of Xinyi.
Later, after leaving the temple, he taught in the region to others from Henan. The most prominent of his students was Gao Ji Wu, his successor in the Hsin-I Quan lineage.
Another likely candidate to have been a student of Ji Ji Ke is Wang Ji, the Chinese master who is said to have introduced the Wansu form to Okinawa in the 1680s. This form (which means flying swallow, the swallow being one of the animals of Hsing-I) is the ancestor of the Empi form.
It seems Wang Ji taught Hama Higa and he Takahara and then we get to the true Karate pioneers, Tode Sakugawa and Chatan Yara.
Sakugawa and Yara studied under Takahara, learning the Swallow form (Wansu) of Hsing-I but in common with many Okinawans, they did not stop at their original teachings. They also studied under a mysterious Chinese master called Kushanku.
The founder of Goju Ryu Karate, Chojun Miyagi recalled the arrival of Kushanku:
“In 1762, the merchant ship of the Ryukyu Kingdom was caught in a heavy storm on the way to Satsuma (Kagoshima prefecture now), and cast ashore on the coast of Oshima, Tosa (Kochi prefecture now). Shiohira Pechin, a high rank official of the ship, was an intelligent person. He was helped by Choki Tobe, an intellectual who lived in Oshima. Tobe wrote down Shiohira’s interesting stories about the Ryukyu Kingdom. His notes were called “Oshima Notes”. The 3rd volume of “Oshima Notes” says: “Koshankun, a kung fu warrior, came from China to Ryukyu (Okinawa) bringing his disciples with him.” According to the Notes, at that time people called the martial arts “Kumiaijutsu” instead of karate. These notes are the most reliable literature on karate.”
Satunuku Sakugawa, born Teruya Kanga (1733-1815) was so synonymous with the history of Karate that his name was Tode Sakugawa – Tode being another way to pronounce Karate or Toshu.
He was born in Shuri in 1733 and at the age of 17, Tode Sakugawa began his martial arts training under Takahara. His father having been beaten to death by bandits, the young Sakugawa was determined to master the martial arts.. At age 23, Sakugawa was advised by Takahara to go and train under Kusanku, a Chinese master in Kung Fu.
He became a famous samurai, and was given the title of Satunuky or Satonushi by the Okinawan king. When Sakugawa returned to Okinawa he became the chief Shuri official of the Yaeymama Island area. As a reward for his services the Shuri government gave him a small island and named it Sakugawa.
Sakugawa (Teruya Chikodun Peichin Kanga) is mainly remembered as “Tode” Sakugawa. He constructed a training system and was elevated to the rank of Satunuku. Hence we now know him as Satunuku Tode Sakugawa. Sakugawa apparently met Kushanku by trying to push him into the water as a prank. Kushanku was able to evade the attack and show Sakugawa his skills. He then became his teacher.
Richard Kim (Weaponless Warriors) tells us that Kushanku was living in Kume-Mura and was already teaching a young man called Kitani Yara. We will assume this is Chatan Yara for reasons that will soon become clear.
According to Kim, Sakugawa trained for six years with Kushanku but at the age of 29 he received a message that Takahara had been taken ill. Two days later Takahara died and asked Sakugawa to carry on the legacy of Toshu Jutu (Karate).
Kim tells us that Chatan Yara was taken away aged 12 to become a student of Wong Chung Yoh.
He says: “Thus began Yara’s time as deshi (apprentice) of Wong Chung-Yoh, during which he received the spiritual discipline his brute force so badly required. Under Wong’s tutelage he became a martial artist.
“During his stay in China, Yara spent most of his physical energies on the art of the Bo and the twin swords.”
Again the twin swords are prominent.
Kim tells us that the main lesson Wong taught him was that of the “value of balance and the principle of harmony” and that “all things find their inception in unity.”
Kim tells us the arts that Wong passed to Yara stating “Yara initiated the concept of inner strength to Okinawan Karate… Yara studied Hsing-I and Chi Kung.”
And Kim is quite correct for Wong, better known as Wang Zong Yue was indeed documented as a great Chi Kung master but in China he was better known as the historical founder of Tai Chi.
Ma Yun Cheng (c1650-1720) was the teacher of Wang Zong Yue and also an ancestor of the art of Pakua Zhang.
Wang Zong Yue was thought to be the first person to coin the phrase “Tai Chi Chuan” by likening the balanced form of Quan he taught to the concept of Yin and Yang (Taiji).
WHO WAS KUSHANKU?
Over the years Kushanku has remained a mystery to researchers. He has been called anything from a master of Black Tiger Kung Fu to a master of White Crane. But without identifying him this is pure speculation.
The true identity of Kushanku was none other than Wang Zong Yue!
But the evidence that Kushanku was Wang Zong Yue is not purely based on Wang having taught the man who created the kata Kushanku, this is evident in the name of Wang’s “evergreen classic” of Tai Chi, KUNG HSIN CHIEH.
Yara and Sakugawa did not study under a man called Kushanku they studied the writings called “Kushanku” of a man called Wang Zong Yue!
“Shih-san shih hsing-kung hsin-chieh” means “mental elucidation of the practice of thirteen postures” and the alternative “Shih-san shih hsing-kung ke-chieh” means “song of the practice of the thirteen postures.”
Kushanku was not a man at all – Kushanku was the teachings of Wang Xongyue.
We know Chatan Yara created “Yara Kushanku” and we know Yara was taught by Wang Zongyue.
And now we know Wang Zongyue taught something containing the words “kung hsin-chieh.”
The Lost Book of Kushanku therefore is the “Evergreen Classic” of Wang Zongyue and his other teachings….
Don’t lean in any direction; suddenly appear, suddenly disappear. Empty the left wherever a pressure appears, and similarly the right. If the opponent raises up, I seem taller; if he sinks down, then I seem lower; advancing, he finds the distance seems incredibly long; retreating, the distance seems exasperatingly short.
A feather cannot be placed, and a fly cannot alight on any part of the body. The opponent does not know me; I alone know him. To become a peerless boxer results from this.
KARATE AND TAI CHI’S COMMON ORIGIN IN KUSHANKU
What we think of as Karate today (Goju Ryu and Uechi Ryu excepted) dates back to around 1900 – this includes Shotokan, Wado Ryu, Yoseikan, Kobayashi Ryu – all these styles are derived from Itosu’s teachings. The same can be said for Yang Cheng Fu and Yang style Tai Chi.
If we look at Karate methods that date back before Itosu, and Taiji methods that pre-date Yang Cheng Fu we are taken back to the time of Sakugawa and Wang Zong Yue.
In Kanku Dai when we perform the initial Yoi, we are performing Taiji’s start step. When we raise the hands, we are raising Chi and creating the upper Yang (as opposed to Yin) Chi Kung posture.
The shuto contains initially ward off (peng) and then roll back (lu) as the movement completes. The kick at the start of Kanku Dai that is now a side kick and backfist was originally the Tai Chi Toe Kick and separate.
The Osae Nukite (press and spearhand) is seen in the Taiji movement “snake spits out tongue”.
The Manji Gamae posture is Karate’s answer to “white crane cools its wings”.
The movement in Kanku Dai where we drop down and execute a low shuto is the Taiji movement “snake creeps down” and “golden rooster stands on one leg”
The X-Block at the end of Kanku Dai is the Taiji movement “turn to face seven stars”
The double jumping kick is the Taiji kick (usually performed with a slap of the foot)
And the dramatic Yoi at the end is the Tai Chi movement “apparent close”.
Sakugawa and Chatan Yara passed on Wang Zong Yue’s “Kushanku” teachings the best way they knew how – with the kata masterpieces known as Kushanku and now known as Kanku Dai and Kanku Sho.
THE CHANNAN FORMS
There is another kata that was brought back from Wang Zong Yue by Sakugawa and Yara. And that form was Channan.
Some consider Channan to be another name for Pinan, others have theorised that the two oldest Pinan forms may have been Channan and others that the five Pinan forms may have been divided (2,1,3 and 4,5) to make the two Channans. Whichever theory you prefer, the Channan and Pinan are linked. And since Kushanku so strongly resembles a long Pinan kata we can see the link.
To discover the Channan form let’s look at the evidence:
1) Wang Zong Yue created Taiji Quan based on his studied of Hsing-I and Chi Kung
2) Hsing-I was considered a sub-style of Bazi Quan
3) The theory of Taiji Quan was based on the teachings of the legendary Zhang San Feng.
The series of five basic kata called Pinan (Heian in Japan) were developed by Anko (or Yasutsune) Itosu (1832-1915) in around 1907 for inclusion in the karate curriculum of the Okinawan school system. However one theory is that Itosu was re-working a longer Chinese form called Channan.
Choki Motobu a descendant of the previously mentioned Motobu Ryu masters and a student of both Matsumura and Itosu, referred to the Channan forms in 1934, saying:
“I visited [Itosu] one day at his home near the school, where we sat talking about the martial arts and current affairs. While I was there, two or three students also dropped by and sat talking with us. Itosu Sensei turned to the students and said ‘show us a kata.’ The kata that they performed was very similar to the Channan kata that I knew, but there were some differences also. Upon asking the student what the kata was, he replied ‘It is Pinan no Kata.’ The students left shortly after that, upon which I turned to Itosu Sensei and said ‘I learned a kata called Channan, but the kata that those students just performed now was different. What is going on?’ Itosu Sensei replied ‘Yes, the kata is slightly different, but the kata that you just saw is the kata that I have decided upon. The students all told me that the name Pinan is better, so I went along with the opinions of the young people.’ These kata, which were developed by Itosu Sensei, underwent change even during his own lifetime.”
Shito Ryu founder Kenwa Mabuni also mentioned the Channan forms in 1938 and successor Sakagami Ryusho (1915-1933) wrote that Itosu developed the five Heian katas by extracting the principle techniques of Kushanku and adding his own interpretations. He continues: “In the beginning these kata were known under the old name Channan. Subsequently the tenor changed somewhat and they were called Pinan.
Sakagami also indicates that the original version of the Channan kata can be found in the old Chinese book Chi Hsiao Hsin Shu (or Ji Xiao Xin Shu known in Japan as Kiko Shinsho) written by General Ch’i Chi Kuang.
General Ch’i was known for his military might, but he also documented Chinese boxing. There was even a temple built for him in Fuzhou (Fukien Province) in 1567.
As we noted, Bazi Quan was the art most notably refered in the Ji Xiao Xin Shu, stating: “Among the fist families of old and new…Yang family spear methods and Bazi fist and staff, are the famous families of the day.”
In his writings he included a sword kata called Ch’i-chia Chien (sword of the Ch’i family).
Extracts of his writings were including in the 1617 publication Wu Pei Chi (not to be confused with the later Okinawan ‘Bubishi’).
Ch’i divided the Chinese boxing into three themes – boxing, wrestling and grappling. He also included the 32 positions of Chang Quan of T’ai Tzu, a longfist boxing style thought to have been studied by mythical Taiji Quan founder Zhan San Feng. It is possible that the name Channan is derived from this style – Chang Chuan (Chan nan).
As noted by researcher Henning Witttwer, some of the postures shown by General Ch’i resemble Channan/Pinan techniques. These include:
– The flag and drum position (similar to Morote Uke)
– The winding arm position (similar to Nukite)
– Carrying a Cannon at the head (similar to start of Yondan)
– The Riding a Tiger position (similar to Manji Gamae)
Ch’i’s 32 self defence positions are similar to some of the 48 postures shown in the Okinawan Bubishi.
Douglas Wyle, who compiled the excellent “Lost Tai Chi Classics from the Late Ching Dynasty” wrote: “If traced as a distinctive form with specific postures and names, then Tai Chi’s history may be said to begin with Ming General Ch’i Chi Kuang’s Chuan Ching (Classic of Pugilism), twenty nine of whose postures are borrowed for the Chen village age of Henan, possibly as early as Chen Wang Ting in the seventeenth century…”
Therefore Tai Chi originated with Chang Chuan, and in turn gave birth to Kushanku which in turn gave birth to Channan. So the Heian/Pinan/Channan forms are the living evolution of Chang Chuan from hard Kung Fu to Tai Chi and back to hard Karate.
This is an important point to be made. Many historians have written about the development of styles like Karate, Tai Chi and Hsing-I but the question has always been asked: When your country is at war and the musket is replacing the sword as the weapon of choice, why waste time learning ancient boxing routines?
The answer is twofold. Firstly by tracing a lineage back to Chinese nationalist heroes like Yue Fei and Zhang San Feng they are showing nationalist pride against the Japanese or Mongolians. Secondly, they are following the example of “healthy body, healthy mind” set out by General Ch’i, patriarch of both Chen and Channan.
Kushanku and Channan (therefore Kanku Dai, Kanku Sho and the Heian katas) and the various Tai Chi styles (Yang, Chen, Wu, Sun) were derived from the Chang Quan and Bazi Quan systems and the writings of Wang Zong Yue and General Qi. Wang’s treatise, The Lost Book of Kushanku was taken to Okinawa and served as the first Karate syllabus.
THE LOST BOOK OF KUSHANKU
Tai Chi comes from Wu Chi and is the mother of yin and yang.
In motion, Tai Chi separates; in stillness yin and yang fuse and return to Wu Chi.
It is not excessive or deficient; it follows a bending, adheres to an extension.
When the opponent is hard and I am soft, it is called tsou [yielding].
When I follow the opponent and he becomes backed up, it is called nian [sticking].
If the opponent’s movement is quick, then quickly respond; if his movement is slow, then follow slowly.
Although there are innumerable variations, the principles that pervade them remain the same. From familiarity with the correct touch, one gradually comprehends chin [intrinsic strength]; from the comprehension of chin, one can reach wisdom.
Without long practice, one cannot suddenly understand Tai Chi.
Effortlessly the chin reaches the head top.
Let the chi [vital life energy] sink to the tan-tien [field of elixir].
Don’t lean in any direction; suddenly appear, suddenly disappear.
Empty the left wherever a pressure appears, and similarly the right.
If the opponent raises up, I seem taller; if he sinks down, then I seem lower; advancing, he finds the distance seems incredibly long; retreating, the distance seems exasperatingly short.
A feather cannot be placed, and a fly cannot alight on any part of the body.
The opponent does not know me; I alone know him.
To become a peerless boxer results from this.
There are many boxing arts.
Although they use different forms, for the most part they don’t go beyond the strong dominating the weak, and the slow resigning to the swift. The strong defeating the weak and the slow hands ceding to the swift hands are all the results of natural abilities and not of well-trained techniques.
From the sentence ‘A force of four ounces deflects a thousand pounds’, we know that the technique is not accomplished with strength.
The spectacle of an old person defeating a group of young people, how can it be due to swiftness?
Stand like a perfectly balanced scale and move like a turning wheel.
Sinking to one side allows movement to flow; being double-weighted is sluggish.
Anyone who has spent years of practice and still cannot neutralize, and is always controlled by his opponent, has not apprehended the fault of double-weightedness.
To avoid this fault one must distinguish yin from yang.
To adhere means to yield.
To yield means to adhere.
Within yin there is yang.
Within yang there is yin.
Yin and yang mutually aid and change each other.
Understanding this you can say you understand chin.
After you understand chin, the more you practice, the more skill.
Silently treasure knowledge and turn it over in the mind.
Gradually you can do as you like.
Fundamentally, it is giving up yourself to follow others.
Most people mistakenly give up the near to seek the far.
It is said, ‘Missing it by a little will lead many miles astray.’
The practitioner must carefully study.
This is the Treatise
Hypothesis and commentary by
Simon Keegan 5th Dan
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