ED MCGRATH'S SCHOOL OF TRADITIONAL ISSHIN-RYU
The Bible of Karate
Patrick McCarthy, a former student of the renowned Richard “Biggie” Kim 9th Dan, Hanshi, starting as a youngster to learn karate and Kobudo. As a mature adult, he took upon himself the translation of the Bubushi, into English from the original copies of the text, which relied upon the cooperation of families throughout Asia, whose martial arts ancestors were privileged to attain use of this manuscript. The families cherished these copies of their forefathers, over the centuries. The present warrior teachers of these families, opened their homes and hearts to Mr. McCarthy, enabling him to not only translate the “Bubushi,” but, transmitting legends, myths and stories about their ancestors and tales of some of the world renowned ancients who formulated what is referred to as “the civil fighting tradition,” as removed from those fighting arts developed for the actual “professional warriors,” so to speak. It was Miyagi Chojun (1888-1953) who referred to the “Bubushi,” as The Bible of Karate. Modern Masters, relevantly speaking, who studied this bible, amongst others, were, Higashionna, Kanryo (1868-19570, and, much to my surprise, Shimabuku ryu Tatsuo, possessed a copy during the period in which he was creating the “Art of Isshinryu,” as well as, Yamaguchi, Gogen (1909-1989) who tutored the great American Master Peter Urban, Mabuni, Kenwa (1889-1952) who would be the first to release this secret document from centuries of forbidden publication, to the martial arts publicly. However, the document was written over many eras, by far more than just one Chinese Master, with some tracts that were in many dialects of which some were of ancient origin, no longer in use. Therefore, attaining a copy did not ensure that its secrets would be plain and open to understanding, to everyone.
In fact, there were actually two “Bubishis,” one concerned with the civil fighting tradition, which on Okinawa was referred to as “hands,” or in their language, “di,” later to become “te,” under the influence of the Japanese. The term, according to McCarthy was tou-di or toudi, for “China hands.” This would not be acceptable to the Japanese. Their translation, when Okinawa became a so-called protectorate, was Kara-te, for Empty hands. Prior to that the full descriptive was Kempo toudi-jutso, which characterized the intertwining of the empty hands fighting with the ancient grappling techniques. Therein lies the present search for the Bunkai hidden within the katas of modern karate, of all styles, which have become the realm of empowerment for every student of karate. Every move appears open to translation, with a thousand meanings and new interpretations explored every day. In ancient times, it seems, that these hidden techniques were made secret by small groups, who gave mystical nomenclature to every move, so that even if you were familiar with the era of dialect that the script was in, they would refer to moves such as, “the way of pulling arrows,” or, “Putting on a necklace and “Pulling up a bamboo screen.” The moves would be known to a particular group or sect, by names such as these, so that they could explain an entire kata expressed in these terms or other such dissembling terms. The effect was to pass secrets on to others who were members of your group, without fear of the uninitiated ever determining what the expressions meant or being able to translate the fighting techniques.
The other “Bubishi” was for the military and according to Patrick McCarthy was the work of Mao Yuanyi detailing the precepts of war, in it’s every version or scope. This would not be something that the Okinawan equivalent of the Japanese Samurai, the “Uchinanchu,” would be interested in learning, since this Island’s strength lie in the civil fighting tradition or, self-defense. The term, “Bubushi,” itself is translated as, Bu (Military) bi (Prepare) shi (Record), or, Manual of Military Preparation.
Also, Gichin Funakoshi’s work, “Karate-do Kyohan,” was excerpted right from the “Bubushi.” Without notice of this rewrite, this is known as plagiarism, not something the Okinawans or Japanese would care about, in the least. To this very day, Japan refuses to give credence to American patent rights, or anyone else’s for that matter.
Master McCarthy has undertaken, what will become a lifetime of stressful and rigorous scientific research into the past of the development of the civil fighting traditions of every Asian country that spawned a fighting system. Most American karate-ka will be astounded at the travel that this man has endured, the relationships with the warriors of many nations throughout Asia and the minutiae derived from countless documents and tales told from age to age.
This is not a book that is easily absorbed, due to the flood of information found within this treatise. It must be read and read again, many times, with enlightenment slowly developing. Also, for Mr. McCarthy, this is a life long issue and as he probes deeper, he will issue another version of this tale of the “Bubushi,” until he finishes to his satisfaction. I am not sure that this is even possible, but each issue will add to our understanding of those who went before us, on, into the mists.
There is an entire section of the book, dedicated to ancient Chinese medicine and Herbal Pharmacology. For each illness, there is an herbal or natural cure, listing every root, essence of flowers, herbal balms meticulously. His research is ponderous, but again he proclaims that some of the translations were difficult because the language has evolved over ages and some of it is meaningless today. The fact is that, in this day and age of giant Pharmaceutical companies around the world, but specifically in the United States where these firms spend up to and above $800,000,000.00 in Research and Development to bring forth one drug, which will get through the rigorous process of certification in our nation, the translation of these ancient Chinese medications is needless. What evolves in our modern labs is far more efficacious than anything that would result from medication eons ago. Vitamins and Supplements on the market today, such as those from Pharmanex, a company that Major William Hayes, (Ret.) USMC, and top Sensei in Shorin-Ryu karate is associated with, will give any karate-ka a significant boost in health and energy, gaining stamina for rigorous workouts.
What I really find interesting is the evolution of the myriad of Chinese styles that were practiced from centuries back and I took notice of one family, in particular. In a book written by Master Liu Songshan, in 1983, Hakutsuru Mon: Shokutsuru Ken (White Carne Gate: Feeding Crane Style), he states that the famous ShaolinTemple was a sanctuary for resistance fighters during the early Qing dynasty. The present emperor could not allow this disruption and had his soldiers burn the Temple down in 1674. One of the monks, who survived and fled the Temple in Henna, was Fang Zhonggong (also known as Fang Huishi) who was a Master of Eighteen Monk Fist Boxing. He finally reached a safe haven in Fujian. Chronicles of that time tell of his siring a young daughter, Fang Qiniang, who grew up in Yongchun village, Fujian, where this young woman’s father was beaten severely by a large gang of thugs, who were too numerous, even for such a Master. Returning to his home, he was in terrible condition and despite the ministering of his young daughter, day and night, over several months, he finally passed away. Out of crushing grief, she swore vengeance upon these thugs. At the time of her father’s death, she had barely begun to progress in her father’s Eighteen Monk Fist Boxing. However, she was sitting outside her house, disconsolately, when two white cranes began to fight loudly, disturbing her solitude. She meant to chase them with a broom, but no matter how energetically she poked, swung or threw the broom, she could not touch the cranes who moved lithely aside, avoiding her attacks, and then flew off. She sat back down and envisioned their movements while they were fighting, as well as, during her attack. They attacked viciously and with vigor, but were unable to inflict wounds upon each other, because of their quick and disruptive defensive moves. She began to imitate their movements and each day worked without stopping, until exhaustion caught up to her. Putting this defense together with the strikes she had learned from her father, Fang Qiniang developed her own style, called White Crane Boxing. It involved her enlightenment of the principles of hard and soft, as well as, yielding to power. After three years of training assiduously, she gained a reputation, as a powerful fighter taking on all the challenges of the male fighters in the surrounding area. Finally, she came to the notice of Zeng Cishu, a heretofore-invincible fighter. He challenged her, probably out of his pride in his manhood and she readily accepted. He was an incredibly strong young man and hard as a rock, with hands of iron. She felled him, without even one of his blows touching her. The match was over, within just moments. Zeng was astounded by the ease that his hard style and movements, were easily diverted and the manner of her movements avoided any attack. Beating him raised her reputation and brought recognition to her new fighting style. Zeng finally became her student and through his constant use of her quan (kata) Happoren his inner strength grew beyond belief.
Her belief in the constant practice of her Quan was to develop her tenets of developing inner strength: These are copied directly from Mr. McCarthy’s book on the “Bubushi".
1. Eliminate external distractions and concentrate only upon intention.
2. Coordinate breathing and synchronize it with muscular activity. When you extend your arm, exhale and strike but conserve 50% of your air. Be sure never to expend all of your air at one time. When you inhale your body becomes light, when you exhale, your body becomes rooted.
3. Listen to your breathing and become aware of every part of your body.
4. There must be a constant but pliable muscular contraction in the deltoid, trapeziums, latissimus dorsi, serratus and pectoral muscle groups.
5. To encourage perfect diaphragm breathing, the spine must be parallel to the stomach.
6. Techniques are executed forward and back from where the elbows meet the waist.
Understanding the physical and metaphysical precepts of hard and soft (gangrou) in Mandarin, goju in Japanese) one must learn that it is the even balance between the two that enables us to overcome the greatest adversary of all; oneself. Hardness represents both the material force of the human body and one’s fierceness. Softness represents the gentleness of one’s character and the resiliency in the face of adversity. Together, these are attributes that unfold through continued analysis and genuine commitment.
One must counter force with pliability and vice versa. All body movement, including stealthy and evasive maneuvering, must be governed by correct breathing. The body must be resilient like a willow branch being blown in a fierce gale; it gives with the force of the wind, but when the strength of the wind vanishes, the bough spontaneously resumes its posture. When the body stretches up and inhales, it resembles a giant ocean wave, knowing no resistance. However, when a stable posture is assumed and the air is forced out from the lungs while contracting the muscles, one becomes immovable, like a majestic mountain.
1. Foot movement must be similar to walking. One initiates the step naturally and concludes it with firmness.
2. Smoothly make each step identical to the last, with the big toe of the rear foot aligned with the heel of the other (shoulder width apart).
3. Foot movement, either in a forward or backward direction should correspond to a crescent shape of a quarter moon with the knees slightly bent, moving quietly.
4. Leg muscles must be firm but flexible to engender mobility.
Immeasurable self-conquests are made possible through a peaceful mind and inner harmony. The strength and resiliency gained from quanfa training fosters an inner force with which one can overcome any opponent and conquer worldly delusion and misery. Even when just walking, you should be conscious of combining your breathing with your movement. In this way, if you should be attacked, you will not lose your balance. Their relationship between your legs and body is similar to that of wheels of a wagon. Of what good is a sturdy buggy, without wheels to move it? The legs, to foster both stability and mobility, must support hand techniques.
1. The mind must be calm, but alert.
2. Look for that which is not easily seen.
3. Use your peripheral vision.
4. Remain calm when facing your opponent.
5. Have confident body language and facial expression.
6. Use a posture, which will support mobility.
In this section, Fang Qiniang is bringing across the use of the body shifting to enable a more powerful impact, on the strike. She uses the simile of the tiger pulling down a boar with its body, with the claws as the connection to the boar. In other words, when we throw a punch, as we are taught in Isshinryu, the fist is delivering the blow, but if we have just blocked and moved obliquely to the side and our feet spin upon the balls of the feet so that both heels simultaneously snap toward the opponent’s body, with the hips in coordination with the movement of the feet. You have the punch getting the added torque of the entire body, increasing the chi. She also metaphysically binds this theory with the mind and spirit aiding the body, as the body in good condition aids the mind and the spirit. This is my belief, in discussing what her point is.
Here, Fang is again combining the physical and the spiritual to attain mind over matter, attaining perfect balance. As I have mentioned in former writings, as you are attacked, your body must be balanced with your feet lending stability and the necessary capability of mobility, in order to move away from an attack, or if our balanced moves cause an imbalance of the opponent we are stable enough to move quickly to the attack.
We must be alert and filled with awareness of the opponent’s intent. This ability to foresee the attack and understand the means of the attack comes only with practice and repetition. In an attack against you, or one that you initiate, you must be vigilant. Upon her passing, her student and fellow teacher carried forward her White Crane Boxing. Fang Qiniang is only one of the multitude of fighters and creative Masters who modified what was extant at any time, evolving the various and innumerable styles, many of which would find their way to Okinawa and inspire the fulfillment of karate.
Karate, stemming from lessons they developed and those they learned during their commercial and social interaction with China, became an awesome physical fighting system, which, in turn, spawned a varied group of styles from various Masters, all with a foundation from Chinese/Okinawan tradition. However, when the island of Okinawa became a protectorate of Japan, things were to change. The Japanese and their philosophy of Wa a militaristic, stringent, indeed anal compulsion to strictly set up similar rules for every aspect of life, from birth to death. At present, Japan’s commercial ventures are run, in the same manner that they would run a war.
When they were exposed to Okinawan karate, in it’s many faceted group of styles, the Japanese authorities saw only chaos. For the Japanese this was insufferable and must be placed under a stringent set of rules, in order to fit into their world of Bushido. What they wanted was to blend the differences into one homogeneous form, which would fit into their bubo ruled lives, and make a system totally susceptible to competition, which would begin in grade school. In order to do that, as they had, with Judo and Kendo, it needed total revision and simplicity in order to bring order from chaos. The Okinawans viewed their karate as a living, breathing spirit with many styles for a diffusion of knowledge and choices to be made by prospective karate-ka, in order to compete. Singularity was not within the scope of their history or the manner in which karate was shaped. Luckily enough, WW II, put an end of domination of Okinawa by Japan. This allowed, in my particular view, for Masters to disagree on how karate was formatted. If not, Tatsuo Shimabuku, a Master in Shorin ryu and Goju ryu would not have had the opportunity to develop and create the art of Isshinryu, the most logical form of self defense known to mankind, quite possibly with some impetus from the “Bubushi.”
The “Bubishi” is based upon philosophy and the search for truth, to an equal degree, or perhaps weighted toward the essence of Zen, as it concerns itself with the physicality of the civil fighting tradition, quanfa or it’s culmination, at the hands of the Okinawans, karate. This philosophical bent has permeated mankind’s writings since the dawn of time. They purvey the meaning of, “The Golden Rule,” “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.” This is actually a too simplistic vision of ancient oriental philosophy, since they endeavor to make their peers, over the centuries, to look deeply within their own mind and soul, seeking to determine what and who they are in the sight of their fellow man, as well as your vision of yourself. They look to correct improper behavior and seek to have gentle, intelligent discourse with those that they meet. The “Bubishi” would clearly appear to be written and embellished by multiple writers and Masters, perhaps through interviews and transcribed by scribes, over decade after decade. In each copying of the manual, the copier may have translated any section with a prejudicial attitude, stemming from that individual style of martial aspect and nationalistic aspect. This would not be unusual, it is human nature to see things dependent upon our historical experiences. However, the basic philosophy would not vary with regard to behavior or projected mien, since the values inherent in good versus evil are a constant and do not change. No matter how movie producers, or young people of vigorous feelings, may wish to believe that the new millennium allows a different set of behavioral norms, in order to enjoy a libertine existence, Confucius, if alive today would write about morals under the same rules that he used to describe proper behavior centuries in the past. Those who are referred to as amoral, without conscience, are a rare breed and not proper companions. The Masters and philosophers of ancient times would be amazed at how humanity looks at the valueless feeling about life, at this time. Philosophy is not a tricky concept; just think of the “Golden Rule.”
The section on the “Vital Points,” using a proliferation of various illustrations and a display of the Thirty Six vital points, even discussing the true to life construction of two copper statues of a man, which incorporated the vital points. These appear, with or without the existence of the Copper Men statues, to divide into two paths, one existing to understand these areas so that a strike to these points would cause dire consequences, maiming or killing the opponent, while the second path develops vulnerability by attacking by touch, pinching or striking one area of the body that then sets up the bodies components, so that a second strike to a second point causes a loss of consciousness, injury or death, even death after a specific period of time. The “Bubishi” even sets out the time of day, broken into twelve segments of two hours each, when it is the right time to strike a specific vital area, to cause maximum disruption. Each segment was given the name of an animal, bird or reptile. This is what we have heard of as, Dim Mak (Muk) or Dian Xue, the deadly arts, which were only taught to a precious few, so that these powerful and deadly maneuvers would not fall into the wrong hands. The practitioners of Tuite presently are the successors to these ancient arts of China. These would be very much appropriate for law enforcement, when trying to gain control over a criminal, without causing actual or permanent damage, since a movement such as pinching the nerve center in the trapeziums muscle, between the tip of the thumb and the tip of the index finger, or doing the same move on the space between the thumb and index finger. Another such area is the sides of the pectoral muscles, simultaneously on both sides of the body, will render an opponent helpless, without permanent injury. Much of this is common sense, such attacking the eyes, cupping the hands vigorously upon the foe’s ears, striking across the enemies throat at the larynx or Adam’s Apple, kicking into the pelvic area, a hammer fist strike on the clavicle, attacking the lower ribs, with blows that drive downward. Another is driving the thumb or index finger into the depression just above the breastbone and below the larynx, while grabbing the belt, obi or stomach skin. As with all of the substance of the “Bubushi,” these areas of attack would occur to the average intelligent teacher, who has mastered the basics of his Sensei’s teachings and begins to think creatively about different applications for the moves he has been taught.
This brings me to my general acceptance of the tenets of the “Bubushi.” First let me register the comment that this is a difficult book to absorb, in one reading, with its total overload of information. For an American, it is confusing that each of the old Masters mentioned in the book have numeral names, given to them or chosen to mark a special occurrence. Often, I wondered if I was reading about one man or several people. Each stance or strike has a multitude of names. The notion that hitting a specific point on a specific time frame, during the day, will create greater harm, than if you stuck that point at another time segment, with the same force, is difficult to understand in a time of modern medicine. Yet, I can believe that this may hold true, with acupuncture. My reasoning has no basis in medical understanding, in this time.
However, the philosophical tenets and discussion of fighting techniques are obviously based in evolving mind and body progression over time. For instance, in discussing philosophy, any sentient being over decades of life, absorbs the experiences that they endure and undergoes various phases of introspection, which changes their outlook on life and their moral behavior. With regard to the fighting techniques, hoping not to seem pretentious or pompous, while knowing that those who know me will realize it is not an attitude of self aggrandizement, I believe that the precepts discussed in the books, without the necessity for secrecy, those techniques and varied Bunkai, would occur to anyone over a period of several decades, or in my case nearly five decades of empirical knowledge, experience and exposure to the movements of other fighters. If, after several decades, an individual does not evolve and absorb increased knowledge, they should find another less demanding discipline.
Having studied Isshinryu under the tutelage of the recognized Master of Masters in both, fighting and teaching the creation of Shimabuku ryu Tatsuo Soke, I was given the best grounding in the basic foundation of this art that was possible, since Sensei Nagle was meticulous in the details of every aspect of Isshinryu. From simply making a fist, in the Isshinryu way, to walking across the deck, heel to toe, in Sei-San stance, with fists on the top of our obis, constantly checking the space between your feet and the alignment of those feet. Oddly, he could make even this task, imaginative and interesting. If, as Mr. McCarthy postulates, Shimabuku possessed a copy of the “Bubushi,” it would have opened the world of evolution to him, possibly inspiring the use of his knowledge, to step back and really observe what he had been taught and practiced for so many years, from childhood to adulthood and looking at it’s contents with the eye of a physiological engineer and when so observed, he knew there was another way. Out of a myriad of rules, regulations, tenets and myth, he sought, instead, the art of naturalism. This was an epiphany, but one that would brand him as an outcast, rather than simply accept things as they were. He knew that from Okinawa to China, there was conscious or unconscious evolution from time immemorial and that his giant step of faith in his own mind and conscience was the right thing to do. Today, we look toward the Bunkai of Isshinryu, determining how far we can go without reaching the point of minimal return for maximum effort.
So, in conclusion, I believe that the “Bubushi,” contains a mountain of information, that Master after Master over centuries uncovered by practicing what they were taught, but did not stifle natural inquisitiveness, thereby leaving room for discovery based upon experience, empirical knowledge and their own intellect.
Mr. Patrick McCarthy is obviously a driven man, as all intellectual, scientifically minded people are, to press forward upon a lifetime of digging, uncovering fact from myth, connecting tenuous links between ancient Masters, revealing someone as curious and enchanting as Fang Qiniang