My life in karate-do

Karate-do is a way of life. -- Gichin Funakoshi?

I started my karate training while I was in the fourth grade (form 4) in St David High School. I was 17 years old then. Many of my friends joined the karate class coached by Sensei Syed Pakri. I was training under the karate system called Shorin-Ryu, under the direction of the MSSKA (Malaysia Shorin-Ryu Seibukan Karate Association). My friends invited me to join the karate but I refused because I thought the karate was for fighting and very dangerous. Obviously, I was wrong.

After many luring invitation by my friends, I finally gave in and decided to join the class just for fun. Eventually, I ended up with more anticipation to the next training day to come.

The training was hard because it was conducted on an open air basketball court with rather coarse flooring. Everyone had large painful blisters on their feet. But this passed very soon after each training because the skin on the feet grew back thicker.

One noticable improvement for me was my health. I always had mild asthma and fever from time to time. Miraculously, they all were gone after training karate for some time.

We left St David after our fifth grade. I trained under Sensei Rashid, the brother of Sensei Syed Pakri. Not for long, the duo established their own system called Aishoto-Ryu which was not recognized by MAKAF (Malaysia Karate-do Federation), not to mention the JKF (Japan Karate-do Federation). I left and trained together with a close friend of mine, Tai-Kiat Tan under Sensei Chin Mok Sung, the 9th dan Chief Instructor of MSSKA. Sensei Chin graded our black belt Shodan test. We passed and became instructors. We started a class at SMMA (Sekolah Menengah Munshi Abdullah) where we did our sixth grade (pre-U) there. We then trained under Sensei Lau Puan Long. He was my forth sensei.

According to my finding, one starts the actual karate training once s/he obtains black belt. After my sixth grade, I trained very hard under the instruction of Sensei Lau. He was the coach that introduced the real karate-do to me.

During my coaching in SMMA and SMTT (Sekolah Menengah Tun Tuah), I gained a lot of coaching experience. My coaching also encouraged me to train harder and to improve my karate skills.

My hard and persevering training had won me a few bronze medal in kumite (sparring) events and a gold medal in kata competition. I represented MSSKA in a kata event in a national championship organized by MAKAF. My failure in this competition had given me more experience and insight to karate.

I was appointed by MAKA (Malacca Karate-do Association) as team coach for the Melaka state women karate team to the 4th SUKMA (Malaysian Games or Sukan Malaysia) Games in Johor 1992. Po-Ling, Wong won the first gold medal in Women Kumite below 65-kg and a bronze medal in Women Team Kumite event.

After the SUKMA, I departed to develop my career in software development. My leaving was partly due to the bad management of MAKA. The management had greatly disappointed me.

After leaving karate for many years, I learned that a group of karate enthusiasts had left MAKA and started KARAMET (Melaka Central Karate Association). I joined KARAMET. Below is the group photo taken during a black belt training session at KARAMET.


Group photo taken during Black Belt training at Karamet, Melaka.

My karate life reborn

After I made an uneventful comeback, I started to tinkle about the philosophy and bunkai (application) of karate kata. As a software engineer who does most of the research work on the Internet, I did research in kata and its bunkai on the Internet too. I started to wonder if the Shorin-Ryu system that I had been training all these years was authentic Shorin-Ryu system. I found some disagreement in some of the movements and the name of the kata. For example, in authentic Okinawan Shorin-Ryu, there are kata starting with the name Naifanchi but the similar kata in my Shorin-Ryu system have the name starting with Tekki.

Similarly, I am practising the Heian kata instead of Pinan kata. The Okinawan word Pinan means peace and closely resembles the chinese pronunciation of the same word Ping An. But it is pronounced as Heian in Japan mainland.

In September 2004, I came to know many karate-ka during a national karate coaches training and certification course. I passed the certification. I am now a Level 1 Instructor jointly certified by NSC (National Sports Council) and MAKAF. I was then introduced to Sensei Kong, a 7-time national champion. He has fought many national and international championships. His teaching and explanation has inspired my research in karate kata.

I started a karate class in St David High School in March 2005, after learning that the karate club was defunct a long long time ago. I have five very devoted students together with their supportive parents as well.

Below are the photos taken during their first grading test (white to yellow belt) at MMU.


Photo taken during grading test in MMU.


Photo taken during grading test in MMU.


Group photo taken after grading test.

On August 21, 2005, they won 8 medals in the 1st Karamet Tournament. Below is the result.

  • Koh, Cher-Waye - Gold medals in Women Junior Individual Kata and Women Under 18 Years Kumite.

  • Loh, Chern-Yi - Silver medals in Women Junior Individual Kata and Women Under 18 Years Kumite.

  • Chan, Eng-Siang - Silver medal in Men Junior Individual Kata and bronze medal in Men Under 18 Years Kumite.

  • Hui, Joe-How - Bronze medal in Men Junior Individual Kata.

  • Lim, Tong-Yong - Bronze medal in Men Under 16 Years Kumite.


Group photo after the tournament.

Ruthless bashing

Do toku. Reigi otokaru nakare.
(Morality. Never neglect courtesy and etiquette.)

The above opinions have stirred up tremendous controversy in MSSKA. I was ruthlessly blamed and bashed by my former teacher, Lau Puan Long. The grudge incubated 13 years ago when I left MAKA and my return had given him significant hatred and threats in his opinion. Fearing that I would team up with people in KARAMET, he wanted to eliminate whatever obstacles that would have possibly jeopardised his political position in karate associations. I am one of them in his list.

July 2005, he motioned to have me sacked by MSSKA so that my karate career would be over. The reason was that I had questioned the authenticity of MSSKA karate-do, endangered the integrity among members and disrespectful to MSSKA and the chief instructor.

Although he had gathered some supporters during the committee meeting, his goal could never achieved. There was no former inquiry and the entire procedure was inappropriate. Ironically, this demonstrated incompetency and naiveness of the management.

My resignation

The only way to win is not to play (fight).

After many serious consideration, I resigned from MSSKA and KARAMET on October 17, 2005. A number of reasons have influenced my decision:

  • I had personally met Chin Mok Sung and explained to him about my intention and I had also apologized to him in person. He accepted my apologies and explanation. Ironically, he failed to put the issue to rest during the meeting (two weeks later) by suggesting to suspend my membership instead of termination. How could a country chief break his words?

  • The failure of the executive council to prevent propagation of this issue and to give me justice. In fact, they let this matter to relinquish.

  • Most of the so-called karatemen in the committee were unable to stand up for justice and speak the truth. What use practicing karate-do?

  • My interest is to continue learning karate-do and its philosophy and to have more research in kata. It's no significant meaning to stand against a man, who has no courtesy, etiquette and honor; over a small matter which the rest of the karatemen were so afraid to speak out. I wonder where was their courage?

After my resignation, some of these karatemen, including my closest friends in KARAMET, had spoken to me and still insisted that I would be sacked if I had not choosen to leave. I don't know if this is an example of egoistic behavior or this matter was taking on a new heat or otherwise. I never regretted my decision.

I wish to thank Chin Mok-Sung Sensei for giving me an opportunity to learn karate-do.

Facts revisited

No matter what you believe, it doesn't change the facts. - Al Kersha
Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. - Aldous Leonard Huxley
If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts. - Albert Einstein

My research article has spurred great interests among my friends and some karate-do enthusiasts from other continents. They are curious to know why my research and article are used to attack me. I personally think that I am responsible to reveal the facts that have been covered to protect primacy and egoism. Before time, I was heavily under the influence of lies and cover-ups. I have look into many literatures, books, websites and conversations. Since then, there have been great deals of information, some better, some worse, than these original information. I have revised some of my theories, challenged some of my own assumptions, learned some new things and encountered a great deal of contrary data. Nevertheless, I managed to verified my theories and findings with reputable articles and people with good knowledge in karate-do.

My interest to find out the truth began with my experience with some well known karate men from local and abroad. Every each time I showed them the kata Bassai-dai which I practiced, the answer I received was "No! That's Shotokan". Doubts haunted me. My doubts were cleared when I met my co-workers in Taiwan and Austria who were practising Shotokan. They demonstrated Shotokan version of Bassai-dai. Although they had helped to cleared my doubts, another arose. Their Shotokan version of Bassai-dai was different from the one I was practising. Why?

There are many Shorin-ryu (young forest style 少林流). Namely, they are Matsumura-Seito, Shobayashi-ryu (small forest style 小林流), Kobayashi-ryu (small forest style 小林流), Matsubayashi-ryu (pine forest style 松林流), Sukunaihayashi-ryu, and Shorinji-ryu.

The original Shorin-ryu was founded by Sokon "Bushi" Matsumura, known, as the result, as Matsumura-Seito (Matsumura Orthodox). Sokon Matsumura was a great master of Shuri-te (首里手), and reportedly, of Tomari-te (泊手) (This could be contributed by the confused and mistaken identity of Kosaku Matsumora of Tomari). It is also reported that this style was founded by Hohan Soken, born in 1889. Reportedly some of the style's followers have changed its name to Sukunai Hayashi.

Kobayashi-ryu was founded by Choshin Chibana (1885-1969) in 1928 (or 1933?). It is also referred as Shorinkan. Choshin Chibana was a top pupil of Yasutsune Itosu, best known as Anko Itosu (1831-1915), the great master of the Shuri-te (首里手). Kanga Sakugawa (commonly known as Todi Sakugawa), Sokon Matsumura and others went to China and learned Kenpo there. Returning to Okinawa, they brought Kenpo into the Okinawan Te and systematized the two styles into one. That was then passed on to Choshin Chibana through Anko Itosu.

Shobayashi-ryu was founded by Chotoku Kyan, a famous student of Anko Itosu. He was also a student of Sokon Matsumura. Kyan learned the most from Matsumura the kata, Seisan, Gojushiho and Chinto. Another great teacher of Tomari was Pechin Maeda, with whom Kyan studied quite a while and learned the kata Wansu. He also learned the kata, Passai, under Pechin Oyadomari Kokan of Tomari. Pechin was a title, given to someone in employment of the King. The next teacher Kyan studied with was the small 4 feet, 10 inches tall, Yara of Chatan, a power packed dynamite of a man. Chatan Yara taught Kyan the longest and most beautiful kata Kusanku, sometimes known as Yara no Kusanku or Chatanyara Kusanku. One of Kyan's notable student was Shoshin Nagamine, who in 1947 founded the Matsubayashi-ryu, another branch of Shorin-ryu.

Typical "Shorin-ryu" kata include: Naifanchi (1st-3rd Dan), Pinan (1st-5th Dan), Kusanku (dai) and Kusanku (sho), Passai (dai) and Passai (sho), Jion, Jitte, Sochin, Gojushiho, and Chinto. Pinan was created by Anko Itosu as a training aid for his pupils.

None of these Shorin-ryu schools use the Heian, Tekki, Bassai (dai and sho) and Kanku (dai and sho). Certainly, MSSKA does not practise Jitte, Sochin and Chinto kata.

The International Okinawan Shorin-ryu Seibukan Karate-Do is another Shorin-ryu style founded by Zenryo Shimabukuro, a pupil of Chotoku Kyan (Shobayashi-ryu). According to Chin Mok Sung and the lineage chart provided by his son, Zenryo Shimabukuro was the teacher of Chin Mok-Sung. When Zenryo died in 1969, Shorin-ryu Seibukan Karate-Do was bequeathed to his son Zenpo Shimabukuro. After the death of Zenryo Shimabukuro, there was a disagreement between Okinawan Shorin-ryu Seibukan and Malaysian Shorin-ryu Seibukan. The dispute could not be resolved and the two organizations terminated their affiliation.

Chin Mok-Sung is also a student of Masanao Takazawa, the founder of Keishinkan. Among Takazawa's students are Robert Sullivans, the founder of the famous Australian style of Go-Kan-ryu.

After, separated from Okinawan Shorin-ryu Seibukan, MSSKA changed the kata to Keishinkan. As the lineage chart shown below, Keishinkan is a variation of Shotokan. Thus, it is not surprised the kata practised at MSSKA have strong Shotokan flavor. Although the kata have changed to Keishinkan's, MSSKA remains to preserve its primacy in the Malaysian karate-do history.

Karate-do
This MSSKA's lineage was excerpted from the original chart provided by Vincent Chin, which Chin Mok Sung claimed lineage to O'Sensei Zenryo Shimabukuro.

Increasingly, I am finding more evidence of lies and data contrary to the truth in this uproarious issue. On February 26 2006, a reputable email from Okinawa has confuted Chin Mok Sung lineage with Zenryo Shimabukuro:

... I want you to correct lineage of Chin Mok Sung.

If Chin Mok Sung claims that he has studied from my father it is not the truth because he has never met my father. My father died in 1969 and Chin Mok Sung visited Okinawa in 1971 and I taught him Shorin-ryu katas. Ever since he became my student and later he invited me to Malaysia in 1972 to teach in the seminar throughout Malaysia for one month. He was teaching many katas from Keishinkan and Shotokan and one day I told him to make decision to teach Shorin-ryu Seibukan but he decided to teach not only Shorin-ryu but many styles. He was inconsistent person and that was his belief and we were separated....

Chin Mok Sung claimed that his karate is not authentic. How could he not? Paradoxically, he has claimed that his karate is Shorin-ryu Seibukan by naming his organization as Malaysia Shorin-ryu Seibukan Karate-do Association. Furthermore, how could he be so upset about my research article if he claimed not authentic?

My interest to find out the truth has become so intense. After so many literature research, I have ascertianed the following:

  • A country dojo must be authorized by the headquarters in Japan or Okinawa and will receive a chartered certificate. Does MSSKA have the authorization and chartered certificate from Okinawa? I am certain the answer is NO!

  • Who is the supreme sensei in Okinawa?

  • I also found out the Shotokan/Keishinkan system they are practising is not complete as well. For example, the basic katas, Taikyoku Nidan and Sandan are missing in their training.

  • Although MSSKA is still practising some Seibukan kata like, Seisan, Wanshu, Anaku and Gojushiho, there are a lot of variation compared with the original Seibukan kata [4].

  • I realized that I was just a secondary target of Lau Puan Long. His primary target was KARAMET. I was just an expandable asset to him and to KARAMET. My resignation had relieved KARAMET from all liabilities.

I am happy that I have made a concrete decision to resign and I will never regret. If not this outbreak, I will never find the right path and I am still being obfuscated by lies and karate politics. Along this felicitous course, I have met many new friends locally and abroad. They are beautiful and knowledgeable people in karate-do and they have opened my eyes and heart.

What is true Shorin-ryu Seibukan?

Dare to be true: nothing can need a lie; A fault, which needs it most, grows two thereby. - George Herbert
Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person. - Albert Einstein

The true and original Shorin-ryu Seibukan was founded by Zenryo Shimabukuro in 1962. He was a private disciple of Chotoku Kyan. Seibukan radiates Shimabukuro's philosophy of Karate-do. Zenryo Shimabukuro was highly respected member of his community and received many certificates of appreciation from city officials for his work for the betterment of the Okinawan people.

Chotoku Kyan was born in 1870 to a wealthy family in Shuri, Okinawa. Kyan learnt from Oyakata Kyan and Chofu Kyan, his grand father and father respectively and many great masters such as Sokon "Bushi" Matsumura, Sokon Matsumora, Pechin Yara, Pechin Maeda and Oyadomari Kokan. He also learnt Bo (Kobudo) from Pechin Tokumine. Zenryo Shimabukuro studied karate-do 10 years from Kyan until Kyan's death. He died of hunger in 1945 at the age of 75.

In 1964 he was awarded the highest rank in Karate by the All Okinawan Karate-do Federation, the 10th Dan Red Belt. Shimabukuro spread his art to United States and other countries. He died of appendicitis in 1969.

His son, Zenpo Shimabukuro, continued Seibukan after his death. Hanshi Zenpo Shimabukuro is a Ku-dan (9th dan) black belt and supreme sensei of the IOSSKA (International Okinawan Shorin-ryu Seibukan Karate-do Association) which was formed by Zenpo Shimabukuro in 1975.

Shorin-ryu Seibukan is also known as Sukunaihayashi. Shorin-ryu Seibukan is one of the very few in Okinawa still preserving the traditional essence of karate-do. For example, the kata Passai.

In Malaysia, Shorin-ryu Seibukan is represented by The International Okinawan Shorin-ryu Seibukan Karate-do Association of Malaysia. Pathmanathan Palaniappen is the lead representative and country chief instructor elected by Hanshi Zenpo Shimabukuro.

Passai (Tomarite)

Oyadomari Kokan

Passai is an old-age form, and one of the oldest version of this kata is Seibukan's Oyadomari Passai. Kyan Sensei learnt Passai from Oyadomari Kokan and passed down to Shimabukuro. This ancient form of Passai preserves traditional essence of highly effective and powerful self-defense techniques.

Passai is often explained as a low light or night fighting kata, because of it’s many sagurite (searching hand) techniques. The name of the kata means to “break through the fortress.” It might have received the name from the beginning movement where the defender throws a strong forward movement combined with an augmented chudan-uke, meant to unbalance of attacker. After this powerful start, the kata changes characteristics by making fast blocks and strikes with open hands to vulnerable points of human body. There are many angular movement changes, all quickly executed and in varying degrees. In the last part of the kata there is combination technique where the attack is avoided by ducking the opponents attacking arm, while simultaneously blocking the opponents other arm and striking a key point in the stomach region. By bending the body one can add extra power to the strike. This technique has disappeared in many of the modern karate style’s version of Passai.

Passai kata is related to Chinese Leopard and Lion boxing forms, with some sequences bearing a resemblance to Leopard boxing (the opening blocking / striking movement in cross-legged stance) whereas others are more representative of Lion boxing (open handed techniques and stomping actions). The name itself is thought by some to mean ‘Leopard-Lion’ which would be pronounced "Baoshi" in Mandarin, "Baassai" in Fuzhou dialect and "Pausai" in Quanzhou dialect.

Note: If anyone wishes to contribute to or correct my article, please use the contact form to submit your opinions.

References

  1. Wikipedia.

  2. The official website of World Karate-do Federation (WKF), Major Kata List.

  3. The Okinawan Shorin-ryu Seibukan Karate-do.

  4. The Karate of Chotoku Kyan, Zenpo Shimabukuro, Tsunami.

  5. Yamashita International Karate.

  6. Okinawan Shorin Ryu Karate, Shobayashi Shorin Ryu Karate.

  7. Shorin-ryu Shorin-kan Karate.

  8. World Matsubayashi-Ryu Karate-Do Association.

  9. The Essence of Okinawan Karate-do, Shoshin Nagamine, 1976, Charles E. Tuttle., Inc.

  10. Shorin-ryu Karate: Japanese art of self-defense, Tadashi Yamashita, 1976, Ohara Publications.

  11. Shorin-ryu Okinawan Karate Question and Answer Book, Robert Scaglione and William Cummings, 1991.

  12. History and Traditions of Okinawan Karate, Tetsuhiro Hokama, 2000, Masters Martial Arts Supply.

  13. Classical Kata of Okinawan Karate, Pat McCarthy and Mike Lee, 1987, Ohara Publications.

  14. The Secrets of Okinawan Karate: Essence and Techniques, Kiyoshi Arakaki, 2002, Kodansha International.

  15. Karate-Do: My Way of Life, Gichin Funakoshi, 1981, Kodansha International.

  16. Karate-Do Kyohan, Gichin Funakoshi, 1973, Kodansha International.

  17. Karate-Do Nyumon, Gichin Funakoshi, 1994, Kodansha International.

  18. Best Karate: Comprehensive (Best Karate Vol. 1), Masatoshi Nakayama, 1977, Kodansha America

  19. Best Karate: Heian, Tekki (Best Karate Vol. 5), Masatoshi Nakayama, 1979, Kodansha America

  20. Best Karate: Bassai, Kanku (Best Karate Vol. 6), Masatoshi Nakayama, 1980, Kodansha America.

  21. Best Karate: Jitte, Hangetsu, Empi (Best Karate Vol. 7), Masatoshi Nakayama, 1981, Kodansha America.

  22. Best Karate: Gankaku, Jion (Best Karate Vol. 8), Masatoshi Nakayama, 1980, Kodansha America.

  23. Best Karate: Bassai Sho, Kanku Sho, Chinte (Best Karate Vol. 9), Masatoshi Nakayama, 1985, Kodansha America.

  24. Best Karate: Unsu, Sochin, Nijushiho (Best Karate Vol. 10), Masatoshi Nakayama, 1987, Kodansha America.

  25. Best Karate: Gojushiho Dai, Gojushiho Sho, Meikyo (Best Karate Vol. 11), Masatoshi Nakayama, 1989, Kodansha America.




Disclaimer: My employer(s) and organization(s) never defined these opinions. The freedom to express these opinions are solely mine. They may have bizarre coincidence or that are just non deterministic behavior.