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Kenneth Poulsen
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Motobu Udundi Ryu and Heian katas?

Greetings,

I hope to be able to get in contact with persons, who has trained Motobu Udundi Ryu? (Okinawan martial art from the time of the Ryukyu Kingdom. It was once referred to as ushu-ganashi-mē no bugei, or "his majesty's martial art.") - I am specifically interested in the Tuiti part of this System. (In 1961, Uehara sensei  named this style Motobu-ryu in honor of his master Motobu Choyu sensei).

Description of the Ruy, and the technical base of this ruy.

I have had a lot of trouble placing the old techniques I currently work on from the Heian katas, in a specific system or "type" of system.

No systems or techniques I found used these Non-aggressive techniques, without Tsuki-Te (Punch), without traditional use of Blocks (Ukes), with the closeness of the opponent to you, with the  "moving your opponent around you, instead of you moving around your opponent", with the extensive and powerful use of the hips, the extensive use of what seems like variations on Morotte Uke in very straight lines that precisely matches the directions of the movements in the arms in the traditional karate versions of the katas, with the extensive use of the opponent's elbow and wrist to manipulate his body, without letting go of your opponents wrist and elbow before the finishing technique was done, with at least two simultaneous parts of your body always supporting each other in the Countering and Releasing phases, using a lot of intermediary dachies and so on.

The techniques differentiate on a basic level to all systems I knew or had seen. That is until I got a link from Kiwikarateka in relation to a question about the name of the Pulling hand (Hike-te) and Pushing hand (Oshi-te, thanks Kiwikarateka).

He referenced the above Ryu, and it seems that the general descriptions of the Tuiti part of this Ryu is actually spot on to the techniques I am working on, and suggest answers to a lot of the Why, How, When, Where, Why not questions I had as well.

So I am looking for further knowledge about the technical aspects of these Tuiti techniques (Not just the versions with grips high in the air, but also grips at waist level, which is not shown in the videos) if at all possible, and hopefully a further detailing of the historical events describing the history of this Ruy, or any other help in advancing this study?

One of the most pressing questions I had was "How did Itosu Anko Sensei know about these techniques when he created the Heian katas - they are so different from other Traditional Okinawa Karate techniques, even differrent from the old (Tode/Tomai-di?) techniques from the katas the Heian/Pinan katas are build upon - and why are they not represented or shown in any other system active today?"

(I have combined different sections from the homepage linked above in this section)

Motobu udundi is an Okinawan martial art from the time of the Ryukyu Kingdom. It was once referred to as ushu-ganashi-mē no bugei, or "his majesty's martial art." The current name comes from the fact that it was passed down through the noble Motobu family of the udun rank, with the di coming from ti, meaning bujutsu--martial art--in Ryukyuan.

Motobu udundi is considered a "general" martial art in that it makes use of punching and kicking striking techniques, joint locking and throwing techniques known as tuiti, and a variety of weapons.

In the time of the Ryukyu Kingdom, it was taught only in the confines of the palace and the secrets of the art were received only by the heirs of the Motobu Udun. They would begin their training in udundi from the age of six, and would generally continue until their coming of age at 15.

From a young age, Motobu Choyu sensei was taught Motobu udundi by his father. In order to broaden his learning, he also studied various kinds of karate from instructors called to his home, such as Matsumura Sokon sensei and Itosu Anko sensei. Along with his younger brother Choki sensei and friend Yabu Kentsu sensei, he studied Tomari-te (tomai-di) at the home of Matsumora Kosaku

Among the Ryukyuan royalty, use of tuiti was passed down in secret only among the Motobu Udun. 

Since tuiti was originally transmitted orally only from a master to one of his children, Itosu sensei likely became aware of its existence on his visits to the home of the Motobu Udun to teach karate.

Motobu Choyu Sensei was born in 1857, the eldest son of Motobu Aji Choshin.

Choyu sensei knew up to 30 kata and, of course, the use of weapons. He was also a talented horseman and was known to go on long rides from Shuri to the village of Yomitan. At that time, there was no one whose knowledge of the martial arts was as wide and deep as his.

(During a later time than the above), Uehara sensei (Student of Motobu Choyu sensei I think), heeded his master’s injunction not to teach udundi to anyone outside of the Motobu family. While he did teach tuiti to some shihan, to other students he only taught karate using udundi-style strikes and kicks. 

The te-waza in tuiti are believed to arise from applied variations on three hand positions that correspond to those used in the classical Ryukyuan court dances: oshi-te (forward push hands), ogami-te (supplication hands), and koneri­-te (kneading hands). 

The names of these hand positions appear in the earliest collection of Ryukyuan poetry, Omorosaushi (1531-1623), and they seem to have been gestures used in rituals and ceremony in ancient Okinawa. 

These gestures are said to have been incorporated into the court dances by Tamagusuku Chokun (born 1684), who was connected to the Motobu Udun.

These dances were originally entertainment for only the aristocracy, so were almost never seen or learned by commoners or even lower-ranking members of the military class responsible for teaching karate

This would explain why tuiti cannot be found in Okinawan karate.

Also (and this is an ongoing discussion with Iain about the philosophy that are of the basis of the Heian katas, if they are Agressive or Non-aggressive in their nature - and Why any one would even think of creating a self defence system that was "non-aggressive" in its nature?:

The aim of tuiti is to subdue an opponent without causing harm, in the spirit of royal benevolence.

There are a lot of other elements pointing to this Ryu being connected with these old techniques from the Heian Katas, ie:

A number of characteristics differentiate Okinawan tuiti from aiki jūjutsu. First, the waza of tuiti are generally applied from the palm side of the hand rather than the back of the hand. 

Second, tuiti waza employ linear movement whereas aiki jūjutsu emphasizes circular motion. 

There is also no za-waza--aiki-style seated defense--in tuiti.

Also different is that kamae is not done with the rear hand in hiki-te, but with the rear hand touching the elbow of the forward arm in a kamae called me-oto-de, or "husband and wife hands."

the way attacks are handled; while evading an attack with the body, the counter consists of simultaneous offensive and defensive actions

In attacking and defending, the chest is lifted and movement occurs from the belly, with the feet moving smoothly in any direction.

The Motobu arts do not ascribe to the general principle that “karate begins with a block (uke) and ends with a strike (tsuki).”

In addition, Motobu udundi does not apply techniques meant purely for blocking, such as soto-uke, uchi-uke, or gedan-barai.

And finally - why would a Kata contain "two" katas? ... What inspired Itosu Anko sensei to do this when he created the katas, or worked with the katas - or when he Adapted the Katas for use in the Middle school where he was employed, if this is the case at all?

Finally, in terms of advanced teachings, Motobu udundi has a “dance” ti called bu no mai, or “martial dance.”

Similar to how karate waza are concealed in kata, udundi has advanced techniques like tuiti "hidden" in dance.

There is a poem by master Choyu which reads, “Do not take the dancing of the aji at face value, for within are the hidden waza." In this, he expresses the essence of bu no mai.

I would suggest, that the Heian katas contain a series of these "simpler" Tuiti techniques than shown in the videos, based on a non-aggressive system, describing how a non-trained attacker/conflict can be handled without harming the attacker unnecessarily in the process.

This would be counter to their own description though, that says "Since Motobu udundi had no kata originally", but either the use of Heian katas is not widely known, or it could be seen as there have been several times where the knowledge of the entire style was located on a single individual, it could be suggested that there was a chance that the above knowledge was somehow lost over time?

Again - this is currently just a suggestion - a theory, but I would really like some help in getting further with these studies, both in knowledge about this Ruy, the period, the techniques - and finally someone to shoot some videos of the Heian katas with, when done through these techniques. (Also to shoot and explain the "translation manual/Rules" for getting from traditional Shotokan techniques as shown in the Heian katas, to these "simpler versions" of these Tuiti techniques, meant for selfdefence against a non-martialarts trained attacker)

Sorry for the long post - I hope it will be well received :)...

Cheers,

Kenneth

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

All I know about it is that is was very connected to oldschool Law Enforcement. Which makes sense, because small joint locking and passive limb manipulation is not, in the main, a viable self defense skill. Given that many early Karateka were of the Bushi class, it actually makes sense that this stuff existed alongside the main Karate skillsets.

The context of these kinds of techniques in Motobu Undundi was likely originally exactly the context that you find them in Jujutsu and Aiki Jutsu, Aikido, etc. That is to say, pain compliance on uncooperative (though not neccessarily actively violent) individuals. Exactly the sort of specialized usage one might need to, for instance, force a semi-uncooperative person to "come along". And indeed, you can see some of the Tuiti techniques are come-alongs.

I'm pretty skeptical about kata interprations that focus on these sorts of techniques as primary responses, and I think doing so is a bit of a "graft" onto what is clearly a mainly percussive art (especially in the case of the Heians), and one concerned with civilian defense above pain compliance and locking techniques. In short, approaching kata in order to extract these kinds of applications as primary techniques seems contrary to the overall strategy of Karate kata. Simply put, Karate is not Jujutsu. I do not know how Motobu Udundi contextualizes it's Tuiti beside the other things it does of course.

The Karate Kata stuff in Motobu Undundi - such as Sanchin kata, which almost certainly was simply taken from Okinawan Nahate systems (judging simply from videos I've watched) looks like something melded with the rest of the system, and drawn from other sources ( like every Okinawan art, they are masters at mix and match). To me, the Tuiti stuff has a very "classical" flavor to it.

FYI, Motobu undundi techniques externally look exactly like the Jujutsu versions of these techniques to me, other than the walking style (kind of bouncing on balls of feet), what I've seen in video is mostly indistinguishable from Jujtutsu small joint locking, which also does not always include the same circular footwork of the later Aiki arts. Not saying it is the same, I'm sure Undundi has it's unique approaches adn ways for sure, just pointing out that the Jujutsu from which Aiki came involves less emphasis on circular footwork anyway. These sorts of techniques are always associated with Aikijutsu, but Aiki arts came from Koryu Jujutsu (which again is partially ancient Law Enforcement techniques, among other things), so it is probably a better direct comparison to Udundi.

I think I may have even seen stuff in Undundi videos that (like Koryu Jujutsu) involves binding hands, etc..this is a telltale sign obviously of Law Enforcement based material.

e wrote:
I would suggest, that the Heian katas contain a series of these "simpler" Tuiti techniques than shown in the videos, based on a non-aggressive system, describing how a non-trained attacker/conflict can be handled without harming the attacker unnecessarily in the process.

I've had this conversation with Aikido people before, and meaning no offense, the above idea simply does not work out when any pressure is applied. These techniques are not meant to subdue a violent attacker intent on harm, they are meant as pain compliance. There is no "peaceful" or non-agressive way to simply trap and holding a standing person intent on violence for very long. As evidenced by the fact that in order to "non aggressively" maintain control over a single actually violent assailant, it often requires 2 to 4 people, be they police officers, mental health workers etc.

Simply put, there is no such thing as "non violent" counter-assault/escape techniques unless you are simpy going straight to escape. The closest thing I have seen or tested to that is a head and arm throw and simply laying on a person in kesa-gatame pin, or holding someone against a wall, and even that is quite questionable when you talk about someone fully adrenalized, and the fact that for one of those responses you have to be on the ground to maintain the pin.

I have actually done some pressure testing with these sorts of technique, to be frank, I do not think they will work very often at all against violence. There are places here and there where you can apply them against wrist grabs etc., they are something that we should ahve general knowledge of as Karateka, but generally they simply are not designed to do what you are thinking they are, and will fail most times when tested or used for that purpose.

So to be clear, viewing things like come alongs and joint lock flows as a primary part of a self defense system is mistaking the typical historical purpose of said techniques, which is Law Enforcement pain compliance, and not civilian defense. They play a far smaller role in civilian defense, by neccessity.

Just my two cents of course.

Kenneth Poulsen
Kenneth Poulsen's picture

Hi Zach Zinn,

Thanks for your view on this - and the information on the Motobu Ubundi Tuiti in the first part of your post.

I actually agree with you in your view on the viability of these techniques - I am also very skeptical about this.

Currently though, I have not even completed phase ½ of the normal 3-phase testing that should be done on any new or old techniques in a structured way across all 40'ish techniques that are currently uncovered. So the viability or effectivenes is currently not my main focus - knowledge about the history and origin of these techniques are my focus for now, uncovering more of them - and finding partners who might share my (very nerdy) interest and wants to work with them, to find out what this is all about ;-).

I would also be very surprised, if we in the last 120-140 years havent found better techniques! ... Then again, the old masters seemed to be great fighters, the system the techniques seem to uncover seems extremely structured, detailed and thorough - so currently I am undecided (as I should be at the current time, in the combined picture of exploration, learning and testing phases!).

That aside, their placement in the history is ofcourse also dependant on their ability to work in the context where they perhaps fitted in.

I have for a couple of the techniques done phase 1 testing (compliant and semirelaxed/normal tensioned/hard tension) on beginners, 1,2,3 dan opponents, where these techniques worked as good as I could get them to work, with my current level of familiarity with the techniques.

I have also used one of them on a 7 dan Sanchin trained opponent (I am unsure if it is 7 dan - but a High degree), that was Dynamically tensed up completely, but compliant - and it did not work. Does this mean that I should "throw them away, forget about it - they do not work at all" as was (politely) suggested afterwards, or does it mean I have found a limitation - and 1 confirmation, that support that they do not work on a Trained assailant, and confirmation in the universal truth - that for each technique there is a counter technique?

My dream scenario is to meet with other persons that has a real interest in finding out about our combined history and to nerd (untried) Karate on a more serious level, talk and argue about the system behind these techniques, get aquanted with them, fool around with them, play with them, try them out - and when we are comfortable with them, slowly start testing them in a more structured way through the different phases, gradually working from a compliant and relaxed opponent that works with you, through an increase in the tension, resistance, pressure and different scenarios, until finally effectively trying to "sabotage" the techniques and hopefully finding their different limitations and countertechniques.

It is my believe, that it is as much the technique as it is the person doing them that is deciding if the technique will actually work in any given scenario, and I am painfully aware that I have not yet been able to hook up with training partners that know enough so we dont hurt each other unintentionally - and still are not so locked in their abilites and the system they normally train, that they are at least willing to give it a reasonable and honest go - and can find pleasure and joy in trying some "old new stuff".

I would be very satisfied, if I had the opprtunity to play and work seriously with these techniques for a period - and then having to conclude (after an honest attempt and workthrough), that "it was just a mirage - a funny coincidense, did not work, does not have a place on this earth". But I will be **, if I have to conclude that, without having worked through them at all - solely on the unavailability of interested partners, and the oppinion of others.

I would love to meet some persons, that says "I actually do not believe that there is anything at all in this you seem to have found, and if there is that it would not work today - BUT lets give it an honest go, get an idea about the (system) they represent, fool around with it, get aquanted with the techniques, get an idea about the limitations - shoot some videos, and get the oppinions and views from some more persons". Then again - I have only met the first part of that sentence, as in "I do not believe ..." and then some reason why I should just drop it, cancel it - and do like every one else. This is not aimed at you - it is just me, that have yet to find the right training partners here in Denmark to work with, and I am frustrated about this. It will probably take some time, but eventually I will meet them - and then we will get a more complete picture of their functionality, workability and so on :).

Sorry for the long post - and me not being more precise in my "frame-setting and purpose" in the first post - and thanks for your input :)

Cheers, Kenneth

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

e wrote:

My dream scenario is to meet with other persons that has a real interest in finding out about our combined history and to nerd (untried) Karate on a more serious level, talk and argue about the system behind these techniques, get aquanted with them, fool around with them, play with them, try them out - and when we are comfortable with them, slowly start testing them in a more structured way through the different phases, gradually working from a compliant and relaxed opponent that works with you, through an increase in the tension, resistance, pressure and different scenarios, until finally effectively trying to "sabotage" the techniques and hopefully finding their different limitations and countertechniques.

You could also go crosstrain in Aikido, Jujutsu etc. alternatively, and get an insight you couldn't otherwise have on these kinds of techniques, which you could take back to Kata study. A Karate guy can't really help you test them right. Right now you are trying to develop techniques that relate to a skillset which (at best) is very minor for most Karateka. Unless cross trained a Karateka won't really understand how to manipulate another persons joints in this way, it is a specialized skillset of grappling arts. The exception of course would be people in "functional Karate" type programs. Even there, the understanding of something like small joint locks is bound to be rudimentary compared to a specialist.

It's hard to overstate just how much better someone in these arts is at applying these principles until you feel it, which is what it comes down to  principles- not techniques or collections of them. It would be like a Jujutsu practitioner trying to understand punching on a deeper level because their technqiues involve a couple of atemi setup strikes, and then "testing" atemi strikes with other Jujutsu people. Results are limited by the labratory conditions.

It's not just about resistance, it's also about knowing the principles behind joint locking, truly binding up someone's joint is different than making them uncomfortable so they move a little. When you get good at these techniques you can drop someone to the floor immediately upon applying them in a static environment. Without even discussing resistance or their real life viability, it is tough to really understand what these techniques do without reaching a level of technical proficiency in them that likely only comes from an art which specilazes in them (such as Udundi, Jujutsu, etc.)

It is the same with throws, some Karateka kind of know how to throw, but go train with a Judoka and your understanding of karate throws will be ten times what it was before you did. Principles transfer.

e wrote:
I would be very satisfied, if I had the opprtunity to play and work seriously with these techniques for a period - and then having to conclude (after an honest attempt and workthrough), that "it was just a mirage - a funny coincidense, did not work, does not have a place on this earth". But I will be **, if I have to conclude that, without having worked through them at all - solely on the unavailability of interested partners, and the oppinion of others.

These kinds of techniques do have a place - like I said, I think it's primarily for law enforcement personnel to subdue "semi compliant" opponents, though of course they can work here and there outside of that. I think trying to graft them onto a Karate template is a tough sell though, because it works against the basic design principles of Karate - especially if you have no expereince of working on these principles with a specialist, you have to somewhat grop around in the dark to even understand what's effective.

I learned basic wrist locks, arm presses etc. in Karate over the years and thought I understood them decently prior to training Jujutsu, they are an entirely different thing when you have them applied on you by someone who can really do them, i'm talking faceplant you almost immediately. Granted, this is static technique with no resistance, but if the static technique is not good enough to faceplant someone, then resistance is out of the question anyway, resistant training comes after fundamentals are in place.

I'm just saying, speaking from personal experience: it's gonna be a quixotic and confusing journey to explore this kind of technique in depth without stepping outside the Karate world a bit. Not trying to be a downer, just honest. Now, if your interest is mainly ..academic I get it, but if it is, then perhaps it's worth separating that from a quest for functional techniques?

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Kenneth,

I’ve read the post a couple of times and I’m struggling to follow it. This bit in particular is losing me:

Kenneth Poulsen wrote:
One of the most pressing questions I had was "How did Itosu Anko Sensei know about these techniques when he created the Heian katas - they are so different from other Traditional Okinawa Karate techniques, even different from the old (Tode/Tomai-di?) techniques from the katas the Heian/Pinan katas are build upon - and why are they not represented or shown in any other system active today?"

I’m not sure what the assumption that Itosu knew those methods is based on? You seem to have jumped to the “how” without establishing the “if”?

I could be missing something, but if you are assuming Itosu knew those methods based on the common label “tuite”, then you may need to rethink that. Tuite does not refer to a specific and traceable skill set, but it was a widely used generic term for many unrelated forms of grappling (“seizing hands”).

Kano (founder of judo) even refers to it when discussing why he settled on the name Judo. Kano tells us “tuite” was one of many widely terms used alongside “ju-jutsu”. We’d not ask how Kano knew of the inner workings of Motobu Udundi Ryu on the basis of using the term “tuite”, so I’m not sure why we are asking the same of Itosu?

“Tuite” was a generic term used throughout Japan and Okinawa to refer to the grappling component of many entirely unrelated systems. As I say, it does not refer to a specific methodology.

Therefore, the answer to your question is simply, Itosu learnt grappling methods (gripping, locking, throwing, etc) and grappling methods are in the Pinan kata (and the older kata they draw on i.e. Kushanku, Passai, Chinto). It’s nothing more complex than that.

Kenneth Poulsen wrote:
The aim of tuiti is to subdue an opponent without causing harm, in the spirit of royal benevolence.

Not all “tuite”. You’re taking one use of the term and applying it to all other uses. As I say, it was a widely used generic term for grappling. Itosu (and Kano) are simply referring to generic grappling.

Kenneth Poulsen wrote:
I would suggest, that the Heian katas contain a series of these "simpler" Tuiti techniques than shown in the videos, based on a non-aggressive system, describing how a non-trained attacker/conflict can be handled without harming the attacker unnecessarily in the process.

Aside from the term “tuite” (and variant transliterations) do you have any evidence for a link between Itosu and the methods of Motobu Udundi Ryu? If that’s all the supposition is based on, then we can discount it.  

While the word “tuite” is now most commonly associated with karate, it was once widely used to refer to all forms of grappling. If Itosu saw Cumberland Wresting (wrestling from my part of the world) he would refer to it as “tuite”; same with BJJ, Judo, Greco-Roman Wrestling, Sombo, etc. That would not mean all of those systems also influenced by Motobu Udundi Ryu. Simply that all of them involve gripping.

As I say, unless I am missing something, you have taken two uses of a generic term and incorrectly assumed they are both referring to the same specific skill set.

All the best,

Iain

Les Bubka
Les Bubka's picture

Hi Kenneth

Try to get in touch with Mark Bishop who is a historian and does Motobu Udundi,

he is an author of few books on subject heres one of his clips from youtube

Kind regards

Les

Kenneth Poulsen
Kenneth Poulsen's picture

Hi Les,

Thanks - I will try and reach him.

I would love to know more about their Husband and Whife Kamae (me-oto-de), which describes the arm-position, if it is also used in the Mobotu Udundi Tuiti "soft" techniques (seems like it is only Jodan they are walking their opponent in like in the Dances, and not Chudan as it seems to be the case in the Heian katas).

Kind regards

Kenneth

 

Mark Powell
Mark Powell's picture

Hi Kenneth,

Its neither Motobu Udundi or the Heian kata but I think you might find this of interest: It's an online workshop on naihanchi kata. The style is Oyata te which is one of the groups that evolved from the Ryuku kempo taught by Taika Seiyu Oyata a style which emphasises Kyusho Jutsu, Tuite Jutsu and Atemi Jutsu. The workshop teaches their basic Naihanchi, a "secret" advanced form of Naihanchi and some application's which I think are the sort of thing you're looking for.

https://youtu.be/exWCFBrU9D8

I recommend following along and doing the whole workshop because it is interesting but for those who don't have an hour and a half to spare he starts teaching the advanced Naihanchi at 33:56 he demonstrates it complete at 1:01:42 and there are examples of his style of bunkai starting at 39:18, 51:40 and 1:03:54.

Regards,