Friday, August 1, 2014

Ruuchuu Buji

The kanji in the picture below are pronounced "Ruuchuu Buji" in Uchinaaguchi or "Ryukyu Bugei" in Japanese. The word Ruuchuu (Ryukyu) is used instead of Uchinaa / Okinawa as a nod to the Ryukyu Kingdom (Ruuchuu Kuku / Ryukyu Okuku), which existed until the late 19th century, and to show respect to the entire Ryukyu archipelago and its culture. The term "buji" (bugei) is the old Okinawan term for martial arts. Unlike budo, the word buji (bugei) has the connotation of pre-Meiji martial traditions focused primarily on a practical approach to functional fighting skills. The goal of the this of blog is to increase awareness of old-style practical Okinawan martial arts (Ruuchuu Buji as opposed to shinbudo karatedo) and to encourage their practice and preservation.

© 2014 Ryan Parker (all rights reserved)
The picture shows a fist formation called Keikoken and is a type of foreknuckle strike. The thumb is used to properly brace the joints of the index finger allowing it to support/transmit a large amount of force. It is used to attack anatomically vulnerable areas of the body. The art of attacking especially weak anatomical structures is a sub-science of old Ruuchuu Buji called "chibudi" (tsubo-te). Interestingly, this fist formation was also used in old systems of health oriented massage which typically focused on a number of the same anatomical locations (chibu/tsubo).

The fist is superimposed over the Mon (family emblem) of the Ryukyu Monarch, which is now widely used as a symbol for Okinawa and the Ryukyu archipelago. Sometimes called the Hidari-Gomon or a Hidari Mistudomoe, it was a symbol of Hachiman (a war deity) the tutelary kami of the Minamoto clan. According to The Chuzan Seikan, the first official history of the Ryukyu Kingdom, the Minamoto clan gave rise to the first Ryukyu dynasty via king Shunten, the son of Minamoto no Tametomo.

Minamoto and Taira refugees from the Genpei-gassen introduced sophisticated weapons, martial arts, and military strategies to Okinawa in the 12th century. This event marks the beginning of martial arts and traditions in Okinawa. Traces of these very ancient martial traditions seem to still exist in Okinawan martial culture in the form of tuidi,  the weapons arts preserved in some Okinawan family traditions and Udundi, folk dances with weapons,  as well as various old plays about events in Okinawan history.

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