The name of the main art that the Kodawari Hombu Dojo teaches is Ryusei-ha Ryukyu Kempo Karate-jutsu (龍精派琉球拳法唐手 術). There is quite a bit in this name that is being implied and, hopefully, communicated. On this page we will break it all down as best we can. Questions are always welcome.
Ryusei-ha Ryukyu Kempo Karate-jutsu is an Okinawan based art that has a very heavy influence from the combative arts of China. The naming that we use for what is taught is clearly identified as “our version” of the art.
The usage of “Ryusei-ha” identifies this. The kanji “ryu” (流) means dragon. The dragon in Oriental culture symbolize great power, good luck and strength. It is also a type of personal “totem” for those of us associated with the Kodawari Dojo. The kanji “星” is translated as spirit. When combined with the prior character, we get “dragon spirit” or “spirit of the dragon” and in using the term for spirit, we get an implied nod to qi (chi/ki/prana, etc. 気). This is important to those of us at the Kodawari Hombu Dojo as a great emphasis is placed on the almost totally missing aspect of kiko or qigong (気功) in the currently taught Okinawan combative or martial arts (more on that in later articles). Lastly, the use of “ha” (派). This kanji translates to something along the lines of school, sect, faction or version [of].
In total, this identifies us as the “dragon spirit school” of Ryukyu Kempo. We do this very specifically to identify the main art taught by the Kodawari Hombu Dojo as being a separate and/or different version of Ryukyu Kempo.
The use of the term “Ryukyu Kempo” (琉球拳法) is where our name begins to integrate the Chinese influence. Nowadays, Okinawa is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Prior to 1879, Okinawa was an independent and influential country called Ryukyu. This is the Japanese pronunciation and comes, historically, from the Chinese (Liúqiú – glazed horn-dragon – 琉虬 and 流求). We use this term to specify the nationality or origin or the main art that we teach…Okinawa.
Kempo (拳法) or, alternatively kenpo, is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese quanfa or chuan fa. This term is often translated as “boxing”, but “fighting technique” is a bit of a better translation since the word boxing has a very specific, and in this case, incorrect association in the Western mind. So, when put together, we get “Okinawan fighting technique”. Please note that below we have more information on the term “Ryukyu Kempo” with regards to the origin.
A very important note here is to make it clear how the use of the term “Ryukyu Kempo” is very non-art specific or generic. Okinawan martial arts are generally divided into three (3) main categories. Those are Naha-te, Shuri-te and Tomari-te. These are all based around the regions of Okinawa in which the arts were taught and/or developed. It was from those arts that the more recognizable schools we have today (Goju-ryu, Shorin-ryu, etc.) come from. Within the Ryukyu Kempo that the Kodawari Dojo teaches, you will find elements of all of those schools (ryuha – 流派). There are no specific stylistic affiliations implied or claimed.
Lastly, we have “karate-jutsu” (唐手術). This probably the most important aspect of the name of the main art taught by the Kodawari Hombu Dojo. In most places nowadays, you will see karate written in kanji as 空手 or empty hand. Originally, it was written as 唐手 or China hand. More specifically it refers to the Tang dynasty of China. Prior to 1936, the martial arts taught in Okinawa were heavily influenced by Chinese based martial arts (combined with the local Okinawan developed arts) and was known as Toudi (also written Tode, Tuidi, Tote, etc.). On October 25, 1936, a number of Okinawan martial arts masters and representatives met and they decided several things (this included Chomo Hanashiro, Kyan Chotoku, Choki Motobu, Chojun Miyagi, Juhatsu Kyoda, Choshin Chibana, Shimpan Gusukuma, Chotei Oroku and Genwa Nakasone). The most important thing pertaining to this topic was to change the name of the art from 唐手 or “China Hand” to 空手 or “Empty Hand”. It is important to note that at this point in history, the Japanese were very much at odds with China and wide acceptance of an art that specifically refers to China is NOT something that is going to gain wide acceptance and favorability in Japan and would limit the acceptance of the art in society as a whole and specifically in the educational system. Since both characters 唐 and 空 are pronounced the same (“kara”), the change was made and the very specific Chinese influence and recognization was thus erased. The version of Ryukyu Kempo that the Kodawari Dojo teaches very much includes and is proud of the Chinese influence that was originally present.
One of the other major name related changes that these masters decided upon was the inclusion of the word “do” (道). This word is a suffix that means many things, including road, path, route and way. So, the full name accepted by these masters became “the way of the empty hand”. At this time, the classical life protection fighting arts of the feudal times was out of favor and those arts were changed from their fighting roots to arts that were used to pursue self-perfection and enlightenment. Examples of this are kenjutsu (the art of the sword) becoming kendo, jujutsu becoming judo, etc. Included with this in most cases is also the addition of the competitive aspects of the art being emphasized, replacing their more deadly and combative aspects. This is why the Kodawari Hombu Dojo utilizes the word “jutsu” (術) in our name as opposed to “do” (道). While that are many aspects to the teaching of our main art that can possibly lead to enlightenment and can be used as a tool for self-perfection and/or improvement, the main goal we have is the combative and life preserving aspect. If these secondary goals are achieved, then that is an additional benefit. But our art is very specifically NOT designed as a competition based sport or means of self-improvement.
While folks can argue whether or not there were parts of “karate” that were kept secret (meaning withheld from public consumption) or not (and that debate has been raging for decades now), the one thing that cannot be argued is whether or not “karate” has changed or not. And, to be very specific, what we are referring to here is “karate” on Okinawa prior to about 1900. At this time (prior to 1900), the Okinawan combative arts consisted of the following:
Tegumi (手組) grappling
Ti’gwa (手小) percussive impact or striking (an Okinawan term, think atemi – 当身)
Tuite (取手) seizing or grasping hand (sometimes referred to as Torite – 取り手)
Kata (型) per-arranged forms
Buki-gwa weapons (Okinawan terms, generally referring to what would be called kobudo – 古武道)