My KishimotoDi Experience (Part 1–Intro and Principles)

Higa Seitoku

KishimotoDi is the name given by students at the Bugeikan to the system of Shuri-Te (Sui-Di, in the Okinawan dialect) that was passed down from Tode Sakugawa by Bushi Tachimura, who taught it to Kishimoto Soko, who taught it to Higa Seitoku, the founder of the Bugeikan. Although it shares a common ancestor with the systems we now call (Shorin-Ryu) “karate,” the system is quite unique. Those who have been studying karate for a while, and have researched its history, will recognize many of the concepts taught in KishimotoDi as ones written about by Okinawan masters in the early 1900’s. Over time, many of the features of those concepts fell by the wayside in most karate systems, as they slowly evolved into more of a sport/physical education/character development focus. This means that those of us who have been training in karate for a while have a LOT of habits and muscle memory to struggle against when learning KishimotoDi.

A segment of Tachimura no Naihanchi, featuring sinking and twisting

Some of the most obvious features of KishimotoDi are its sinking and twisting actions. These days, karateka are taught to drive their techniques with their hips. That method of generating power isn’t wrong, but it also isn’t what KishimotoDi does. Instead, they make use of a principle that Motobu Choki alluded to when he said “Twisting to the left or right in Naifunchin (Naihanchi) stance will give you the stance used in a real confrontation. Twisting ones way of thinking about Naifuanchin (Naihanchi) left and right, the various meanings in each movement of the kata will also become clear.” Instead of driving techniques with the hip, they twist their body at the waist, and use their core strength, body weight, and their attacker’s momentum to power their techniques. They also drop, both to avoid attacks and to perform certain applications.

The three primary fighting principles of KishimotoDi are “issun hazureru” (avoid by an inch), “kobo ittai” (attack and defense at the same time), and “taigi iichi” (body and technique simultaneously). The phrase, “avoid by an inch,” explains precisely how they move around an attack–if you move too much, you can’t reach the opponent to finish them, and if you don’t move enough, your attacker wins. When being attacked, they move just out of line enough to avoid the attack, and then enter in. Attacks are generally divided into four sections–inside-over, inside-under, outside-over, and outside-under. All KishimotoDi material that I have seen, so far, avoids the attack by moving to one of these areas. The phrase “attack and defense at the same time” refers to what they do once they have received an attack. By using both arms, or by using techniques that cut off their opponent’s movement, they are able to both defend against an attack and counter it at the same time. “Body and technique simultaneously” refers to their method of generating power–the sinking and twisting–and is a reminder that power comes from the body, not just the body part that is being utilized.

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About Noah

I began training in karate (Shuri-Ryu) in the Summer of 2006. Subsequently, I started training in judo, kobudo, and iaijutsu within the next 6 months. During my training there, I earned the rank of Sankyu (3rd Degree Brown Belt) in Shuri-Ryu, Gokyu (Green Belt) in judo, a certification in the use of the bo, and passed proficiency tests for the four tachigata of Shinkage-Ryu iaijutsu. I moved to Arizona in the Summer of 2008, and continued training and researching karate at home. I continued regular training in judo at a local club until 2010, when I was able to start training in Shorin-Ryu with Sensei Richard Poage. I have been training with him ever since, and currently hold the rank of Shodan (1st Degree Black Belt) in Shorin-Ryu under him. In addition, I began studying KishimotoDi under Sensei Ulf Karlsson in 2014.