When the Japanese Made a Joke About 'Kara-Te': How ‘China Hand ' (唐手 - Tang Shou) Become ‘Empty Hand’ (空手 - Kong Shou)! (16.8.2022)
Author’s Note: My view is that the change of name from ‘Tang Hand’ to ‘Empty-Hand' was a blatant act of Japanese imperialist aggression and was intended to render an art full of ‘Chinese’ influence – into a fabricated state ‘emptiness’ - that is ‘empty’ of any and all Chinese influence! I am told that within the Japanese cultural milieu, this change (initiated by the Japanese Authorities in Okinawa) is considered ‘funny’ and an obvious ‘joke’ - even today! The problem is that whilst the Chinese people readily understand and know this to be the case – the Western (and other Asian and non-Chinese) people do not understand this situation and actively participate in this anti-China ‘joke’ by uncritically practicing ‘Japanese’ Karate-Do – even though it is clearly a martial art with deep Chinese historical, cultural and political roots! I am not suggesting a boycott of Karate-Do, far from it - I am encouraging the spread and utilisation of ALL Chinese cultural activities - but whilst doing this I am suggesting that all those millions of people who practice Karate-Do (空手道 - Kong Shou Dao) or the older ‘Karate-Jitsu’ (空手術 - Kong Shou Shu) - remember that these arts are ‘Chinese’ in historical and cultural origin and should be known as ‘Tang Hand Way’ (唐手道 - Tang Shou Dao) or ‘Tang Hand Art’ ((唐手術 - Tang Shou Shu), etc. With regards to the Chinese ideogram ‘手’ (shou3), it denotes an ‘open’ hand with the palm clearly showing and the fingers spread. This denotes four-fingers and thumb with various explanations associated with its structure. Sometimes, for instance, this ideogram is confused with the very similar ‘毛’ (mao2) which denotes the wing of a bird (and is used to refer to ‘fur’ or the ‘hair’ of an animal). However, ‘手’ (shou3) is comprised of the central particle ‘于’ (yu2) which can be interpreted as an ancient wind instrument (possibly held to the mouth by the hand to be ‘blown’). ‘于’ (yu2) is also viewed as a simplified version of ‘於’ (yu2) - which denotes an object, or a thing placed in a definite position (sometimes also used to refer to a ‘crow’ or black-feathered bird). This ideogram also suggests a ‘sudden’ interruption in proceedings! Added to ‘于’ (yu2) is the particle ‘一’ (yi1) which on its own represents the number ‘1’ (one) or ‘I’ in Roman numerals! Therefore, ‘手’ (shou3) represents a hand and palm with fingers spread which is both ‘open’ and in ‘motion’ - whilst being both ‘creative’ and ‘decisive’. It can be ‘closed’ if required or any part of it (such as a ‘palm’ or an ‘edge’) can be used to influence the environment in the martial context! The hand is only ‘open’ whilst in transit. The hand is ‘moving’ in a ‘fluid’ and ‘effective’ many whilst not being ‘limited’ to the ‘shape’ or ‘form’ it has to ‘assume’ or temporally ‘occupy’ whilst expressing a bewildering array of martial shapes, expressions and forms! To counter the supposed ‘humour’ of Japanese imperialism – I would confirm that ‘Kara-Te’ is ‘full’ (and not ‘empty’) of Chinese cultural inheritance! I would further add that I am in support of ‘loving’ the Japanese people – and ALL the peoples of the world who practice and spread the art of ‘Kara-Te’! ACW (16.8.2022)
Following the Meiji Restoration of 1868 – the Japanese Imperialist government embarked upon a rapid modernisation drive and an equally rapid expansion of Japanese political and cultural influence beyond its geographical borders! It is perhaps the greatest of ironies that Okinawa (Ryukyu) - an island nation politically and culturally associated with China for over a thousand years – possessed hundreds of highly trained martial artists (as well as thousands of amateur practitioners) - but did not possess a professional armed force dedicated to its own national defence! This is why the Japanese Imperial Army was able to land its forces unopposed in Okinawa in 1879 and the Japanese government was able to completely annex the island nation and separate and isolate its people from any and all Chinese cultural influence! The Japanese language replaced the Chinese language (and superseded the Okinawan dialect), and Japanese history replaced Chinese history. Despite these successes, however, the Japanese Authorities had to tread carefully as Qing Imperial China protested and threatened to send troops to the area – whilst the robust Okinawan people were more than capable of defending themselves against the over-zealous Japanese police and military!
Japanese Master Yoshitaka Inokuma (猪熊佳孝) Practices Shuri (首里) Ryu Karate-Do - and is 99 years old! As of 2019 He Has Been Practicing for 65 Years! He Lives in Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture, He Says He No Longer Wears a Gi (White Uniform) or a Coloured Belt. He is Currently an 8th Dan and Still Teaches Students! His Approach to Teaching Karate-Do Seems Very 'Chinese' in Essence!
According to conventual thinking, within the Okinawan dialect (which is a mixture of Chinese, Japanese and indigenous languages), the Chinese term ‘唐’ (Tang) used to refer to the Tang Dynasty and for centuries taken to mean the country of China – is pronounced ‘Kara’. The Japanese Authorities substituted the Chinese ‘唐’ (Tang-Kara) for the Kanji Japanese equivalent of ‘空’ (Kong-Kara). The name of the martial art appeared to stay the same on the surface – ‘Kara-Te' - but changed completely beneath the surface! This was an act of blatant imperialist domination on behalf of the Japanese themselves, and despite such people as Funakoshi Gichin playing along with it (pretending the change had something to do with the philosophy contained within the Buddhist Heart Sutra), its only purpose was the complete eradication of all Chinese cultural influence upon the island! This process saw ‘唐手’(Tang Shou – Kara Te) - or ‘China Open Hand Martial Art’ - become instead the Japanese art of ‘空手’ (Kong Shou – Kara-Te) or the ‘Empty Open Hand’ - despite these many martial systems often incorporating the extensive use of traditional martial arts weaponry! Despite this change, the problem the Japanese Authorities had was that very few of the prominent martial arts Masters on the island took any notice of the ‘new’ name and continued to teach their martial arts as being distinctly ‘Chinese’ in origin, nature and expression!
It was not until 1936 (the 11th year of the Showa era) that this matter was resolved. Japan had begun military hostilities in China during 1931 and was gearing-up for a more serious and widespread confrontation with China. To assist this process the Japanese government had been propagating extensive anti-China propaganda and informing the Japanese people not to associate themselves in anyway with Chinese culture. It did not take long for this negative attitude to infiltrate Okinawa and influence the martial arts community. In the Okinawan city of Naha, a symposium of many of the country’s leading martial artists was held to decide upon a distinctly ‘Japanese’ cultural expression for their respective martial arts. All the ‘Kara-Te’ Masters discussed this matter and unanimously decided to change the name of their martial art from ‘唐手’(Tang Shou – Kara Te) to ‘空手’ (Kong Shou – Kara-Te) - with each ‘denying’ or ‘rejecting’ any historical or cultural link with China! Despite Japan losing the Pacific War (1941-1945) it had started with the US, and the Second Sino-Japanese (1937-1945) it had started with China (Japan actually began hostilities in Manchuria during 1931) - the situation regarding ‘Kara-Te’ did not change. Indeed, the post-1945 US government facilitated the spread of ‘Kara-Te’ around the world as a means to eradicate and obscure all Chinese martial cultural influences throughout the West! Despite Japanese Imperialism killing millions throughout Asia during the 1930s and 1940s – the racially motivated change of ‘Chinese Hand’ to ‘Empty Hand’ was allowed to hold fast despite making no historical or logical sense whatsoever! This is even true amongst reasonably intelligent Westerners who would otherwise protest about any form of racism should they encounter it! Indeed, Okinawan people should throw-off the cloak of Japanese and US oppression and reclaim their martial arts as being ‘Chinese Hand’ - whilst remaining proud of this fact!
Chinese Language Source:
Although Britain used 'opium' grown in India as a means to unnaturally pollute the minds and bodies of the Chinese people (so that they could be more easily controlled by the European invaders), it is also true that traditional Chinese medicine has for centuries used 'opium' as a means to control psychological, emotional and physical pan. Indeed, for thousands of years 'opium' remained the ONLY naturally grown plant that could perform this task. Obviously, a doctor genuinely 'relieving' pain and thereby reducing the suffering of another human-being is very different from a European invading force within China that mis-used 'opium' to 'stupify' the minds and bodies of the already healthy masses so that they could not effectively organise a resistance to Western occupation and annexation of their country! The result of this despicable behaviour has been the literal demonisation of 'opium' when in fact when it is used in the right hands it is a very effective and legitimate medicine. Indeed, even modern Western medicine makes use of opium-derivatives in the production of the pain-killer 'morphine'.
Description of 'opium' pipe owned by Master Chan Tin Sang (1924-1993). The 'smell' and 'taste' of the last 'smoke' is still evident.
Bamboo stem (main-body) = dark brown in colour.
Copper bowl and lower stem (all one design) = Reddish-brown in colour.
Length of bamboo-stem plus copper-bowl = 19.75 Inches - 50.2 cm - 1 Foot 7.75 Inches - 0.502 Metres.
Length of bamboo-stem minus copper-bowl = 17 Inches - 43.18 - 1 foot 5 Inches - 0.43 Metres.
Copper-bowl Diameter = 1 inch - 2.5 cm
Design on lower stem situated on the copper-bowl consists of six individual dots arranged around a single central dot (forming a flower motif). Four Old Style Chinese Characters are arranged equidistance around this 'flower'. A single row of Chinese characters run in a straight-line down back of the short copper stem (immediately behind) the copper-bowl.
It is a peculiar reality that a number of Westerners practice Chinese martial arts to make money – whilst denigrating a) the Chinese people b) Chinese culture and c) the ‘right’ (both ‘moral’ and ‘legal’) of the Chinese people to decide to their own destiny and political system! As someone of Anglo-Chinese extraction (and who lives within the UK Chinese community), I have even witnessed Westerners travel to Mainland China to study at university or at a Gongfu College – only to return to the West with Certificates and Teaching Qualifications after having experienced a fully enjoyable and productive visit – only to continue to hold and express anti-China racist views when in the presence of their fellow Westerners! This also occurs after these individuals have experienced generous reductions in their flight and accommodation costs, reductions in their education fees and benefitting from ‘free’ student travel whilst living in China! Who pays for all this? Certainly not the Western countries from where these people originate – but rather the average Chinese–taxpayer through their hard-earned pay-cheques!
Through the agency of US anti-intellectualism, many lies are told about China in the West and this is why the average Westerner remains both ‘ignorant’ and ‘racist’. China is a ‘Socialist’ country – which means its form of democracy is much more inclusive, regular and empowering to the average Chinese citizen than its Western counter-part. The Chinese people are working hard to build a Socialist society. Throughout the 20th century, the Chinese people fought against the tyranny of Chinese feudalism, Japanese and Western imperialism – and they did this successfully through the auspices of the Communist Party of China CPC)! Chinese people were killed in their millions by the Chinese Imperial (Qing) Government (from 1644 until its overthrow in 1911), by the corrupt Western-backed ‘Nationalist Government’ (192-1949), the Western imperialists (for hundreds of years until 1949) and the Japanese Imperial Kwantung Army (destroyed by the Soviet Red Army in 1945). It is the CPC that has built a strong China out of these ruins and saved the Chinese people from further pain and suffering at the hands of others!
Through the Chinese ‘Socialist’ education system, it is the CPC which teaches that ALL foreigners should be treated with respect and financially assisted whilst visiting China! It is interesting, therefore, that on a website I help to administer regarding the practice of Chinese Ch’an Buddhism (which is flourishing within ‘Communist’ China) I receive the following communication affixed to the bottom of a blog post I made (this response has no relevance to the topic):
By: Howard Johnson (email@example.com) Commented On: Seated Transforma... Date Commented: 07/03/20 03:26PM
Howard Johnson said:
Some good information in this blog but why the promotion of communism ? You do realise that this murderous ideology is responsible at least 100 million deaths.
Commenter IP: 18.104.22.168
Interestingly, a reader can tell the far-right political affiliation of a Westerner who nevertheless presents himself as an authority upon ‘Xingyi’ and ‘Tongbei’ whilst expressing disinformed rhetoric that only appears upon right-wing websites and within fascistic literature! By way of contrast to this the above nonsense – as no one in Russia or China believe that any ‘mass’ killings occurred that were perpetuated by the CPC – a recent academic report in the US states that since 1945 to now (excluding WWII), the US military has killed or murdered between 20-30 million people around the world in defence of its own capitalist system!
Many of these murders were perpetuated within Asia and involved US capitalist soldiers killing Asians within Communist countries. Furthermore, during the US (capitalist) invasion of the USSR (1918-1921) - the US, UK, Germany and their (capitalist) allies killed hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of Russians who were fighting for Socialism! Eventually, the US military was defeated by the Soviet Red Army and was forced to retreat. Another academic report states that when European (capitalists) settled the America – by around 1610 some 60 million indigenous Indians had been cleared from their ancestral lands and murdered! If we add the killings associated with WWI and WWII we do, indeed, approach the figure of ‘100 million’ documented deaths – but all committed by representatives of the capitalist system – and often aimed at ‘Communists’ whilst NOT being committed by Communists! If United Nations (UN) records are checked - the average reader will discover the true extent of far-right, racist lying as contained in Howard Johnson’s supposed ‘factual comment – as absolutely NO official or reliable records exist that ‘prove’ that any massacres ever happened in any Communist country! This is the triumph of ‘fact’ over US ‘anti-intellectualism’!
US Military Murdered 20-30 Million Since 1945
European Colonisation of the Americas Killed 60 Million
WWI Deaths – 21 million (23 million Wounded)
WWII Deaths – 75 million Deaths
Russian Civil War Deaths – 10 million Deaths
In the West, Asian martial arts have been thoroughly commercialised and converted from a battlefield spiritual art – into a vehicle for making money. The instructors ‘sell’ their knowledge to classes of students – with an emphasis upon a very narrow definition of ‘self-defence’ (in the UK, many such teachers attempt to relate to their students by assuming they are in a pub on a Saturday night – and another drinker ‘starts looking at your bird’ and such other laughable narratives! In other words, the ancient martial arts of the East are taught to students in the contemporary West as a method to ‘defend’ themselves from attacks from other Westerners in a social (leisure) setting! Teachers of this type tend to cultivate a ‘cult of personality’ mentality throughout their school, which suggests that their art contains some sought of ‘mystical’ core that grants invincibility to each practitioner, and certain defeat to all those who are unlucky to confront it!
Ironically, I have been shown evidence of so-called ‘contracts’ signed by students when setting-up their monthly bank payments to the instructor. In the small print a disclaimer reads ‘The ‘student’ acknowledges that the movements taught are for guidance only, a may not be effective in any position of ‘self-defence’ - and that the instructor has no liability whatsoever for the well-being of the student.’ A lawyer-friend of mine advises that such contracts and ‘clauses’ are common-place nowadays in the martial arts scene which tends to target large classes of young children – where the training is sold to parents as ‘play’! The teachers do not care about the psychological, physical or spiritual well-being of their students, as the individuals concerned exist only to generate income and pay the bills.
In the expensive leisure centres, for example, the martial arts are sold as ego-trips for well-off and very rich! These people like to pretend that for the duration of the lessons they are legitimate martial arts fighters, when in reality the classes are designed around retaining their comfort levels in an air-conditioned room, with movements that do not go beyond a light cardiovascular workout. Each lesson is a self-contained episode as there is no guarantee that the ‘clients’ will be back next week! There is no continuation, but only the repeating of the myth of a deficient self-empowerment that occurs within one of the safest and crime-free environments on earth! The teacher must alter everything and change whatever the clients want changed to keep their attention levels up and to keep them coming back for more (whilst paying the ridiculous membership fees)!
Should a student progress in their martial arts practice and attend long enough for the teacher to take their presence seriously, he or she may well be considered suitable for participating in martial sports. This is a safe type of combat within which neither of the participants actually hit one another – but purposely throw-out their arms and legs to empty air in the direction of the opponent! He who throws enough such techniques is declared the ‘winner’ and the instructor’s school receives all the kudos for this success (hence the interest shown in the student by the teacher). Then there are the mixed martial artists who roll around on the floor in one-on-one bouts – each trying to ‘submit’ the other. In some versions, kicking and punching is also allowed during ‘stand-up’ periods to excite the fee-paying crowd! Although presented as the ‘best’ type of martial arts, modern militaries do not use this type of fighting simply because it does not work in reality (on the battlefield).
Legitimate Asian martial arts do exist. They exist in Asia and they exist in the West but they are well-hidden behind the thick blanket of highly commercialised martial arts. If a sincere student genuinely seeks-out a proper martial arts teacher, it is highly likely that they will be drawn into something very similar to what is described above. In fact, given the current conditions, such a scenario is virtually inevitable. In such a situation it is better to make the best of what is on offer in the outside whilst retaining you own inner freedom. It is a matter of bidding your time until you encounter what you are really looking for. Until that time, adaptability is the key to ongoing development. Understanding a situation does not mean that you have to be in conflict with it. It is better to remain quiet and meaning onto a situation and breathe new life into it. Traditional Chinese martial arts do exist, but they are difficult to find and even more difficult to enter!
Every genuine martial arts style or system contains a rich mosaic of principles and techniques that at the most brutal assist in the surviving of the combat experience, and at the most sublime provide a psychological and physical pathway of self-development and self-transcendence. The best styles of Okinawan and Japanese karate confirm to his blue-print, and I would say that Wado-Kai, Shukokai and Goju Ryu are prime examples of the best that this genre has to offer. All these styles (two Japanese; Wado-Kai and Shukokai – and one Okinawan; Goju Ryu) have their historical roots within Chinese martial arts which probably are linked to the Fujian province of Southern China. Indeed, Wado-Kai and Shukokai derive from the Okinawan karate of Master Gichin Funakoshi – the Okinawan martial artist accredited with transmitting his style of Chinese martial arts to Mainland Japan. I practiced these styles only as an accident of fate – they happened to be prevalent in the areas I lived in to pursue my education throughout the 1980s. No one at the time (not even my close friends) knew of my Hakka Chinese gongfu background. I saw no reason to explain this, an they saw my familiarity with certain techniques as me just being talented in these areas (I was viciously fast and very good with kicking and moving, as in the traditional Northern martial arts in China, a student perfects kicking first – whilst due to cultural differences in the West – it is punching that is perfected first with kicking usually appearing uncomfortable). On the other hand, as I entered my late teens, Master Chan Tin Sang (1924-1993) directed me to develop my punching to a very high degree. This is where Wado-Kai (correct alignment) and Shukokai (correct hip and shoulder twist) assisted my development tremendously! Goju Ryu, on the other hand, has a special place in my heart. Its all-round body-conditioning reminded me of our own Hakka Chinese gongfu style which developed tremendous power, endurance and strength! The bones certainly hardened, whilst the mind became calm and broadly aware. Master Chan Tin Sang was an extraordinary teacher as he entrusted me to enter the training halls of other styles, dedicate myself to their ways, learn them fully and then integrate these lessons and skills into the Ch’an Dao System. This could happen as each karate style brought out a particular aspect of our own fighting system. I have the utmost respect for all legitimate styles of martial arts training and see no reason why there cannot be a positive cross-training that enhances rather than diminishes. As the US at the time was emphasising Japanese martial culture throughout the West as a means to side-line and obscure Chinese martial culture (due to the Cold War), European cuntries with no historical connection with Japan suddenly found themselves hosting (usually at their own expense) Japanese ‘ambassadors’ of various karate styles and associations. This arrangement all came crashing down when President Carter established full diplomatic relations with Mainland China in 1979, and Westerners started travelling en masse to China to train in gongfu – and Chinese teachers came to the West to teach – although the effects of this change would take around a decade to fully manifest itself. In the meantime, I trained in Japanese karate at the tail-end of this time period and consider it a very interesting and unique experience.
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.