The Wisdom of Nakasone Seiyu

As I edit Mabuni and Nakasone’s “An Introduction to Karate-do” I need to take breaks from time to time as I get myopic looking at it. When that happens I turn my focus to other projects that I am translating and today I thought I would share a page from “Twenty Years of Okinawa Gohakukai Karatedo” published in 1984 by Tokashiki Iken. In it are two chapters on the lives Tokashiki’s two teachers, Fukuchi Seiko (Goju-ryu) and Nakasone Seiyu (Tomarite). Below is a short recollection by Nakamoto Seiko (Moriyasu) (the late vice-president of Gohakukai).

Enjoy

—–

This is a tribute to my many visits with him [Nakasone]. These are his “last teachings,” which I collected between April 5th and August 10th, 1982, when I visited him at Katsuren Seniors’ Hospital. During our visits, I asked him many questions about Karate, and I would like to share a few of his teachings that left an impression on me. 

  • I asked Nakasone sensei if the Rinkan was the last kata of Tomarite, a kata that no one else knows. Nakasone Sensei said that he could not say what the last Tomarite kata was or what was the best kata. In his explanation, he said that it depends on the person teaching it. I asked him again. “So, there is no last kata in Tomarite? In Goju-ryu, they say that Pechurin is the last kata.” Nakasone Sensei replied, “In Goju-ryu, I don’t know if that’s what they say, but there is no last kata. To train in Karate means to make use of one’s attributes. Whether it’s hands or feet, you must be able to move freely and make those techniques yours. The last kata, in my opinion, is a state of mind. In Karate, any kata is nothing but training and hardship. Pechurin is commonly called Suparempei, but in that kata, too, it all comes down to training. The ultimate goal of Karate-do is harmony. It is to use your techniques to avoid conflict with others. Karate is all about mental and physical discipline.
  • Rather than practicing alone, you should practice ippon-tsuki with a partner (single punches), etc.
  • There are no blocks in fighting (kumite). You must twist your koshi to avoid the opponent’s attack. It’s easy to say, but it’s not easy to do.
  • Those who aspire to martial arts must have the right mindset. Speak directly, but do not talk too much. A martial artist should not be arrogant. 
  • In a real fight, you should always keep your hands up and in front of you no matter what happens. Do not pull them back or just hold them there. This is so your techniques can reach your opponent faster. 
  • It is not well known that Shurite also has Sanchin kata, but Shurite doesn’t use clenched fists. One of its characteristics is to keep the hands open. You must use strength and flexibility in Sanchin. There is also the kata Haufa (Happoren 八歩連). (Note: Sanchin, like the other kaishu (higher level) kata, must be done so that you can quickly move at any time).
  • A martial artist needs to develop as a person. 
  • It is up to you to decide if something is worth doing or not. 
  • Who has it more difficult? I don’t know. 
  • The most important thing is to stick to the correct kata. It must be handed down to future generations. 
  • If you make your students go beyond their limits, you may scare them away, and you could even damage their health. 
  • Everyone should work hard at their job. If you neglect your work and devote yourself only to the practice of Karate, it will result in suffering. Some masters became poor and sold their homes because of their devotion to Karate. Nowadays, you must balance your family with Karate so that you can have a good life. That’s all I’m trying to say. Karate is a way of developing people if you ask me. It’s training to make a responsible member of society. This is the only thing I focus on now. I don’t want to make money from Karate.
  • Building character is important. Being strong or weak in a fight is meaningless.
  • The lessons of Nakasone sensei are many, but here is one lesson about walking down the street. He said, “When you go around a corner on the road, you shouldn’t go around quickly but take a wide turn because anyone could be waiting for you.” He also said, “When walking down the street, always walk downwind and not upwind, so you don’t get blinded by ash or something thrown at you.” Nakasone practiced these throughout his life.

Sensei was born in Tomari, Naha City, on January 15, 1893, and devoted 78 years of his life, from 12 to 90, to the study and teaching of Karate. He was said to be the last warrior of this century and was also known as Nakasone Kākā. He passed away on April 20, 1983, at the age of 90, unable to overcome the advancing tide of age.