Ti Gwa

Ryukyu language, Vancouver, BC, Karate, Club, Goju, Mario McKenna

I’m no expert in Ryukyu languages and I may be completely wrong, but I find it a bit odd that Karateka refer to old Okinawa martial arts as ‘Ti Gwa’ (手小). This isn’t exactly correct as far as I can tell. ‘Ti’ of course refers to the old indigenous martial arts of the Ryukyu Kingdom, but ‘Ti Gwa’ doesn’t mean the same thing.


Instead, ‘Gwa’ (小) conveys respect and serves as a nickname or expression of familiarity. 
As  pointed out in the book ‘The Handbook of the Ryukyuan Languages: History, Structure, and Use’:

Another aspect where Ryukyuan differs from Japanese is the frequent use of diminutive suffixes. Every Ryukyuan dialect has a diminutive suffix, with forms including -kkwa in Amami Oshima, -gwa in Tokunoshima, -gwaa in Okinawa, -gama in Okinoerabu, Yoron and Miyako, -amam (from -gama) and -naa in the Yaeyama dialects, and -ti in the Yonaguni dialect. The usage of diminutive forms in the Naha and Shuri dialects is described by Nohara (1987) and Saito (2006). In these dialects the diminutive form expresses relative smallness or size or degree, relative significance, familiarity or endearment or deprecation. When used with a given name it can be expressing endearment or deprecation depending upon the speaker’s attitude towards the person.

(‘The Handbook of the Ryukyuan Languages: History, Structure, and Use’ , 2015, pp. 164. Edited by Patrick Heinrich, Shinsho Miyara, Michinori Shimoji).

So, simply put, it means a person who is skilled in ‘Ti’. Naturally this also included people who focused on weapons training such as the Bo and Sai. They also could be said to be ‘Ti Gwa’. Of course, as I said, I could be completely wrong.