Resource: Ryukyu Bugei

Header banner from Copyright Andreas Quast.

Yiftach Raphael Govreen (PhD candidate, Hebrew University) was kind enough to introduce me today to the website of Andreas Quast, Quast is a Dusseldorf-based martial artist with some 20+ years of experience, and has now published three books (at least) on topics relating to Okinawan martial arts.

His blog, which extends back to 2011, contains extensive information on the history of Ryukyuan martial arts, based on extensive textual research in original Japanese and Ryukyuan documents, scholarship, interviews, and the like. He introduces countless examples of photos, documents, and sites in Okinawa related to key figures and events in karate history, as well as touching upon, at times, other aspects of the political and military history of the Ryukyu Kingdom, beyond martial arts, as well.

Some representative posts include:

*A photo of the 1996 Certificate of Appointment of Nagamine Shōshin as a consultant of the Okinawa Shōrin-ryū Karatedō Ryūbukan Headquarter dōjō, and another, similarly, a photo of figures at Yanagita Kunio’s “Southern Islands Discourse Meeting” in 1927, which includes such men as Ifa Fuyu (father of Okinawan Studies), Funakoshi Gichin (father of modern karate), Kinjō Chōei, Shimabukuro Genshichi, and Yanagita himself, all prominent figures in the origins of the modern academic field of Okinawan Studies.

*a lineage overview of the Genealogy of the Princely Shō-clan (House Motonaga), one of a series of posts on Ryukyuan aristocratic genealogies.

*A post on Shūshi no Kun – one of a series of posts on individual karate kata.

*A post on “How tradition really works”, one of a number of posts by Quast considering historiographical issues, issues of authenticity, and the like. Which versions, or lineages, of karate have survived and become the “mainstream” lines, and why? How authentic are they to teachings or practices in the time of the Kingdom? And what do we mean by “authentic” anyway? – a topic with resonance not only for martial arts, but for dance, theater, and all “traditional” arts.

*A post on The Department of Justice (Hirajo) of the Ryukyu Royal Government, one of a number of posts on aspects of Ryukyuan political structures, historical events, or the like, in which Quast unpacks more “mainstream” (i.e. not solely martial arts related) topics about Ryukyu sadly not discussed in such detail anywhere else in English-language scholarship, and touches upon martial arts aspects of these. For anyone working on the history of the Ryukyu Kingdom, as I am, I think these posts are of particular value.

*Nakahara Zenshu: Character and Weapons of the Ryukyu Kingdom (4) – one of a whole series of posts translating, summarizing, or synthesizing Japanese-language scholarship on Ryukyuan history subjects. Some of these rely on works by some of the founders of the modern academic field, giants like Nakahara Zenshū ([sic] Zenchū?), while others are translations of more recent materials.

For anyone interested in the history of karate in Okinawa, I think this could be a really fun blog to explore. For those of us doing academic research on other aspects of the Ryukyu Kingdom, too, there’s a lot of really good information in here as well (albeit not always as well-cited as I might like).

About Travis

I am a scholar of Japanese & Okinawan history with a particular interest in the history of arts and culture, and inter-Asia interactions, in the early modern period. I have been fortunate to enjoy the opportunity to live in Okinawa for six months in 2016-17, and in mainland Japan on multiple occasions, including from Sept 2019 to now.
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