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Yoku aru Shitsumon (FAQ) − Frequently Asked Questions

Written by Jimmy Mora

A list of frequently asked questions about Shinjinbukan, Karate and Martial Arts in general. 

Martial Arts in General

Karate History

Basic Facts About Shinjinbukan

Shinjinbukan Training

Shinjinbukan Philosophy

Shinjinbukan Administrative Information



Martial Arts in General

What are Martial Arts?

Martial Arts are systematic training methods & traditions developed originally for combat.  Martial Arts are commonly associated with Asian culture & philosophy.  However, martial arts development is not exclusive to Asia, to any religion or philosophy.

How did Martial Arts originate?

There are no direct historical records about its development.  Most of what we know comes from indirect sources, but here are a few facts: Martial arts literally mean “military arts”.  From ancient times, civilizations developed fighting techniques, which included both armed & unarmed combat.  Ancient fighting arts were not exclusive to Asian cultures.  They developed through every civilization from Ancient Greece to Rome, Egypt, Africa, India, European Knights, American Indians and Asia.

How did Asian Martial Arts develop and become popular?

Since the middle ages, as warfare technology developed, most unarmed fighting arts became less relevant.  But in the Far East, fighting arts (Jutsu) developed into Martial Arts (Budō), which were passed down secretly for centuries.  From the mid 1800’s, Asian nations were exposed to western powers, resulting in social changes, trade, political unrest and eventually wars.  Out of these cultural clashes, Martial Arts became known worldwide through articles, fiction, movies, sport competitions and pop culture.

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How many types of Asian Martial Arts exist?

Nobody really knows, but there could be several hundreds or more.  In general, Martial Arts could be classified by:
country/ region (Chinese, Japanese, Okinawan, Korean, Thai, etc); with or without weapons; traditional or sports oriented.

How to choose a Martial Art?

People have many reasons for studying martial arts: sports & fitness, mental discipline, self-defense, combat skills, personal development, meditation, spiritual awakening, or all of the above.  Each Martial art has a unique culture, history, philosophy, goals and training methods.  And these ideas or styles could be in complete opposition to each other. So, you should ask yourself: What do I want out of martial arts?

How about mixed Martial Arts?  Isn’t it better to practice & study as many styles as possible?

The simple answer is not good to be a “jack of all trades & master of none”.  Indeed, there are benefits to cross training, but first, one must work the basics.  It is better to be really good with one or two techniques, rather than be really bad at 20 techniques.  Also, some arts are in direct opposition to each other, such as fighting standing/moving against grappling/rolling on the ground.

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Karate History

What is Karate?

Karate is a Martial Art, which originated in Okinawa, Japan, hundreds of years ago and then it spread to mainland Japan and to the rest of the world.  Nowadays, there are many types of Karate: Okinawan Karate, Japanese Karate, Korean Karate, Olympic sports Karate, free-style Karate, etc…

What are the characteristics of Karate?

As a martial art, Karate is based on hand/foot strikes & body movement techniques.  Karate also has many types of grips, arm locks and throws, but it does not include fighting on the ground.

Where did so many Karate styles come from?

Most Karate styles around the world can trace their origins back to Shōrin Ryū in Okinawa.

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Where is Okinawa?

Okinawa is an island south of mainland Japan, halfway between Kyushu & Taiwan.  Formerly known as the Ryūkyū Kingdom until it was annexed to Japan in 1879.

What are the differences between Okinawan and Japanese Karate?

Okinawan Karate was first introduced to mainland Japan in 1917.  This also became their departure point.  The cultural & technical differences between them influenced their development in entirely different directions.  Nowadays, there are hundreds of styles of Karate in Okinawa & mainland Japan.

What is the oldest style of Karate?

The oldest style of Karate in the world is Shōrin Ryū.

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What are the main styles of Okinawan Karate?

Shōrin Ryū, with three main lineages: Kobayashi Ryū, Shōrinji Ryū and Matsubayashi Ryū
Gōjū Ryū
Uechi Ryū

What is Tode or Todi?

In Okinawa, the word Tode (Tōdi) was used instead of Karate for many years until the Meiji Period (1868-1912), the Okinawans were “compelled” to adopt a more Japanese name and to depart from using a name associated to Chinese culture.

What is Ti or Te?

Ti is the ancient Okinawan Martial Art, which existed hundreds of years before Karate.  Traditional Karate originated from Ti.  Hence, Ti is the true karate, but most Karate styles are not Ti.  It is also known as Te in most western sources.

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What is Shuri Te or Shuri Ti?

This is a generic name used around the late 19th century by Shōrin Ryū schools from Shuri, Okinawa.  Some authors claim Shuri Te (Shuri Ti) is a style of Te (Ti), but this is not correct.  There are no styles in Ti.

What is Naha Te or Naha Ti?

This is a generic name for Karate schools from Naha, Okinawa, around the late 19th century.  They were later known as Gojo Ryu.  Some authors claim Naha Te (Naha Ti) is a style of Te (Ti), but this is not correct.  There are no styles in Ti.

What is Tomari Te or Tomari Ti?

This is a generic name for some Karate schools around the late 19th century, which were popular in the northern city of Tomari, Okinawa.  No modern Karate style derived directly from Tomari Te (Tomari Ti).  Some authors claim Tomari Te (Tomari Ti) is a style of Te (Ti), but this is not correct.  There are no styles in Ti.

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Basic Facts About Shinjinbukan

What is the name of your school?

The name of our school is Shinjinbukan.

Who is the founder of Shinjinbukan?

Shinjinbukan was founded by Onaga Yoshimitsu Kaichō.

What Karate style do you teach and practice?

Our style is called Shōrin Ryū (There are several families or lineages of Shōrin Ryū).

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What is your Shōrin Ryū lineage?

Our Shōrin Ryū lineage was founded by Chibana Chōshin Sensei.  Hence, it is referred as Chibana Ha.  And it is also known as Kobayashi Ryū, because Chibana Sensei named his lineage using the characters 小林流, which could be pronounced either Shōrin Ryū or Kobayashi Ryū.  In addition, other schools write Shōrin Ryū with different characters, which helps distinguish in between different lineages.  In conclusion, our Shōrin Ryū lineage was started by Chibana Chōshin Sensei, then continued by Higa Yūchoku Sensei, and currently carried by Onaga Yoshimitsu Kaichō.

Are there other Shōrin Ryū (Kobayashi Ryū) Schools in Okinawa?

There are several schools in Okinawa, which are part of the Chibana Sensei family tree.  This lineage remains one of the most rare types of Shōrin Ryū. 

What is the difference between Shinjinbukan and other Shōrin Ryū Schools?

Onaga Sensei is one of the last Masters able to teach and demonstrate Ti, which is the foundation of the Shinjinbukan System.

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Where is the Shinjinbukan Honbu Dōjō (main school) located?

It is located in Naha City, Okinawa, Japan.

Is the Shinjinbukan headquarters in Okinawa open to visitors?

In general, people are welcome.  However, it is not polite to show up unannounced without making prior arrangements.

What is Shinjinbukai?

Shinjinbukai are the Affiliates of the Shinjinbukan International Association, which are divided in two categories:
1 - Martial Arts Instructors from different styles who train with Shinjinbukan in order to learn Ti and incorporate it into their respective arts.  They are not representatives of the Shinjinbukan School, nor do they wear our crest.
2 - Martial Artists Instructors from different styles who wish to become part of Shinjinbukan are required to join Shinjinbukai and train for at least two years before becoming official members.

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Shinjinbukan Training

What are the basics training elements of the Shinjinbukan School?

Our training is targeted at the three basic elements of our Karate: Tsuki (hand strike), Keri (foot strike) & Tenshin (body movement or displacement).

What do you mean by Tsuki?  Is that a punch?

No, not at all!!  A Tsuki is not a punch.  For a sports oriented “martial artist”, a hand strike is just a punch.  And a punch is just a fast push.  For a Tichikayā (Ti practitioner), a Tsuki is a deadly hand technique that strikes through the target.  Nowadays, the majority of martial artists just punch.  Most people don’t know the difference, because it takes 10 to 15 years of training to develop an effective tsuki.

What do you mean by Keri?  Is that a kick?

A Keri is not a kick.  For a sports oriented “martial artist”, a foot strike is just a kick.  For a Tichikayā (Ti practitioner), a keri is a foot strike with a completely different body mechanic.

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What do you mean by Tenshin?  Is that some kind of footwork or a bouncing movement?

Tenshin is how our body movement from one point to another.  In our School, our head and body don’t bounce up and down as we move.  Instead we flow through the floor maintaining balance at all times.  Our body displacement is a glide using momentum, acceleration, proper body alignment and connecting all the dots between the stances.  We avoid using the typical erratic & robotic body movements of Sports Karate.

What is Uke (block)?

In Ti, there are no Uke (blocks).  Any position that looks like an Uke is part of a Tsuki, Keri or Tenshin technique.  Practicing blocks is only done as an exercise.  A block by itself is just an incomplete half.  What is the other half?

Do you use Kiai or any other sounds when you apply a technique?

Most martial artists don’t have a clear understanding of why they use kiai (yelling).  In the Shinjinbukan School, we do not use Kiai, nor unnatural sounds, nor distorted face expressions, nor exaggerated breathing during any technique.  The only exception is to demonstrate the proper techniques, timing and duration of exhalation and inhalation.  And later, all external sounds are dropped all together. 

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What are your most typical training drills or exercises?

We have many types of drills, but here are few: makiwara, sagi makiwara, chishi, kakie & iri kumi.

What is a Machiwara (Makiwara)? Why is it important?

The Machiwara or Makiwara is a flexible wooden pole bolted to the floor, which used for hand striking techniques.  It is unique to Okinawan Martial Arts.  Most people think makiwara training is about brutal force or producing hard knuckles.  On the contrary, it is a highly technical art, which could only be learned from a qualified teacher in order to understand its effectiveness, body mechanics and usage and to avoid serious injuries. 

What is sagi makiwara?  Why is it important?

The Sagi Machiwara or Sagi Makiwara is a hanging makiwara, made of a piece of a three log, which is wrapped by a rope or leather in the middle.  It provides a unique training experience, because of the swinging effect that acts as a pendulum.  This requires the user to study the use of attacks & counter attack in order to master the sagi makiwara.

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What is Chīshi?  Why is it important?

The Chīshi is a one-sided weight with a wooden handle, which is used to target the joints, stabilizing muscles and to develop the muscle memory required in Ti.  It is very different to normal weights, which target bigger muscles.  Chīshi works better with 5, 10 and 15 lbs.  Any use of 30, 40 or 50 lbs chishi is a complete misunderstanding of its purpose.

What is Kakie?

At the Shinjinbukan School, Kakie is a partner training technique, which utilizes circular hand motions while maintaining arm contact and the wrist "hooks" into the opponent.  Therefore, by learning to feel the opponent’s arm movement (pushing or pulling), an endless number of close combat techniques and counter techniques are possible.

What is Iri Kumi?

Iri Kumi means to enter into the opponent’s inner space in order to attack the vital points.

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Do you do any kumite or sparring?

The Shinjinbukan School does not focus on sports kumite or sparring, because we consider it an unrealistic application.  From our perspective, combat techniques should be learned from integrating all aspects of the Shinjinbukan curriculum.

Why do you practice Katas (forms)?

Kata are very important to learn the shape of Karate.  The problem is that most schools do not integrate Kata with the rest of their training, because the body mechanics is used one-way for kata; and then completely different with sparring.  At the Shinjinbukan School, all aspects of training use the same body mecanics.

How long does it take to get a black belt?

The Sho Dan (1st degree black belt) is the beginning of a life long path of learning.  Every person progresses at different rates.  In practical terms, getting a black belt depends on how hard do you practice, both at the Dojo and also at home by yourself.

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Shinjinbukan Philosophy

What is the purpose Martial Arts training according to the Shinjinbukan School?

We seek to preserve and promote the Ryūkyū (Okinawan) Martial Arts culture and living traditions taught by Onaga Yoshimitsu Sensei at the Shinjinbukan School in Okinawa, Japan. 

Your training looks intense.  Do you advocate violence and/or fighting?

We don’t advocate violence.  The skills learned through our training were made for self-defense, rather than for street fighting.  Our first goal is to seek self-improvement through our training.  Our general rule of common sense is that if you are attacked or are in danger, but don't have any fighting skills, then you should avoid confrontation at all cost.  On the contrary, if you have great fighting skills and choose to fight, you may or may not defeat your opponent.  However, if you avoid hurting another person then you have won the fight.

What is the meaning of your crest?  It looks like a target.  Why?

The Shinjinbukan crest is not a target, but a perfect endless shape: a circle.  The outer circle represents the Martial Arts world; and the inner circle represents Shinjinbukan’s Ti separate from the rest.  Many cultures have iconic representations of infinity: the symbol in mathematics; or the expression "the Alpha & the Omega" in Theology.  In Zen calligraphy, the idea of infinity is expressed with the circle known as Enso.  (エンソウ   落款)

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What is the real meaning of the Dōjō Kun or Shinjinbukan’s Precepts?  If I want to practice your Karate, but don’t feel comfortable with any type of religion or Eastern philosophy, do I have to follow these ideas?

No, you don't have agree with any ideas or philosophy to just train your body.  However, in order to understand our teachings, you at least need to be familiar with our precepts.  The Dōjō Kun is a practical philosophical statement by Onaga Yoshimitsu Sensei, as the basis for his pursuit of Karate and Ti.  Why do we pursue this training?  The Dōjō Kun points towards a sense of purpose, like a compass pointing north.  Onaga Sensei comes from a Christian family, but he does not push his personal religious views on his students.  In fact, his students come from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, both religious & non- religious alike.  For more information: Dōjō Kun

My religion is ___________ and I like Martial Arts training very much, but do I have to be involved with any Eastern philosophy or any other spiritual, mystical practices?

It is not correct to stereotype all martial arts into one type of Eastern Philosophy.  There are many types of martial arts with very different philosophical concepts and objectives.  Furthermore, the Shinjinbukan School has neither a shrine nor an altar at the front of the Dōjō, like other schools.

I don’t like bowing.  It looks like some sort of servant or even idolatry.  Why do you bow?

First of all, in Asian culture it is normal to bow as a sign of respect or gratitude.  In the Shinjinbukan School, bowing is also done for your own peace of mind at the beginning or end of training.  In many ancient traditions throughout the world bowing was not a sign of worshiping, but a sign of reverence.  This is the case, even among monotheistic religions, like Judaism, Christianity or Islam.  From our modern perspective, a very strict religious person could interpret that all Martial Arts bowing as a form of idolatry; and for an "open mided" humanists it could be a useless tradition.  But both of these perspectives are complete misunderstandings of the culture and the deep spiritual value of Martial Arts.

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Shinjinbukan Administrative Information

I have practiced several martial arts for many years.  How do I join Shinjinbukan?

Our techniques and concepts are quite unique and difficult to grasp.  First, you should try it out and evaluate if our training is suitable for you, as well as if you are a suitable student of the Shinjinbukan School.

If I don't want to change styles, could I still join the Shinjinbukan organization?

Yes, we welcome all martial artists who want to cross-train and learn some of our methods.  In such cases, we offer them the opportunity to become a Shinjinbukai Affiliate Member

How much does it cost to join the Shinjinbukan School in New York?

The Shinjinbukan Branch in New York requires a screening process, interview and trial period for new students.  Our fees WILL NOT be discussed over the phone, but only during the interview process.  Only suitable candidates will be admited into the school permanently.  In general, all Shinjinbukan Schools have a teaching philosophy, which is opposite to the way a gym or sports club operates.  A Karate Sensei (teacher) is not a personal trainer.  Our art is not for sale, but it is passed down from teacher to student over a long period of time.

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I have been teaching Karate for many years, how do I join Shinjinbukan?

To master Onaga Sensei’s Ti could take a life-time.  Therefore, the main goal is to learn the Shinjinbukan System as an ongoing long-term process.  All martial arts instructors wishing to pursue Shinjinbukan Karate exclusively are required to become Shinjinbukai Affiliate Members for a minimum of three years, while training under an approved Shinjinbukan instructor. 

Would the Shinjinbukan organization accept my prior Yūdansha ranking (Black Belt)?

All Yūdansha ranks of Shinjinbukai Affiliates will be respected.  For those wishing to join Shinjinbukan permanently, they are required to pass all the Yudansha grading requirements.  As a result, high-ranking Yudansha would most likely transfer from Shinjinbukai to Shinjinbukan at a lower rank.

How do I find a Shinjinbukan instructor near my home?

There are very few Shinjinbukan Schools in the world.  We prefer quality rather than quantity.  For a list of Shinjinbukan members, please visit our Shibu Dōjō Directory

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Shibu Chō: Jimmy Mora, Renshi, Roku Dan (6th Dan) ∙ © 2016 Shinjinbukan Foundation - The International Portal of the Shinjinbukan Foundation. は、神人武館財団により無料で提供されております。このサイトの立場は、私個人では翁長良光会長のご指導について表現するものと理解しております。したがって、会長に代わって何かを主張するものではありません。もうひとつ、弟子の一人として是非付け加えたいですが、会長の人生や口述での伝統について掲載したいと望んでおります。ジミー・モラ is a free resource sponsored by the Shinjinbukan Foundation. The statements on this site represent my own personal understanding of Onaga Yoshimitsu Kaichō's teachings. Therefore, I do not claim to speak on his behalf. As one more of his students, I am eager to share his living and oral traditions. Jimmy Mora is a free resource sponsored by the Shinjinbukan Foundation to share Onaga Yoshimitsu Kaichō's Ti: a living and oral tradition.