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Onaga Yoshimitsu Kaichō: Tichikayā, Onaga no Ti, Iri Kumi, Kuruma Di, Kakie.

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手ちかやー - その手の中に「手」の知識を有する者

Tichikayā − A person who holds the knowledge of Ti in his hands

This is the second part of Onaga Yoshimitsu Kaichō’s biographical note. This article is based on my personal research and perspectives. It is not an official biographical note approved by Onaga Yoshimitsu Kaichō.    

Written by Jimmy Mora

Nowadays many Karateka are asking: What is Ti?
There are numerous articles and books that try to answer this question and others, such as: How to describe Ti?
What is the relationship between Ti and Karate?
In my opinion, these are futile questions that lead to meaningless answers.

A more accurate question would be: Who holds the knowledge of Ti? Or in this case: Who is Onaga Yoshimitsu Kaichō?
Onaga Kaichō is a Tichikayā: a person who holds the knowledge of Ti in his hands. Therefore, it is inaccurate to describe him as a Karateka or another Shōrin Ryū karate master.

Onaga Yoshimitsu Kaichō has devoted his life to practicing and further developing Ti (手). He was only seven-years-old when World War II ended. Practically every family in Okinawa lost someone in the war. Most of the casualties during the Battle of Okinawa were civilians, including many young Karate practitioners. After the war, very few Tichikayā survived, and those who did, such as Miyagi Chōjun Sensei, were not interested in sharing their knowledge of Ti.

After the war, Okinawa was not a safe place. As a teenager, Onaga Kaichō started learning Karate with a group of fighters who were interested neither in Karate as a sport, nor in testing for a black belt. Eventually, he found a famous Shōrin Ryū teacher and became his Uchi Deshi for 35 years, 20 of which were spent living in the Dōjō, training day and night.

During those 35 years, the knowledge of Ti was not handed down to him as “a tradition frozen in time”. Instead, he reached out, took this knowledge, and made it his. He was exposed to many techniques practiced in traditional Karate styles without improvement for several generations. He tested, re-engineered, and improved these concepts and techniques until he discovered the ones that were truly Ti.

During Onaga Kaichō’s youth, Karateka followed a path to define “Karate as Ryūha” (styles), which later turned into “Karate as sport”, away from Budō. Many old Karate masters passed down their knowledge as untouchable traditions, which nevertheless became watered down after several generations.

Meanwhile, Onaga Kaichō began the quest to grasp Ti, and he followed a process of evolution, which is self-evident in the Shinjinbukan curriculum. For example, when Onaga Kaichō was in his 30’s and 40’s, he had already developed the principles and the foundations for a more complex system of Gamaku (hip techniques), as well as a complete codified system of Tenshin.

These technical developments allowed the body to rotate freely on a vertical axis or seichūshin (body center axis), apply multiple types of Gamaku, and use Tenshin to multiply the force of a tsuki strike on the Machiwara.

Until 2000, these techniques were never demonstrated to large audiences, until Onaga Kaichō and Onaga Michiko Sensei were featured in a documentary about the three original Karate Ryūha (styles) from Okinawa. In 2007, another documentary was produced by NHK and viewed by an even bigger audience. In both documentaries we can clearly see how Onaga Michiko Sensei’s tsuki techniques allowed her body to rotate freely in a vertical axis, apply multiple types of Gamaku and use Tenshin with complete freedom.

Nowadays, via the Internet we can view photographs and video footage of many Okinawan Karate masters from the 1960’s, or even before World War II. It is quite evident how the majority of them lacked the ability to use Gamaku or Tenshin, or to move the body using a vertical axis or seichūshin.

On the other hand, any footage of Onaga Yoshimitsu Kaichō from the 1980’s and 90’s clearly shows someone who has already been using these principles of body mechanics for decades. He embodied these physical principles based on Ti, thus he was able to grasp Ti. Hence, the meaning of Tichikayā: “a person who holds the knowledge of Ti in his hands”.

Not one Karateka from Onaga Kaichō’s generation was able to move their body in the same way as he could since they were not Tichikayā. To illustrate this point, we could paraphrase Onaga Kaichō’s own words:

“If I sleep for a hundred years, when I wake up these other karateka will not pass me”.

When I first met Onaga Kaichō he was in his 50’s. I have seen him through his 60’s and 70’s constantly improve and further develop many details of his teachings. This might seem odd to traditionalists, but Onaga Kaichō believes Ti must remain in a constant state of evolution – e.g., techniques used to hold and control a Chīshi; or breathing techniques developed to allow a natural use of the body without the need to strain it or make it stiff; or use of shiboru to create a “water tight fist”.

Since 2009, Onaga Kaichō began to publish his teachings in a series of books. Many have described these books as the “Ryūkyū no Ti no Gorin No Sho” (The Book of Five Rings of Ryūkyū Ti).

Onaga Kaichō represents a quantum leap in the evolution of Okinawa Karate Dō and Ti. Men like him are only born every few hundred years. This is why the deshi at Shinjinbukan School always say: "My Karate is Onaga no Ti." 「我ったー空手は翁長の手ょー」

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Shinjinbukan.com 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

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