O-Sensei Shoshin Nagamine Performs Yakusoku Kumite in 1983 Karate Illustrated Cover Story
A recent post came across my facebook feed that included some scans of an old Karate Illustrated magazine (November 1983) with O-Sensei Shoshin Nagamine on the cover. They ran a cover story about Shoshin Nagamine titled: The Story of the Founding Father of Matsubayashi-ryu Karate. In the article Shoshin Nagamine demonstrates Yakusoku Kumite.
The story was a quick and interesting read covering Nagamine’s background as well as brief stories about some of his karate teachers. It adds a little more insight into material that is in Shoshin Nagamine’s two books: The Essence of Okinawan Karate-do and Tales of Okinawa’s Great Masters.
Asked if there was anything he would stress for American martial artists, he said that they should never overlook the importance of kata training. “Kata is something you do and benefit from when you are too old to engage in kumite,” he stressed. “Also, there are three aspects to be concerned with in karate. First, how to build your spiritual and mental attitude. Second, how to develop technique. Third is building up the physical body. These three elements have to be balanced to have complete training.”Shoshin Nagamine – Karate Illustrated – 1983
What was most interesting to me however, was that the article included some snapshots of Shoshin Nagamine performing a few of the Yakusoku Kumite fighting drills. It shows how he continued to refine his Yakusoku Kumite even after he had published a version in his book. I had just recently completed a series of blog posts and videos breaking down the full Yakusoku Kumite series including historical background information and various performances of the drills through the ages. So I tracked down and purchased an old copy of the magazine on eBay to take a closer look and add it to my martial arts library. This way I could also share this rare Yakusoku Kumite demonstration with our blog subscribers for an additional historical example of how it has evolved over time, from the founder himself.
The magazine article slightly mislabeled and incorrectly numbered some of the photos. So I have renumbered them and revised some descriptions. Let’s take a look to see how this demonstration compares to the Yakusoku Kumite information from Shoshin Nagamine’s seminal book: The Essence of Okinawan Karate-do.
Shoshin Nagamine Demonstrates Yakusoku Kumite II
In this demonstration of Yakusoku Kumite II, Shoshin Nagamine clearly steps his right foot offline to the right while performing the final counter strike from a side-ward angle. In the book he steps straight back and remains inline in front of the attacker for the counter strike. So I was curious if this showed that Shoshin Nagamine continued to refine his Yakusoku Kumite even after the publication of his book; or if the position in the book photo was just adjusted to show the shuto and closed hand low-block rather than the actual body positioning. This could have been the case because most of the online video samples step out to the right to various degrees rather than straight back as in the book. But upon further investigation I found a video of Shoshin Nagamine himself performing this move stepping straight back (Stay tuned for my next post!), so it does indeed look like an evolution of the move over time rather than just a photo positioning for illustrative purposes. This just goes to show how karate is always evolving, as a flowing stream, rather than a static thing.
Shoshin Nagamine Demonstrates Yakusoku Kumite III
This demonstration of Yakusoku Kumite III appears to be the same as shown in the book. The only difference is that the attacker and defender have switched sides so that you can see the moves from the front side of the defender, rather than the attacker as seen in the book. So, these photos are a nice complement to the photos in the book.
Shoshin Nagamine Demonstrates Yakusoku Kumite V
This demonstration of Yakusoku Kumite V is very similar to that in the book. The main difference appears to be that it may not have been quite as cleanly posed. The hook stance is missing in the third step which could be due to the timing of the photo. In step four they both turn counter-clockwise, back-to-back as in the book but again the timing may be different. It appears as if the attacker has turned faster and is already assuming the fifth position where the defender has turned slower and is still starting the counter-clockwise turn.
And as in the book, it looks like the last two photos are shown with the defender more inline with the attacker rather than off to the attacker’s right side. There are a number of videos of Shoshin Nagamine performing this move. Stay tuned for the next post with two additional videos of Shoshin Nagamine performing Yakusoku Kumite! In one he steps straight back on this last move staying inline with the attacker. In another he steps offline to his left and attacks from the side with his back to the camera. So the positions in this move have evolved over time as well.
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-Renshi Mike Scaramozzino