Interview with Joen Nakazato

At the Budokan, Naha, Okinawa August 21, 1997

By Carol Womack


Senior Grandmaster Nakazato Joen

I was on Okinawa for the 1997 Okinawa Karate & Kobudo World Tournament and attended Joen Nakazato's seminar. I attended because Nakazato was a student of Kyan Chotoku. Several of the senior Okinawan Masters were presenting seminars and had interpreters present to answer questions.

During the seminar several kata were performed along with bunkai. SEISAN was one of them. While there were subtle differences, it was very close to the way Tatsuo Shimabuku taught. They also showed the bunkai by positioning four attackers in the primary positions, (+) North, South, West and East. Sensei Advincula stated this was also the way Tatsuo had them demonstrate SEISAN bunkai at some of the larger demonstrations.

While I was taping portions of this seminar, Sensei Jim Advincula had the opportunity to interview Nakazato regarding his training with Chotoku Kyan. This interview was assisted by an interpreter provided by the Okinawan World Karate & Kobudo Tournament. Jim Advincula began by asking Nakazato Sensei if Kyan had named his style Sukunaihayashi-Ryu. According to Nakazato, Chotoku Kyan did not name his ryuha (style), but he recalled in 1945 it was referred to as Kyan-Ryu or Kyan-Di (Te). Nakazato told us that he named his style Shorinji-Ryu (Shaolin Temple Style), the old Chinese way because Kyan never named his ryuha. Nakazato went on to explain that the influence of Okinawa Shorinji was Chinese Kenpo. As Nakazato reflected on the training methods with Chotoku Kyan, he stated that at the time the ryuha practiced orthodox kata. Nakazato teaches only the kata that were taught by Kyan and passed on to him. According to Nakazato, one kata was done for long periods of time before beginning a new one, unlike the modern methods practiced today. He discouraged the use of elaborate wind-ups found in modern kata as well. Nakazato Sensei also explained that Seisan kata comes from the Chinese and that on it's long journey to Okinawa, it went through a series of growth and changes.


Nakazato Joen (left) with his teacher Kyan Chotoku. (photo 1941)

The following is a list of kata taught by Kyan Chotoku Sensei and where they originate from:

Orthodox Pedigree of SHORINJI-RYU

  • ANANKU - taught to Kyan by a Master in Taiwan

  • SEISAN - Sokon Matsumura

  • NAIFANCHI - Sokon Matsumura (1)

  • WANSHU - Pechin Madeda

  • PASSAI - Kokan Oyadomari

  • GOJUSHIHO - Sokon Matsumura

  • CHINTO - Kosaku Matsumora

  • KUSANKU - Pechin Yara

  • TOKUMINE NU KUN - Pechin Tokumine (2)

(1) Nakazato said that Naihanchi must be pronounced Naifanchi.
(2) While some authorities claim that Kyan did not learn the Bo from Tokumine but that he learned from a student of Tokumine, Nakazato disputes this and adamantely states that Kyan learned Tokumine Nu Kun from Pechin Tokumine.

During the interview, Nakazato noticed the Isshin-Ryu Megami symbol on Advincula's shirt and pointed to it. He stated that Shimabuku was also a disciple of Kyan who had invented his own ryuha (Isshin-Ryu). Nakazato began demonstrating the vertical punch toward Advincula's face and told him that Kyan was a small man who had difficulty fighting taller opponents and stated not to punch to the face. By using the vertical punch, Nakazato said Tatsuo created the vertical punch so he could punch to the face striking with the top two knuckles. However, Nakazato was told by Sensei Kyan not to punch to the face as it left you open. After the interview, Advincula stated that Tatsuo never taught to punch with a straight thrust to the face except in infighting using an uppercut or backfist strike.

During the interview Jamal Measara, a Seibukan Shorin-Ryu stylist which also has lineage back to Chotoku Kyan, asked if Kyan learned the kata ANANKU while in Taiwan ? Nakazato stated that Kyan had learned this kata from a Taiwan expert while visiting there.

At the end of the interview Measara presented a final question to Nakazato: "What is the importance of the World Karate & Kobudo Tournament and doesn't this go against the training methods and ideas of the Okinawans ?" Nakazato stated simply: "The tournament is important because it brings together karate students from all over the world in friendship."


The Okinawa Budokan seminar group with Nakazato Joen Sensei.
Carol Womack is 2nd row far right.