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In Search of the Origins of Te


It’s a well-known fact that more than 100 years ago karate was referred to as "te." I understand te to be a means of self-defense, an unbeatable martial art, and also a martial art that can transform into dance. However, I continue to question why karate was referred to as te (hand), why not bujitsu or kempo? In this report I am seeking the roots of te, thinking about the hand techniques used in Henshuho, and trying to understand why the word te (hand) was used to refer to this fighting art.

Our hands, with their five fingers, perform a variety of tasks for us as we go about our daily lives. They play musical instruments, such as the piano and guitar, which bring comfort to our hearts, and hold the pens and brushes which produce calligraphy, paintings and other forms of fine art. Their supple movements bring beauty to the world of dance. Holding a knife, our hand chops the ingredients used in making a delicious meal. Using various materials and processes, our hands are responsible for producing a plethora of goods. Tilling the land, they help us grow produce, and at a PC keyboard, aid us in communicating with the world. The list goes on and on …

Keeping these things in mind, I took a good look at my own hands and wiggled my fingers. Naturally, each of them moved unfettered, as if it were a living thing in its own right. (An interesting note: when counting with their fingers Japanese start with the hand open and then fold in the fingers beginning with the thumb. Westerns start with a fist, which they open sequentially, beginning with the pinkie)

It was when I wiggled my fingers that I realized something important, namely the freedom of movement. Our 10 fingers can move freely and independently, and yet can also work cooperatively together in performing various tasks. This ability is why our hands play a very fundamental role in support of our daily existence.

Additionally, however, within our hands there exist life energy corridors, “qi routes,”which connect our entire body from fingers to toes. (In oriental medicine there are six bowels: small intestine, gallbladder, stomach, large intestine, bladder, san jiao—functional metabolic organ in Chinese medicine—and six internal organs: heart, liver, spleen, lung, kidney, pericardium.)



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