Ryusei Manual Published

The English-language Ryusei Karate-Do Technical Manual was published last fall. It includes a translation of the original Japanese manual, written by Sakamoto-Sensei, with his understanding of Chito-ryu technique, as well some excursions into history and philiosophy. To this we have added illustrations of the lower belt techniques, kata and bunkai and an expanded glossary. To top this off, the manual includes a DVD of Ryusei kihon, kata and bunkai, with Sakamoto-Sensei performing much of the technique. Following is the Introduction to the manual.

Your Guide to Ryusei Karate-Do

Congratulations. You have in your hands the first English Ryusei Karate-Do Technical Manual. If its weight reflected how much work went into it, you wouldn’t be able to lift it.

The core of the manual is a translation from Japanese of the manual written by Ken Sakamoto. As international head of Ryusei Karate-Do, Sakamoto-Sensei brings some impressive credentials to the table. Born in Ichikawa City, Chiba Prefecture, on February 2, 1949, he began his martial arts career in 1964, studying Goju-ryu karate. In 1968, he started learning Chito-ryu karate. Two years later, he met Chinen Kinchoku (Tsuyoshi Chitose, 1898–1984), the Sixth Todi Master and founder of Chito-ryu karate.

Sakamoto-Sensei also studied other martial arts, before and after becoming a member of Japan’s Self Defence forces in the 1970s. For example, he practised aikido under Getsu Sugawara-Sensei, one of the chief disciples of Morhei Ueshiba, founder of aikido. Other martial arts that he practised over the years include sumo, judo and jukendo (fighting with bayonets).

But of all his teachers, Sakamoto-Sensei was most impressed by master Chitose, especially by his performance of koryu kata, including Gungfu-no-kata. This long, family form seems more Chinese than Okinawan, with its fluid, open-hand moves and dependence on cultivating the right breathing and internal energy. As a live-in disciple with O-Sensei, and as his son-in-law, Sakamoto-Sensei was uniquely positioned to observe and practise O-Sensei’s most advanced techniques.

In 1997, Sakamoto-Sensei formed his own association, Ryusei Karate-Do, dedicated to understanding and cultivating O-Sensei’s highest technical skills. To achieve this, he reworked the standard Chito-ryu curriculum, bringing his own ideas to bear on how the standard kihon, kata and bunkai (kaisetsu) are performed. His changes and enhancements reflect a personal understanding gained through many hours of hard training, under the tutelage of O-Sensei. His system is designed to set students on the path blazed by O-Sensei, and other pioneers of ‘kodenti’ or ‘todi,’ the original Okinawan fighting art from which modern karate is derived.

The key insights recorded in Sakamoto-Sensei’s original Japanese technical manual are reproduced here. The enormously difficult task of translation was undertaken by my friend and fellow karateka James Hatch and his wife, Sonoko. Working from their home in Japan, the two combined their martial arts and language expertise to tackle the project.

The challenge was, many of Sakamoto-Sensei’s ideas are hard to grasp in Japanese, let alone in English translation. In trying to pin down definitive meanings of passages and words, I exchanged many emails with the Hatches and Sakamoto-Sensei, which often led to more questions than they answered. Finally, despairing of ever getting things correct, I put the project aside (more than once), making the process of producing the manual drag on for more years than it should have.

In some ways my procrastination worked out for the best. The long process allowed Kambiz Miranbigi and Rick Going, the instructors of Ryusei Ottawa, to get involved. The two offered to illustrate the kihon, kata and kaisetsu of the manual, up to shodan (first-degree black belt) level. Rick, with his crisp technique, became the model for the images, and Kam photographed him, step by step. Then he treated the images to a custom Photoshop process to create the black-and-white drawings you see in the manual.

I am very impressed by the results and will encourage Kam and Rick to record the black belt kata and kaisetsu in the same manner.

Yes, working hand-in-hand with the DVD of Ryusei techniques supplied by Sakamoto-Sensei, the illustrations work very well as a study guide. Too well perhaps. They provide such a clear record of our techniques that the danger is a student might start waving them around in his instructor’s face, saying, “You’re not teaching the kata move correctly. It should be like this!”

So I must add this proviso: Ryusei Karate-Do is a living tradition, with changes always coming as Sakamoto-Sensei and other senior instructors continue to study and evolve. So while the images in the book and video clips on the DVD are extremely useful training aids, especially for beginners, they are not gospel, nor a replacement for an actual teacher.

That said, I hope and believe that the ideas of Sakamoto-Sensei presented in this book, the DVD of his techniques and the pages of illustrations will work together to enrich your experience of karate.

—Peter Giffen
Ryusei Karate-Do Canada