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Lineage and Commonality

I have written about lineage in Karate. Lineage refers to the line of your instruction: who taught you, who taught him (or her), and so forth.

One line of my lineage, just as an example, goes something like this: I learned from Professor Katsuhiko Shinzato, who learned from Chokei Kishaba and Seigi Nakamura, who learned from Shoshin Nagamine, who learned from Ankichi Arakaki, Chotoku Kyan, and Choki Motobu. Chotoku Kyan learned from Sokon Matsumura, who learned from Tode Sakugawa.

But I also learned from Rodney Shimabukuro, who has a similar and different line because his instructor, Tommy Morita, learned from Shoshin Nagamine as well as other instructors.

Actually, many of the instructors in my lineage (and most lineages) learned from more than one instructor. My "line" is actually more like a spider's web.

And that is the point. It is useful for you to know your lineage -- not because it will improve your technique (only hard work will do that), but because it will enable to know your connection to other Karate students.

My good friend and mentor is Sensei Pat Nakata. His instructor was Choshin Chibana, who learned from Anko Itosu, who learned from Sokon Matsumura. So do our lines connect with Matsumura? Yes, but they also connect through Ankichi Arakaki who also was a student of Choshin Chibana. Ankichi Arakaki learned from Choshin Chibana as well as Chotoku Kyan and taught Shoshin Nagamine. So Choshin Chibana is in my lineage through Ankichi Arakaki.

Nakata Sensei also learned Wado-Ryu from Walter Nishioka who learned from Hironori Ohtsuka. Ohtsuka Sensei learned from Gichin Funakoshi, who learned from Anko Itosu (as well as Anko Azato). So I am also related to Nakata Sensei through this line as Chibana Sensei learned from Itosu Sensei, and there is the connection through Ankichi Arakaki.

My friend Professor Kimo Ferreira practices Kenpo. Kenpo is somehow related to Choki Motobu, either directly through James Mitose or through others such as Mizuho Mutsu and Kamesuke Higashionna (I suspect this). If there is this connection, I am related to Kimo because Motobu Sensei taught Shoshin Nagamine, who is in my line.

But actually, I also practiced Kenpo under Florentino S. Pancipanci and Edward Wallace, who learned from Marino Tiwanak, who learned from William Chow (and others), who learned from James Mitose. So I am also related to Kimo through this direct line.

My line, a typical one, is actually many interconnected lines -- an elegant spider web.

Knowing this, I can appreciate my connection to other Karate students. Usually, we are cousins -- close or distant, but cousins nonetheless. How can I feel anything but respect and admiration for my cousins in the art?

Knowing my lineage will not make me a better practitioner but it can help me to be a better ambassador of the art.

Can you trace your line? I'll bet we are cousins.


Charles C. Goodin