The Bubishi is an ancient Chinese document written using ancient Chinese characters and as a result it is difficult to translate. There are numerous illustrations and diagrams. It is believed to be the combined journal of the experience of numerous Martial Arts Experts. the name Bubishi translates as follows: Bu means Warrior, Bi as Knowledge and Shi is Spirit. In Chinese it is called Wu-Bei-Zhi. Wu being Martial.
Bai-He-Quan, Luo-Han-Quan and Shaolin-Quan. It is probably the first document describing the influence of the Chinese Quan'fa on the Tode of Okinawa. All Martial Arts of Okinawa can find some of their roots in the Bubishi.
The book contains 32 chapters discussing the Quan-Fa of Fukien, Qi-Gong exercises, secrets principles of the Dian-Xue (Tuite or Atemi), forms of attacks on vital points of the human body, Bunkai of the Kata Happoren, knowledge about medical treatments with herbs and also some moral aspects for those who master the contents of the Bubishi.
The first known Master to mention the existence and text of the Bubishi was Mabuni Kenwa, who founded Shito-ryu. His book "Studies about Seipa" was published in Tokyo in 1934. Gichin Funakoshi, who established Shotokan Karate, quotes from it in his work Karate-Do Kyohan. Gogen Yamaguchi, the founder of Japanese Goju-Kai, was also known to have a copy of Bubishi. Chojun Miyagi, the founder of Goju-ryu, took the name “Goju” from the third line of the section “Eight Poems of the Fist” which reads “…the way embraces hard and soft, inhaling and exhaling.” The last two characters of this line are of note as they are key concepts in both modern Fukien White Crane and the Five Ancestor Boxing.
Some history tells us that the Bubishi was handed down to student from their masters and that they were required to make and write out their own copies of the text.
The Bubishi includes a large number of charts and diagrams that contain what many consider to be the core secrets of Okinawan karate. Obviously derived from Shaolin Chinese Boxing and the medical systems, these pictures show the various targets and the times of the day when they are most vulnerable to attack.
There are many bits and pieces of various kata currently practiced in the many styles of Okinawan and Japanese karate evident in the diagrams.
The Bubishi – The Secret Document
Dragon Times Magazine - The Bubishi, by Harry Cook
Analysis of the Okinawan Bubishi, by Fernando P. Câmara
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A version of this article was originally published on Suite101
Copyright 2006, Marek Swarthout