Lessons on Terminology and History

with Dan Bernardo, Sabom

gunjaGunja "君子" (pronounced "kunshi" in Japanese) - Gentleman

Of all the things I get asked in regards to the history of martial arts, one of the most prevalent has to deal with the notion that Tangsoo / Karate, and even Ninjutsu were developed by poor farmers to defend themselves against the Samurai or other higher ranked warriors.  This isn't accurate at all.

Not only did the farmers have very little money, they also had very little time.  Most of them working more than 10-12 hours a day in the fields.  Certainly not enough free time in there to train in secret to create a deadly fighting system.

Instead, we find that all of these martial arts were created by higher class individuals... some very high class.  The Shinobi ("ninja") were Samurai (or employed by samurai), the most famous being Hattori Hanzō during the Sengoku era.

Most founders of Karate belonged to the noble class (“shizoku”) of warriors (“pechin”), ranging from the low warrior caste (“chikudun”) to the high (“peekumi”).

Some masters even belonged to the “oyakata” (lord), which was the highest of the privileged classes.  Some notable indivuduals being Matsumura Sokon who belonged to the Pechin class.  He was the bodyguard for the king.  Chatan Yara who was in the Chikudun Pechin class.

Motobu Choki was in the Aji class and had direct lineage to the king.  And of course Funakoshi Gichin was in the Shizoku class.

To quote Funakoshi...

 "空手は君子の武芸 "

"Karate wa kunshi no bugei."

"Karate is the martial art of gentlemen."

So let's look at this word, Gunja (kunshi).  The first Chinese symbol means Prince, Sovereign, Ruler, etc... while the second Chinese symbol means Child, Son or Seed.  Gunja literally means someone of nobility.

How often in the martial arts is this forgotten?  As martial artists, it is our duty to be noble gentleman.  This means more than just having good manners.  We need to be dutiful, trustworthy, respectful, honorable, truthful, etc...

Leave your foul mouth, big ego, showboating self at home... gentleman.

All calligraphy done by Master Dan Bernardo


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