Seisho Aragaki

Seisho Aragaki

Seisho AragakiHe was born in the village of Kume Mura. He became a translator for the Chinese and translated the Okinawan language. He became know as the Cat or Maya and was known for his jumps that were soft as a cat.

Aragaki had several nicknames, including Aragaki Maya (Aragaki the cat), which is his most common name in Okinawa, even today. He was also known by the name Aragaki Kamadeunchu (“kama-de” means “sickle hands” and “unchu” was the name of a kata he was famous for, sometimes called Unsu or Unshu today).

Aragaki held the title of “Chikudon Peichin”, a title conferred upon commoners who were officials of the royal court in Okinawa, similar to a Samurai rank in Japan. He was fluent in Chinese and acted as an interpreter for the court. He was even petitioned to travel to China for his interpretive duties; there is a record of him being petitioned to go to Beijing in September of 1870. This interrupted his instruction of a young Higaonna Kanryo, himself becoming very famous for Tote instruction some years later.

It is well known that Aragaki was highly sought after for Tote instruction near the end of his life, and was definitely one of the primary Tote instructors of the 19th century. Some of his other students included Master Higaonna Kanryo (mentioned above and teacher to Master Miyagi Chojun, the Goju-Ryu founder), Master Funakoshi Gichin (Shotokan founder), Master Mabuni Kenwa (Shito-Ryu founder) and Master Uechi Kanbum (Uechi-Ryu founder). These renowned karateka sought Aragaki for training, though none of them regarded him as their primary teacher.

Aragaki’s Tote was developed from teachings of Chinese martial arts masters. It’s unknown exactly what school of gungfu he trained in, but historians generally say that he probably trained and taught Monk Fist gungfu (Arhat Boxing). The only Chinese master mentioned in association with Aragaki is someone by the name of Wai Xinxian (or Wai Shinzan), a famous gungfu master in Fuzhou, a city in Fukien province, China, although there were probably others.

Not only was he a renowned Tote expert, but Aragaki was also a superb weapons master, leaving behind several Bo and sai kata including Aragaki-no-kun, Aragaki-no-sai and Sesoku-no-kun, which has about 200 techniques, used against the sword. Aragaki’s weapons katas are thought to be long and beautiful.

Aragaki has many family members still practicing karate in Okinawa today, but his descendants are primarily associated with Goju-Ryu, a style with roots similar to Aragaki’s Tote. Despite his fame as a Tote master, and his many descendants, Aragaki left no style behind. All that remains of this famous master’s legacy are techniques and kata scattered throughout a number of modern karate and kobujutsu styles.

Very little documentation about Tote has been preserved from the 19th century, but there is one written record (a program schedule) of Aragaki Seisho performing weapons and Tote demonstrations for a Chinese ambassador to Okinawa in Shuri City (Okinawan Capital) on March 24th, 1867. Aragaki demonstrated weapons, pre-arranged sparring and the kata Seisan. This says a lot for Aragaki’s stature as a Tote master, as this was an age of Tote giants. Itosu Anko, Azato Anko and the most famous Tote master of all time, “Bushi” Matsumura were all active and very well known, yet, for whatever reasons, it was Aragaki Seisho performing a Tote demonstration for an important foreign guest.

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