By way of an introduction

SippingTi is a blog about the Okinawan fighting art of Ti [手], also known as ‘Okinawa-te‘ [沖縄手], ‘UchinaDi’ [うちな手] and ‘Udundi’ [御殿手], but more appropriately understood as ‘Ryukyu Bujutsu‘ [琉球武術]; the ‘classical martial arts of Okinawa’.

Ti, literally ‘hand‘, is the oldest of Okinawa’s three branches of martial arts; the others being karate [空手] and kobudo [古武道]. Whereas karate and kobudo evolved on the islands during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, records show that Ti’s development antedates their emergence by at least 400 years. Oral tradition extends this period further to approximately AD650.

Despite Ti’s antiquity, and due in part to a period of demilitarisation in the early 15th century, the art remains little known, even on Okinawa.

Through this blog I aim to bring greater awareness of Ti and it’s related fields to a wider readership in the spirit of cultural preservation. I hope to achieve this by presenting on two fronts:

    • Firstly I will introduce Ti as a distinct fighting art within its appropriate historical reference, and its position as the base system of most karate and kobudo styles originating on the island of Okinawa.
  • Secondly I will seek to demonstrate the fundamental techniques, tactics and traditions of Ti in such a way as to help interested readers gain a fuller insight into the art as being distinct from that of karate.

In support of this, l endeavour to host a number of training events for those interested in acquiring first-hand experience of Ti in practice. To receive notice of these, and updated content, it is suggested you register as members to the site which is free.

My introduction to Ti came during the early 1990s whilst living in Japan learning karate. This discovery of, and subsequent transition into, Ti has been documented in my book The Karate-Ka: A search for the old to understand the new which is available online and through bookstores.

A more comprehensive summary of Karate, Kobudo and Ti as practiced on Okinawa will follow in subsequent parts. However, suffice to say that today the lines between each are not clearly drawn. Often a school or dojo may, to a greater or lesser extent, include aspects of each without much concern or confusion to its members. In Okinawa, rightly so, training in martial arts is a wholesome practice and the categorising of techniques and forms into convenient boxes with labels is more a custom of the Wests’ analytical psychology. This notion is largely accepted by Okinawan teachers who, in my experience, are pleasantly surprised at how tenacious and methodical we non-Okinawans are at exploring their past culture. Ultimately though, Ti is a life art and as such requires experiential knowing over intellectual understanding.

On that note I would like to state that I am not an academic. I am a martial artist, a practitioner of shiatsu bodywork and teacher of these two related arts. The sources for the information presented on this site have come from personal research, training with noted teachers and more than a surface study of classical Ryukyuan Dance [琉球舞踊]. Dance (buyo), being one of the mediums through which some Ti has been preserved over the past four hundred years. (more on this later.)

If one were to look deep enough, much of the historical content on this site can probably be found elsewhere online. But in addition to this I have on occasion had the opportunity to access the specialist libraries of some Asiatic institutes too. Most importantly I have made a point of training privately with several senior teachers from Okinawa, and their generosity and guiding influence on my personal practice has been invaluable.

SippingTi is a work in progress, a repository of information I stumble upon and try to make sense of in order to enrich my own understanding of Okinawa and it’s cultural arts. I’m still learning, won’t you join me?

Thank you for visiting,

Joel Reeves