Martial Arts Centre
History of Kyusho
by Theo De Gelaen
The name Kyusho Jitsu was given by Hohan Soken (1889 - 1982) and means
in Japanese: "One second fight". Or: ending the fight in one second. The
addition 'jitsu', in Japanese means "discipline, skill". It is an
additional aspect of martial arts in which one uses vital or sensitive
points on the human body in order to eliminate the opponent temporarily
or if needed, permanently.
Kyusho Jitsu is based on the acupuncture theory which says that if one
affects the flow of energy true the meridians, it will have some
influence on the general or specific state of the body. Kyusho Jitsu is
the modern version of the old Chine martial art discipline Dim Mak which
originates in the 13the century and in fact was the base of what we know
today as Tai Chi Ch'uan, although the system was not known as such in
those days. Chang San-Feng Dim Mak was the name given to a system that
was developed by Chang San-Feng in China around the year 1300. (at least
he is the one who started it).
Chang San-Feng probably was born in 1247 after JC and was a Taoist
priest who had a martial schooling as a Shaolin monk and later on went
living in the Wutang mountains as a priest and an acupuncturist. It is
not quit sure if he really existed. Like so much other things in China,
it remains a mystery. But it is for sure that he is named as the founder
of what is now known as Tai Chi Ch'uan.
The man who's name is most linked to the development of Eastern martial
arts is Bodhidharma (470 - 534). Daruma Daishi in Japanese or Pu Tai Ta
Mo in Chinese. He was the 28th Indian Buddhist patriarch and was send to
China to spread the Buddhist learn. He arrived there about 520 but was
not so welcome. In fact at that time there existed already some form of
Buddhism in China and the Chinese did no like the appearance or look of
Bodhidharma. In a response to that, he retired himself into the Shaolin
monastery on the mountain Sung, near to Loyang. There are a lot of myths
about him like that I should have been meditating in front of a wall for
more than 7 years until his legs died of...
The fact is that he had a very hard way of teaching and a very strong
discipline and that his monks where always falling asleep during there
meditation. Therefore he gave them exercises in order to maintain their
energy level. Part of these exercises he brought back from India, but
most of his exercises he derived from the Qi Gong that at that time
already existed in China form more than 5000 years.
Qi Gong exercises or based on relaxation of the muscles and the use of
the skeletal structure of the body as well as the joints. It learns how
to generate energy of the earth and to transport that energy through the
body and the relaxed joints and this in harmony with the respiration and
the power of the mind. Qi Gong has also martial applications and so
Boddidharma's exercices evolved to what we today know as kung fu. Or his
official name: Wu Shu. So, Chang San-Feng was a Shaolin monk and skilled
in those techniques as well as in acupuncture that in China also was
known for thousand of years.
History tells that Chang San-Feng together with some other colleague
acupuncturists, one day, where asking themselves the question if the
acupuncture they used for healing people could be used for martial
purposes. What is not surprising, considering Chang's martial
schooling.In order to test his theory, Chang would have bribed prison
guards so that he could try it on prisoners. Chang must have been coming
to a frightful conclusion as he called his system "Dim Mak" what
literally translated means: death touch!
Effectively, a lot of his combination appeared to be lethal and such
even without a lot of force or violence. It is obvious that when some
combinations of points in acupuncture are able to help somebody by
dissolving energy blockades, the reverse must be able to cause
blockades. And by that, it is clear that it can shut down the whole
energy system of a person. At least, that's the purpose and it seems to
be really the case in practice.
Although, we do have to nuance this a little. Hitting acupuncture points
in some determinate order is one thing. But that doesn't mean that you
will obtain the desired results.
This is even historically correct, since Chang Dan-Feng named his
system in the beginning H'AO CH'UAN. (it is only recently that the name
Tai Chi was given to the system) Actually H'ao Ch'uan means 'loose
boxing"This is in important contrast with the hard, massive boxing we
know in the West.
That kind of boxing has everything to do with hitting and punching the
opponent on a hard, mechanical and physical way in order to knock him
out. The most important thing is the muscular power..
On the other hand, loose boxing like meant and used by Chang San-Feng is
based on a relaxed, loose and energy transmitting way by the use of Fa
Jin. Fa Jin is kind of martial application of Qi Gong. In Japanese it is
often called kime. Hereby one does not hit 'on' the surface of the body
or an acupuncture point but rather hitting 'into' the point in order to
generate an energy transmission that will affect the energy patron of
the receiver. This is only possible if it can be done from a loose,
relaxed posture. It's obvious that the Shaolin schooling of Chang San-Feng
had everything to do with that. That's why it is important to realise
that the 'Death touch' of Chang was more the result of the Fa Jin
way of hitting the points than the use of the points on its own.
The least that can be said about the results of Chang's investigations
and experiments is that they where amazing but frightening. That's why
Chang San-Feng has hidden his point combinations and techniques in a
form, like a kind of a dance so that only the initiated would know what
it was all about. It is that form that we call today Tai Chi.But Chang
was a little paranoid and afraid that one could steal his information
and use it against him. Therefore he didn't write anything down.
It was his student Wang Tsung-yeuh (Wang Zongyue) who did that
later. Carefully he wrote down the truth essence of H'ao Ch'uan. But
unfortunately his work was hid away so carefully that it remained
concealed for several generation until nobody knew what it was and where
it served for. It was Yang Lu-Ch'an (1799-1872) who rediscovered it.
Yang Lu-Ch'an was the founder of the Yang style in Tai Chi Ch'uan Yang
Lu Ch'an Yang Lu-Ch'an rediscovered the work of Wang Zongyue in the Chen
village of the Shaolin martial artists where he worked. (somehow the
document had come there).
The legend tells that even Yang did not know what the document meant
until a man named Jiang Fa 蔣發 came into the village. He was a monk from
the Wudang mountains and a student from the direct line of Wang Zongyue. Together
with Yang he studied the documents what made them able to reconstruct
the H'ao Ch'uan. Because the people of the Chen village where so kind to
take care of Yang and Jiang Fa and let them do their work, they received
the benefit of the work as well. Thanks to that they adapted their
Shaolin fighting system in a way that it integrated the knowledge and
techniques of H'ao Ch'uan complete with the Dim Mak. That's how the Chen
style of Tai Chi was developed. He still has more the harder Shaolin
background than the soft, more loose approach of the Yang style. But it
would be to much credit for Yang Lu-Ch'an to make him the co-founder of
the Chen style.
It is obvious that the Chen family already had a clear martial style.
After all they where Shaolin martial artists ever since the 16th century
and where very respected. The family was founded by Chen Pu ()But the
far most well known member of the family was Chen Changxing (1771 -
1853). It was he who allowed for the first time a student who was not
member of the family.That student was Yang Lu-Ch'an who, by that,
received the opportunity to lay his hands on the document of Wang
Zongyue and to study it together with Jiang Fa.So, Yang learned probably
as much from the Chen family as he learned them.
Okinawa is one of the islands of the Ryu Kyu islands. This a group of
islands between China and Japan.Until the 15th century it was devised
in three kingdoms: Chûzan, Hokuzan and Nanzan. It was dutiable to the
Chinese Ming dynasty. It was king Shô Hashi (1371 - 1439) of Chûzan who
unified the kingdoms in the Ryukyu kingdom. It was this king who has
decreed the interdiction to bear arms in order to maintain peace in the
Nobody, not even the samurai, where allowed to care a weapon. In 1611
Okinawa was annexed to Japan. In spite of the interdiction of king Shô
Hashi, the Okinawa Samurai kept on maintaining their techniques.
Although now they did it without the weapons, but by using their arms
and hands as a sword or a spear.This system was called 'Te' or 'Ti' and
was trained in secret, assigned from father to son. 'Te' or 'Ti' (手)
refers to 'hand'In 1611 after the annexation by Japan, there came a new
weapon less period.
Already from 1372 Okinawa maintained a good commercial relationship with
China. So it is not surprising that there where Shaolin monks active in
Okinawa as well and it is pretty obvious that they influenced the
Okinawa-te with their Ch'uan Fa or Kempo (= Chinese boxing). Due to this
influence originated To-te (唐手) also called Okinawa-te (沖縄手).But the
name Tang hand or Chinese hand was used as well. Tang refers to the
Chinese Tang dynasty.After the annexation by the Satsuma clan, Okinawa
came under Japanese authority.
The 'Tang' hand or 'Chinese' hand was pronounced by the Japanese as
KARA Te. Originally it was written with the kanji 唐 から唐 stands for 'Tang'or
'Chinese'In the 18th century there was a strong development of karate in
Okinawa. Especially in the villages Shuri - Naha and Tomari. Their
styles where called respectively Shuri-te, Naha-te and Tomari-te.
The most important developer of karate in the 18th century and the
father of Okinawa karate was: Kanga Sakukawa (1733 - 1815) In 1750 he
went studying with the Okinawa monk Peichin Takahara.But he advised him
after 6 years to go study with Kusanku or Kwang Shang Fu. Kusanku had
learned Ch'uan Fa from a Shaolin monk and was sended in 1756 to Okinawa
as an ambassador for the Chinese Qing dynasty. He lived in Kanemura near
Naha. Sakukawa trained for 6 years under Kusanku and developed after his
dead in 1762 the kata Kusanku (Kanku) as a tribute to his master. The
best known student of Sakukawa was Sokon Matsumura (1809 - 1901). He
developed the Shorin ryu karate style, which is a combination of
elements both from Naha-te as well as Tomari-te. In 1816 Matsumura
became in service of the Okinawa royal Sho family and became the
personal instructor and body guard of king Sho Ko. His most important
students where: Anko Asato - Anko Itosu - Choyu Motobu - Motobu Choki - Kentsu
Yabu - Chotoku Kyan - enz...One of the most known students of Matsumura
was Ankō Itosu (1831 - 1915) A lot of people see him as the father of
modern karateTogether with Anko Asato, he was the most important teacher
He was also the secretary of the last Ryu Kyu king. In 1901 he was the
first to introduce karate schooling in the schools of Okinawa. He
developed the systematic method of training which is still applied
nowadays in karate in 1905. He created the Pinan kata (Heian in
Japanese) In 1921 the Japanese imperial fleet goes ashore in Okinawa. On
board the crown prince and later emperor of Japan, Hiro HitoCaptain
Norikazu Kanna recommends him to attend a karate demonstration given by
Gichin Funakoshi, student of Anko Itosu. Later he will ask Funakoshi to
introduce karate in Japan.
One of the best known students of Itosu was Gichin Funakoshi (1868 -
1957) He was a student of both Asato and Itosu. He brought karate to
Japan in 1922 and was the founder of the Shotokan style.Shoto was his
pseudonym as a poet and means wind trough the pine trees.Kan means
hall. It was Funakoshi who changed the name karate from 'Chinese' hand
into 'empty' hand. When Funakoshi went to the Japanese mainland to
introduce karate, it was not such a good idea to use the term karate in
the sense of Tang or Chinese hand.Especially not in view of the hostile
relationship between China and Japan at that time.
Originally they used this kanji which means 'tang' en was pronounced as
Kara: But there is another kanji, also pronounced as kara but which
means 'empty' Funakoshi decided to use, from then off, the last kanji so
that from this day off karate would mean 'empty' hand with as new
kanji: In the beginning there was a lot of protest in Okinawa as well as
in Japan. But finally everyone agreed and started to use the new
signification. One of the purposes of Funakoshi by using this new name
was that he attempted to eliminate every allusion to the Chinese origin
of karate, because in his point of view, it was historically incorrect.
But he had other reasons as well....
Hohan Soken (1889 - 1982)
He learned karate from his uncle Nabe Matsumura and student of Sokon
Matsumura. From Nabe he learned the Hakutsuru or White Crane: the style
of the white crane.This style added a lot of ancient secrets like
working with Ki or Ch'i and the respiration. But most importantly the
use of Dim Mak.Funakoshi tempted to learn this style ever but was
refused by Matsumura because he was not a member of the family. It was
Hohan Soken who finally introduced the name Kyusho Jitsu in the purpose
of differentiating himself from other karate masters among Funakoshi.
Theo De Gelaen (Halle, Belgium on 9 September 1956) is a Belgian author
and expert of martial arts.
A teacher of human, social and management skills and aggression
control, he is also head instructor of Daochi Dim Mak and master of Zen
and Qi Gong.
He has studied applied psychology, neurology and quantum physics.
He has more than 30 years of experience in Eastern and Western martial
arts. He studied Eastern medicine and healing and is a Qi Gong master.
Theo is the founder/chairman of the international martial arts
federation Daochi Dim Mak and associate founder of the organisation
Hohan Soken (1889 - 1982)
For more information about
Kyusho in Finland
and practical training with the
Kyusho Study Group, Helsinki, see our homepages and/or contact us on
Home | Kyusho Articles | Kyusho in Action | KSG in Action
This site was last updated