Naha Te

Naha-te (那覇手) is a pre-World War II term for a type of martial art indigenous to the area around Naha, the old commercial city of the Ryukyu Kingdom and now the capital city of the island of Okinawa. Well into the 20th century, the martial arts of Okinawa were generally referred to as te, which is Japanese for “hand”.

Naha Te is the name of the particular type of Okinawan martial art that developed in the port town of Naha, the modern-day capital of Okinawa. The martial art that indigenously developed in Okinawa was called Te (”Hands”), and the continuous chinese influences that incorporated Chinese Boxing (Chuan Fa, nowadays known as Kung Fu) were eventually reflected by nameing the Okinawan martial arts To-De, “Chinese Hands”.

Credited for the early development of Naha-Te is Kanryo Higaonna (1853-1915). Kanryo Higaonna’s students include Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953), the founder of Goju-Ryu Karate and Kenwa Mabuni (1889-1952), the founder of Shito-Ryu Karate.

Naha-te was founded by a contemporary of Matsumura (and a friend), Kanryo Higaonna (1st row, 2nd from right above). The emphasis of the Naha-te was that its blocks were soft while the Shuri-te were hard. Hard and soft are misnomers, what is meant by these terms is that the hard style of blocking employed a linear movement while the soft style of blocking employed a circular movement. Also in the above photograph is Higaonna's prime student, Chojun Miyagi (1st row, 2nd from left above). Miyagi became the founder of Okinawan Goju-Ryu.

Te often varied from one town to another, so to distinguish among the various types of te, the word was often prefaced with its area of origin; for example, Naha-te, Shuri-te, or Tomari-te.

Naha-te was primarily based on the Fujian White Crane systems of Southern China, which trickled into Okinawa in the early 19th century through Kumemura (Kuninda), the Chinese suburb of Naha, and continued developing and evolving until being finally formalized by Higaonna Kanryō in the 1880’s.

In the first few decades of the 20th century, a number of formal organizations were founded to oversee Okinawan martial arts, and due to their influence, the word karate came to be widely accepted as a generic term for all sorts of Okinawan unarmed martial arts.

With the popularity of the term karate, the practice of naming a type of martial art after its area of origin declined. The term Naha-te is no longer in general use.

Important Okinawan masters of Naha-te:

  • Kogusuku Isei
  • Maezato Ranhō
  • Arakaki Seishō
  • Higaonna Kanryō
  • Miyagi Chōjun
  • Kyoda Juhatsu
  • Mabuni Kenwa

Important katas:

  • Sanchin
  • Saifa
  • Seienchin
  • Shisochin
  • Seipai
  • Seisan