The Truth of “Ti”

Okay, I’m a little disappointed in you guys.

Hear me out:

Since I recently received my long-awaited 10th dan hanshi title in Karate, I haven’t received a single congratulatory e-mail or phone call, from anyone! Not even a friendly pat on the back! Not even a manly punch on the shoulder! I mean, wazzup guys?!

You’re not proud of me?


Oh, I’m sorry, what’s that? Aah, you don’t believe me? You want proof? Some kind of certificate, perhaps? No problem, sure, here’s a freshly taken pic of my diploma hanging on the wall:

Sorry for the reflexion, it's from the glass (it's framed, obviously).


It even has a big, fat, red, official stamp on it. Tenth dan and ‘hanshi’ title in Karate handed over to Jesse from the All Okinawan Very Traditional Karatedo Federation. Signed and stamped by Santa Claus himself. It’s friggidy f-f-fresh to say the least!

So… time for that congratulatory e-mail now, huh? HUH!? [you should see the superior smirk on my face when I write this].


The diploma is not mine!

In fact, it’s not even a Karate diploma.

It’s from a baking contest.

I took the picture at the local bakery, where it stands proudly. You can see the baker to the left. His name, according to the diploma, is Shinzato and he seems to have won first place at a technical confectionery baking contest in Fukuoka in 2010.

Way to go!

That’s what his diploma says, at least.

But you’ve got to admit that it did look a lot like a Karate diploma, right? That is, unless you actually read Japanese (for your information, the diploma mentions some kind of “butter cream” creation that Shinzato apparently amazed the judges with! Sweet…).

Anyway, what I’m trying to say with this highly deceiving intro is that when we, as non-Japanese/Okinawan/Chinese, see these half-mystic Asian scriptures and other Eastern cultural phenomenons through our “foreign filter”, it doesn’t really take much for somebody in the right position (on both sides of the filter?) to convince us that something is not what it actually is.

It’s not a 10th dan hanshi diploma.

It’s a 1st place technical baking contest diploma.

But, I said otherwise.

And even though I was making an intentional joke (haha… ha.) for the purpose of fooling you a little and get my point across in the process there are plenty of people who intentionally (though sometimes unintentionally) distort our view(s) on stuff, like Karate, for other purposes than being funny (money, power, respect anyone?).

Enter “Ti”.

Ti, Di or Te, is an old Okinawan indigenous martial art which existed in Okinawa long before all of these other influences came around, eventually forming what we today refer to as Karate. I guess you’ve heard about it. The name Ti simply means hand. It’s the Okinawan version of the Japanese word “te”, and sometimes it’s also called “Udundi” (“Palace hand”).

Today it is “still” practised, even though it is

[Okay, time out! TIME OUT! I just HAVE to tell you guys that writing all of the above has taken me *roughly* three hours! It’s impossible to write a serious article when six half-drunk Okinawans are having a flippin’  impromptu beer-party right next to me! Do you guys realize what HARD conditions I’m working under here to get through to you?! GAAH! I even took a picture!]

So, anyway, I was trying to sa-

[What the hell, one guy just started SINGING!!!]

-y that this old, pre-Karate style of martial arts known as Ti is still practised in Okinawa today.

Or… is it?

Perhaps it’s not.

Well, some people certainly want us to believe it is. For those of you not in Okinawa, or who just don’t know what I’m talking about, this contemporary form of Ti can best be viewed with the help of sensei Youtube.

Here’s a vid:

However, I beg to disagree

This is not Ti.

Real old-school “Ti” exists not as an isolated system of joint-locks, takedowns, strange kata dances and weapon stuff (as people wants you to believe), but forms an integral part of application-style, grimy, dirty, old traditional Okinawan Karate.

As a matter of fact, real Ti ONLY exists in old-style Okinawan Karate.

The mere fact that these modern Ti proponents use weapons such as nunchaku and sai (which are not indigenous to Okinawa and don’t come up to me with that “nunchaku is a horse bridle” explanation, because there were hardly any horses in Okinawa during that time, neither are there now), along with several empty handed kata (this formalized physical kata thinking-mode came from China way later) just goes to show that some people really wants your attention.


I eat controversial for breakfast, baby.

From my humble point of view, the story you are told is one of aikido, mixed with Okinawan dance and Nihon Bujutsu body mechanics, wrapped up with some Okinawan Kobudo, with a pinch of mysticism sprinkled on top. Neatly labeled “Ti”, for obvious reasons.

Actually (I don’t know if I should write this), when one of the highest authorities on “Ti” here in Okinawa (whose secret house I visited) was asked from whom he had learnt these old, secret Ti skills, he replied; “From a man who lives up in the mountains. You will have to drive for 2-3 hours without seeing anything but jungle to find this master”.

The fun thing is, it’s impossible to drive 2-3 hours in Okinawa without seeing a house.

Allow me to “lol”.

But, that’s not what this article is about.

What this is about, is that things aren’t always what they seem, and that real Ti only exists in old-style Karate (after all, it forms the base). You can explore this for yourself easily: Learn as many Karate-related words of the old Okinawan language (uchinaaguchi) as possible. “Muchimi”, remember? “Chinkuchi”, right? There’s other too, like “gammaku” and “kukiji”.

They are the only remainders of Ti we have left, and we need to explore them thoroughly to understand true Karate.

What these words of the old language all have in common is that they describe a WAY of USING the BODY when executing all kinds of techniques. Body mechanics and their martial applications, in other words.

That is Ti.

Ti is not a martial arts style, but the beginning and the end of all Karate.

– Onaga Yoshimitsu, kaicho, Shinjinbukan

And if not, then I’ll just keep that 10th dan if it’s okay with you.


  • Narda
    Je-sus! But you've put yourself 'out there' with this post! duck and run. ;)
  • Francis Duguay
    I just realised why your articles are so intresting. First, they are funny. But the main reason is...Culture. Yup. You use ''western'' (Plato's and Aristoltes')logic to analyse eastern subjects such as Okinawan culture and Okinawan way of thinking. You also use your knowledge of languages (Japanese, Okinawan dilect, English..) History and Martial Arts (Karate, Kobudo, Muay Thai, Muay Boran, Krabi Krabong)to explain us,westerners, eastern concepts and History. (I like to state the obvious) That's Great. Thank you.
  • Sayo
    Ah Fukuoka, bakery's and sweet bread(natsukashiiii) On topic: never heard of Ti though, nice read.
  • andi
    Other end of the myth is Tsuji district kakedameshi... in between everthing goes. So, the scope is set wide and should provide any possible means. Except everything you may think Ti (or Karate) is as a Westerner. True? Nope! "You can't understand. You're not Okinawan. It's real Budô!" What? Contradictions everywhere. Yesterday I talked to a very smart young martial genius training for 10 years or so. Never had a bone broken. !?!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!!? Superman????
  • Matt
    Ohh no! A bakery has stolen your Tenth Dan Hanshi certification. I think it's time to challenge them all to death matches.
  • Fatih Ince
    Hi Jesse, I think you're so funny man, you should be a comedian. Don't ever let no one tell you, you ain't so smart too.;)
  • Thanks for the comments everyone! ;) I got an e-mail from certain Stephen-san about the nunchaku part, and thought I'd explain it. Here's my reply:
    "Hi Stephen, That the nunchaku initially was an iron war flail, hailing from China, can be seen in a picture I provided in this article: However, the horse-bridle nunchaku (muge nunchaku) does indeed exist in Okinawa, but it is not the ORIGINAL source of the weapon in itself. It is simply a later adaptation, since iron is (was) a rare and expensive resource in "economically challenged" Okinawa. Nevertheless, it works pretty well! /Jesse"
    • Te'o
      Jesse, thank you for another great article. I will say that these kinds of "secrets" exist in almost every martial arts system. Even in the systems that I teach, which are Lima Lama and Shorin-ryu, there are these "OG" principles that only some guy in the jungle or on the mountain knows. At times the stories are laughable. An example of this is a Wing Chun Kung Fu school down the road and around the corner from our dojo. They will not talk about or explain their system to anyone, nor will they allow people to watch (even parents) the workouts. Apparently they are too secret! Ha...can you handle the truth?!? Thanks again for the post, nice! And by the must be stronger than me, cuz I would of partied with da Okinawan guys!!!
    • "Hello Jesse, an interesting post and I'd like to offer some perspective... My background is with over 25 years training in both karate and ti (Ryukyuan Bujutsu), I have lived and trained extensively in both Japan and Okinawa having received a considerable amount of exposure to two separate 8th and 10th dans; I am currently ranked 5th dan and therefore feel I reasonably transcend the karate/kobudo/ti divide enough to comment here. Firstly, I think you are both correct and incorrect in your observations about Ti - I have posted a reply to your points raised over on my blog here if you're interested. [] Good luck and enjoy your training in Okinawa. Joel Reeves..
      • Dean goddard
        Greetings Joel, I'm interested in reading your article/view on Okinawa ti but can't access your blog on the subject. Perhaps the link is no longer accessible so would it be possible to forward or inbox the article to me at ? I was first introduced to Onaga sensei of the shinjinbukan over a decade ago through coulegues who share the same interest.. Ti is in my view, the next logical step in anyone's karate to better understanding body dynamics...efficiently. Dean goddard Godan Okinawa goju Ryu Ryusyokai
  • Lecé
    My kobudo diplomas from Okinawa, come in english also...I dont know if that´s the case usualy or they just did it because they where for people in Europe. Anyway take care fighting those bakers¡¡ You know Asian cooks are the real masters¡¡ By the way, we had also one of those secret stuff in our dojo once¡¡ They wehre Ninjas¡¡ je je, they wont let people watch their workouts either. We trained in the same gym and sometimes time slipped their minds and get in our time of training, so we will knock the door and open to see If they where about to finish, and they all stopped like frozen in time so nobody watched what they where doing. They where so funny, like that bullet time on the matrix¡¡ je je
  • Igor
    Dude, didnt have a clue... I love this moments ::) *manly shoulder punch*
  • Li
    (: I don't know right how I came to this webpage,but I didn't repent!^^ I was really needing to laugh a lil bit (Lot Lot)! :) I liked it too much...(I used to be a fighter and today pains in my soul to remember that I gave all up.2 days before my Sensei found me and asked me to come back...well...I got so happy...Karate is part of me;I feel I cannot to live without to practice this ART! <3
  • Jeff Hazelbaker
    I have a divorce certificate issued from Japan that is also suitable for framing. Prettiest thing I have ever seen. :-)
  • Seiji DeGolyer
    Good article, I know Onaga Yoshimitsu, kaicho, personally he lives just around the corner from my aunt in Shuri.
  • Onaga Yoshimitsu, kaicho, Shinjinbukan Is one if not only person to be teaching the curriculum of Ti. I found one of his disciples in NY and once this covid lockdown is over I would like to go and train with Jimmy Mora Sensei. Very few schools train in the Old (70's) way, now classes are 1 hour, or you have the McDojo's and mostly train for Sport!? It written,as you train is how you will react...therefore, someone attacks you and you "Score" One Punch and you're finished? Correct! You are Finished when the attacker whips you up into cream fluff! I miss the days of the first hour warming up, second hour practicing Kata and techniques, third hour, practicing appliation of kata and perfecting technique just learned. Now this went on for a minimum of 3 to 6 months in some schools. Today, you are taught 100 techniques and good for you if you can apply 1 or 2 correctly, but you will get your next degree belt!?!? An old sensei, told me the reason today Karate is this way for the following: 1) people don't have the patience to train like in the old days 2) it's about how many students and classes you can get through in one evening to make it profitable 3) He is not blaming the Koreans, but when Taekwondo came along the original 2 persons he recalls had 1-2 hour classes if not longer...but then came the instructors who ran it as a business...minimum time, maximum profit...hence the 45 minute classes!?! What do you learn in 45 minutes? Then Fees for Testing, belts, Etc., Etc.,!!!?? Life was much more Beautiful back then. So if you find a dojo that is not interested in making you a Black belt in 6 months but in 3-5 years sign up, for they are the closest you are going to get to the "Real Deal"...also make sure they are True Budo and not Sport/Olympic Training. The sport training aspect will not help you in a Real Life Dangerous Encounter. May 2021 be a Healthy and Instructive New Year!
  • You could learn shuri te and tomari te at bugeikan
  • RON B.
    Jesse you are hilarious! ? But… you are obliviously do not grasp Ti. The old man in the mountains… you can’t find because the reference was a less crowded time long prior and a person no longer alive physically… So “No” you can’t find him now as it’s a journey you can’t make. Onaga Sensei’s comment about ti says a lot and you missed its meanings… “Ti is far more than a simple martial art style… Ti is the foundation that led to the creation and development of karate (it’s beginning). To understood Ti would destroy the illusions & deceptions this destroying your karate (it’s ending of your delusion). I believe Onaga Sensei has also said “Ti is in karate, but there is no karate in Ti”. This koan is actually referring to the concepts in karate’s method. “KARATE” is about “points”. Going from one point to another… then adding more points gradually and then still later more points over time. In example- . . then . . . . then .. .. .. .. then ………………….. The end creates an illusion of a line but the truth is there are always gaps between the points that one can never fill. “TI” is about the “line”. TI is continuous without interruption or gaps or voids. Ti existed in the 1200’s long before Chinese influence in Tode and long before Japanese influence in karate. It was passed on from father to son (or inheiritor) with constant development & refinement occurring along that time line. So “NO”… Ti is NOT old style karate. Ti has no mysticism… no magicka… no chi energy… no BS. Ti is just sound understanding of “optimization” of anatomical structure & function, mechanics in motion, physics of positioning & leverage…. To accomplish maximal using minimal effort. There are Two teaching methods possible in the transmission of knowledge in Ti. The first … is through “kata”… a Chinese mnemonic concept that was taken and used by a family knowing Ti to create “one kata” to encapsulate a complete method of passing on Ti in its entirety of process or method. The second … is through “machiwara”… a process of using various types of machiwara with other hojo undo to impart the drills in training processes that create the understanding & knowedge to coordinate the development skills of Ti. The process of Ti is completely refined with its history & skills being transmitted only through direct oral transmission & direct one on one physical instruction, guidance. This is the only way to ensure it’s proper and complete transmission. To have that knowledge is to shine a light that exposes the “gaps” in the methods of karate. Ti is not for everyone… it never was… it was for the 3 upper classes in Okinawa society. It has always been a closed door system. The “kata” method uses the “one” only pure Okinawa Kata… that has 7 levels that total 20 variations of that “one” kata…. & is comprised of 275 direct complete concepts/principles/ laws of the body & nature. All other Okinawa kata are based in Tode or Chinese influences & understandings. Ti is a the “line”. Karate can never achieve the level of Ti because it is fractured into multiple styles with incomplete methods and partial understandings with perpetual methods with “gaps”. The knowledge of Ti is comprised of all those generations & multiple families refining that knowledge since the 1200’s. Karate… is it’s own method. One either studies karate or Ti…. Those knowing Ti are very few now and even fewer “choose” students to pass that knowledge on to.

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