Chinkuchi – Karate’s Hidden Internal Face:
I recently reread Rememberances of Okinawa: Chinkuchi by Lt. Col. Charles Murray (USAF) written in 1971, with the intention of addressing the subject in more detail for karateka about this fascinating art within an art—Chinkuchi. Much of the information attempting to convey the specifics of chinkuchi practice has been scant, anecdotal, or overly general and therefore only marginally successful in defining the complexity of its methods. Few clear and concise records of chinkuchi practices exist in the public domain. So the curious, looking for a progressive understanding of its application, are left only with technical fragments and broad stroke or cryptic commentary.
As a career professional sensei of Okinawan karate for forty-five years and one who has studied isshinryu’s kata syllabi in earnest my entire adult life I can say that whatever the old world karate masters of Okinawa understood about chinkuchi, most of it was buried with them or remains the providence of closed door ryu. We do have, however, a public record of their forward most teachings in the kata we inherited from them. Okinawan kata can be thought of as kinesthetic treatises, moving dialogs, which offer us some hearty clues to the distinctions between chinkuchi and non-chinkuchi performance. But here lies the rub. Few modern students have been taught to read beyond kata’s superficial layers. One needs a chinkuchi key code of sorts. It would be much easier if we simply reanimated the old masters and teleported them into our future to tell us exactly what they meant in regards to chinkuchi training. If chinkuchi was a critical component of karate’s development and if it is going to be a vital part of training today, students will need a practical framework of what it is and how it works. Right now, for karate students, chinkuchi exists only as a quasi-reality.