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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.  

H'ao Ch'uan

 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 kingdom. 

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 of Gichin.


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 Agenco.

    Hohan Soken (1889 - 1982)

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