FEL 2017 grant: Development of an Uchinaaguchi karate and kobudo handbook

This is the fourth in our series of posts on grants awarded by FEL in 2017.

Overview. Uchinaaguchi ( ウチナーグチ ) is the most widely-spoken of six Ryukyuan languages in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, however it is expected to disappear within a few generations unless immediate revitalisation efforts are made. Sadly, if Uchinaaguchi disappears, so too will much of the rich vocabulary and concepts specific to Okinawan cultural arts, such as karate and kobudo ( 古武道, Okinawan fighting with weapons). Therefore, in collaboration with members of the Uchinaaguchi-speaking and martial arts practitioner communities, this project will collect and develop specialised martial arts-related Uchinaaguchi terminology into an Okinawan Karate and Kobudo Handbook, thereby promoting the use of Uchinaaguchi in the domain of Okinawan martial arts. Each page of the handbook will contain one Uchinaaguchi term, proverb, or place name, as well as Japanese and English translations, an illustration, and sample sentences. In addition to providing an opportunity for Uchinaaguchi speakers to use their language, the handbook will be a tangible Uchinaaguchi learning resource that will be made accessible to Uchinaaguchi speakers and karate and kobudo practitioners in Okinawa and abroad in print and via the internet.

Grantee. This project is led by Samantha May.

Samantha was an Okinawa resident between 2009 and 2015, and holds a 2015 PhD in Comparative Culture and Area Studies from the University of the Ryukyus, with a thesis entitled Uchinaaguchi Language Reclamation in the Martial Arts Community in Okinawa and Abroad. During her doctoral studies she began compiling the Okinawan Karate and Kobudo Handbook. She also holds a Master’s degree in Linguistics and Communications from the University of the Ryukyus. She has a third degree blackbelt in Meibukan Goju Ryu, and second degree blackbelt in Shorinkai Shorin Ryu. She has spent more than ten years practicing Tesshinkan Ryukyu Kobudo, collaborating with Okinawan martial arts instructors and other Uchinaaguchi speakers. She has 15 years’ experience in language teaching, and developing language learning materials, having also worked in graphic design and social media.

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