Matsumara Sensei was born in 1809 in Shuri-Yamakawa village, Okinawa. His Chinese name was Bu Seitatsu. it is not known who taught him the martial arts, but it is said that he became involved with the martial arts at a very young age. Matsumura Sensei was famous for his intellect and courage as a result of his hard training. He was the chief bodyguard for the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth kings of the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa).
Matsumura Sensei was twice sent to Fukien, China, and mainland Satsuma (now known as Kagoshima, Japan) as an envoy of the Ryukyuan king. In China, he was allowed to learn the secret Chinese martial arts, and in Satsuma, he was instructed in the martial arts by Ishuin Yashichiro. This fact was recorded in his family lineage, which was unfortunately destroyed by fire in 1944. The following are the teachings of Matsumura Sensei:
"There are three types of teachings in both literary arts and the martial arts. The three teachings in the literary arts are Shinsho, Kunko and Confucian. While Shinsho and Kunko are too iiterarily artistic to be justified as true teachings, the Confucian teachings should be recognized as true teachings because of their effort to attain sincerity and peace."
"Three teachings in the martial arts are Gakushi, Meimoku and Budo. While Gakushi and Meimoku are too violent and harmful to be considered as true teachings, Budo teachings emphasize the non-violent and mental methods to overcome opponents. So, daily training has to be done with these two teachings (Confucian and Budo) in mind."
Matsumura Sokon Sensei learned his form of "Te" while in China studying under Wai Shiu Zan. Among his students were Towada, !shimine, ltotsu, and Kuwae (his last formal student). All of these outstanding martial artists came from wealthy families. Matsumura Sensei was a verywell-educated man and was married to a very beautiful woman, who was also a splendid martial artist in her own right.. It is said of Matsumura Sensei's wife that she would marry the man who could defeat her. Matsumura Sensei took up the challenge and fought her. Although she was very skilled, Matsumura Sensei kicked her in the breast area causing her to surrender the fight. Shortly after their fight, they were married. It is said that the Shuri-te form of the kata Seisan was developed by Matsumura Sensei's wife so as to allow her to fight with a baby strapped to her back.
Matsumura Sokon Sensei was the Ryukyuan King's bodyguard up until his death at age 85. A story is related concerning one night when three criminals broke into Shuri Castle. Upon being notified of this, Matsumura Sensei decided to send his wife to get rid of them or arrest them. Upon arriving at the castle, she confronted them leaving. After a short fight, the lady Matsumura left one dead and the other two severely injured (one of which died several days later from a toe-tipped kick to the leg).
Another incident involved Matsumura Sensei fighting another Okinawan Bushi, Kushiguawa Uehara. The fight was to take place in front of the king to determine who would be the chief bodyguard. Both men only threw one punch, with Matsumura Sensei winning by skillfully punching Bushi Kushiguaw's punching hand and breaking it.
The most famous story concerning Bushi Matsumura involved him fighting a large bull. The Ryukyuan king had always wanted to know whether a man could fight and win against a bull, but he also wanted to see how well Matsumura Sensei could handle himself in a life or death confrontation. When the king gave Matsumura Sensei the challenge, he could not refuse because he was the king's chief bodyguard. The other Okinawan Bushi advised him that he would be killed if he took up the challenge. They stated that it would be much wiser for him to step down rather than be needlessly killed.
Matsumura accepted the challenge and the king then ordered fifteen men to construct a special bull-fighting ring for the fight. The news spread throughout all of Okinawa that the great Matsumura would fight the king's favorite fighting bull. In turn, Matsumura Sensei asked the king for three weeks to prepare for the match. The king gave his permission and Matsumura Sensei began his preparations to ensure his win and his survival.
The next day, Matsumura Sensei took a short bamboo spear and went to the stables where the bull was corralled. He told the keeper of the stable that he needed to be alone with the bull in order to make peace with it so as the bull's spirit would not haunt him after he killed it. The keeper honored Matsumura's wish and left. Matsumura Sensei then used his cloak to give the bull his scent and then poked its privates with the bamboo spear. The bull became very angry, but could not get at Matsumura because of the strong corral. He continued to terrorize the bull every day for three weeks until the mere sight of Matsumura caused the bull to cry with fright.
On the day of the fight, Matsumura Sensei wore his oldest and dirtiest fighting clothes that had not been washed. The dirty clothes carried his scent and his hopes for survival. The bull-ring had been situated on the beach and Matsumura Sensei arrived at the appointed hour. By then, almost all of Okinawa was there to watch the Bushi meet his match in the king's favorite fighting bull. The Bushi approached the bull-ring carrying his favorite bamboo fighting fan and nothing else.
As Matsumura Sensei entered the bull-ring, the bull was released. The bull began hitting the sides of the ring until it noticed that it was not alone. Matsumura Sensei showed no fear and walked slowly toward the animal. As the bull turned to meet him, it immediately recognized Matsumura' s scent and what appeared to be a bamboo spear. The bull turned and ran, giving a loud cry. The king, upon seeing this, said it was truly so, that Bushi Matsumura was the greatest of all Bushi. Matsumura Sokon Sensei died at the age of 85.
Kanryo Higaonnawa was born on March 10, 1853, in Naha, the capital city Okinawa. His father, Kanyo, worked as a merchant sailing between the small islands of Okinawa trading everyday goods. From a young age Kanryo Higaonnawa helped his father in this work and through the hard physical labor that was involved he developed a strong body.
Kanryo Higaonnawa was still in his teens when his father died suddenly. Kanryo decided he wanted to study the martial arts and he set his heart on traveling to Fuzhou, China for this purpose. He arrived in Fuzhou in the year 1869, he was 16. Once in Fuzhou, he studied the Chinese martial arts under the great Master, Ryu Ryu Ko. He soon became "uchi deshi" (private disciple) and he remained in China under the severe instruction of his teacher for approximately 13 years. In addition to studying empty handed martial arts he also became accomplished in weapons techniques and Chinese herbal medicine. Master Ryu Ryu Ko esteemed his pupil highly and sanctioned Kanryo's mastery of these arts - an honor which is accorded extremely rarely. Such was Kanryo's skill in the martial arts that his fame became widespread throughout Fuzhou and the surrounding area.
Chojun Miyagi (founder of Goju-Ryu and successor to Kanryo Higaonnawa) said of Kanryo Higaonnawa, "My Sensei possessed incredible strength; the severity of the training he underwent in China is beyond comprehension...Kanryo Sensei's speed and power were truly superhuman; his hands and feet moved faster than lightning." Words cannot express his real ability. We can only say that his skill was incredible, but even this fails to do him justice.
In the year 1881, after 13 years of diligent study with his teacher he returned to Okinawa, and Naha where his martial arts became known as Naha-te (these arts were also referred to as "Tode" meaning martial arts from China). Kanryo Higaonnawa taught these martial arts to the people of Okinawa and at the same time continued his own research and practice. In order to teach the youth of Okinawa and at the same time continued his own research and practice. In order to teach the youth of Okinawa he developed a teaching method which was specifically designed to develop the mind and body; to improve both physical and spiritual well-being.
The first occasion on which the previously secretive art of Naha-te was "opened" to society in general, occurred in October 1905, when Kanryo Higaonnawa began teaching at the Naha Commercial High School.
When teaching, Kanryo Higaonnawa was an extremely hard task master. However, in his everyday life he was a quiet and humble man and one who was renowned for his virtuous character. He was a man who had no need or desire for worldly things. He lead a simple life which was completely devoted to the study and practice of the martial arts.
There are many stories which relate tales of Kanryo Higaonnawa's life and training. The power of his legs was legendary, so much so that he was often referred to as "Ashi no Higaonna" ("legs Higaonna") in Okinawa. His virtuous character was widely known and respected, and because of his popularity the people of Naha bestowed him with the name, "Obushi Higaonnawa Tanmei," a name which reflected the affection and respect they had for this great man and supreme martial artist.
Kanryo Higaonnawa's unparalleled skill in the martial arts aside, his great and distinguished work was in bringing the Chinese martial arts from China to Okinawa, and there spreading these arts among the people of Okinawa.
Kanryo Higaonnawa is now bestowed with the title, "Kensei (sacred fists) Higaonnawa Kanryo," a title which is eminently fitting. His name is synonymous with Okinawan martial arts and naha-te, and his spirit is destined to live on forever as a great and valued treasure within Okinawan culture.
Kanryo Higaonna's whole life was devoted to karate. He passed away in December 1915 at the age of 63.
Yasutsune Itotsu Sensei is often referred to by his nickname of "Ankoh." He was born in 1830 in Shuri-Yamakawa village, Okinawa. He began studying "Shuri-te" under Matsumura Sokon Sensei at a very young age and was literate enough to be named as the official clerk of the Shuri government.
When Karate became part of the physical education training at the Shuri Elementary School in 1901, Itotsu Sensei was its first instructor. This was the first step for the popularization of modern Okinawan Karate. Between 1905 and 1915, Itotsu Sensei was a part-time Karate instructor at the Okinawan Dai Ichi High School. He devoted his entire life to the spread of Shuri style Karate and ended his 85 year long life in 1915. The following are the teachings of Itotsu Sensei:
Hanashiro, Chomo (1869-1945)
Hanashiro was born in 1869 and at an early age began training with the man many consider to be the greatest of all Tote masters, Matsumura Sokon (1809-1901), well known as "Bushi" Matsumura. Matsumura was quite an old man at the time and Hanashiro was primarily a student of one of Matsumura's senior students, Itosu Anko (1830-1915). Itosu shaped modern karate as much as any other person in history and spearheaded a movement to bring Tote into the Okinawan school system around the turn of the century. Hanashiro remained with Itosu, and acted as an assistant instructor for him up until his death in 1915. From early in the 20th century, Hanashiro taught gymnastics at a junior high school in Shuri (Okinawa's capital) which gave him an excellent opportunity to aid Itosu in the introduction of Tote into the school system.
In the 1920's, Hanashiro Chomo was one of the most highly regarded karate masters in Okinawa, a fact that was acknowledged even by other masters. Despite this, information about him is rare in English language texts, and is usually scattered in existing references.
It is difficult to talk about the life of Hanashiro Chomo without also talking about another of Itosu's senior students and assistants, Yabu Kentsu (1863-1937), also originally a student of Matsumura. Yabu was probably most famous for his many challenge matches, all without a single loss.
These two shared many common experiences and have remarkably similar karate careers. Both were noted as having exceptional physiques in the 1891 Japanese army draft's medical exams. They were both pioneers in instructing karate in the school system in the first decade of the 20th century, and also taught Tote in military schools. Both were also present at the famous Oct. 25th, 1936 meeting of Okinawan Masters. At this meeting, attended by the greatest masters of the time, the name "karate do" was officially adopted over "Tote Jutsu". A photo of members of the meeting can be found on Page 7 of the Old Canadian Chito Ryu Technical Manual and many other karate history books. Yabu and Hanashiro are in the middle of the bottom row, O-Sensei is 2nd from the left in the top row.
An interesting story that demonstrates the association of Hanashiro and his dojo-mate Yabu well into their lives comes from Nagamine Shoshin (1907-1998), founder of Matsubayashi Ryu (a well known branch of shorin ryu), and author of "The Essence of Okinawan Karate-do". While studying at the Metropolitan Police Station in Tokyo in 1936, Nagamine met with Hanashiro Chomo and Kentsu Yabu who warned him that the karate katas in Tokyo had changed considerably and that Nagamine should take pains to keep the katas he taught in their original forms. I find this interesting, as Nagamine met with both masters at the same time, 50 years after they were dojo mates at Bushi Matsumura's dojo. Obviously the two were very close.
Hanashiro was not only a pioneer in the school system, but he also pioneered the use of the word "karate". In his August 1905 publication, "Karate Shoshu Hen" (AKA "Karate Kumite"), the first known use of the modern kanji was used.
The original two characters for the art were pronounced Tote meaning, "China Hand." The first character, however, could also be pronounced "kara." This character was changed to another that had the same pronunciation ("kara"). Thus the modern term "Karate-te (empty hand) appeared
Hanashiro was one of the primary instructors for an organization formed in the early 1920's in Okinawa called the Ryukyu Tote Kenkyukai (Okinawan Tote Research Club). The club was an expansion of an earlier organization formed in 1918 by Miyagi Chojun, a famous Tote expert and founder of Goju Ryu. Originally the organization was meant to continue the teachings of Itosu Anko, Higashionna Kanryo and Aragaki Seisho, the last generation of masters who had died between 1915 and 1918, leaving a great void.
Within this club, Okinawa's greatest masters hung around together, taught Tote and exchanged ideas. Hanashiro Chomo wasn't the only teacher; others included Miyagi Chojun (the original organizer), Mabuni Kenwa (founder of Shito Ryu), Motobu Choyu (one of O-Sensei Chitose's teachers, his teachings eventually became Motobu Ryu, a martial art called Te, precursor to Okinawan Tote). Unfortunately, the Kenkyukai disbanded in the late 1920's, members stated that the demands of their students was the reason. The face of karate today would be different if the Kenkyukai had remained in existence.
Hanashiro Chomo had a few famous students. Of particular note are Nakamura Shigeru (1892/95-1969 of Okinawan Kempo), Chitose Tsuyoshi (1898-1984, founder Chito Ryu), Nakama Chozo (1899-1982, of Kobayashi Ryu), Shimabukuro Zenryo (1904-1969, founder of Seibukan Shorin Ryu) and Kinjo Hiroshi (1919-, Patrick McCarthy's current teacher and famous karate historian).
From discussions with Patrick McCarthy, it is believed that Hanashiro received the kata Ryusan from a Chinese tea merchant and White Crane gungfu practitioner named Gokenki. Gokenki worked for the Eiko Chako Tea Company and taught White Crane in Okinawa between 1912 and his death in 1940. Gokenki was an occasional member of the 1920's Kenkyukai, mentioned earlier, and associated with many of Okinawa's great masters during this time.
1945 was a horrific year for karate and for Okinawa in general. The "Battle of Okinawa" was fought and Okinawa was relentlessly pounded by U.S. artillery and occupied by U.S. troops. The island where karate originated was caught between the United States and Japan near the end of the Second World War. Best estimates coming from Okinawa after the war state that approximately 60,000 civilians were killed during the 82 days of fighting. The time after the battle was no less forgiving and many died of starvation and disease, including many karate masters and their students. Hanashiro Chomo was one of the unfortunate victims of this time.
By: Travis Cottreau (Edited for punctuation and clarity)
Grandmaster Chojun Miyagi
Grandmaster Chojun Miyagi was born on April 25, 1888. He began training in karate under Kanryo Higaonna at the age of 14, in 1902. Like his teacher before him, because of his great natural talent and fierce determination, he progressed very rapidly. The training was severe beyond belief at times but he practiced ever harder with an enthusiasm unmatched by any of the other students. Chojun Miyagi became "uchi deshi" (private disciple) of Kanryo Higaonna. He studied with his teacher for 14 years before his teachers death in 1915.
Chojun Miyagi, as successor to Naha-te pushed himself to the limits of endurance in his desire to emulate the extraordinary skills of his teacher. To this end, that same year (1915) he journeyed to Fuzhou, China the city where his teacher had studied the martial arts, to further his research. This was one of three trips he made to China during his lifetime.
On his return to Okinawa he began to teach martial arts at his home in Naha. Later, he also taught the Okinawan Prefecture Police Training Center, the Okinawan Master's Training College and at the Naha Commercial High School (where his teacher once taught.)
Chojun Miyagi worked hard to spread karate throughout Okinawa and mainland Japan, and to earn Naha-te a status equal to that of the highly respected Japanese martial arts of judo and kendo. To achieve this he traveled frequently to mainland Japan where he was invited to teach karate at Kyoto University, Kansai University and Ritsumei Kan University. In 1933 karate was registered at the Butokukai, the center for all martial arts in Japan. This was a milestone for karate as it meant that it was recognized on a level with the highly respected martial arts of Japan.
Chojun Miyagi dedicated his whole life to karate. He was responsible for structuring Naha-te (which he later named "Goju-Ryu") into a systemized discipline which could be taught to society in general. This teaching system which he formulated enabled karate to be taught in schools for the benefit of the young, and to reach vast numbers of people throughout the world. However, his private teaching at his home remained strictly in adherence to the principles and traditions of his teacher, Kanryo Higaonna, and his teacher before him, Ryu Ryu Ko.
The naming of Goju-Ryu came about more by accident than design. In 1930, Chojun Miyagi's top student, Jin'an Shinzato, while in Tokyo was asked by numerous martial arts masters as to what school of martial arts he practiced. As Naha-te te had no formal name he could not answer this question. On his return to Okinawa he reported this incident to Chojun Miyagi. After much consideration Chojun Miyagi decided on the name Goju-Ryu (hard & soft school) as a name for his style. This name he took from a line in the Bubishi ( a classical Chinese text on martial arts and other subjects). This line which appears in a poem describing the eight precepts of the martial arts, reads, "Ho Goju Donto" (the way of inhaling and exhaling is hardness and softness).
The Succession of Goju-Ryu
Jin'an Shinzato, an exceptional talent and the one whom Chojun Miyagi had chosen as his successor, was tragically killed during the second world war. Later, after the war, Chojun Miyagi chose An'ichi Miyagi Sensei to succeed him, to pass on Goju-Ryu to the next generation.
Chojun Miyagi passed away on October 8th, 1953, leaving a great legacy behind. He predicted that during the twentieth century karate would spread throughout the world. Today we can see that his prediction has been realized; karate is not only practiced in Japan, but it can be found throughout the countries of the world. Karate can no longer be referred to as a solely Okinawan or Japanese martial art, but it has become and art with no boundaries, an art for all nations and all the people of the world.
The Philosophy of Grandmaster Chojun Miyagi
The philosophy that permeates Goju-Ryu Karate-do, that is the very essence of this art, could be seen in its most practical way by simply observing the life of Chojun miyagi. Indeed, Chojun Miyagi's life and the way he lived his life was a perfect expression of the spirit and philosophy of Goju-Ryu Karate- do.
After the extreme devastation of the second World War Okinawa was left in the grip of terrible poverty. Housing and food were scarce. The United States Military had stockpiles of food and clothing and even the most virtuous of Okinawans would take these from time to time. On occasions when Chojun Miyagi was offered food or clothing he would always refuse and point out that what little he already possessed was sufficient for his needs.
Chojun Miyagi would never compromise himself. Whatever hardships he encountered in his life, his heart (mind & spirit) would never change. He would always stress that especially in the martial arts one must always be humble. The stronger one becomes, the more that person should express their gentler side. This is the meaning of "Go" and "Ju".
Chojun Miyagi was a strict teacher of the martial arts but he showed great affection and love for his students. He would always consider the well being of his students, not only in their training but in their everyday lives as well. He would always try and guide them along the correct path.
The legacy of Chojun Miyagi is much more than just technique. He has left us with a philosophy which is profound in its simplicity; a philosophy to help us achieve truth and virtue in our lives.
LEGEND OF CHOKI MOTOBU
Chosin Chibana was born in Shuri on June 5, 1886, into a modest family. As a boy, he worked in the fields to help with his families livlihood.
He attended Okinawa Prefectual Grammer School. In 1898, Chibana successfully met the requirements necessary to enter Okinawa Prefectural Daiich Middle School, but left school in mid-course in 1900 to become a student of the widely known authority of Karate, Ankoh Itotsu. Chibana devoted his total life to the study of Karate under Itotsu Sensei for 13 years.
During this time, Chibana was a classmate to men like himself, who were to leave their mark on Karate across the world. Students studying under Itotsu Sensei with Chibana were Kenwa Mabuni, Choki Oshiro, and Masashige Shiromo, to just name a few. In 1920, Chibana Sensei opened two dojos, one in Shuri and one in Naha. Shortly before this time, Karate had been introduced to mainland Japan by several of Chibana's classmates, Kenwa Mabuni and Gichin Funakoshi. During this surge of interest in Karate, many Karatemen sought ways of making what they knew more appealing, but Chibana Sensei maintained that it would take him a lifetime to understand thoroughly what he had been taught by Itotsu Sensei. He devoted his life to this principle. He could often be heard sayging, "Karate is teaching Kata (form) we have taken from forefathers without changing it at all." When the many changes were taking place in Karate with the naming of different systems by Ryu names, Chibana Sensei named his system Shorin-Ryu to denote that he was teaching exactly as he had been taught by Itotsu Sensei. While training his students, he also coached students at threee universities in mainland Japan; Takushoku University, Tyo University and Nihon University, through explanation of military exercise before the Pacific War.
After the war and Okinawa had recovered from the destitution, Chibana Sensei started to teach again to those students who had no been killed in the war. Many of his top students served and died for the Japanese Imperial Army.
Having devoted his total life to teaching Karate and never having another vocation, in 1956 at the age of 71, he organized the Okinawa Karate Federation and took offfice as its first president. This was a big step for Chibana Sensei because the Okinawa Karate Federation was made up of main Ryus that had developed in Okinawa. This was the beginning of the end of the quarreling between school and system as to whose system was the best. In 1957, because of his efforts to unite Karate on and system as to whose system was the best. In 1957, because of his efforts to unite Karate on and system as to whose system was the best. In 1957, because of his efforts to unite Karate on Okinawa and his total dedication to Karate, he was given the degree of "Hanshi no Sogo" (Doctorial Master) by the Dainippon Butokukai. This was the highest rank ever given to any Karate insructor and no one has received this rank since. In 1960, he was awarded a special athletic prize by the Okinawa Times.
In 1961, he seceded from the presidency of the Okinawa Karate Federation to devote more time to his disciples. At this time, he organized the Okinawa Shorin-Ryu Karate Association made up of his disciples. From this time, although 76 years old, he devoted all his energies to his followers. In February 1969, at the age of 84, Chibana Sensei passed away after a short illness, leaving behind him a life completely devoted to Karate and the almost impossible feat of having trained five of his disciples, Chozo Nakama, Katsuya Miyshira, Kensei Kinjo, Yucho Ku Higa, and Shugoro Nakazato, to the stage of Kyudan (9th Degree) Karate Master.
Kanbun grew up in a mountain farming village on the Motobu peninsula of Okinawa. Uechi's family were farmers of daikon radishes. In his youth, Uechi studied bôjutsu with Motobu experts.
Time in China
Japan began a program of universal male conscription in Okinawa in the late 1800s. In 1897 at the age of 20, Kanbun fled to Fuzhou in Fukien Province, China both to escape Japanese military conscription and to fulfil his dreams of studying martial arts with Chinese masters.
Upon arrival in China, Uechi initially took up the study of Kojo Ryû, but dojo management mocked him for a speech impediment and the offended Uechi sought training elsewhere.
Uechi next took up the study of herbalism and a Kung Fu system called "Pangai-noon" (or Pangainun), under a Chinese master named Shushiwa. Uechi received a certificate of mastery in 1904, and he later opened his own dojo in Nansoye, China.
Return to Okinawa
After returning to Okinawa in February of 1910, Uechi moved to Wakayama City, in the Wakayama Prefecture of mainland Japan, where in 1925 he established the Institute of "Pangainun-ryu (half-hard and soft) Todi-jutsu", and began the process of launching his own dojo. Uechi continued to teach in Wakayama until 1948.
The style he taught was renamed in 1940 to "Uechi Ryû" Karate in his honor, and is one of the four major styles of Okinawan Karate. It was greatly systematized by Uechi's son, Kanei. Uechi Ryû has students and dojos around the world, and it is particularly popular in the Northeastern United States (along with one of its variants, Shohei-ryu).
Some believe Kanbun Uechi was born in Izumi on the Motobu Peninsula, and that he moved to the tiny mountain village of Takinto at three or four years old. However, evidence clearly indicates that Kanbun's parents, Kantoku and Tsuru Uechi, had already moved to Takinto and it was in the mountain top village that Kanbun was born on May 5, 1877.
Kanbun Uechi grew up in this area, part of a proud, traditional Okinawan family of bushi (Samurai or Shizoku) lineage. The Uechi family farmed daikon radishes and sold them in the village at the bottom of the mountain. Radishes are still grown there today.
Empty handed Okinawan fighting arts (te), kobudo, and the samurai arts were a cultural part of rural life in Okinawa, especially on the Motobu peninsula. More organized martial arts were being taught in the southern areas such as Naha, Shuri and Tomari. Those systems were greatly influenced by the martial arts of China (tote).
Areas in the southern part of the island were an insurmountable distance for a farmer from Motobu to travel.
Kanbun learned bojutsu (staff arts) from exposure to Motobu experts such as Taru Kise and Kamato Toyozato as well as his father, Kantoku. Kanbun often taught the younger people of his area and led bo demonstrations that accompanied holidays and festivals. An aged martial arts master from Tobaru named Toyama instilled in Kanbun the desire to pursue martial arts training in China. Toyama had visited China many times to study the martial arts and bojutsu. Though he did not leave a lasting historic mark on Okinawa,Toyama influenced many young men in the Motobu peninsula, including Kanbun Uechi.
Kanbun's keen interest in karate and social objections to serving in the Japanese army provoked his decision to leave Okinawa. His parents abandoned their earlier objections against Kanbun traveling to China in the interest of their son's safety and life.
In March 1897, Kanbun undertook the ten-day excursion across the East China Sea to Fuchow City in Fukein Province. He was accompanied by Tokusaburo Matsuda, a friend from Motobu. The two young refugees, soon to be twenty years old, were uneducated and unfamiliar with the language and ways of China.
Kanbun Uechi in China
Seiko Toyoma told this version of Kanbun's acceptance into Shushiwa's school:
One day Shushiwa became ill with a massive headache. He did not look well so his alarmed students sought out Kanbun Uechi and insisted that he use his medicine to cure their teacher. Kanbun successfully healed Shushiwa with herbal mixtures. As a result Kanbun Uechi was finally accepted as an official disciple at the Fu Chuan Shin Temple in a secret ceremony called Pai Soo.
Like many would-be martial arts students in the last days of the 19th century, Kanbun Uechi's first years of study were as much about patience as about martial arts! The first three years of Kanbun's training were devoted only to the kata Sanchin. During the first two years, training focused on strengthening the student's body through hard work as well as martial arts practice.
In addition to karate training, Kanbun worked at farming on the temple grounds, pulling up daikon radish roots. Another chore he performed was the cleaning and husking of beans. The beans were placed in a large stone bowl and struck repeatedly with the fingertips until the husks could be blown away. With this type of work the fingertips were being trained for martial arts. In Okinawa and China, building strength in daily work and karate training were closely related.
In the spring of 1904, the same year that war began between Japan and Russia, Kanbun Uechi received the Menkyo Kaiden certificate naming him a master of Chinese Pangainoon (half hard-half soft style). It was a monumental event in his twenty-seven years of life. He had vowed to himself to become proficient in the martial arts of China or never return to his homeland.
Kanbun became an assistant to Shushiwa, continuing his martial arts training and lessons in Chinese literature and medicine for three more years. Kanbun felt a strong obligation to perform and teach Pangainoon precisely as Shushiwa taught him. He was diligent about every aspect of his teaching.
Kanbun had learned a great deal about the language and herbal medicine by that time. The knowledge of growing, preparing and administering herbal medicine went hand in hand with martial arts teaching. A teacher was expected to heal his students when they were injured during training.
At thirty years of age, Kanbun opened his own dojo, the Pangainoon Kempo Sho (Martial Arts Institute) early in 1907. He chose a town he liked called Nansei no cho (Nansoe), approximately 250 miles southwest of Fuchow.
Kanbun Uechi was a warm hearted, affectionate man who was well like by his students. His fierce martial arts ability was secondary to his easy, likable demeanor. Though now teaching in his own dojo, Kanbun continued his instruction by making semiannual visits to Shushiwa to continue his own dedicated training.
Kanbun Uechi, despite requests from his students and Shushiwa to remain, closed his dojo in 1910 and left China forever. During his thirteen years in China, Kanbun learned three kata. They were Sanchin, Seisan, and Sanseiryu. Kanbun called the third kata Sandairyu. Kanbun also learned various methods of Chinese body conditioning.
Kanbun Uechi back in Okinawa
Having satisfied his goal of learning Chinese martial arts, Kanbun returned to his homeland of Okinawa. Not long after arriving back, Kanbun Uechi began to receive requests to demonstrate his formidable and notable martial arts skills. He was also frequently asked to teach both formally and informally. The constant pressure to teach karate made life difficult for Kanbun Uechi, who sought only seclusion.
Eventually, the pressure to teach became so intense that Kanbun had to act. At that time, Okinawa was undergoing serious economic strife. The pressure to teach and the severe economic climate combined to help him make a difficult decision.
Kanbun again left his homeland. He followed the lead of many Okinawan people seeking employment during this time and at forty-seven years old decided to travel to the industrialized area of Kansai (Osaka and Kobe), Japan.
Kanbun Uechi in Wakayama, Japan
Kanbun eventually traveled to Wakayama and secured employment in a textile mill, the Hinomaru Sangyo Kabushki Kaisha. The large mill, made of red tile called akarenga, produced boseki fabric used in Japanese clothing. The factory operated twenty-four hours a day.
In April 1925, Kanbun ended his fifteen-year ban on teaching martial arts and opened his first school in Japan. It was at this point that Uechi ryu, taught as Pangainoon, was born. Kanbun used the living quarters (taku) in the company (kai-sha) compound for this purpose, naming it the Shataku (company quarters) dojo. "Dojo" is the name for a karate school. The words literally translate to "way place" and represent the place where the way of karate is taught.
Kanbun intentionally limited the number of students he taught. New students had to be recommended by one of the original members. That member guaranteed the moral character and behavior of the candidate they recommended. All prospective students were carefully screened and scrutinized by Kanbun. All students were forbidden to display their martial arts outside the dojo. All training was conducted secretly behind closed doors and shutters.
In March 1932, Kanbun Uechi, at fifty-four years of age, changed the location of his dojo. He opened the Pangainoon-ryu Karate-jutsu Kenkyu-jo in the Tebira section of Wakayama. The new dojo, located at Showa Dori (street), less than two miles from the former Shataku dojo, was dedicated to formalized training and personal development.
Gichin Funakoshi, who is generally credited with being the fist Okinawan to open a dojo in Japan, opened his Meisei Juju dojo in Koishigawa, Tokyo two years later in 1934. The clandestine atmosphere of the Shataku dojo was left behind and the new dojo was open to the public. Kanbun continued to screen potential students. Only persons of an unbalanced or deceitful nature were excluded. The student enrollment grew and Kanbun soon quit his job at the boseki factory.
Kanbun Uechi and Ryuyu Tomoyose
Due to post war strife in Japan, Kanbun decided to return to Okinawa. In October 1946, Kanbun Uechi, accompanied by students Seiryo, Tsuru, and Seiyu Shinjo, Seiko Toyama and a few others, returned to Okinawa together. Several others later returned separately and settled in the northern portion of Okinawa.
Kanbun left the Tebira dojo in the care of Ryuyu Tomoyose.
In January 1948, Kanbun Uechi became ill with nephritis that he fought for eleven months. Kanbun, 71 years old, died on Ie-jema Island on November 25, 1948. The Shinjo family were the only ones present when Kanbun died.
Kanbun Uechi has been described by many people who knew him as a kind, gentle, quiet man in day-to-day life but a fierce, intense, and strict instructor of Pangainoon ryu. His life was as unique and eventful as other forefathers of karate, as was his influence.
Katsuya Miyahira (1918),
10th Degree Black Belt, and second president of the Okinawa Shorin Ryu Karate Association, began his training in the martial arts at the age of 13. At that time, in the high schools, boys were required to study either Kendo or Judo. Master Miyahira studied Judo under his first teacher Itokazu and reached the rank of nidan (2nd Degree Black Belt) by the time he was 18. After school he went to Grandmaster Chibana’s house where he practiced karate and according to one record he began his study at the age of 15. While attending Okinawa Prefecture Number One School which is now Shuri High School, Master Miyahira also studied karate under Anbun Tokuda and later under Chokki Motobu.
During the Second World War Master Miyahira worked as a school teacher in Manchuria where he also taught self-defense. After the war he returned to Okinawa and taught karate in his garden at Kaneku Village in Nishihara, assisting Choshin Chibana at Asato. He later moved to Tsuboya in Naha and opened a dojo in Goeku in Koza while teaching karate twice a week at the University of the Ryukyus in Shuri. At Goeku, Master Miyahira taught many American servicemen. He said, “Most of them did not last long.”
In 1956 Master Miyahira built a wooden dojo called Shidokan behind his house in Tsuboya where he has taught karate ever since. In 1995 when members of our dojo went to Okinawa they were honored to be invited to visit with Miyahira Sensei in that very school. I first met Master Miyahira in 1964 when Master Miyagi took me and another Marine to one of his classes. Before entering the dojo to watch his class we were asked to sit and drink tea with him in his house. Although I was still an novice in those days with a long way to go, I considered it an honor to be asked to sit and share tea with him. I had no idea back then what was on the road ahead, but as time passed I was humbled to receive promotion certificates for 6th and 7th Dan from Master Miyahira, as well as my Teacher’s Certification. Then in 1997 I was one of ten teachers from around the world to be honored at a banquet and presented with a Certificate of Appreciation from Miyahira Sensei.
Master Miyahira has said that there only slight differences between the Shorin styles taught on Okinawa, but in comparision with the Shorin-derived styles in Japan, the difference is great. The basic forms on the Japanese mainland have varied from the Okinawa forms to such an extent that he considers the punches, blocks and kicks to be ineffective. Master Miyahira said, “Correct basic form is the utmost importance.”
Master Miyahira even though he considers himself retired, he still works out every day.
Remarks: Original Japanese title "Kyudo Mugen: Karate No Michi" Written by a reporter of the monthly magazine "Aoi Umi" February 1978 issue (No.70) published by Aoi Umi Shuppansha (pages 96-97).
"Very rhythmical and beautiful movement!" praised a musician from outside Okinawa when he saw a performance of Shorin-ryu karate in Okinawa. It is natural that the musician was impressed, as the characteristic of Kata in Shorin-ryu has not only fighting element but also esthetic element. It has power in the graceful and fluid movement, but we cannot see it by appearances. It is said that Shorin-ryu is rather an aggressive karate, although its movement is soft and gentle. They attack the opponents like dancing. Shorin-ryu has similarity to Okinawan traditional dance in its positioning of waist, movement of hands and footwork. That is why some Okinawan traditional dancers come to the dojo to study karate.
"Yes, like this. You raise your hand. And lower it. You do it fast. You do it slowly." said Mr. Yuchoku Higa. If you add rhythm to Kata of karate, it will become an Okinawan traditional dance.
Master Yuchoku Higa is the chief instructor of "Kyudokan", a karate dojo of Shorin-ryu. He has a strong physique as a warrior because he has been training in karate for a long time. But when he was a boy, he was skinny and had a weak constitution. Higa’s grandfather was worried about his delicate grandson, so he took his grandson to the home of Master Gichin Funakoshi, his cousin, and made Higa stay with Funakoshi’s family. The grandfather hoped that Higa learn karate from Master Funakoshi, and at the same time Master Funakoshi help his grandson with his studies. At that time Master Funakoshi worked as a teacher at school. Four days later, Higa who was in the fourth grade of elementary school, escaped from Master Funakoshi’s home and went back to his home. He was very afraid and felt lonely when he lived apart from his family. However, the grandfather could not give up his idea, so he tried again when Higa was in the sixth grade of elementary school. This time he took his grandson to the home of Master Chojun Miyagi, the founder of Goju-ryu karate. But again Higa escaped from Master Chojun Miyagi’s home. He said to his grandfather, "Please, please do not force me to learn karate!" Eventually the grandfather gave up and never took him to any karate masters.
When Higa was a student of Naha Commercial High School at age 16, he became willing to learn karate. He was physically weak, skinny and pale. He also had a slight stoop. Moreover, he was a bookworm. He liked reading books very much. Higa was an easy target to bully. He was being bullied at school, so he became reluctant to go to school. He felt so depressed that he even thought of trying to kill himself. But he changed his mind. He thought he could die at any time. "I will revenge someday!" said Higa to himself. So he decided and began learning karate.
"The motive for learning karate was not pure at all. I was just thinking I would revenge the bullies someday in the future. Ha ha ha!" said Higa with laughing. He first learned karate from Master Jiro Shiroma of Shuri-te style. And later, he also learned from Master Jin-an Shinzato (Naha-te style), Master Seiei Miyara (Shuri-te style) and Master Choshin Chibana (Shuri-te style). Master Jiro Shiroma always said, "Don’t talk about karate. Don’t demonstrate karate." He warned us that we tended to show off our strength if we learned karate.
The mottos of Kyudokan, Master Yuchoku Higa’s karate dojo, are as follows.
In 1972, a beautiful building of karate dojo was built for Master Higa by his supporters. However, Master Higa himself thinks a dojo is not necessary for practicing karate. He said, "Before the dojo was built, I practiced karate at the yard or garden of my home. There were Gajimaru (= a banyan tree) and Sakura (= cherry blossoms) in my yard or garden. I loved practicing karate there under the moonlight. I think if we practice karate at the place surrounded by the beauties of nature, melted in nature, we can see a wonderful value of karate and understand karate better."
He also criticizes a karate tournament or karate as a sport. Master Higa said, "It is not a karate if you stop your punch before contact. But if you really fight, injury or worse than injury is inevitable. Essentially karate is not fit for a tournament. It is impossible to make karate a tournament sport."
"Kyudo Mugen." (= Studying karate and searching for the Truth is infinite.) It is a word from Master Yuchoku Higa who has been training in karate for more than fifty years. The name of his dojo, "Kyudokan" is derived from this word. There is no end for mastering karate. If we seek the Truth, the path toward the Truth will become distant.
SHUGORO NAKAZATO was born in Nahn-city Okinawa on August 14, 1919. While attending normal school in Osaka Japan in 1935, he began his study of Karate at the age of 16 under the instruction of Ishu Selichl. Nakazato studied under Sensei Ishu for 6 years. During the war, he was in the Japanese calvary.
After the war was over, Nakazato returned to his home in Okinawa to find his family a casualty of war. In June of 1946, he began his study of Karate under Choshin Chibana, who was the Menkyo inheritor of Anko Itotsu. In 1948 Chibana's Shuri dojo closed but Nakazato continued his study with Master Chibana. For one year Chibana gave Nakazato personal tutoring at Chibana's home.
In 1951 Nakazato was instrumental in helping Chibana open his new DAI ICHI DOJO in Naha City at Matsuo. Chibana continued his personal tutoring of Nakazato at the Dai Ichi Dojo until January 10, 1954 when Nakazato received his Shihan Menkyojo at which time he became Master Chibana's Shihan Dai (assistant). After work as the Shihan Dai in the Dai Ichi Dojo under Chibana for one and half years, Nakazato was commissioned by Chibana to find the Shorin-Ryu. ShorinKan Nakazato dojo in Naha City at Aza.
Nakazato was appointed as one of the directors of the Okinawan Karate Federation when it was formed in 1956 with the four major (shiryuha) systems of Karate in Okinawa Goju-Ryu; Uechi-Ryu, Shorin-Ryu, Matsubayshi-Ryu. All during this time Nakazato devoted all of his time and energy to teaching and perfecting Shorin-Ryu Karate-do. In 1960 the Okinawan Karate Federation promoted him to Eight Degree Black Belt and Kyoshi. Seven years later Nakazato continued his climb to the top of the Shorin-Ryu hierarch y when Master Chibana and the Okinawa Shorin-Ryu Karate-do Kyokai promoted him to Hanshi and 9th Degree Black Belt.
Nakazato began his study of weapons almost from the beginning of his training in 1935. He was trained in the sai, bo, nunchaku, tonfa, and nicho kama, but he specialized in Bojutsu for 4 years. Throughout his career he has given of his knowledge very willingly. He has demonstrated his technique of Karate all over the world, in Europe, India, Africa, mainland Japan, and he has made at least 8 trips to America. He has appeared on television many times and is often a guest on the "Tokyo T.V. Afternoon Show." When Master Chibana passed away, Shugoro Nakazato inherited the Leadership of Okinawan Shorin-Ryu Karate-do, thus becoming a (10) TENTH DEGREE BLACK BELT.