Sokon "Bushi" Matsumura (1809 - 1899) Sokon "Bushi" Matsumura was born in 1809 to an upper-class (shizoku) family in the Yamagawa Village, Shuri. He began training with Tode "Karate" Sakagawa at a very young age. Matsumura was also a good scholar and a noted calligrapher.
Matsumura served as a close advisor and bodyguard to three Ryukyuan kings - Sho-Ko, Sho Iku and Sho Tai. This position enabled him to travel widely to Fuchou, Satsuma and the Fukien Shaolin Temple where he studied several forms of Chinese boxing and Jigen-ryu sword fighting.
There a several stories as to how Matsumura obtained the name "Bushi" (which means warrior). One credits Karate Sakagawa affectionately bestowing the name on him as because Matsumura, as a child, was very mischievious and liked to fight everyone. Another tale, as related in Richard Kim's "The Weaponless Warrior," claims the name was bestowed by royal decree by King Sho Ko, in recognition of his unusual ability in martial arts, after Matsumura defeated a bull.
Matsumura's wife was also a noted martial artist who (before she met Matsumura) had often challenged (and bested) would-be suitors. One witness recalled seeing her lift a 132 lb. bag of rice with one hand while she swept under it.
Matsumura trained a diverse group of karate masters, including: Anko Itosu. For more information on Sokon Matsumura click here.
Anko Itosu (1831 - 1915) Anko Itosu was born in the Yamagawa Village, Shuri, and became a student of Sokon "Bushi" Matsumura at a very early age. As an educated man well-versed in Chinese classics, Japanese classics and calligraphy, he held the position of Secretary for the Administrative Office of the Ryukyu kingdom under the last Ryukyuan king, Sho Tai, until the monarchy was dissolved in 1879.
In April 1901, Itosu introduced karate to the physical training curriculum at the Shuri Jingo Elementary School. Four years later he became the karate teacher at the Prefectural Dai Ichi College and the Prefectural Teacher's Training College. In 1908 he wrote a letter (now referred to as the "Ten Articles of Karate") to the Prefectural Education Department which led to the introduction of karate to all Okinawan schools.
Anko Itosu trained many well-known martial artists who went on to found their own schools, including:
- Chosin Chibana (see below)
- Gichin Funakoshi (Shotokan)
- Kenwa Mabuni (Kenwa Mabuni Shito-Ryu)
- Shinpan Shiroma (Shinpan Shiroma Shito-Ryu)
- Shigeru Nakamura (Okinawa Kenpo)
Anko Itosu is credited for simplifying Matsumura's katas. Itosu split the Pinan kata into Pinan Shodan, Pinan Nidan and Pinan Sandan. He is also credited with creating Pinan Yondan and Pinan Godan. He also took the Naihanchi kata and broke it into three katas: Naihanchi Shodan, Naihanchi Nidan and Naihanchi Sandan. For more information on Anko Itosu click here.
Chosin Chibana (1886-1969) The founder of Shorin (Kobayshi) Ryu karate was the first person to be awarded a 10th Dan (Hanshi) by the Dai Nippon Butokukai (The Japanese Martial Virtue Society). Chosin Chibana was a native of Torihori village, Shuri. After being turned away twice, he started karate training with Anko Itosu at the age of 15. Chibana stayed with Itosu, his only instructor, for 13 years. At the age of 34, Chibana opened a dojo in Torihori and taught Itosu's karate as it was taught to him by Itosu. Chibana named Itosu's karate Shorin-ryu in 1935, adopting the Chinese characters that literally mean "small forest" (these characters may also be pronounced Kobayashi).
Chibana was a founding member and first president of the Okinawan Karate-do Federation, and two years later he founded and became the first president of the Okinawa Shorin-Ryu Karate-do Association. He brought great honour to Okinawa when on April 29, 1968, the Emperor of Japan awarded him the 4th Order of Merit for his lifelong devotion to karate-do.
Shinpan Gusukuma (1890 - 1954) One Ankoh Itosu's students, Gusukuma Shinpan was also a peer of Chibana Choshin. Gusukuma, also called Shinpan Shiroma by the Japanese, is virtually unknown due to the fact that he was a very quiet individual who was not interested in spreading the art that he so loved. His only concern was to teach good karate and hence only had a few dedicated students.
Shinpan Gusukuma was well educated - he worked as a school teacher and was also known for his skills as an acupuncturist. He was very particular as to who he would take as a student. He was also very strict and scientific in his training and application of karate-do.
Gusukuma stressed and possessed great power for a man of his size (approximately five feet tall). He believed in being able to hit the makiwara with the equivalent of three times your own body weight. Gusukuma was a stickler on conditioning the body through body contact and through the practice of the makiwara punching board (this concept is passed on to all of Hanshi Iha's students, who trained with Gusukuma from 1950 - 1954).
Gusukuma's teaching methods consisted of kata, kata and more kata. He believe that kata provided the foundation of the body and spirit. He said that the Japanese sword is sharp and beautiful but that in order to make it so, it must be pounded and tempered with the sweat of one's body. So the teacher must do the same to the student. If the student is dedicated to the hard training of Okinawan karate, then he can be molded into something sharp and beautiful. After all, Okinawan karate-do, if done correctly, is "sharp and very beautiful" to watch. And like a sharp and beautiful Japanese sword, it is also very deadly. To read more about Gusakuma Sensei click here.
Katsuya Miyahira (1918-2010) Chibana’s most senior student is Katsuya Miyahira. Upon Chibana’s death, Miyahira became the President of the Okinawa Shorin Ryu Karate-do Association and 10th Dan (Hanshi). Hanshi Miyahira was born in Nishihara City, Okinawa on August 16, 1918.
He began training under Chibana in 1933 and also trained with Anbun Tokuda and Choki Motobu. Miyahira’s maxims of Gouri (reason); Gouho (legal or true form); Kiyoson (co-operation) and Kiyoyei (fellowship, friendship) are the foundation stones of Shido Kan karate. In September of 2000, Miyahira O'Sensei was recognized as an "Intangible Cultural Asset" by the Okinawa Prefecture Board of Education for his life-long commitment to teaching Karate-do. Miyahira O’Sensei continues to teach at his Shido Kan Honbu dojo in Naha City, Okinawa. Hanshi Miyahira’s most senior student is Seikichi Iha.To read more about Katsuya Miyahira Sensei click here.
Seikichi Iha (1932- ) Seikichi Iha was born on July 9, 1932, in Nishihara City, Okinawa. Hanshi Iha began training in 1950 with Shinpan Gusukuma (1890-1954). After Gusukuma’s death, he began training with Miyahira O’Sensei. On March 12, 1989, Miyahira O’Sensei promoted Iha Sensei to 9th Dan (Hanshi). He was promoted to Hanshi 10th Dan by his teacher Miyahira Katsuya on March 25, 2001. Hanshi Iha has been teaching at his Original Okinawa Karate dojo in Lansing, Michigan since 1975. Iha Sensei is the most senior practitioner of Shorin-ryu karate outside Okinawa and has been responsible for spreading Shido Kan to much of the world. For more information on Seikichi Iha Sensei click here. Also, please visit the Hombu dojo's website for much more information on Hanshi, as well as on the Beikuko Shido-kan Association. John Dailey, head instructor of the Shibu dojo Maryland Shido-kan Shorin Ryu Karate is a student of Iha Hanshi.
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