The Bushinkai Academy has a strong heritage and lineage in Okinawan, Japanese and Chinese martial arts and these cultures. In this first article we will look at our Okinawan heritage. The purpose of these articles is to demonstrate the richness of our heritage in each tradition separately.
1) Okinawan Heritage
Simon Keegan’s great-great-great-great-great grandfather’s family sailed to Okinawa from Sweden in 1778 (see details on this genealogy page) where the patriarch of the Nilsson family worked for a shipping company alongside Tode Sakugawa a Karate master whose job it was to protect the cargo. Nils returned to Sweden in around 1805 where his son Johannes was born.
In the next generation was Nils Johann Nilsson (Simon’s great great great grandfather), whose son August Nilsson came to England in the 1890s. August was born in 1866 and lived until he was 90. He served with the Swedish Navy and taught his sons and grandsons “boxing”. August Nilsson is the link between the Nilsson family today (Simon’s grandmother still remembers August) and the Nilsson family of Okinawa, as he was born in Kalmar where they came from.
Just like the six generations before him, Simon began learning boxing in his grandad’s back yard. A notable family martial artist was Simon’s great uncle Bill (grandson of August Nilsson) who also became a blackbelt in Jujutsu in the 1940s. For further information, dates and citations on the Sakugawa Ryu family tradition of the Nilssons visit this blog post.
2) Lineage in the Okinawan arts
Simon Keegan followed his father and uncle in studying Karate, after initially being taught basic Karate and Jujutsu by his dad, he commenced formal study of Karate. Simon trained for eight years with the Bushido Academy, where instructor Steve Bullough taught him a method called “Bushido Freestyle”, a mix of Shotokan, Wado Ryu, Shukokai, Budokan/Yoseikan and Goju Ryu Karate, together with other martial arts.
By 1995 Simon was competing in Karate at national level, but also in 1996 he first came by a copy of the Bubishi translated by Hanshi Patrick McCarthy and was inspired to look to the origins of Karate.
Grading blackbelt in 1999 and helping his instructor each he opened his own branch of the club which later became Bushinkai. Simon also trained for several years with Bob Carruthers (Seiki Juku Shotokan) and was introduced to Bob’s teacher Shihan Handyside, whose Shobukan style combines Japanese Shotokan with the Malaysian Budokan, which is closer to Tomari Te’s origins.
Grading 2nd Dan in both Shotokan and Ryukyu Kempo Karate Jutsu, Simon also trained with Steve Brennan who taught a style based on Patrick McCarthy’s Koryu Uchinadi. Simon was accepted into IMAF where he was recognised as a 2nd Dan in Hirokazu Kanazawa’s Shotokan division. Then he met a new teacher – Reiner Parsons. Simon was also introduced to Reiner’s teacher Tadanori Nobetsu, headteacher of Nisseikai, a Naha Te style which combines Goju Ryu with Feeding Crane. Simon graded to 3rd dan in this art.
Simon graded 4th Dan Dan in Shoto Ryu Karate, recognised by the division headed by Ikuo Higuchi and subsequently the title of Renshi. Leaving IMAF but remaining international director of IMAF GB (now the UKBF) Simon also became a member of Karate Jutsu International, headed by Hanshi Terry Wingrove where he also had chance to train with masters like Patrick McCarthy.
Simon became a founder member of the English Karate Federation. He pioneered a Karate method called Hakuda Kempo Toshu Jutsu and his studies have featured in Traditional Karate and Martial Arts Illustrated. He was awarded the grade of 5th Dan in 2012 under the World Union of Karatedo Federations.
3) Culture and Forms
The Okinawan forms we teach in Bushinkai include:
- Heian Shodan: Developed by Okinawan master Anko Itosu in around 1900
- Heian Nidan: Developed by Okinawan master Anko Itosu in around 1900
- Heian Sandan: Developed by Okinawan master Anko Itosu in around 1900
- Heian Yondan: Developed by Okinawan master Anko Itosu in around 1900
- Heian Godan: Developed by Okinawan master Anko Itosu in around 1900
- Naihanchi (Tekki): Developed by Okinawan masters like Matsumura in around 1860
- Gekisai: Developed by Okinawan masters Miyagi and Nagamine in around 1940
- Bassai: Developed by Okinawan master Matsumura in around 1830
- Kushanku (Kanku): Developed by Okinawan masters Sakugawa and Yara in around 1750
- Wansu (Empi): Developed by Okinawan masters Hama Higa and Takahara in around 1700
Hakuda Kempo Toshu Jutsu aims to take Karate back to its Okinawan origins as a complete martial arts, an excellent method of self defence and a healthy pursuit.