Sokon Matsumura: What Did He Actually Teach: Part Two

My article Sokon Matsumura: What did he actually teach? generated a lot of debate and I believe it is worthy of a continuation to clarify some conclusions and new findings. First to recap some background:

In my e-book The Lost Book of Kushanku, I made the following hypothesis (as relates to Sokon Matsumura):

1) The Tomari kata Wansu was introduced to Okinawa in the 1680s by Wang Ji (Wansu), a practitioner of a branch of Bazi Quan that would become Hsing-I Quan. This form was transmitted to Hama Higa, Takahara Peichin and Tode Sakugawa who passed it to his relative in Tomari Teruya.

2) The Shuri kata Kushanku was developed by Tode Sakugawa and Chatan Yara in the 1750s after training with Chinese master Wang Zong Yue, Kushanku referring to one of his precepts (“The Lost Book of Kushanku”). Wang Zong Yue was a practitioner of a branch of Bazi Quan that later became Taiji Quan.

3) Wansu and Kushanku may have been taught to Sokon Matsumura in his early training, but he also travelled to China in 1828 and returned with the forms Seisan and Gojushiho. He learnt these from Iwah.

4) Matsumura developed or assisted in developing the kata Naihanchi and Bassai. Matsumura studied Bazi and chose the name Bassai

5) Jigen Ryu influenced Matsumura, his student Azato and his student Funakoshi hence the use of terms like Empi, Jion and dan levels in kata (ie Naihanchi shodan, nidan, sandan etc)

In my essay: “Sokon Matsumura: What did he actually teach” we made a few more observations including:

1) Contemporary source Gichin Funakoshi does not name forms taught by Matsumura, but in stating that he had been taught kata by Matsumura’s student Azato it is implied Matsumura too taught kata

2) Although Itosu taught many kata (Pinans, Bassai Dai/Sho, Kanku Dai/Sho, Naihanchi, Jion etc) it is not necesarily the case he learnt these off Matsumura

3) Azato taught a plethora of weapons so Matsumura probably did too

4) Choki Motobu states that Matsumura taught Naihanchi (Tekki)

5) Joen Nakazato states his teacher Chotoku Kyan learnt Seisan, Naihanchi and Gojushiho from Matsumura

6) Other sources (such as Ishimine and oral tradition) suggest Matsumura taught Bassai

7) Chito Ryu, headed by Matsumura’s grandson also includes a form called Sanshiryu which by some accounts resembles Gojushiho

In terms of kata we concluded the following forms should be attributed to Matsumura:

  • Naihanchi (Tekki) – confirmed by Choki Motobu and Chotoku Kyan
  • Seisan (Hangetsu) – confirmed by Chotoku Kyan
  • Useishi (Gojushiho) – confirmed by Chotoku Kyan
  • Kushanku (Kanku Dai) – oral tradition and according to Hohan Soken
  • Bassai (Bassai Dai) – oral tradition and according to Ishimine, Kim etc

Since I wrote at length about Bassai and Kushanku (along with Wansu) as being the cornerstones of Shuri Te in my E-Book The Lost Book of Kushanku I would now like to extrapolate a hypothesis I gave in that book, namely that in 1828 Matsumura came back from China with the forms Seisan and Gojushiho which he learnt from Iwah and a few years later he learnt Naihanchi from Ason. I would propose that these forms were taught by Matsumura to his senior students Kyan and Azato.

Sokon Matsumura by Simon Keegan

Sokon Matsumura by Simon Keegan


In addition to the information already presented I would now like to refer to quotes by Dan Smith Sensei (9th Dan) of the Seibukan, who has researched Kyan’s Karate at length:

During research for the book on Kyan’s Karate we found that Chotoku Kyan’s father, Chofu, was a Motanaga at birth and was adopted into the Kyan family to preserve the family name. The importance of this is that when Chotoku (Motanaga) Kyan wrote a self biography for the Ryukyu Shimpo in 1943 he gave the account of his karate training. His article revealed that he studied from an early age with his grandfather and father. He was taken to Sokon Matsumura at the age of 16 (1886) for further studies. The only kata he learned during a two year period was Gojushiho.

He gave a detailed account of his two year training with Matsumura at the garden dojo where Matsumura was conducting training. We also found during the research, conducted by the Kyan Research group of Kadena, that [Chotoku] Kyan’s father was a student of Matsumura (once we understood that Kyan had been a Motonaga we found the records of his training) and he was 25 years senior to Azato and 16 years senior to Itosu. The research assisted in our understanding that Chotoku Kyan had learned Seisan prior to his training with Matsumura and that this Seisan came from his father through Matsumura,

[Chotoku] Kyan wrote in the previously mentioned article that he appreciated Funakoshi’s efforts introducing Karate in Japan under the guise of Okinawan Karate. This clearly demonstrated the awareness of Kyan what Funakoshi was doing in Japan and the he obviously was not teaching the methods of Matsumura. Perhaps of Itosu would be conjecture. I think it is notable that Kyan even mentioned Funakoshi. I have had the hypotheses for some years that Kyan and Funakoshi were at the garden dojo around the same time. This would account for the similarities in methods of Shotokan and Kyan’s karate as demonstrated by the photos of Yoshitaka Funakoshi in H.D Plee’s book and those of Kyan’s methods taught by Zenpo Shimabukuro. The photos of Yoshitaka clearly do not resemble Itosu’s karate.

The discovery that Chofu Kyan was a Motonaga changed the dynamics of understanding who Chotoku Kyan really was. There is little recorded information on Chofu Kyan but the researchrs found significant aspects of Chofu Motonaga’s history with Matsumura. Chofu Motonaga had six brothers. He was the middle brother. As it was a custom on Okinawa that if a family had all daughters and no way to pass on the family name Chofu (the middle son) was allowed to adopted into the Kyan family. The Motonaga werre of royal blood. The Kyan’s were aristocrats but not royal blood. Choftu Motonaga was adopted and married into the Kyan family. He also had six sons and Chotoku was the middle son. Chotoku Kyan had moved to Japan and was living on the Emperial grounds and attended Todai Universtiy (the Emperors University), he lived in Japan for eight years. There is record of he and his father training outside in the royal gardens in the snow with his father. Chotoku adopted the western style dress and cut his hair while living in Japan. In 1896 he was dispatched back to Okinawa by his father to be adopted back into the Motonaga family, Kyan gave an account in the magazine article of his return to Okinawa and subsequent training. Many of the stories about Kyan concerning the other Okinawan teachers and Itosu specifically are called into question after reading this article written by Kyan.

Let us compare Funakoshi’s Seisan (Hangetsu) with Kyan’s as best we can with the video resources available.

Here are some performances of Seisan by Kyan’s lineage:

And now from Funakoshi’s lineage:

Notice how they follow the same basic pattern, suggesting as Smith Sensei states, that Funakoshi and Kyan’s teachers (Azato and Chofu) both learnt the kata from the same source.

We should note that Shorin Ryu (“Chosin Chibana”), Matsubayashi Ryu and Matsumura Seito do not teach Seisan. Styles that do have Seisan such as Goju Ryu teach a very different version of the form:

However Gojushiho is taught by all main Shorin branches including Shoto (Funakoshi), Seibukan/Isshin (Kyan), “Kobayashi” (Chibana) and Matsubayashi (Nagamine who was taught by Motobu and Kyan) and Seito (Soken).



Shito Ryu:

Kobayashi Ryu:

Matsubayashi Ryu:

Remember the sources Kyan stated for the sources of his kata:

  • Seisan, Naihanchi and Gojushiho (from Matsumura)
  • Kushanku (from Chatan Yara)
  • Passai (from Oyadomari)
  • Wansu (via Kosaku Matsumora)

Let’s marry up some of these forms with the ones mentioned by Motobu (Shuri Te and older Tomari forms in bold):

“Among those styles or katas which have been used in Ryu Kyu from ancient days are:

Sanchin, Gojushiho, Seisan, Seiunchin, Ippaku Re Hachi, Naihanchi, Passai, Chinto, Chinte (bamboo yari style), Wanshu, Rohai and Kushanku.

Once again the Shuri forms he mentions are the ones Kyan cited (Seisan, Naihanchi, Gojushiho, Kushanku, Passai, Wansu).

Whereas Motobu does not mention:

Unsu, Nijushiho, Wankan, Sochin, Jutte, Ji’in, Jion, Kanku Sho, and Bassai Sho.

This seems to support the theory that Unsu, Nijushiho, Wankan and Sochin were Aragaki innovations and that Jutte, Ji’in, Jion, Kanku Sho and Bassai Sho came via Itosu’s studies with Gusukuma. Whereas Motobu is more likely to have knowledge of Tomari forms that came via Kosaku Matsumora so it looks like these are Chinto (Gankaku), Chinte and Rohai (Meikyo). I have already suggested that Sanchin was studied before the conventional Naha Te stylists (Goju, Uechi, Ryuei Ryu) by the likes of the Kojo family. I have theorised that Seiunchin was related to Rohai (Meikyo) I believe Motobu’s Ippaku Re Hachi is Suparimpei, another form which dates back to the Kojo visit to Fujian in 1828.

In conclusion:

  • Wansu: Introduced to Okinawa by Wang Ji, passed to Hama Higa, Takahara and then to Sakugawa who taught it to Teruya
  • Kushanku: Developed by Chatana Yara and Sakugawa from the studies of Wang Zong Yue
  • Bassai: Developed by Matsumura from Bazi Quan but seemingly popularised by Matsumora

Forms taught by Matsumura:

  • Naihanchi (from training with Ason)
  • Seisan (from training with Iwah)
  • Gojushiho (from training with Iwah)

    Quote Funakoshi: “Okinawan experts such as Sakiyama, Gushi and Tomoyori of Naha studied some time with the Chinese military attache Ason [other translations say Buken]; Matsumura of Shuri and Maesato and Kogusoku [Kojo] of Kume, with the military attache Iwah”

Forms possibly taught by Matsumura:

  • Bassai (may be attributed to Matsumora)
  • Kushanku (may have come direct from Chatan Yara)

Forms taught by Kosaku Matsumora and Oyadomari:

  • Chinte
  • Chinto
  • Rohai
  • Wansu
  • Bassai

Forms taught by Gusukuma:

  • Jion
  • Ji’in
  • Jutte

Quote Funakoshi: “It is said that a teacher of Gusukuma, Kanagusuku, Matsumura**, Oyatomari, Yamada, Nakazato and Toguchi, all of Tomari, was a southern Chinese [Anan/Chinto] who drifted ashore at Okinawa”.

Forms developed by the Kojo family and Aragaki:

  • Sanchin and Suparimpei (seemingly related to Seisan)
  • Seyunchin (related to Rohai)
  • Unsu (related to Shisochin)
  • Nijushiho (related to Sanseiru), Sochin and possibly Wankan

Quote Funakoshi: “Okinawan experts such as… Shimabuku of Uemonden, and Higa, Seneha, Gushi, Nagahama, Aragaki, Hijaunna and Kuwae all of Kunenboya, [trained] with the military attache Waishinzan”

Shorin Ryu Forms developed later by Itosu:

  • Pinan 1-5 (Heian 1-5)
  • Bassai Sho (perhaps from Passai G’Wa)
  • Kanku Sho (perhaps from Chatanyara Kushanku)

Note Motobu refers to Chinte as a spear kata – and I have theorised that Bassai Sho began life as a katana form.

Shorei Ryu forms developed later by Higaonna and Miyagi:

  • Seipai
  • Kururunfa
  • Saifa
  • Tensho

See also: Where do the Karate Kata Come From?


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