Martial arts family traditions

Bushido: The headteacher’s family tradition in the way of the warrior:

Sakugawa Ryu: Eight generations of the Nilsson family

This article documents the military and martial arts family history of Bushinkai headteacher Simon Keegan. It includes much drawn from family artefacts, memories and tradition – but also includes documentation, precise dates and records. This may not be of interest to the wider martial arts community or even some Bushinkai students, but it is a matter of record and important for any headteacher in a Ryu to document their lineage.

THE OKINAWA CONNECTION
Simon’s family tradition of military/martial service goes back eight generations on his mother’s side and six generations on his father’s side. His maternal great-great-great-great-great grandfather Nils served with the Swedish East India and landed in Okinawa in 1785. His paternal great-great-great grandfather Herve served with the French royal navy who sent ships to Okinawa in the 1850s.

Simon’s great great grandfather August Nilsson served in the Swedish Royal Navy and taught his sons and grandsons how to box. This tradition of military service, exposure to the boxing arts of Okinawa, Japan and China goes back several generations. August’s grandson Bill (Simon’s great uncle) was a Jujutsu blackbelt in the 1940s, and Simon’s other great uncle fought in Japan and China as the British Royal Navy were involved in the Battle of Okinawa. This site chronicles the family’s service in detail.

The Swedish arrive in Canton

Swedish East India in Canton in the 18th century

The French marines land in Tomari, as drawn in 1856

Simon’s paternal great great great grandfather Herve Briant was in the French Royal Navy when they sent ships to Tomari, Okinawa and returned with a Karate-like system called Chausson.

Simon’s Japanese Katana is made of Swedish steel, like that exported to Japan in the Tokugawa period from Sweden. Next to it is white crane and monkey statues belonging to Bill Nelson and pictures of August Nilsson (great great grandfather), William Henry Nelson (great grandfather), Jim Nelson (grandfather), Bill Nelson (great uncle) and Edward Molloy (great uncle). Each served in the military

This study gives precise timelines, documents and photographs of the family history and the tradition of Bushido that has been passed on.

Simon Keegan, headteacher with the Sakugawa Ryu katana

Simon Keegan, headteacher with the Sakugawa Ryu katana

daveiai

David Keegan, Simon’s father and great great great grandson of Herve Briant

Bill Nelson, Simon's great uncle. A Jujutsu blackbelt in the 1940s. He was taught boxing by his father and grandfather as a child. His grandfather was a Swedish seafarer whose own great grandfather had served in Okinawa

Bill Nelson, Simon’s great uncle. A Jujutsu blackbelt in the 1940s. He was taught boxing by his father and grandfather as a child

Ted in China 1939

Ted Molloy, Simon’s great uncle in China 1939. Ted was a master at arms (the only non NCO rank to wear a sword) in the Royal Navy and fought in Japan and China

William Henry Nelson, Simon's great grandfather served in WWI where he learnt Jujutsu based combatives. In the 1920s and 30s he used to teach boxing to his sons and their friends

William Henry Nelson, Simon’s great grandfather served in WWI where he learnt Jujutsu based combatives. In the 1920s and 30s he used to teach boxing to his sons

August Nilsson

August Nilsson, member of the Swedish Royal Navy born in 1866. He was Simon Keegan’s great great grandfather and he was the great grandson of Nils who served in Okinawa. As a sailor he was taught unarmed combat, swordsmanship and stickwork. He taught his sons and grandsons to box

Today the traditions are referred to as Sakugawa Ryu (Sakugawa Seito Shorin Ryu) and Kigan-ha Shorei Ryu. These are names he has carefully selected to reflect the martial heritage.

Sakugawa Ryu (Sakugawa Seito Shorin Ryu) (maternal)
Dates back to 1784, Shuri, Okinawa, when Nils served with the Swedish East India

Kigan-ha Shorei Ryu (paternal)
Dates back to 1854, Tomari, Okinawa when Herve Briant was in the French Royal Navy

In Shotokan, the kata are divided into Shorin Ryu and Shorei Ryu. For example Gichin Funakoshi considered Kushanku, Bassai and Heian to be Shorin Ryu, whereas he considered Seisan and Naihanchi (Hangetsu and Tekki) to be Shorei. Elsewhere some styles derived from the teachings of Itosu such as Chosin Chibana’s Shorin Ryu (Kobayashi) and Shoshin Nagamine’s Shorin Ryu (Matsubayashi Ryu) teach more or less the same kata without the Shorei definition. Some regard Shorei Ryu to be synomymous with Naha Te and Tomari Te whereas Shorin Ryu is synonymous with Shuri Te. Read more here.

However in the Bushinkai school’s family tradition, Shorin Ryu and Shorei Ryu have additional significance. Since Sakugawa was synomymous with the ancestors of Shorin Ryu, and Shorei Ryu was synonynous with Tomari. In other words, our Shorin Ryu family figurehead is Nils landing in Okinawa, and serving with Sakugawa, whereas our Shorei Ryu figurehead is Herve Briant, serving with the French Navy at the time they landed in Tomari.

Sakugawa Ryu Katana and Kigan Ryu Aikuchi

Sakugawa Ryu Katana and Kigan Ryu Aikuchi. Simon was given the katana by his father on his 25th birthday and had previously been given the Aikuchi by his grandparents at the age of about 10.

 

SAKUGAWA RYU: COMBAT TRADITIONS OF THE NILSSON LINE

From a Swedish museum of the East India

The Swedish East India’s arrival: From a Swedish museum

Tode Sakugawa was a Karate master who flourished in around 1780.

The Ryu is named in tribute to the fact that Simon’s great-great-great-great-great grandfather Nils was an officer with the Swedish East India Trading Company and worked on the cargo ships with Sakugawa. It is thought he taught his sons and grandsons ‘boxing’ afterwards.

Simon’s great great grandfather August Nilsson came to England in the 1890s and taught his sons and grandsons ‘boxing’. It is a theory that the family’s boxing may have come from Nils’ time in Okinawa. 

Letters from Bill Nelson to Simon Keegan detailing the history of the Nilsson family

Letters from Bill Nelson to Simon Keegan detailing the history of the Nilsson family

KIGAN-HA SHOREI RYU

Kigan is a Japanese term used in Shinto meaning “to pray” and refers to the Shaolin Temple origins of Tomari’s Kempo.

In the 1840s, Shaolin Chuan Fa (Shorei Ji Kempo) was taken to Okinawa by Anan and taught to masters like Kosaku Matsumora.

Today our Tomari Te includes kata like Rohai and Jutte.

The Ryu is named in tribute to the fact that in the 1850s, the French Navy landed in Tomari and subsequently the sailors developing a fighting system called Chausson (similar to Savatte). Simon’s great great great grandfather Herve Briant was a sailor in the French Navy at this time, the 1850s, before he came to England.

Family Tree:

For the sake of simplicity some of people named in this study, along with a brief synopsis of military and martial experience is as follows:

Maternal (Sakugawa Ryu)

  • Simon Keegan (present headteacher)
  • William Henry “Bill” Nelson b1924, Navy WW2, Jujutsu blackbelt (great uncle)
  • Charles James “Jim” Nelson b1923, Army WW2, Taught to box by father (grandfather)
  • Edward Molloy b1909, Master at Arms, Royal Navy, fought in China and Japan (great uncle)
  • William Henry “Willy” Nelson b1896, Army WW1, Taught to box by father (great grandfather)
  • August Nilsson b1866, Swedish Royal Navy (great great grandfather)
  • Nils Johann Nilsson b1835 (great great great grandfather)
  • Johannes Nilsson b1805 (great great great great grandfather)
  • Nils b1762, Swedish East India Trading Company in Okinawa (great great great great great grandfather)
  • Nils served with Tode Sakugawa on the cargo ships in Okinawa hence Sakugawa Ryu Toshu Jutsu
The Sakugawa Ryu Katana and the Kigan Ryu Aikuchi

The Sakugawa Ryu Katana and the Kigan Ryu Aikuchi

Paternal (Kigan Shorei Ryu)

  • Simon Keegan (representative headteacher)
  • David Keegan b1950 (headteacher, father)
  • Cornelius Lawless RAF (great uncle)
  • James Lawless, b1900 British Army WW1, (great grandfather)
  • Francis Briant, (great great grandfather)
  • Herve Briant, French Royal Navy, (great great great grandfather)
  • The French Royal Navy in Herve’s service sent ships to Tomari (where Shorei Ryu was practiced) and afterwards the sailors developed the martial art of Chausson, hence Kigan Shorei Ryu

 

SAKUGAWA RYU INTRODUCTION

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 00.37.50

Kanga ‘Tode’ Sakugawa established a system of Toshu Jutsu in Okinawa in around 1750 based on his studies of various martial arts. Sakugawa was employed by the king of Okinawa to defend the cargo of import vessels against pirates.

In 1778 the Swedish East India Trading Company sent such a vessel bound for Canton, but it stopped in Okinawa and one of the crew, Nils settled in Okinawa where he married and had children. Nils’ family became the Nilssons and in around 1800 he returned to Sweden where his son Johannes was born.

In turn his son was Nils Johann, his son was August and his son was William Henry. August Nilsson (who served in the Swedish Royal Navy) and William Henry Nelson (who served in the army in World War I) taught their boxing to the next generation, Jim Nelson and Bill Nelson.

After World War II, Bill also gained his black belt in Jujutsu under Mikonosuke Kawaishi and Gunji Koizumi’s schools. One of Nils’ eldest sons in Okinawa Johann Nilsson. There is a theory he had a son called Nils Johann who changed his name to Nio Kinjo and this was the Nio Kinjo who had a half Swedish-half Okinawan son called Matsu Kinjo, a Karate master known for his headbutt which became nicknamed the Danish Kiss.

Simon Keegan (grandson of Jim Nelson, great nephew of Bill Nelson) began his training in his grandfather’s backgarden and is currently ranked 5th Dan in Karate under the World Union of Karatedo Federations. Read about Simon’s formal training in Shotokan, Jujutsu, Goju Ryu and Chinese martial arts here.

The kata most associated with Sakugawa is Kushanku (Kanku Dai) and it is related to the Channan (Pinan/Heian) forms. Sakugawa’s student Soken Matsumura was most associated with the forms Gojushiho, Seisan (Hangetsu) and Naihanchi (Tekki).

August Nilsson, William Henry, Jim, Bill and Edward Molloy

August Nilsson, William Henry, Jim, Bill and Edward Molloy

Lineage:

1) Nils (great great great great great grandfather) 1762
2) Johannes Nilsson (great great great great grandfather) 1805
3) Nils Johann Nilsson (great great great grandfather) 1835
4) August Nilsson (great great grandfather) 1866
5) William Henry Nelson (great grandfather) 1896
6) Charles James Nelson (grandfather) 1923
& William Henry Nelson (great uncle) 1924
8) Simon Keegan 1979

SAKUGAWA RYU: A PRECISE HISTORY

In 1609, around the time the Dutch East India Trading Company opened up a factory in Japan, the Swedish Anders Nilsson Laso arrived in Okinawa. Over one hundred years later another expedition to Japan took place, now using the tiny island of Dejima as a base. Among this voyage were the disciples of Carl Nilsson (later Carl Linnaeus) who studied the botany of the Japanese islands.

As well as importing spices, Sweden was also exporting steel to Japan. Swedish steel from railway sleepers was used to make the legendary Japanese sword.

Flag of the Swedish East India Trading Company (Svenska Ostindiska Companiet)

Flag of the Swedish East India Trading Company (Svenska Ostindiska Companiet)

Richard Fuller describes nine manufacturing methods for pre world war 2 Japanese swords. One of which is Gendaito “Fully hand forged from mill steel or (more often) 19th century railway tracks made from Swedish steel. Differentially hardened in the traditional manner using water as a quenching agent. Possesses an active hamon and hada.”

Ryujin Swords states: “The best ‘mill steel’ gendaito are made from mid-19th century railway tracks that were manufactured from Swedish steel and exported to Japan. Swedish steel has been highly prized for its excellence and purity for centuries.

“The use of good Swedish steel therefore meant that the smith could make a blade that was potentially in the same category as the highest performing traditional blades. Furthermore, the presence of manganese means that the metal is tougher than straight carbon steel.”

Therefore it is possible that Okinawan masters of Japanese sword schools like Matsumura and Azato had their swords forged from steel brought to Japan by Nils!

Carl Nilsson, a pioneer in the field of oriental study

Carl Nilsson, a pioneer in the field of oriental study in traditional costume

In around 1778, the year Carl Nilsson died, another Swede arrived in Okinawa. His name was Nils Bengtsson and his sons included Johann Nilsson and Olof Nilsson. By this time there was a new Swedish East India Trading Company enjoying exports from Canton and Nagasaki with Okinawa and Dejima as stepping stones. Karate master Sakugawa was also working for a shipping company at this time.

Nils (Bengtsson) was born in 1762 in Jönköping, Sweden to Bengt Andersson and Annica Nilsdotter. Bengt Andersson was the son of Anders Jonsson and Sigri Persdotter. Annica Nilsdotter was the daughter of Nils Hakansson and Elin Jonsdotter. Nils Bengtsson had brothers named Lars, Sven and Johannes and sisters called Andreas and Maria. He joined the Swedish East India Trading Company and he and his girlfriend Torborg Jonsdotter set sail for Canton.

marieke-de-mink-soic5-170

Here is a record of one of the voyages in 1784:

Resor under tredje oktrojen: 1775.01.19-1776.06.09 Till Kanton under Kapten Charles Chapman. Superkargörer: Henric König P:son, Carl H. Rappe. 1778.01.18-1779.07.27 Till Kanton under Kapten Gabriel Ström. Superkargörer: Jacob Arfwedson, Henric König P:son. 1782.04.04-1783.07.29 Till Kanton under Kapten Jonas Israel Ekman. Superkargör: Lars Gothen. 1784.04.29-1786.06.29 Till Kanton under Kapten Nils Almroth. Superkargörer: Henrik König P:son, Nils, Torb

On the 29th April 1784 Captain Nils Almroth sailed bound for Canton. In charge of cargo were Henrik König Peterson and Nils and his companion Torb.

The following is recorded of Captain Nils Almroth:

.Anders Almroth was treasurer of the East India Company and had several children with his former wives. Juliana Herrman (el. Wessman), he had sons Jonas Almroth, assistant and supercargo in East India, Nils Almroth, captain of East India, as well as Christian Bernhard Almroth (-1827), alderman and city secretary. Nils Almroth who was married to Brigitta Marie Paulin (likely nephew of Nils Almroths stepmother Anna Barbro Paulin) conducted three trips to Canton as captain between 1780 and 1792. Jonas Almroth made a trip to supercargo 1765-67.

At some point in 1784 they settled in Okinawa and on August 17th 1785 they married in Okinawa.

2134058_120122163419_Swedish

This ship has records of some other crew, including:

David Fredrik Neuendorff (1746-1808) son of Master ship-builder of Karlskrona. Martin Christoffer N and his wife Barbara Busch. “He was mate-aprentice in 1775 on the ship Terra Nova and 1770 lieutenant and 5th mate on the Terra Nova. He was engaged in the Swedish East India Company (SOIC) in 1776 (see Börjeson). Later on he was engaged in the Swedish Navy and onboard when the fleet retreated from Viborg (close to St. Petersburg) in 1790. Later on he became a lieutenant-colonel.” Lars Olof Lööf, 1st Curator of the Göteborgs Stadsmuseum

A reconstruction of the Swedish East India Trading Company vessel the Gotherborg:

A Swedish documentary about the travels to the Far East:

How unusual was it for Swedish people to be visiting Japan?

In 1609, around the time the Dutch East India Trading Company opened up a factory in Japan, the Swedish Anders Nilsson Laso arrived in Okinawa. Over one hundred years later another expedition to Japan took place, now using the tiny island of Dejima as a base. Among this voyage were the disciples of Carl Nilsson (later Carl Linnaeus) who studied the botany of the Japanese islands.

In 1616 Japan banned trade with foreigners. the only exception was that traders in Nagasaki bay were entitled to import from China. The powerful Dutch East India Trading Company got round the ban in 1634 by partitioning off part of Nagasaki with ditches to in effect make their own island called Dejima (read about Dejima here). In 1667: The first Swedish book about Japan and China was written by two Swedish sailors who had been there on Dutch ships. In 1731 the Swedish East India Trading Company was created, inspired by the likes of the Dutch East India Company to trade with the Far East as far as Japan and Guangzhou and in 1745 the Swedish Ship Gotheborg was famously sunk on the way back from China.

nilsson

The company got a 15-year monopoly on the trade, and the goods exchanged were Swedish timber, tar, iron and copper against tea, porcelain and silk. The company was situated in Gothenburg. The company existed for 82 years and its vessels made 132 expeditions with 38 different ships. Even though the company in the end went bankrupt it made an enormous profit in most of its years of operation and it has influenced Swedish history in several ways.

The Swedish also exported railway steel to Okinawa and Japan for making swords.

Japanese swords from Swedish steel

Richard Fuller describes nine manufacturing methods for pre world war 2 Japanese swords. One of which is Gendaito “Fully hand forged from mill steel or (more often) 19th century railway tracks made from Swedish steel. Differentially hardened in the traditional manner using water as a quenching agent. Possesses an active hamon and hada.”

Ryujin Swords states: “The best ‘mill steel’ gendaito are made from mid-19th century railway tracks that were manufactured from Swedish steel and exported to Japan. Swedish steel has been highly prized for its excellence and purity for centuries.

“The use of good Swedish steel therefore meant that the smith could make a blade that was potentially in the same category as the highest performing traditional blades. Furthermore, the presence of manganese means that the metal is tougher than straight carbon steel.”

Swedish ships arriving in Canton harbour

Swedish ships arriving in Canton harbour

Why did Swedish people want to go to Japan and China?

For one of the same reasons people might want to go now – for delicious food and beautiful art.

In the 1750s the art of China was the height of fashion in Sweden. A small Chinese palace was even built in Sweden. Count Carl Fredrik Scheffer, who was the governor to the young crown prince Gustaf (Later King Gustaf III) who was well informed about the Confucian ideas. He had as a six years old boy acted at the inauguration of a small Chinese pavilion presented to his mother Queen Louise Ulrica of Prussia on her birthday the 25th of July 1753. The small palace was built secretly at Drottningholm, the royal summer palace, in Chinese taste.

Map of Canton that is held in Stockholm

Map of Canton that is held in Stockholm

In 1759 Anders Ljungstedt was born in Sweden, he later worked for the Swedish East India and in 1820 was appointed Sweden’s first consul in China. He was well loved in Macao where he was called Long Sital 龍思泰.

anders

By 1774 90% of tea in Sweden was imported from China. In 1775 Swedish physician Carl Thunberg moved to Dejima near Okinawa. In 1776 he met the Shogun in Edo, and in 1779 he returned to Sweden. Thunberg was a student of the earlier Swedish physician Carl Nilsson.

litho

A lithograph of Okinawa made by western visitors

When Nilsson met Sakugawa

In 1784 when Nils and Torborg arrived in Okinawa they would have been treated with extreme caution. Japan did not permit any westerners at all and Nils, who we can imagine may well have been six feet tall with blonde hair would have stood out considerably in Okinawa which at the time was known as Ryukyu (sometimes badly westernised as Lew Chew).

At the time the King of Ryukyu was Shō Boku (1739–1794) whose reign began in 1756. Although a period of relative stability he had to contend with a tsunami in 1771 that devastated the Miyako Islands and Yaeyama Islands. His reign also saw the Chinese envoy Chou Huang who wrote a sixteen volume topography of the islands for the Qianlong Emperor.

King Sho Boku

King Sho Boku

It may have been at this time that the Chinese envoy remembered as Kushanku visited, although in my study The Lost Book of Kushanku, I have argued that he should be identified with the Kung Fu master Wang Zongyue. In any case, Kushanku/Wang taught one Tode Sakugawa who became the pioneer of Toshu Jutsu or Karate in Ryukyu. Sakugawa’s skills were not honed on the Dojo floor however, they were honed on board cargo ships, like the one that docked in Naha with Nils and Torborg on board.

The Okinawans and the Skandinavians did not always take too kindly to each other. Richard Kim tells the story of one trawlerman attempted to give an Okinawan Karate man a “Danish kiss” (headbutt).

Therefore the likes of Nils would have been investigated closely and there was one man who king Sho Boku trusted to check out such nautical visitors – and that was Tode Sakugawa.

A member of the East India

A member of the East India like Nils

Who was Tode Sakugawa?

Kanga Satunushi Sakugawa (佐久川 寛賀) lived from 1733 – 1815. He was born in Akata village, Okinawa.

Sakugawa began his martial arts training under Takahara Peichin who is believed to have studied under masters such as Hama Higa. It is likely he was taught to use the Bo staff and probably developed the routine we know as “Sakugawa no Kon sho.”The empty handed Karate he practiced is thought to have been related to the Chinese art of Hsing-I Chuan. For a brief description of how Hsing-I influenced the Karate of Sakugawa, click on this page about Empi kata or refer to The Lost Book of Kushanku.

In the 1750s Sakugawa met a man known as Kushanku. In my study The Lost Book of Kushanku I presented the hypothesis that Kushanku was actually a name for the Taiji Quan teachings of Wang Zong Yue.

Copy of William Henry's birth certificate

Sakugawa Ryu as taught by Tode Sakugawa was based on the teachings of Kushanku

Sakugawa and his peer Chatan Yara developed a form or forms from this liaison which we know today as “Kanku Dai” and “Kanku Sho” or simply as “Kushanku” and “Chatan Yara no Kushanku.”

Tode Sakugawa

Tode Sakugawa

Sakugawa had at least eight students including Sokon Matsumura, Satunuku Makabe, Bushi Ukuda, Bushi Matsumoto, Kojo of Kumemura, Yamaguchi of the East and Usume of Andaya. He gained his reputation as a fearsome hand-to-hand fighter while working for a shipping company defending the cargo against pirates. There’s a good account of this in The Little Bubishi.

Therefore not only would Sakugawa have been sent to check out Nils and his crew, they may very well have been colleagues as Nils imported cargo from Canton to Okinawa and Dejima, Sakugawa would have defended it.

From 1762 to his death in 1815, Sakugawa ran the largest Karate school in Okinawa. His students included; Chokun Satunku Macabe (the birdman), Satunuku Ukuda, Chikuntonoshinunjo “Bushi” Matsumoto, “Bushi” Kojo, “Bushi” Sakumoto, and Bushi Unsume. Just maybe one of sakugawa’s elusive students was Bushi Nils!

Sakugawa apparently as an old man

Sakugawa apparently as an old man

How long were the Nilssons in Okinawa?

Genealogical records tell us that on August 17th 1785 Nils and Torborg married in Shuri, Okinawa.

Their children were as follows:

Ingeborg Nilsson: August 3, 1785 in Okinawa
Johann Nilsson: June 26, 1788 in Okinawa
Bengt Nilsson: December 9, 1790 in Okinawa,
Olof Nilsson: April 13, 1794 in Okinawa

So we know that they were in Okinawa for at least 10 years. That’s potentially 10 years of working alongside Sakugawa on the ships. In that time Nils must have learnt the language, culture and exchanged ideas.

What could Sakugawa have taught Nils?

The martial arts practiced by Sakugawa and peers like Chatan Yara were not sophisticated Karate like today. They may have had a few Hsing-I type drills which developed in Tomari as what we know as the kata Wansu (Empi) and Sakugawa and Yara developed versions of Kushanku (Kanku Dai and Kanku Sho) based on what they had learnt.

Note in both of these forms, the gait and movement was more like a western boxer than a modern day Shotokan man. Kicks are used sparingly. It emphasises light strikes, weaving and evading.

Motobu_Choki_kamae

Motobu_Choki_Kumite_15_and_16_Okinawa_Kenpo_Ka

Old Okinawan guards and old boxing guards were similar

Old Okinawan guards and old boxing guards were similar

A burly Swedish sailor like Nils, would likely relish the opportunity to add punching techniques to his repertoire.

Three years after Nils’ son Olof Nilsson was born, another young man was born in Shuri. His name was Kiyo Sokon, but he later became known by the name Sokon “Bushi” Matsumura.

Nils did not stay in Okinawa much after 1794. But, strangely his wife and children did. We do not know why he decided to leave.

What happened to the Nilssons in Okinawa?

Ingeborg, Bengt, Olof and Johann probably would have adopted Okinawan ways and taken Okinawan wives, perhaps even taking Okinawan names.

In around 1830 when the Nilssons were in their 30s a man named Nio Kinjo was born (see genealogy record). If Johann wanted to call his son after his father (as was common with Swedes) then his son would be Nils son of Johann. Perhaps Nils Johann became Nio Kinjo? This theory is interesting because Nio Kinjo’s son Matsu Kinjo was known as a half Okinawan-half Skandinavian Karate master.

Kinjo can also be pronounced Kanagushiko and he had the nickname Itoman Bunkichi. His name Matsu was also in the Okinawan dialect Machiya.

Matsu Kinjo, the Okinawan Karate master with a Swedish father

Matsu Kinjo, the Okinawan Karate master with a Swedish father. Was his father Nio Kinjo identical with Nils Johann?

Like Sakugawa (who may well have been the teacher of Matsu Kinjo’s grandfather), Kinjo practiced a slow, Tai Chi like form of Karate (see Bishop).

I cannot yet prove that Nio Kinjo was the son of Johann Nilsson but given the stories of the giant Aoinagi (half breed) Karate master it would certainly make sense.

In Sakugawa Ryu the kata Matsu pays tribute to Matsu Kinjo.

Matsu Kinjo is recorded by both Goju Ryu and Uechi Ryu schools:

The Uechi Ryu school records the following:

Matsu Kinjo (Matcha Buntoku) was from Itoman and he was born in Keio 3 (1867) and died in August, Showa 20 (1945) at the age of 78. He moved to China in Meiji 24, just after the birth of his first son Matsu, (same name as father). He was 24 years old at that time, and so was l0 years older than Kanbun Uechi.
He already had 5 years experience in China before Kanbun Uechi moved to China, and he stayed in China for 18 years during which time he trained at Ken Jutsu. He returned home in Meiji 42 (1909) when he was 42 years old. Kanbun Uechi also returned from China in Meiji 42, both Bujin happened to return at the same time. Matcha Buntoku is known as the last Bushi in Itoman.
He followed Kanryo Higaonna to China with Akamine. It was the second time that he went to China. At the time, Higaonna was 32 years old, so he was getting to be mature in his Bu as well as his character. Matchu Buntoku was praised by RyuRyuKo for his great courage and he was famous in Fukien-sho as a rare warrior. RyuRyuKo is the third successor of the Ryuei Ryu main family. RyuRyuKo taught Hanchi Kenko Nakaima and Kitoku Sakiyama. Hanchi Kenko Nakaima was
the grandfather of Kenri Nakaima. Both Matcha Buntoku and Kenko Nakaima were taught by RyuRyuKo in China).
There is no connection between Matchu Buntoku and Kanbun Uechi, although they were both in the same place at the same time. They do say that Kanbun Uechi heard of the reputation of Matcha Buntoku when he was in Fukien, so he paid respect to him as a great expert of Bu.
Kanbun Uechi respected him not only because he was senior in experience, but also for his courage and his character.
Kinjo displayed his Kata to the public at the Butokuden with Chojun Miyagi and Jinsei Kamiya and others. He also took Part in displays with Chojun Miyagi2 Jinsei Kamiya, Seiko Higa, and K.Nakaima of Ruyei Ryu. He also gave a demonstration at the wedding ceremony of his third son Sanjiro in Showa 9.
He was not a severe man; he was a sincere man who kept his own way of living. He never kept his form secret – he would display his technique whenever he was asked, but he would never teach in case his skills would be used for violence.

The headteacher of Goju Ryu, Chojun Miyagi also met Kinjo:

Hearing about Machaa Buntoku, Miyagi Sensei, the founder of Gojuryu, visited him together with Sensei’s disciples, Jin-an Shinzato and Seiko Higa. Miyagi Sensei asked him to show them his best Kata that he mastered in China. Then Machaa Buntoku put on Hachimaki (=headband) and performed a strange dance in front of them. He danced and danced. Seeing his strange dance, Seiko Higa thought this old man must be crazy or mad because of his old age. Jin-an Shinzato who was yet young at that time lost his temper to see his dance and told him “OK. Dance is enough! Show me your fighting technique! I will be your opponent.” Shinzato delivered a karate blow at him, but Shinzato was thrown down by the dancing old man and hurt his back. He lost face. Everyone there felt awkward about it, so they bowed to the old man and went home. On the way home no one spoke.” –  by Kiyohiko Higa.

okinawa1851

Second Generation

Nils moved back to Sweden and re-married. And remarried again, having children with both wives and finally settling in Kalmar.

Nils married Marit Jonsdotter (source) in 1794 and Sarah Helena Jonsdotter (source) in 1799. His daughters Anna (born 1795) and Maria (born 1797) were born in Sweden. Nils’ third wife Sarah was from Kalmar, southern Sweden. Their son Johannes was born in 1805. Sarah moved back to Kalmar, where she died in on May 5 1842.


Nils Johannes Nilsson (Circa 1830-1910, son of Johannes, grandson of Nils):

Third Generation (my great great great grandfather)

Nils Johann Nilsson

Nils Johann Nilsson

Nils Johann was born in around 1830 in Kalmar, Sweden. He married a woman called Gustavea and they had several children including August, Carl Johann, Johann, Gustavus, Anna and Marie. We should note that the names of his children Johann, Anna and Marie were shared by the children of Nils of Okinawa, a family naming tradition. His son August changed the family name to Nelson and so listed his parents on documents as Nels John and Gustavea Nelson. There is a family photograph of the Nilssons in 1914. Nils Johann is not on the picture, so presumed dead. Nils Johann may have been taught “boxing” by his grandfather Nils of Okinawa and almost certainly passed on what he knew to his son August.

August Nilsson (Circa 1866-1956, son of Nils Johann, grandson of Johannes, great grandson of Nils):
Fourth Generation (my great great grandfather)

August plays a pivotal role in our family tradition. He was born in the 1860s, therefore early enough to have known his grandfather Johannes but also lived later enough – the 1950s for my grandparents to remember him well. His great grandfather was Nils of Okinawa and his grandson Bill Nelson was a blackbelt. Therefore August is the link between the original Swedish-Okinawan Nilssons and the present Nelson family. Indeed it was August who changed the family name. He was also a formidable man, who served with the Swedish Royal Navy, learnt several fighting methods and travelled the world before settling in Liverpool and teaching his sons and grandsons how to box.

August Nilsson was born in 1866 to Nils Johann Nilsson and his wife Gustavea who were born in around 1835. They were from the town of Monsteras in the province of Kalmar and August’s siblings were Carl Johann, Johann, Gustavus, Anna and Marie.

August Nilsson

August Nilsson

August Nilsson was born in 1866 in a Sweden that was undergoing change. In 1810 French Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, one of Napoleon’s top generals, was elected Crown Prince Charles by the Riksdag. In 1813, his forces joined the allies against Napoleon and defeated the Danes at Bornhöved. In the Treaty of Kiel, Denmark ceded mainland Norway to the Swedish king. Norway, however, declared its independence, adopted a constitution and chose a new king. Sweden invaded Norway to enforce the terms of the Kiel treaty—it was the last war Sweden ever fought.

August's application for citizenship

August’s application for citizenship. Note he refers to his father as Nels John (anglicising Nils Johann)

Sweden—much like Japan at the same time—transformed from a stagnant rural society to a vibrant industrial society between the 1860s and 1910. The agricultural economy shifted gradually from communal village to a more efficient private farm-based agriculture. There was fewer need for manual labour on the farm so many went to the cities; and about 1 million Swedes emigrated to the United States between 1850 and 1890.

August's oath of allegiance to the British king

August’s oath of allegiance to the British king

When August was 14 compulsory gymnastics was introduced in Swedish schools in 1880 teaching youngsters the importance of physical as well as intellectual training. He was therefore taught a great deal of discipline and fitness training.

In the 1880s, August joined the Swedish Navy at Karlskrona, site of Sweden’s most renowned naval base.

Sword techniques of August Nilsson

In the Swedish Royal Navy a variety of weapons were drilled, including:

sailors

– Swedish Naval Cutlass (British style)
– Swedish Naval Cutlass (Svenska Blankvapen)
– Swedish bolo Naval cutlass (Svenska Blankvapen Faskinkniv)
– National Guard Cutlass (‘Viking style’)
– Swedish Naval Boarding Axe
– Swedish Naval Boarding Axe (‘Viking Style’)

Swedish marine cutlass made in 1810

Swedish marine cutlass made in 1810

Swedish close quarters cutlass made in 1848

Swedish close quarters cutlass made in 1848

In the 1880s or 1890s August and his brother Carl Johann emigrated to Liverpool, and married two sisters Bessie and Alice Wood.

August and Carl Johann changed their name from Nilsson to the more British sounding Nelson and having both been bosuns, they got jobs working on ships again, this time for the world famous White Star Line in Liverpool, the Shipping line that built the Oceanic, the Britannic and of course the Titanic.

August's discharge papers

August’s discharge papers

As a young man August was considered formidable but as an old man he was very gentle. Although on one occasion somebody set their dog (a large Rottweiler type) on August and he caught the dog by its throat and calmly broke its neck.

August is fondly remembered in the family – in 2014 my grandmother still remembers him. A link to a bygone age – a man who was born almost 150 years ago. He was the last of the Nilssons and the first of the Nelsons.

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Nilsson family gathering in 1914. August is standing on the back row. His mother Gustavea is the oldest lady in the front row. Below: another pic from the same event:

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August shown in the 1911 census as August Nelson

August shown in the 1911 census as August Nelson

A message by August to his son William Henry on his wedding day

A message by August to his son William Henry on his wedding day

William Henry Nelson (Circa 1896-1970s, son of August, grandson of Nils Johann, great grandson of Johannes, great great grandson of Nils):
Fifth Generation (my great grandfather)

William Henry Nelson was born in Bootle in 1896. Unlike his father, Willy was not a big man but he was certainly tough, living by the motto “it’s not the size of the gun that matters but the strength of the powder inside.”

William Henry Nelson, Simon's great grandfather served in WWI where he learnt Jujutsu based combatives. In the 1920s and 30s he used to teach boxing to his sons and their friends

William Henry Nelson, Simon’s great grandfather served in WWI where he learnt Jujutsu based combatives. In the 1920s and 30s he used to teach boxing to his sons and their friends

At the age of 18 William Henry, usually known as Willy, joined the King’s Regiment as one of the Liverpool ‘Pals.’

William Henry Nelson and comrades in 1914, the year his father was pictured in Sweden

William Henry Nelson and comrades in 1914, the year his father was pictured in Sweden

He had been taught ‘boxing’ by his father August and taught basic Jujutsu-based combatives in the army.

Simon's great grandfather William Henry, who fought in WWI

Simon’s great grandfather William Henry, who fought in WWI and taught boxing in the 1920s and 1930s

Willy saw combat in France and Belgium and was awarded three medals for his service. William Henry Nelson is fondly remembered in the family. A hard, disciplined man but also one who was witty, artistic and intelligent.

Copy of William Henry's birth certificate

Copy of William Henry’s birth certificate

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William Henry Nelson’s army discharge papers showing his service in the Kings Liverpool Regiment, Cheshire Regiment and Royal Welsh Fusiliers

William Henry's army medal strip is on the Sageo of the Sakugawa Ryu katana

William Henry Nelson’s army medal strip is on the Sageo of the Sakugawa Ryu katana

Charles James “Jim” Nelson
1923-2005, sixth generation 
(great great great grandsons of Nils of Okinawa, my grandfather) 

Charles James Nelson, always known as Jim, was born on June 6th 1923 to William Henry Nelson and Violet Stephens. He had a sister named Phoebe and younger brothers named William Henry (Billy) born December 25 1924 and Alec Gordon. They lived in Bootle near Liverpool.

The children were raised in a Christian household as methodists and would attend Sunday school and sing in the choir.

Their father William Henry was a fairly rough docker, recently returned from fighting in the war, whereas their mother Violet was a gentle refined lady whose family were quite wealthy from Cornwall.

The children knew their grandparents August Nilsson, Bessie Wood and Frederick Stephens who visited briefly, arriving from the train station in a taxi. Billy told how as kids they had never seen such a wealthy looking man emerge from a car and when shocked to learn he was their grandfather Stephens.

The children liked their grandfather August but not their grandmother Bessie who was very harsh and strict and incredibly particular about children messing up her house (this was a woman who polished the coal on her fire.)

As youngsters Jim and Billy were taught to box by their dad who had boxing gloves hanging up in the shed and in fact would teach all the lads in the neighbourhood. Their formidable grandfather August Nilsson also had a hand in their boxing training. Jim was most like his father (disciplined, neat, army orientated), whereas Billy was most like his grandfather (streetfighter, sailor).

Jim aged 18 in 1941

Jim aged 18 in 1941

Jim was quiet, tidy, obedient and disciplined but his brother Billy was the opposite – slightly scruffy, anti-authority, rebellious and fond of a fight. However despite their differences they had many similarities. They were both very kind hearted, intelligent and thoughtful.

The Second World War broke out in 1939 when Jim was 16 and Billy was 15 and both were called up. Their younger brother Alec was still a schoolboy.

Jim Nelson

Jim in the army

Jim initially wanted to join the Navy but was advised that as his name was Nelson he would be teased and called Admiral Nelson. He took this advice and so went to join the Kings’ Infantry in which his father had served. However the regiment was fully subscribed as so Jim was sent to the East Yorkshire regiment. Billy had no issues with being teased for his name (they would not do so twice) and joined the merchant navy. It may be suggested that Jim took after his father and mother whereas Billy seems to be a throwback to their seafaring grandfather August Nilsson. His father told Jim one piece of advice “keep your head down” which may be taken literally but also in the sense of “don’t step out of line.”

Jim’s best friend in the 2nd battalion East Yorkshire regiment was a Leeds man named Eddy and the two remained friends all their lives.

The army suited Jim down to the ground. He was popular among the lads for his sarcastic humour and popular with the higher ranks for his discipline and tidyness. His nickname was ‘boy Nelson. He was often teased by the sergeants for the fact he didn’t yet need to shave and teased by his pals for the amount of time he took to eat his meals, insisting on chewing every mouth full thirty chews.

east-Yorkshire-Regt

The Allied generals decided that they would invade Europe on the beaches of Normandy and so training for this Operation began.

The way one invades a beach is that the warship sails most of the way over but a ship cannot dock on the beach, so a landing craft takes the men within about 50 yards of the beach. Then the men must exit the landing craft at about shoulder deep water and wade towards the beach. Upon arriving on the beach they must dig themselves quickly into a trench, two men per trench and then engage the enemy.

Obviously shooting can be practiced anywhere but the aquatic part of the training requires boats, water and beach and so the regiment were taken up to the Scottish Highlands where they practiced well away from German intelligence on the shores of Loch Lomond. Every time they got on the boat, Jim was seasick.

On land however he was more at home and given the task of firing the mortar cannon. The Ordnance ML 3-inch mortar was the United Kingdom’s standard mortar used by the British Army from the early 1930s to the late 1960s.

One day the all-clear was given for the invasion. As the lads readied themselves, Jim was called in by the sergeant who poured him a large glass of rum. He had no reason why until the sergeant said “happy 21st”. Jim did not know it was his 21st birthday possibly due to the fact he was about to take part in the greatest military invasion in the history of the world. It was June 6 1944. It was D Day. When he finally did get on the landing craft he was not seasick for the first time.

The D Day Battle Plan: Operation Neptune

The 2nd Battalion East Yorks were to land on Sword Beach. The East Yorks were part of 3rd Division, 8th brigade (assault brigade) which also included Scottish Commandos. Sword Beach was the easternmost beach of the five landing areas of the Normandy Invasion of World War II.

Jim's regiment land on Sword Beach in the greatest naval assault in history

Jim’s regiment land on Sword Beach in the greatest naval assault in history

East Yorkshire Service Timeline:

1939: Based in Plymouth and Dorset prior to Dunkirk
1940: It retreated to the beaches of Dunkirk and was one of the last Battalions to be evacuated. It returned to the UK and spent time preparing defences on the south coast. Afterwards were chosen to form part of the new “Field Army”
1942: Intense combined operation training for the Dieppe raid in France on the 19 August. Lucky for the Battalion the Canadians took on the raid.
1944: Before D-Day the Battalion went to Scotland for training in beach assaults.
1944: The Battalion took part in Operation Overlord. It took all their objectives despite suffering many casualties.
The Battalion was involved in action all the way through the Normandy Campaign, then on into Belgium, Holland and lastly into Bremen, Germany. This attack was the last action of the campaign for the Battalion.

Jim writing home from the war

Jim writing home from the war

Jim serving in Egypt

Jim serving in Egypt

In Toulon, southern France,1945

In Toulon, southern France,1945

Palestine and Egypt

The fighting was not over. In 1945 the battalion was sent to Palestine as part of the government’s intervention in the political situation there (too complicated to go into here). In 1947 they were sent to Egypt where they were mostly guarding German members of Rommel’s Desert Korp who were awaiting repatriation. Ironically the German soldiers were treated with so much respect that they used to guard the British at night from Egyptian bandits.

One German prisoner, a carpenter, carved a jewellery box which Jim bought off him with cigarettes.

After the war Jim returned home but he and his brothers quickly joined the TA where Jim attained the rank of Lance Corporal.

Jim's box and medals

Jim’s box and medals

Jim's war medals and other awards

Jim’s war medals and other awards

Jim featured in his local paper

Jim featured in his local paper on VICTORY IN JAPAN DAY celebrations

Jim Nelson’s old army lapel badge has been added to the Tsuka of the Sakugawa Ryu katana:

katana

William Henry “Bill’ Nelson (great great great grandsons of Nils of Okinawa, my great uncle)
1924-2008

Billy was born on Christmas Day 1924 to William Henry Nelson and Violet Stephens. His elder brother was Jim Nelson, his younger brother Alec Gordon and their sister Phoebe.

Jim Nelson took after their father and was disciplined (a natural for the army) whereas Billy was a throwback to the Vikings and Pirates of their Swedish and Cornish ancestry.

Like his brother Jim, Billy was taught to box by his father and grandfather.

Bill joined the Merchant Navy aged 14 and got in plenty of trouble.

Bill Nelson aged 19

Bill Nelson aged 19

He hated the captain of the ship and when it was taken by German’s didn’t hesitate in telling them where the captain was hiding. He also once threw all the crockery over board.

Bill’s ship was sunk and he spent several days in the water clinging onto some wood. Since then, having terrible thirst for days, he always hated seeing water wasted.

He jumped ship in America and was held at Ellis Island as an illegal immigrant. When he finally got into America he made money by giving blood.

Bill Nelson's Navy pass

Bill Nelson’s Navy pass

He was dis-honourably discharged from the Navy and only many years later was he sent his medals when he applied for them. He had after all served in a world war and saw combat in the pacific.

Medals he was awarded:

1) 1939-45 Star
The 1939–45 Star was a campaign medal of the British Commonwealth, awarded for service in the Second World War. The medal was awarded for operational service between 3 September 1939 and 2 September 1945.

2) War Medal 39-45
The War Medal 1939–1945 was a British decoration awarded to those who had served in the Armed Forces or Merchant Navy full-time for at least 28 days between 3 September 1939 and 2 September 1945. In the Merchant Navy, the 28 days must have been served at sea. It is sometimes described as the “Victory Medal” for World War II, although that is not its correct name

3) Atlantic Star
The Atlantic Star was a campaign medal of the British Commonwealth, awarded for service in World War II.
The star was awarded for six months service afloat, in the Atlantic or in Home Waters, within the period 3 September 1939 to 8 May 1945. Also awarded to aircrew who have taken part in operations against the enemy at sea within the qualifying areas for Naval personnel, subject to two months service in an operational unit. The 1939-1945 Star must have been earned before commencing qualifying service for the Atlantic Star.
Merchant seaman also qualified for the medal. They were required to have served in the Atlantic home waters, North Russia Convoys or South Atlantic waters.

After the war he joined his brothers in the TA, and the scruffy Billy was a constant source of embarassment to his older brother who at this point was expected to control him as a corporal.

Bill Nelson's medals

Bill Nelson’s medals

Statue of Fang Qi Niang the lady of White Crane left to me by my great uncle, a blackbelt in the 1940s

Statue of Fang Qi Niang the lady of White Crane left to me by my great uncle Bill

Bill's Jujutsu instructor Professor Skyner

Bill’s Jujutsu instructor Professor Skyner

Bill’s Jujutsu

In 1945 Bill decided to learn Jujutsu and joined the Dojo of Professor Gerald Skyner.

Skyner’s Jiu-Jitsu was apparently established in 1928 by Shihan Mikonosuke Kawaishi and his student Gerald Skyner. This club, along with the Alphas Jiu-Jitsu institute were not only the first clubs in Liverpool, they were also among the first in the UK!

Skyners Jujutsu Dojo

Skyners Jujutsu Dojo

Kawaishi Sensei is nowadays famous as a Judo master (one of few to be awarded the 10th Dan) but he was also an Aikijujutsu master. Kawaishi studied Aikijujutsu under Yoshida Kotaro who was a master of both Daito Ryu and Yanagi Ryu.

Daito Ryu (as passed to Mikonosuke Kawaishi by Yoshida Kotaro who studied directly under 35th generation Soke Takeda Sokaku) represents the traditions of the Takeda clan dating back to Minamoto Yoshitsune in the 11th century. Sokaku combined the Takeda family teachings with those of the Saigo family’s Oshiukiuchi to form Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu.

Kawaishi also studied Judo in Kyoto with Master Tomio Kurihara (the 11th man to be awarded 10th Dan by the Kodokan).

Kawaishi sailed from Kobe to Seattle and then went to New York in 1926. He is even reputed to have fought legendary boxer Jack Dempsey.

Kawaishi in the 1930s in Liverpool

Kawaishi in the 1930s in Liverpool

When Kawaishi came to Liverpool in 1928 he taught only Aikijujutsu. He then left and made his fame in France and the USA. But in Liverpool when he was scraping a meagre income as a wrestler (under the name Matsuda) he taught the very deadly skills of Jujutsu, Aikijujutsu and Hakuda. Founded in 1928 at 67 Mount Pleasant by Professor Kawaishi and Professor Skyner, the club was originally called the Liverpool Jiu-Jitsu School.

Professor Gerald Skyner was a formidable man. He was asked to be an army combat instructor but was fired after one day for smashing a recruit in the face with a steel helmet (anecdote courtesy of Liverpool combat instructor Dennis Martin). Among Prof Skyner’s students were PC O’Neill, a local police office whose son grew up to be one of the UK’s greatest Karateka, Sensei Terry O’Neill.

skyners

Prof Skyner was an unarmed combat instructor for the RAF and police, while Kawaishi went on to be a resident instructor at Oxford University and head of the French Judo Federation. While in Liverpool he was famous for taking on all-comers in challenge matches against boxers and wrestlers at the old Liverpool Stadium.

A former student of Prof Skyner, Ronnie Wright (an instructor at Skyner’s Dojo in the 1960s along with Ray Davies) was quoted by the Liverpool Echo in December 2003 as saying: “A man stopped Skyner outside the club one night and asked how long it would take him to get a black belt.

Skyner told him: `Half an hour! Catch the bus at the stop over the road and go to Jack Sharps (sports shop) -they sell them there’.

“Basically he was telling him he might never get one -there is no quick or easy way.”

Gunji Koizumi

Gunji Koizumi who arrived in Liverpool in 1906 but then moved to London

After opening in Mount Pleasant in the 1920s, the club moved to Catherine Street.

Afterwards Bill studied another style of Jujutsu/Judo with a student of Gunji Koizumi at Arnott Street School in Walton.

Bill Nelson with wife Lily on their wedding day

Bill Nelson with wife Lily on their wedding day

Billy was renowned as the fighter of the family. Despite standing little over five feet if ever there was any trouble, Billy would sort it out.

billyoung

Bill aged 18 in fighting mode

Ted Molloy
1909-1972
(My great grandfather, brother in law of Jim Nelson)

Ted, son of Edward Molloy and Isabella Buchanan was a Master at arms in the Royal Navy who served in Japan and China.

He was my grandmother’s eldest brother.

Ted was born in 1909 and joined the Royal Navy aged 14 in 1923.

He served on the HMS Repulse, a battle cruiser since before the first world war, and later on the HMS Empress of Australia, which was the Royal Yacht.

Repulse was assigned to the Mediterranean Fleet when she recommissioned in April 1936. She transported 500 refugees from Valencia and Palma, Majorca to Marseilles, France in late 1936 after the start of the Spanish Civil War. The ship was present at the Coronation Fleet Review at Spithead on 20 May 1937 for George VI. Repulse was sent to Haifa in July 1938 to maintain order during the Arab Revolt. She was selected to convey the King and Queen during their May 1939 Canadian Tour and she was refitted between October 1938 and March 1939 for this role. The twin 4-inch AA guns were replaced by two more Mark V guns and two additional quadruple .50-calibre mounts were added. The King and Queen ultimately travelled aboard the liner RMS Empress of Australia while Repulse escorting them on the first half of the journey.

At the beginning of the Second World War Repulse was part of the Battlecruiser Squadron of the Home Fleet. She patrolled off the Norwegian coast and in the North Sea in search of German ships and to enforce the blockade for the first couple months of the war.

In February 1940 she accompanied the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal on a fruitless search for six German blockade runners that had broken out of Vigo, Spain.

Ted and his comrades were then sent to Japan as part of FORCE Z.

In late 1941 Winston Churchill decided to send a small group of fast capital ships, along with one modern aircraft carrier to Singapore, to deter expected Japanese aggression. In November, Repulse which was in the Indian Ocean was ordered to Colombo, Ceylon to rendezvous with the new battleship HMS Prince of Wales. The carrier HMS Indomitable, which was assigned to join them, was delayed when she ran aground in the Caribbean. Prince of Wales and Repulse and their escorting destroyers comprised Force Z, which arrived in Singapore on 2 December 1941. On the evening of 8 December, Force Z departed for an attempt to destroy Japanese troop convoys and protect the army’s seaward flanks from Japanese landings in their rear.
 
Force Z was spotted during the afternoon of 9 December by the Japanese submarine I-65 and floatplanes from several Japanese cruisers spotted the British ships later that afternoon and shadowed them until dark. Admiral Sir Tom Phillips decided to cancel the operation as the Japanese were now alerted. Force Z turned back during the evening, after having tried to deceive the Japanese that they were heading to Singora. At 5:00 a.m. on 10 December Admiral Philips received a signal of enemy landings at Kuantan and correspondingly altered course so that he would arrive shortly after dawn.
 
The crew of Japanese submarine I-58 spotted Force Z at 2:20 a.m., reported their position, and fired five torpedoes, all of which missed. Based on this report the Japanese launched 11 reconnaissance aircraft before dawn to locate Force Z. Several hours later 86 bombers from the 22nd Air Flotilla based in Saigon were launched carrying bombs or torpedoes. The crew of a Mitsubishi G3M “Nell” reconnaissance bomber spotted the British at 10:15 a.m. and radioed in several reports. The pilot was ordered to maintain contact and to broadcast a directional signal that the other Japanese bombers could follow.
The HMS Repulse with Ted Molloy on board in Singapore

The HMS Repulse with Ted Molloy on board in Singapore

The first attack began at 11:13 a.m. when 250 kilograms (551 lb) bombs were dropped from eight G3Ms from an altitude of 11,500 feet (3,505 m). The battlecruiser was straddled by two bombs, then hit by a third which penetrated through the hangar to explode on the armoured deck below. This inflicted a number of casualties and damaged the ship’s Supermarine Walrus seaplane, which was then pushed over the side to remove a fire hazard.
 
Anti-aircraft fire damaged five of the Japanese bombers, two so badly that they immediately returned to Saigon. In the ensuing attacks, Repulse was skilfully handled by her captain, Bill Tennant who managed to avoid 19 torpedoes as well as the remaining bombs from the G3Ms. However, Repulse was then caught by a synchronised pincer attack by 17 Mitsubishi G4M torpedo bombers and hit by four or five torpedoes in rapid succession. The gunners on the Repulse shot down two planes and heavily damaged eight more, but the torpedo damage proved fatal. At 12:23 p.m. Repulse listed severely to port and quickly capsized with the loss of 508 officers and men. The destroyers HMS Electra and HMAS Vampire rescued the survivors.
Simon's great uncle Ted a master at arms who served in Japan and China

Simon’s great uncle Ted a master at arms who served in Japan and China

Ted in China 1939

Ted in China 1939

Tea service set that Ted brought back from China more than 70 years ago

Tea service set that Ted brought back from China more than 70 years ago

The sword of the Master at Arms

The sword of the Master at Arms

The Gunto - the weapon used by the Japanese in the same conflict

The Gunto – the weapon used by the Japanese in the same conflict

Ted, my grandmother’s brother, was also a cousin of the famous Liverpool boxers, Jimmy and Tommy Molloy who had the same grandfather (Ted was son of Edward son of Patrick son of Patrick).

200px-MolloyTm

Tommy Molloy (from the Liverpool Echo)

Molloy will go down as one of the most fearless and finest fighters of his generation after claiming the British welterweight title in 1958 with a points win over Jimmy Newman – a man he had already beaten twice before.

Raised on the streets around Scotland Road in Liverpool, Molloy was a product of the old St Francis ABC and though National Service took him out of the city, his boxing continued.

Molloy would claim BAOR, Army and ISBA Championships in 110 bouts whilst in the forces.

An ABA light-welterweight finalist in 1953, having defeated Nicky Gargano in the semis – Tommy turned professional two years later, taking his paid bow at the Liverpool Stadium against Leeds’ Johnny Delmore.

It would be the first of 30 unbeaten bouts before he earned a crack at the British title.

Molloy’s winning run towards domestic glory was undoubtedly aided by the guidance of his brother, the great Jimmy Molloy.

With champion Peter Waterman vacating the welterweight crown, number one contender Molloy was matched with Newman at Streatham Ice Rink, London in July ’58.

And Molloy’s patience was rewarded when he claimed the title after 15 rounds.

Although a mixed run of results in his following four fights was brushed aside when he successfully defended the British title for the first time with a 12th round TKO of Albert Carroll at The Stadium.

Unfortunately, Molloy was dethroned in his next contest by Wally Swift in Nottingham.

Molloy would have five more contests – bowing out with a win – before calling time on his professional career.

jimmy

Jimmy Molloy (from the Liverpool Echo):

A top class welterweight, Molloy was never handed the title shot his talents and his record deserved. He reckoned he boxed over 200 bouts after turning pro in 1939, but because many took place abroad while he served in the Navy they do not figure on his official record.

Recognised as number one challenger to Ernie Roderick, the only title shot he received was for the newly instituted Central Area title – which he lost to rising star Wally Thom. He avenged that defeat the following year, in a non-title bout, and became known as the champion without a title.

Ted Molloy’s father Edward (a soldier with the Lancashire Fusiliers) was the son of an Irish labourer named Patrick Molloy of Tullamore whose father was also Patrick. Their love of boxing came over from Ireland with them.

 

Sakugawa Ryu lineage and military tradition:

1) Nils (great great great great great grandfather) 1762 Swedish East India, served in Okinawa (contemporary with Tode Sakugawa)
2) Johannes Nilsson (great great great great grandfather) 1805-
3) Nils Johann Nilsson (great great great grandfather) 1835-1910
4) August Nilsson (great great grandfather) 1866-1956 Swedish Royal Navy
5) William Henry Nelson (great grandfather) 1896 British Army WW1
6) Charles James Nelson (grandfather) 1923 British Army WW2
& William Henry Nelson (great uncle) 1924 British Navy WW2, Jujutsu blackbelt
& Edward Molloy (great uncle) 1909 British Navy WW2, served in Japan
8) Simon Keegan 1979 British Army, restorer of Sakugawa Ryu

Kigan-ha Shorei Ryu lineage and military tradition:

1) Herve Briant (great great great grandfather) 1837 French Royal Navy contemporary with Navy landing in Tomari, Okinawa
2) Francis Briant 1876 (great great grandfather)
3) James Lawless 1900 (great grandfather) British Army WW1
4) Cornelius Lawless 1935 Royal Air Force
& Austin Lawless Royal Air Force
5) David Keegan 1950 British Army, Japanese and Chinese martial arts teacher
6) Simon Keegan 1979 British Army, restorer of Kigan Shorei Ryu

 

…………

KIGAN-HA SHOREI RYU: A PRECISE HISTORY

David Keegan and Simon Keegan, 4th and 5th generations from French Royal Navy sailor Herve Briant

David Keegan and Simon Keegan, 5th and 6th generations from French Royal Navy sailor Herve Briant who would have learnt unarmed combat called Chausson during the time the French Navy were sent to Okinawa, China and Japan in the 1850s

Aikuchi given to me by James Lawless' daughter my grandmother

Aikuchi given to Simon by his grandmother, who was the great grand daughter of Herve Briant

This branch of the family’s martial traditions begin with my great-great-great grandfather Herve Briant (b1837) studying the unarmed combat of the French Navy in the 1860s. The French had landed in Tomari, Okinawa.

The French marines land in Tomari, as drawn in 1856

The French marines land in Tomari, Okinawa as drawn in 1856. Herve Briant was in the French Royal Navy at the time

A French naval expedition under Captain Fornier-Duplan onboard Alcmène visited Okinawa on April 28, 1844. Trade was denied, but Father Forcade was left behind with a Chinese translator, named Auguste Ko. Forcade and Ko remained in the Ameku Shogen-ji Temple near the port Tomari, Naha city under strict surveillance, only able to learn the Japanese language from monks.

After a period of one year, on May 1, 1846, the French ship Sabine, commanded by Guérin, arrived, soon followed by La Victorieuse, commanded by Rigault de Genouilly, and Cléopâtre, under Admiral Cécille.

French merchants in Tomari

Merchants in Tomari

The Ryu-Kyu court in Shuri (now part of Naha) complained in early 1847 about the presence of the French missionaries, who had to be removed in 1848.

France would have no further contacts with Okinawa for the next 7 years, until news came that Commodore Perry had obtained an agreement with the islands on July 11, 1854, following his treaty with Japan.

Subsequently sailors developed a style of based on Chuan Fa or Tomari Te called Chausson.

TOMARI TE

Tomari-te (泊手), Okinawan: Tumai-dii) refers to a tradition of martial arts originating from the village of Tomari, Okinawa.

Okinawan masters of Tomari-te include Matsumora Kōsaku and Oyadomari Kokan.

Important katas include Rōhai, which probably takes its name from Lohan (Shaolin Monk).

Most of the Tomari Te forms are considered Shorei Ryu.

This 1956 movie about the life of Kosaku ‘Bushi’ Matsumora (not to be confused with Sokon ‘Bushi’ Matsumura) may be the earliest film of Nunchaku combat and also shows some nice clips of Tomari Bassai:

French Catholic mission in Tomari

French Catholic mission in Tomari

Chinese Martial Studies states:

A precursor of modern French Boxing called “Chausson” is said to have been popular with French sailors in Marseilles and was later adopted by the French Navy. This style of kickboxing featured higher kicks and open hand slaps rather than punches.

These facts have been expanded upon to introduce a nautical element into the modern mythology of French Boxing. Some commentators claim that these arts were actually shaped by their origins on the cramped spaces of a ship. They assert that the hands were left open so that they could steady a sailor on the deck of a pitching ship. Of course it could also be that punching someone in the face with a closed fist without boxing gloves is not always a great idea (ergo the frequency with which a wide variety of global fighting systems use open hand strikes). Such traditions will of course sound vaguely familiar to students of the southern Chinese martial arts, which are also sometimes said to have been shaped by their nautical precursors.

Herve Briant was born in Brest, Brittany in 1837 to local magistrate Francois Briant (b1788, Lothea, Quimperle, Finistere) and his wife Marie Josephe Heyden. Herve is one of the most colourful characters in the family. A member of Napolean III’s royal navy, he deserted his post to go seal fishing in Nova Scotia, skipped trial so his magistrate father couldn’t hang him, came to Liverpool, swept a local girl off her feet and married her.

Herve Briant shown as a French mariner born in 1836, on his wedding bans. However he says his father Francois was a labourer instead of a magistrate

Herve Briant shown as a French mariner born in 1836, on his wedding bans. However he says his father Francois was a labourer instead of a magistrate

Herve’s father Francois is thought to have been the son of Pierre Guillaume Briant and Margueritte Le Bozer.

French screw frigate "La Guerriere" commanded by Admiral Roze, in Nagasaki harbour, 1865

French screw frigate “La Guerriere” commanded by Admiral Roze, in Nagasaki harbour, 1865

Herve in the French Navy

In around 1852, Herve joined the French Navy, the “La Royale” of emperor Napolean III (nephew of Napolean Bonaparte).

In a speech in 1852, Napoleon III famously proclaimed that “The Empire means peace” (“L’Empire, c’est la paix”), but the French Navy in various foreign campaigns at that time.

Napoleon’s challenge to Russia’s claims to influence in the Ottoman Empire led to France’s successful participation in the Crimean War (March 1854–March 1856).

The French frigate La Guerrière commanded by Admiral Roze was the lead ship in the French Campaign against Korea, 1866. Napoleon took the first steps to establishing a French colonial influence in Indo-china.

In China, France took part in the Second Opium War along with Great Britain, and in 1860 French troops entered Beijing. The French Navy also had a mild presence in Japan in 1867-1868, around the actions of French Military Mission to Japan, and the subsequent Boshin war.

19th century sailor

19th century sailor

French sailors practiced a fighting art called Chausson that was like a kind of Karate emphasising kicks. It is considered related to the art of Savate (meaning “old boot”) which was developed from a Parisian street fighting style used around the late 18th and early 19th century.

French Navy sailors practise Chausson. Although the beginnings of Savate came from the Paris slums, formalisation of a fighting style using predominantly kicking, rather than punching (as was the case in English boxing at the time) began with the French Navy developing Chausson— meaning “slipper,” in reference to the sailors’ footwear at the time. Chausson soon became a local street game about Marseille, Aubagne and Toulonand was named jeu Marseillais (game from Marseilles).

french-boxing-military

During the Napoleonic Wars the average Frenchman’s exposure to Chausson increased as they were conscripted into fighting, which served to spread the fighting style and perhaps was influential in exposing Chausson and Savate practitioners to each other. At the time both Savate and Chausson did not involve striking the opponent with the fists, probably due to fist fighting being outlawed by the French government. Instead, they preferred to use open-hand techniques such as slapping to defend against kicks and to strike opponents. Again, another influence on Savate came during the Napoleonic Wars with French prisoners of war being exposed to boxing by their British captors, but it was until much later did boxing make its way into the fighting style.

As this video demonstrates, Chausson more closely resembled Karate, Bojutsu and Kendo than western arts like fencing and boxing:

Savate began to be regulated with the opening of the first salle (official training school) by the famous instructor Michel Casseux (1794-1869), also known by his nickname of le Pisseux. Disallowing such techniques as head butting, eye gouging and grappling, Cassaux created a system of Savate and added la canne (cane fencing), calling it the “Art of Savate.” He went on to teach to many famous members of French society.

French sailors martial arts

French sailors martial arts

French sailors show grappling aspects of the art

French sailors show grappling aspects of the art

Herve deserted the Navy and went seal hunting in Newfoundland. If he stood trial he would have been hanged by the local magistrate who was his own father.

See a re-enactment of French sailors using their Karate like skills in Chausson aboard a ship:

In around 1870, Herve made his way to Liverpool and began working on the docks with John Wignall whose son he had befriended. John’s daughter Catherine was engaged to be married but her fiance was away at sea. Herve said in broken English “if he doesn’t come back I will marry you.” He didn’t come back and they did get married.

Herve in the 1871 census

Herve in the 1871 census

Herve age 64 shown as a French subject in the 1901 census (eighth line down) living with his son in law

Herve age 64 shown as a French subject in the 1901 census (eighth line down) living with his son in law

Children of Herve and Catherine:

Francis (Frank Briant)
William
George
Catherine
Elizabeth Ellen
Mary Jane
Marian

boxing-lesson-savate-ship

Frank was a photographer. He married Margaret Westhead, from a Lancashire family (Westhead is near Ormskirk) and their daughter was Alice Briant who married James Lawless.

Frank Briant, Margaret Westhead and their children

Frank Briant, Margaret Westhead and their children

francisbriant

Frank Briant

bartitsu

In the late 1800s, Frank Briant’s day, French martial arts (Chausson, Savatte, La Canne) were combined with British boxing and Japanese Jujutsu to form the martial art of Bartitsu. David Keegan is a Bartitsu researcher and also has a 100 year old Irish fighting stick

Bartitsu featured in MAG

Bartitsu featured in MAG

James Lawless was born in Liverpool in 1900 to Cornelius Lawless and Mary Ann Ivers.

James joined the army as a very young man and fought for the King’s Liverpool Regiment.

Children of James and Alice:

– Austin (1920) – served in the RAF
– Marion (1922)
– William (1925) known as Billy
– James (1927, died age 4)
– Joan (1929) – mother of David Keegan (grandmother of Simon Keegan)
– Cornelius (1930) – served in the RAF

James Lawless

James Lawless, soldier in the First World War who would have been taught Jujutsu-based combatives.

World War I combatives were based on Jujutsu

World War I combatives were based on Jujutsu

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 09.47.40

Austin Lawless, great grandson of Herve Briant served in the RAF in WW2

Austin Lawless, great grandson of Herve Briant served in the RAF shortly after WW2

AUSTIN

Herve Briant’s great great grandsons David Keegan and Paul Keegan were born in the Year of the Metal Tiger (1950).

The Keegans first studied martial arts in around 1959, joining the Blundells school of Jujutsu. David also had a fondness for Bartitsu. Many years later having formally studied Chinese martial arts such as Tai Chi and Chinese sword, and Japanese martial arts such as Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu, he also began to research and study Shaolin forms.

taichidad

Simon and David Chinese sword

Three generations

Three generations of Keegans and in the Kigan-ha Shorei Ryu lineage – David, Simon and Poppy

Doing kata in my dad's garage/Dojo

Simon in his father’s garage Dojo

Dave shows 100 year old Blackthorne fighting stick

Dave shows 100 year old Blackthorne fighting stick

A young Simon training with his dad

A young Simon training with his dad

Dave and his fellow deshi in front of pictures of Funakoshi and Nakayama

Dave and his fellow deshi in front of pictures of Funakoshi and Nakayama

David Keegan with two of his Japanese teachers Iaido teachers Yoshida and Keiji Tose (9th Dan Hanshi IMAF)

David Keegan with two Japanese master Iaido teachers Yoshida and Keiji Tose (9th Dan Hanshi IMAF)

David Keegan demo with Japanese sword

David Keegan demo with Japanese sword

2013: David Keegan performing an Iaido demo for a Japanese festival

David Keegan performing an Iaido demo for a Japanese festival

The 9th generation

The next generation

THE NAME KIGAN-HA SHOREI RYU

Kigan is not only a hononym of Keegan it is a Buddhist-Shinto theme deep rooted in Japanese Kempo schools.

There are many different Kempo schools and simply put Kempo refers to Chinese boxing schools (Chuan Fa) that came to Japan. One such school was that of Koshoji Temple which used a symbol called Kigan (for Kigan reference see official Kosho Kempo website). This Kempo was the system of the Yoshida clan.

This Katana has the "Kigan" prayer wheel as its Tsuba

This Katana has the “Kigan” prayer wheel as its Tsuba

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 23.55.48

The lineage begun with Zenko Yoshida in 1232 (see reference here). This branch was passed down to James Mitose, the pioneer of Kempo in Hawaii who also learnt Karate kata from Robert Trias who was reportedly taught by Choki Motobu and a Hsing-I master.

kosho

 

Another Yoshida Kempo branch was the Hakuda Kempo of Yoshida Kotaro who taught a system called Yanagi Ryu. This was related to Yoshin Ryu, the original Hakuda method. A student of Yoshida was Mikonosuke Kawaishi.

The Kigan symbol

The Kigan symbol

Here is an example of the Kigan Sai (not to be confused with Si Keegan!) ceremony:

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 10.53.10

The Gikan Ryu (a similar name to Kigan Ryu), is also related to Shinden Fudo Ryu, Koto Ryu, Gyokushin Ryu and Gyokko Ryu. These schools were largely mastered by Yawara master Sato Kimbei who studied many Jujutsu styles but also Chinese schools like Bagua, Taiji, Hsing I and Baji Quan. Gyokushin Ryu was related to Eishin Ryu, a sword style.

These styles were related to Shaolin Tiger boxing (the Ko in Koto and Gyokko means Tiger) and Shinden Fudo Ryu was the Jujutsu style that influenced Bartitsu.

Sakugawa Ryu Katana forged in the Far east but made of Swedish steel. Pictured with the book of Kawaishi, Bill Nelson's Jujutsu master

Sakugawa Ryu Katana forged in the Far east but made of Swedish steel. Pictured with the book of Kawaishi, Bill Nelson’s Jujutsu master

David Keegan

David Keegan

Simon Keegan

Simon Keegan

The name Sakugawa Ryu was chosen to honour Nils’ time serving with Tode Sakugawa in Okinawa in the 1790s. And because through our mainline of Karate (Shorin Ryu, Shotokan, Shuri Te etc) and kata like Kushanku we arrive back to Sakugawa.

The name Kigan-ha Shorei Ryu (praying sect of Shaolin style) honours the fact that Herve Briant served with the French Royal Navy at a time that they went to Tomari Okinawa, where Kosaku Matsumora taught Shorei Ryu. The Tomari Te Shorei Ryu forms in our school include Rohai and Jutte.

 

3rddansword

Simon Keegan 8th generation inheritor (Shihan) of Sakugawa Ryu and 6th generation representative inheritor (Kyujo Dairi) of Kigan-ha Shorei Ryu

Sakugawa Ryu and military tradition:

1) Nils (great great great great great grandfather) 1762 Swedish East India, served in Okinawa
2) Johannes Nilsson (great great great great grandfather) 1805-
3) Nils Johann Nilsson (great great great grandfather) 1835-1910
4) August Nilsson (great great grandfather) 1866-1956 Swedish Royal Navy
5) William Henry Nelson (great grandfather) 1896 British Army WW1
6) Charles James Nelson (grandfather) 1923 British Army WW2
& William Henry Nelson (great uncle) 1924 British Navy WW2, Jujutsu blackbelt
& Edward Molloy (great uncle) 1909 British Navy WW2, served in Japan
8) Simon Keegan 1979 British Army, restorer of Sakugawa Ryu

Kigan-ha Shorei Ryu and military tradition:

1) Herve Briant (great great great grandfather) 1837 French Royal Navy
2) Francis Briant 1876 (great great grandfather)
3) James Lawless 1900 (great grandfather) British Army WW1
4) Cornelius Lawless 1935 Royal Air Force
& Austin Lawless Royal Air Force
5) David Keegan 1950 British Army, Japanese and Chinese martial arts blackbelt
6) Simon Keegan 1979 British Army, restorer of Kigan-ha Shorei Ryu

Sakugawa Ryu Katana forged in the Far east but made of Swedish steel. Pictured with the book of Kawaishi, Bill Nelson's Jujutsu master

Sakugawa Ryu Katana will one day be passed onto the 9th generation in the lineage


The inheritance of the Ryu-ha Keizu
by Simon Keegan (Iemoto of Sakugawa Ryu & Kigan-ha Shorei Ryu)

I am the 8th generation Iemoto (successor) in my maternal family combat tradition, and the 6th generation Kyoju Dairi (representative headteacher) or Wakasosho (young headteacher, my father being the headteacher) in my paternal family combat traditions.

This is a matter within my clan and has no bearing on my martial arts grades (ie 5th Dan Karate) which were all earned on the mat and with independent instructors and governing bodies.

I am not a martial arts “master” nor a “grandmaster”, only the caretaker of my clan’s traditions.

So what is an Iemoto?

Iemoto (Japanese: 家元) (lit. “family foundation”) is a Japanese term used to refer to the founder or current lineage holder of a certain school of traditional Japanese art. It is used synonymously with the word sōke (宗家) when it refers to the family or house that the iemoto is head of and represents.
The word iemoto is also used to describe a system of familial generations in traditional Japanese arts such as tea ceremony (inc. sencha tea ceremony), ikebana, noh, calligraphy, traditional Japanese dance, traditional Japanese music, the Japanese art of incense appreciation (kōdō), and martial arts. Shogi and go (the board game) once used the iemoto system as well. The iemoto system is characterized by a hierarchical structure and the supreme authority of the iemoto, who has inherited the secret traditions of the school from the previous iemoto.
An iemoto may be addressed by the title Iemoto or O-iemoto, or by the title Sōshō (宗匠) or Ō-sensei (大先生) but my students use only “Sensei” when I am teaching martial arts.
The iemoto’s main roles are to lead the school and protect its traditions, to be the final authority on matters concerning the school, to issue or approve licenses and certificates and, in some cases, to instruct the most advanced practitioners.
The title of iemoto in most cases is hereditary. It is commonly transmitted by direct line, or by adoption. Once the “successor-to-be” is officially recognized, that successor-to-be may appropriate the title of Wakasōshō (若宗匠) “Young Master”.
As the 8th generation of the Nilsson line (Sakugawa Ryu) and the 6th generation of the Briant line (Kigan-ha Shorei Ryu) I would like to document and restore my clan’s combat traditions and through my development of Hakuda Kempo Toshu Jutsu, pass on forms like Kushanku (which Tode Sakugawa studied in the time of my ancestor Nils) and Rohai (which Kosaku Matsumora studied in the time of my ancestor Herve).
The next generation of Nils-ha Sakugawa Ryu will be the 9th and of Kigan-Ha Shorei Ryu, the 7th and they will be passed my Okinawan martial arts forms, the Sakugawa katana and Kigan Aikuchi and all the lineages and photographs, certificates and medals of our ancestors in the family.
Ryu-ha Keizu…. Hereditary transmission of a family combat tradition…
Sakugawa Ryu: Eight generations of the Nilsson family

Sakugawa Ryu, combat traditions of the Nilsson clan

APPENDIX 1:

A brief history of the warrior traditions of the Keegan Clan (Clann MacAodhagain)

The Keegan clan were descended from the Irish High King Niall of the Nine Hostages (confirmed by DNA testing) and from King Cairbre Crom. Originally part of the Ui Maine tribe the clan was named in the 12th century after found Aedhagain (pronounced something like Heygan) and the name became MacAodhagain (pronounced Mac Heygan). In the 13th century the clan split into different branches including Clanricarde headed by Connor who was killed in battle. The clan held the rank of Ollamh Mor (hereditary lawmaker) a rank as high as that of the king, and the lesser title of Brehon. One such Brehon named Murtagh anglicised the name to Keegan when he moved to Westmeath and this spelling stuck in the Dublin and Meath area, as well as County Louth.

The Bushinkai Academy was officially founded at Smarmore Castle, County Louth in 2001 and the symbol of our school is the White Lion of the Keegan clan.

And of course the name of the Kigan Ryu is a hononym of Keegan.

keegan_large

Mainline Clann lineage
Aedhagain (clan founder circa 1100AD)
Flann MacAodhagain
Muircertaigh (Murtagh) MacAodhagain
Donoch (Duncan) Mor MacAodhagain
Donoch (Duncan) Oge MacAodhagain
Simeon (Simon) MacAodhagain
Saorbhreathach (Justin) MacAodhagain
Maoliossa MacAodhagain
Flann MacAodhagain
Finghin MacAodhagain (b1370)

MacAodhagain of Clanricarde

  1. Connor Ruadh MacAodhagain (b1404AD). Brehon
  2. Donal MacAodhagain. Brehon
  3. Tiege MacAodhagain. Brehon
  4. Tiege Oge MacAodhagain. Brehon
  5. Boetius MacAodhagain. Brehon
  6. Brian MacAodhagain. Brehon
  7. Murtagh MacAodhagain. Brehon
  8. Henry Kegan
  9. Rowland Keegan. Fought in Battle of Boyne
  10. Robert Keegan (1685)
  11. John Keegan (1710)
  12. James Keegan (1754) Irish Rebellion
  13. James Keegan (1780) Worked for High Sheriff of Athcarne Castle
  14. John Keegan (1821)
  15. John Keegan (1852)
  16. Paul Keegan (1893) Ship’s Fireman World War I
  17. Walter Keegan (1925)
  18. David Keegan (1950)
  19. Simon Keegan (1979)
  20. Poppy May Keegan (2009) and Edward James Keegan (2013)
The symbolic Samurai of the Bushinkai school has a white lion on his breast plate, taken from the Keegan coat of arms

The symbolic Samurai of the Bushinkai school has a white lion on his breast plate, taken from the Keegan coat of arms

APPENDIX 2: THE CLAN BUCHANAN (Edward Molloy, master at arms who fought in Japan and China, was the son of Patrick Molloy and Isabella Buchanan)

Where do the Buchanans come from?

In around 1016 Prince Anselan O’Kyan son of the King of Ulster came to Argyll, Scotland. His nickname was ‘buey’ (the fair) so his name was “Buey O’Kyan” which some suggest is the origin of the name Buchanan.

Culloden style basket hilt broadsword with Buchanan tartan

He acquired lands in the Lennox near Glasgow and was granted a coat of arms.

Buchanan crest claymore kilt pin

His descendants took the name MacAnselan, which became MacAuselain and subsequently this became Buchanan.

A Charter of 1353 exists which refers to “carucate of land called Buchquhaane”. Help was given to the French King after his defeat at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 and it is still claimed that Sir Alexander Buchanan killed the English Duke of Clarence at the Battle of Baugé in 1421. It is because of this act that the Buchanan crest shows a right hand and arm holding aloft a Ducal cap.

The Buchanan lands

The Chief of the Buchanan Clan, and many Clansmen, died at the Battle of Flodden in 1513, when King James IV was killed. George Buchanan, the famous Latin Scholar, Humanist and Reformer, was born near Killearn in 1506. He was a student of the University of St Andrews from 1524 until 1525 and then at Paris, France. He was imprisoned by Cardinal Beaton, but escaped to France.

A modern Buchanan clansman

He was tutor to Mary Queen of Scots between 1536 and 1538, and to her son King James VI of Scotland, who later became James I of England in 1603 following the Union of the Crowns and authorised the translation of the Holy Bible into English. The Clan took part in the Battle of Pinkie in 1547 and the Battle of Langside in 1568. There exists a long Family Tree, dated 1602, where the surnames are written as Boquhannane.

Buchanan Castle

The succession from Anselan was uninterrupted to John Buchanan, the 22nd Laird, who married Mary, daughter of Lord Cardross, and who died in 1681, leaving two daughters and many debts. The Estates were latterly purchased by the Duke of Montrose, who built Buchanan Castle, which has thus no connection with our History. The Title “of that Ilk” expired with the 22nd Laird’s death in 1681 and, although a claim was laid in 1878 for Chiefship, the applicant’s grandson died without issue in 1919. Since then the Chiefship has been dormant.

Buchanan-Tartan-L

Buchanan lineage:

Anselan Buey O’Kyan (clan founder)
John MacAuselain (2nd chief)
Anselan MacAuselain (3rd chief)
Walter MacAuselain (4th chief)
Bernard MacAuselain (5th chief)
Macbeth MacAuselain (6th chief)
Anselan MacAuselain (7th chief)
Gilbert MacAuselain (8th chief)
Sir Maurice Buchanan (9th chief)
Maurice Buchanan (10th chief)
Walter Buchanan (11th chief)
Sir Walter Buchanan (12th chief)




Alexander Buchanan (1600)
Andrew Buchanan (1634)
George Buchanan (1657)
Archibald Buchanan (1695)
John Buchanan (1730)
Neil Buchanan (1762)
John Buchanan (1790)
George Buchanan
Thomas Buchanan
Isabella Buchanan
Louisa Molloy (sister of Edward)
Carol Nelson
Simon Keegan
Poppy & Edward Keegan

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3 thoughts on “Martial arts family traditions

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