Sokon “Bushi” Matsumura

Sokon “Bushi” Matsumura (1797-1889)

…Contrary to some claims, Bushi Matsumura was born in 1797, and died in 1889. Supposedly, some have found new evidence that would seem to indicate that Bushi Matsumura was born in 1809. But this is not the case, because we know he died when he was 92. According to some sources, Bushi’s family name was Kiyo. Matsumura grew up in Yamagawa village of the city of Shuri, Okinawa. He was partly Chinese. Sakugawa trained Bushi at Akata when he was 14, in 1810. According to tradition, it was at Bushi’s father’s request that Sakugawa teach him. Some say that to train Bushi to block, Sakugawa tied to him to a tree so he could not move. Then he threw punches at him. Kise’s page says, “He was recruited into the service of the Sho family and was given the title Satunuki, later rising to Chikutoshi…” This is probably the reason he had the title of Chikudon. Upon his recruitment, the Sho Ko, the king of Okinawa at the time, desired to have him change his last name, as was the custom, and suggested the name Muramatsu, or “village pine.” Sokon requested of the king to let him change the name to Matsumura, or “pine village.” So the king granted this to him. Sakugawa trained him until his death, and then Sokon was probably on his own for a while. According to oral history, he studied “Tode” Sakugawa for 4 years.

Matsumura married a woman by the name of Yonamine Chiru, who came from a family known for their martial arts skills. According to tradition, this was when he was 19 years old, which would make it 1815. Yonamine said she would never marry a man that could not beat her. The story goes that he faught her and won, and that is the reason she married him (of course she must have loved him too). There are many funny stories that have circulated about these two.

The karate of Shuri was further developed by Bushi Matsumura . Today there are many different styles descended from the original Matsumura style of Shorin-Ryu. The Orthodox style of Hohan Soken was the only style taught to the public that has stayed the most like the original Matsumura Shorin-Ryu, contrary to some claims.


Stories about Matsumura

There are two very popular and often-told stories that demonstrate Matsumura’s strategy of defeating the enemy before you even fight him by intimidation and demoralization. The first story is when Matsumura fought a bull. Sho Tai had gotten this bull from the Emperor of Japan. The king decided to put Matsumura against the bull. Matsumura wasted no time, and went to see the bull-keeper. He asked to see the bull. So the keeper took him to it. He was dressed in his armor. He tormented the bull day after day until it feared him and knew well who he was. Finally the day came for Matsumura to fight the bull. They let the bull out into the arena, and then Matsumura went out to fight it. The bull was terrified and ran away. The story goes that because of this, the king give him the title of Bushi.

And then there is the old story about the eyes of Matsumura. A pipe craftsman and martial artist challenged Matsumura to a fight. This man told Matsumura to meet him at a certain spot at a certain hour early in the morning. He decided that he would show up very early to examine the terrain and come up with a strategy to gain an advantage. To his surprise, Matsumura was already there waiting. Matsumura had already out-thought his opponent. So when they got ready to fight, he caught sight of Matsumura’s eyes, which had the “look of death” in them. The man was immediately struck with fear, and his courage was destroyed. He just fell to the ground and began to cry. Matsumura told him that his only thought was to win, and that had defeated him. Matsumura’s attitude was that of the Samurai. It was the “resolute acceptance of death” as spoken of by Musashi.

Another person Matsumura had an interchange of martial knowledge with was a man named Chinto, a pirate from Southern China (according to some, he was not a pirate at all, but a trader, and he did not plunder). He drifted ashore to Okinawa. Something must have happened to his ship. When he got there, he began to loot and plunder because of hunger. The king received word of this, and sent Bushi to hunt him down and stop him. So when Bushi found him, they fought each other but were matched. Some say that it was because Chinto was very expert at change-body just like Matsumura. When all attempts to apprehend the pirate failed, strangely enough, Bushi befriended him and exchanged martial knowledge with him. Thus we have the kata named Chinto with the techniques in it that Bushi got from him. It is a mystery as to what Chinese system these techniques are from.

Bushi Matsumura studied under a Chinese master for a time by the name of Channan (Chiag Nan) who was a diplomat sent to Shuri from China. Bushi created two kata from what he had learned that were known as Channan Sho and Dai. Later, the names were changed to Pinan (Ping An) Shodan and Nidan. In the Matsumura system, these two are considered the basic, or “kihon” kata.

It is said by some that a Chinese master by the name of Ason taught a Chinese kata by the name of Naifanchin in the area of Naha. Some say that the kata was taught in Naha-te for a while (but is no longer had in Naha-te styles.) Matsumura studied from Ason for a time. Later, Matsumura took this kata and broke it up into two parts: Naifanchin Shodan and Nidan. The origin of Naihanchi Sandan is more obscure. It is not a Matsumura kata at all, but it may have its origin in Ason’s system also.