Matsumura Sokon

Matsumura Sokon

Country: Japan

  1. Biography of Matsamura Sokon
  2. Early Training with Sakugawa
  3. Training with other Masters
  4. Contributions and Accomplishments
  5. Legacy and Influence

Biography of Matsamura Sokon

Matsamura Sokon, also known as "Bush" (1796-1893), was a legendary Okinawan karate master and founder of the Shorin-ryu style. He was born in the village of Yamagawa near Shuri, into a renowned shizoku (samurai) family. Sokon was not only a martial artist but also an educated scholar and a recognized master calligrapher.

Early Training with Sakugawa

From a young age, Sokon, like many boys in the town of Shuri, studied te, the precursor to modern karate. He later became a student of Sakugawa, also known as "Magic Hand," who resided in the village of Akata. It was Sakugawa who gave Sokon the nickname "Bush" - Warrior.

Training with other Masters

It is worth noting that Sokon became Sakugawa's student when the latter was already 78 years old. After the passing of the great master, Sokon continued his training under the guidance of Sakugawa's other top students such as Okuda, Makabe, Matsumoto, Ginowan, and Arakaki. He also studied under several other renowned masters on Okinawa. In 1830, he traveled to China and spent several years studying the art of Xuanwuquan.

Contributions and Accomplishments

Upon his return to Okinawa, Sokon established a school in Shuri called "Serin-ryu Gokoku-an Karate" (Karate School of Shaolin) with the aim of defending the homeland. He served as a personal bodyguard to the last three Okinawan kings and held the title of the Supreme Martial Arts Instructor of Okinawa in 1848.

Sokon was not only renowned in Okinawa but also traveled to Japan numerous times as a government official. During his visits, he recognized and studied various local martial arts styles, believing that they held an inexhaustible source of knowledge. There is evidence that Sokon underwent training in the Dzigen-ryu school, a comprehensive martial arts system that included jujutsu, kendō, battojutsu, and iaijutsu. He also gave due recognition to Okinawan kobudo, the practice of traditional weapons.

After retiring from government service, Sokon taught karate in the village of Shikiyama near Shuri. He practiced a hard, powerful style of karate in the classical Shaolin manner. His emphasis was on speed, precision, explosive power, and mastery of basic techniques. He employed strong, injury-inflicting blocks, block-strikes, and stable stances, considering evasions and feints as dishonorable tricks. For a time, Sokon's methods dominated in Okinawa.

Legacy and Influence

Sokon was the first master to systematize karate without naming his style after himself. His influence was felt across almost all styles of martial arts in Okinawa. Some of his notable students include Itosu, Azato, Kyan, Yabu Kentsu, Hanashiro Chomo, Motobu Choyu, Kuba Raizō, and Motobu Chōki.

Sokon's technical arsenal can be partly understood through his treatise, "Busi Matsamura no Karate," which was preserved by his relatives and published in 1960 in Okinawa. Recognizing that not everyone could master all techniques, Sokon tailored his teachings to each individual's unique abilities. His motto was, "If you are struck with a hand, disable that hand; if with a leg, break it."

Matsamura Sokon's contributions to karate and his influence on Okinawan martial arts continue to be revered and celebrated to this day.