Sokon ‘Bushi’ Matsumura

Sokon ‘Bushi’ Matsumura

Born in Shuri, he began his training in karate-do under karate legend Sakugawa. He also trained under the Chinese military attaché Kusanku. Matsumura served as chief of the military and as court retainer for the king of the Ryukyu Islands. Matsumura created the karate style of Shorin-Ryu. Among his noteworthy students were Yasutsune Azato, Yasutsune Itosu, Choshin Chibana, Choki Motobu and Chotoku Kyan. It is also known that he served as a body guard to the last three Ryukyuan Kings. Matsumura traveled to Fuchou and Satsuma as an envoy on affairs of state. In Fuchou he visited several Chinese boxing schools and studied under military attaches Ason and Iwah. In Satsuma Matsumura trained in the Jigen-ryu sword fighting system under Master Yashichiro Ijuin. After retiring, Matsumura taught karate in Sakiyama village, Shuri.

You can find out more about Sokon ‘Bushi’ Matsumura at the article ‘From Shaolin to Okinawa Te…‘.

Sokon Matsumura’s letter about Martial Arts, written May 13, 1882

Matsumura’s letter about the Martial Arts

You can only understand the true way of the martial arts through determination and continuous training. It is quite interesting to note that the martial arts and the methods of scholarly study parallel each other at a fundamental level.

When examining the methods of scholarly study, we find there are three distinct elements or methods:
The first method is the study of powerful words, skills needed in communication and the pursuit of high-paying positions.

The second method is the study of comparing the wisdom of traditional literature, and instilling a sense of duty by way of example.

Despite the fact that these two methods are both unique, they fall short of comprehending the true essence of the way. They encompass only a superficial comprehension of scholarly studies, so they should be regarded as incomplete.

The third method of literary study is a complete method. By understanding this third method is how we can understand the true way. Some of the things that it teaches us how to do are the following: 
(1) To gain a more profound understanding
(2) To gain strength from our weaknesses
(3) To become more sincere
(4) To become more righteous
(5) To better control our emotions
(6) To have more peace in our homes

This is a doctrine that can be applied to not only our country, but to the whole world. Therefore, only this study is a complete one.

If we investigate the martial arts, we also see that there are three distinct divisions or elements in them:
The first method, or division, is more like a game of psychology and tactics. It actually has no practical application in fighting, but it is more like pretty dancing. It is quite superficial.

The second method is nothing more than physical exercises. Its only goal is to win. In this there is no virtue. The practitioners of this method are contentious. Many times they bring injury to others and to themselves. Very often they cause dishonor to come upon members of their family.

The third method, in contrast, is always performed with conviction. The practitioners of this third method gain a solemn enlightenment, free of strife and depravity. It promotes loyalty among family, friends and country. It also promotes a natural demeanor, which develops a gallant character.

If you have an unconquerable calmness, you can overcome the enemy without force, with the ferocity of a tiger and the swiftness of a bird.

Some traits of this third method: 
(1) It prohibits intentional violence
(2) It rules the actions of the warrior
(3) It edifies
(4) It promotes virtue
(5) It promotes peace among the people
(6) It produces harmony in society
(7) It brings about prosperity

These are called the “Seven Virtues of the Martial Arts.” They were taught by wise men, and are contained in a book called the Godan-sho.

Thus, the true way of the martial arts has more than one element in it. A wise man does not need the first or second methods. All he needs is the third method. In this method, you will find the true way.

This unconquerable strength will deeply influence your judgment in recognizing opportunities and in taking appropriate action. The circumstances will always determine what the correct approach is that you should take.

It might seem like I have no respect for the other two fighting methods, but my conviction is rooted immovably in the doctrine of the third method. I have revealed my words to you. There is nothing left secret or hidden in my mind, nothing held back. If you accept and heed my words, you will find the true way.

Bushi Matsumura, May 13, 1882

My wise and young brother Kuwae Ryosei