The Disciples of Matsumora Kōsaku

Translated by Andreas Quast

There are several theories about those who were the disciples of Matsumora Kōsaku sensei and today different genealogical flow charts are found in a variety of publications.

I think that from among the disciples of Matsumora sensei, even when looking at it in a modest (conservative) way, Motobu Chōki is one of his best known disciples. I was therefore also a bit surprised that the name of Motobu Chōki was not featured among Matsumora sensei‘s disciples in the "Genealogical Flow Chart of Tomari-te" found on the website previously operated and financed by Okinawa Prefecture (not running anymore), which introduced Karate.

Since such genealogical flow charts also serve the opinions (purpose) of each of the schools, they can often by no means be expected to constitute objective descriptions.

Well, among the genealogical flow charts I have seen so far, I feel that the best investigated and most objectively described genealogical flow chart of Matsumora's disciples is the one entitled “Bushi Matsumora Karate Keitōzu” (“Flow Chart of Bushi Matsumora’s Karate”) from the book “Karate (Tomari-te) Chūkō no So Matsumora Kōsaku Ryakuden” (“Biographical Sketch of Matsumora Kōsaku, the Ancestor who Rejuvenated Karate (Tomari-te)”, 1970), written by Matsumora Kōsaku's grandson Mr. Matsumura Kōshō (former family name Matsumora). I allow myself the privilege to quote the flow chart below.

Flow Chart of Bushi Matsumora’s Karate

Since this flow chart was created by interviews made by Matsumora sensei's grandchild with the old people and karate practitioner residing in Tomari at that time, it is one of the most reliable (trustworthy) flow charts. Here the name of Motobu Chōki is also listed.

In addition, Yara Chōi – who had been introduced the other day in the lineage of the article of “Tomari no Naihanchi” – also appears in this flow chart, with the information “Hanshi, resident in Ōsaka” having been added. Fortunately many people were able to read that other day's article, and while among the foreign people who read it some had the doubt "Is Yara Chōi really of the Matsumora lineage?," in the flow chart presented today his name is also explicitly recorded.

Nonetheless, since this flow chart is also just a summary based on post-war oral tradition, it remains insufficient when viewed from the standards of current historical karate research. Particularly in pre-war newspaper articles about Motobu Chōki that have been excavated in recent years, previously unknown names of disciples of Matsumora sensei also became visible.

In one such primary historical record, “Bushi Motobu Chōki Okina ni ‘Jissen-dan’ o Kiku” (“Listening to the ‘Combat Stories’ of Venerable Old Warrior Motobu Chōki”, Ryūkyū Shinpō, 9, 10, and 11 November 1936), Motobu Chōki expresses as follows.

“This happened when I was 20 years old. When Kameya, Yabu and my older brother (Motobu Chōyu) went to see Matsumora Sensei in Tomari for instruction, Matsumora Sensei asked them a question about how to block a certain attack. I heard that they could not figure out the answer even though they tried very hard to come up with it for a whole week. … ”

Here persons not found in the above flow chart are introduced as disciples of Matsumora, such as Motobu Chōyu, Yabu Kentsū, and Kameya from Shuri Kubagawa.

In addition, in the newspaper article by Kyan Chōtoku sensei entitled “Karate no Omoide” (“Recollections of Karate”, Okinawa Shinpō, 7 May 1942) too, it has been described that Kyan sensei also studied under Matsumora sensei. When working these informations into a diagram, it becomes as follows:

When speaking strictly academical, from the primary historical records only the persons shown in this diagram can be identified as disciples of Matsumora Kōsaku. And, from among these, only Motobu Chōki is listed among the names in the genealogical flow chart by Mr. Matsumura Kōshō (former family name Matsumora).

In this way, it is an example in karate history in which the names of persons who evidently have studied under Matsumora sensei were forgotten, and not handed down as an oral tradition. If one views karate history research from the viewpoint of an academic discipline, because it is still an immature field, it is therefore important to create genealogical flow charts on the basis of investigations of such primary historical records.