Motobu-ha Shito-ryu History
Motobu-ha Shito-ryu is an Okinawan style of martial art. This style of Shito-ryu takes the name of Chokki Motobu (1871-1944) or Motobu Saru (Motobu the Monkey). He was born at Akahira village, Shuri, the third son of Undun Motobu, a high ranking Anji. Chokki Motobu (as told by Mark Bishop in his book “Okinawan Karate,” 1989) is credited with learning karate from Anko Itosu, Pechin Tokumine and Kosaku Matsumura (some sources include Sokon Matsumura) but, in Higa Yuchoku’s words, “He was no one’s disciple.”
Chokki’s elder brother Choyu, the eldest son of the family, received a fine education and taught the secrets of the family’s Ti system by his father as was customary. Chokki because he was the younger of the two had to pick up the basics of Ti and regularly practiced with the fashionable Makiwara punching board, gradually forming a fighting system of his own. Once reaching manhood, Chokki Motobu took it upon himself to visit Tsuji and challenge strong looking young men. He was rarely defeated and gradually, from practical experience of many fights, adopted and developed all kinds of techniques into his system, earning the reputation of being aggressive.
Chozo Nakama insists that Chokki Motobu was quite the gentleman, befitting his social background. His speech (Okinawan dialect) was polite, authoritative, as well as masculine and he always taught his students the essence and necessity of good manners. However, his Japanese was lacking and when teaching at mainland universities he always used a Japanese interpreter. Due to the dictates of the times, his noble birthright made it quite unnecessary for him to assume a humble attitude. Chokki Motobu preceded Funakoshi Gichin in starting the teaching of Okinawan karate to the Japan. Chokki Motobu returned to Okinawa in 1936 and began training with Kentsu Yabu. Kentsu Yabu was the only man to have ever defeated Chokki Motobu.
Chokki Motobu knew many Katas, namely Tomari Kata. Motobu usually taught his own interpretation of Naihanchi that included Ti-like grappling and throwing techniques. Much more than his Katas, though, it is the part he played in the development of karate sparring for which he is best remembered. Such was the fame of his sparring that students of other teachers were often referred to Chokki Motobu to learn these special techniques. Among his many surviving Okinawan students are: Shoshin Nagamine (Matsubayashi-ryu), Shinsuke Kaneshima (Tozan-ryu), Shinyei Kaneshima (Ishimine-ryu), Katsuya Miyahira (Shorin-ryu-Kobayashi) and Chozo Nakama. In September of 1944 Chokki Motobu died in the home of his mistress at Tomari, aged 73, in Chozo Nakama’s words, “still looking for the essence of karate.”
Choyu Motobu and Motobu-ryu as told by Mark Bishop, 1989. Choyu Motobu was the Ti instructor to the last of the Ryukyuan kings, the young Sho Tai, who lived from 1841 to 1901 and reigned from 1848 to 1879. Some years after the king’s abolition, Motobu Choyu opened a do-jo at Naha. In 1924, he helped form and presided over the Okinawa Tode Research Club based at Nami no Ue, Naha, which was formed for the discussion and development of Tode and the other fighting arts. Among the members were such notables as: Chojun Miyagi, Kenwa Mabuni, Kentsu Yabu, Chotoku Kyan, Chojo Oshiro and Chokki Motobu.
Choyu Motobu had hoped that his second son, Chomo Motobu, would become his successor to the family Ti system (his elder son had died early in life), but Chomo was not interested. However, the then 20 years old tea boy at the Okinawa Tode Research Club, Seikichi Uehara who had been a student of Choyu Motobu for seven years and eventually became Motobu’s next in line. About three years after Choyu Motobu’s death in 1926 the Okinawa Tode Research Club folded and interest in Motobu Ti was kept alive by the ambitious Uehara.
In 1947 Seikichi Uehara named the style Motobu-ryu in remembrance of his teacher. By 1964 the style had become known and Uehara formed the Motobu-ryu Kobujutsu Association in 1969 as a branch of the All Okinawa Karate and Kobudo Combined Association.
Motobu-ryu is still an unknown style and more than not misunderstood or dismissed as a “silly version of aikido.” In fact, the style has a depth that cannot be easily grasped by observing the odd demonstration. Takao Miyagi, one of Uehara’s top students, has researched and written about Ti and said that Motobu-ryu’s secret principles are simple: “Relax the body and throw your opponent with softness.” By “throw,” he actually meant neutralize and by the term “with softness,” he meant that one should utilize the hardness and force of an opponent so that he actually defeats himself; for the aggressor this can be like attacking a vacuum or diving into an empty swimming pool that he thought was filled with water. One could say that Ti combines the finer points of the three most acclaimed Chinese boxing styles and more, having within its guises the swift, straight-lined attack of Hsing-i, the softness of T’ai-chi and the ever-changing circular defense of Pa Kua.
Seikichi Uehara states, “The ultimate aim of Ti as a means of self defense is to nullify a nasty situation without reverting to the physical and, if actually attacked, to lead the aggressor in such a way that he realizes his own deficiencies and becomes a better person”; as massage is also an intricate part of Ti, he may also get a health massage in the bargain.
Ti is complex in its simplicity and is by no means easy to learn. Motobu-ryu exponents start off learning the basic principles with a soft version of the Sanchin Kata known as Moto-te Sanchin. From practicing this, students who have been brought up on karate are taught to lose the habit of hunching up and learn how to stretch out and gain maximum reach from their limbs. The basic foot movements differ from karate basics in that the heels are kept off the floor with the weight distributed on the balls of the feet. The foot movements become light, flexible and quite ballet like. The basic closed fist punch and the toe-tip kick are taught using exercises combined with the foot movements. When punching, the fists are kept in front of the body (one fist held near the elbow of the other arm) and are snapped out in concordance with the forward momentum. For kicking, the forward foot is usually used in conjunction with forward momentum.
Ti is primarily an open handed system and rarely incorporates the closed fist in advanced techniques. The main striking tool is the thumb, which is used in two fundamental hand forms. In the first hand form the tip of the thumb is aligned with the middle finger and about 3-4cm (1-11/2in) away from it. The thumb is used for lightly striking or pressing vital points during grappling or massaging. Places to strike are the eyes, the temples, the spaces between the lower floating ribs and the side of the windpipe. In the second hand form the tip of the thumb is used to lightly strike the vital points of the body in preparation for grappling.
As in karate (karate Katas are taught as part of Motobu-ryu in Uehara’s branch Do-jos) any part of the body is used to strike an opponent, but in Ti these strikes are not an end in themselves and are used to gently goad the opponent into a submissive state. Grappling, combined with throwing, makes up a large part of the curriculum of Motobu-ryu and when mastered, Seikichi Uehara claimed, can be used to overpower an opponent with a never ending series of techniques that flow from one to the other. These techniques are generally known as Odori-te (dance-hand), some of the techniques being: Kaeshi-te (return -hand), Tori-te (take or release-hand), Nage-te (throw-hand), Tori-te Kaeshi (take or release-hand reversal). When combined, these techniques originally formed a kind of Kata known as Anji Kata no Mekata (The Dance Kata of the Lords) that was the pinnacle of the art and was passed down in secret through the Motobu family. Uehara unfortunately failed to learn Anji Kata no Mekata, but all is not lost. Takao Miyagi is among those who believe that several similar dance Katas have been preserved as “Onna Odori” (ladies’ dances) that were originally danced by men in women’s clothing: a major Okinawan classical art form that stresses slow, balanced postures performed to music while in a trance-like state.
The botanist Shinju Tawata remembered that when he was a boy he saw a Ti demonstration by Choyu Motobu in which Motobu seemed to be dancing and was totally relaxed, but when anyone closed in on him, he would immediately throw them without interrupting the flow of his dance. Motobu-ryu includes dance as part of its curriculum. Also practice with the traditional bladed weapons of the Ti armory, Katana, Naginata (halberd), Yari (spear), and Tanto (short sword) which, according to Seikichi Uehara is employed in a way that is unique to Okinawa. Motobu-ryu also incorporates the use of: Nichokama, Rokushaku-bo, Jo, Goshaku-jo, Nijotan-bo, Uchi-bo, Santo, Toifua, Eku and Sai.
Choyu Motobu had taught Seikichi Uehara the secrets of Ti with the hope that his Ti system would eventually return to the Motobu family. Although Choyu Motobu’s dream came true, it was Chokki Motobu’s eldest son Chomei who actually made it a reality.
The Motobu, Undun Family Lineage Chart
- KING SHO SHITSU -
1 gen. Prince Sho Koshin
2 gen. unknown
3 gen. unknown
4 gen. Choko Motobu
5 gen. Chokyu Motobu
6 gen. unknown
7 gen. unknown
8 gen. Chosho Motobu
9 gen. unknown
10 gen. Chosho Motobu
11 gen. Choyu Motobu Chokki Motobu
12 gen. Chomei Motobu
Richard P. Baillargeon
Kogawa Bushido Kai
Kenwa Mabuni was a close friend and martial arts contemporary of Chokki Motobu. They both studied karate under Anko Itosu and Kanryo Higaonna; from these two martial art instructors the name Shito-ryu was derived. Mabuni had first called the style Hanko-ryu (Half-hard style). Later, in remembrance of his two teachers he took the Chinese character “shi” (“ito” in Itosu) and the Chinese character “to” (“higa” in Higaonna) and combined them to form “shito”, according to some sources this was in about 1937. Mark Bishop, 1989, states that there are two types of Shito-ryu taught in Okinawa: Mabuni Shito-ryu and Shiroma Shito-ryu (Shinpan Shiroma, 1890-1954).
Sokon Matsumura (c.1809-1901)
Sokon Matsumura (Matsumura Orthodox Shorin-ryu) (as told by Mark Bishop, 1989) also called Buseitatsu, Unyu, BUSHI Matsumura or Bucho was born into a well known Shizoku family at Yamagawa village, Shuri. He was a good scholar, noted calligrapher and learned Ti in his youth. It is said that he learned the use of the staff from Sakugawa SATUNUSHI (Tode Sakugawa) who had studied the art in China. While working as a bodyguard to the last three successive Ryukyuan kings, Sho Koi, Sho Iku and Sho Tai, Matsumura twice visited Fuchou and Satsuma as an envoy on affairs of state. At Fuchou he was able to visit several Chinese boxing schools and study under the military attaches, Ason and Iwah. At Satsuma, Matsumura is said to have been initiated into the Jigen-ryu sword fighting system under the master, Yashichiro Ijuin. After retirement, Matsumura taught karate at an open space in Sakiyama village, Shuri. Among his students were: Anko Itosu (1832-1916), Kentsu Yabu (1866-1937), Chomo Hanashiro (1869-1945), Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957), Chotoku Kyan (1870-1945), Ryosei Kuwae (1853-?), Anko Asato, Kiyuna PECHIN, Sakihara PECHIN.
Before Sokon Matsumura’s death he presented a letter to his pupil Ryosei Kuwae who then passed it on to his son. The letter reads:
“If you want to practice fighting arts, you must know the true meaning of them, therefore I have resolved to state the facts; please examine them closely.
So, the way of learning and the way of fighting arts have one and the same purpose. There are respectively three kinds of learning and fighting arts. The three kinds of learning are namely: 1. reading, writing and arithmetic; 2. exegetics; 3. the study of Confucianism.
The first one includes calligraphy, composing words into sentences and being able to calculate the totals of rice stipends required by important people. Exegetics is the teaching to people the sense of duty ascertained through the Chinese classics, having the way of profound knowledge and teaching by example. Both the former schools of learning are distinctive as being just literary arts, however Confucianist learning brings about sincerity, pureness of heart and a sense of propriety in all things. Hence the governing of one’s house (and even one’s country) well will result in world peace. This is true knowledge, Confucian knowledge.
The three kinds of fighting arts are: 1. those of court instructors 2. nominal styles 3. the true fighting arts.
The court instructors’ styles are practiced in a very unusual way; movements are never the same, formless and light, becoming (like women) more and more dance like as the proponents mature. The exponents of nominal styles do not practice regularly, they come and go here and there, contriving how to win, quarreling with and perhaps inconveniencing people. Most serious of all they cause bodily harm, making their parents and family ashamed of them. With the true fighting arts you will not be distracted, so contrive for achievement, govern your own heart and wait for your enemy to be disarrayed; quieten yourself and wait for enemy to become agitated; snatch your enemy’s heart and you will conquer him. As your proficiency increases distinctiveness will come, you will be capable of everything, you will not be disoriented, you will know the place of filial piety. The spirit of a ferocious tiger and the speed of a flying swift will develop naturally so that you will be able to overpower any aggressor.
A wise sage wrote in the Chudokansha the following so called “Seven Martial Virtues”: Martial artists are forbidden to act in an unruly manner; soldiers should practice admonition, help people, distinguish themselves and safeguard the people so that the populace can live in peace and have abundant wealth. Therefore learning and fighting arts have the way of truth. Court instructors’ styles and nominal styles are useless, so consider the true fighting arts carefully. I think you should seize the opportunity to act accordingly with restraint, so that if you practice with the previous mentioned facts in mind, it has been said that, the lower abdomen will become the storehouse of one’s energy.”
Anko Itosu (as told by Mark Bishop, 1989) was born at Yamagawa village, Shuri and from an early age studied karate under Sokon Matsumura. Well versed in both Chinese and Japanese classics, he became the secretary (or scribe) to the last Ryukyuan king, Sho Tai, until the monarchy was dissolved in 1879. The next twenty years of his life are vague, it is believed by Katsuya Miyahira that Itosu learned karate from Shiroma (Gusukuma) of Tomari and a Chinese who was living at Tomari. Chozo Nakama states that Itosu had learned the Kata Chiang Nan from a Chinese who had lived on Okinawa, and later remodeled and simplified this into five basic Katas, calling them Pinan because the Chinese Chiang Nan was to hard to pronounce (these became the Heian Katas of Funakoshi Gichin’s Shotokan of Tokyo). Horoku Ishikawa of Shiroma Shito-ryu typically came up with the theory that “Itosu had based his five Pinan Katas on an analysis of the Kata Kusanku Dai.”
In April of 1901 Itosu introduced karate to the Shuri Jinjo Elementary School as part of the physical training curriculum. But at first karate was considered too risky for young children, so Itosu removed the dangerous techniques and simplified his other Katasand sparring into mostly punch and block techniques. In 1905 Itosu became karate teacher at the Prefectural Dai Ichi College and the Prefectural Teacher’s Training College. Three years later he wrote a letter for the Prefectural Education Department concerning an idea that led to introduction of his karate to all Okinawan schools and later its spread to the Japanese mainland, where it eventually played an essential role in the militaristic indoctrination program. The letter reads as follows:
“Tode did not develop the way of Buddhism or Confucianism. In the recent past Shorin-ryu and Shorie-ryu were brought over from China. They both have similar strong points, so, before there are too many changes, I should like to write these down. 1. Tode is primarily for the benefit of health. In order to protect one’s parents or one’s master, it is proper to attack a foe regardless of one’s own life. Never attack a lone adversary. If one meets a villain or ruffian one should not use Tode, but simply parry and step aside.
2. The purpose of Tode is to make the body hard like stones and iron; hands and feet should be used like the points of arrows; hearts should be strong and brave. If children were to practice Tode from their elementary school days, they would be well prepared for military service. When Wellington and Napoleon met they discussed the point that “tomorrow’s victory will come from today’s playground.” 3. Tode cannot be learned quickly. Like a slow moving bull, that eventually walks a thousand miles, if one studies seriously every day, in three or four years one will understand what Tode is about. The very shape of ones bones will change.
Those who study as follows will discover the essence of Tode: 4. In Tode the hands and feet are important so they should be trained thoroughly on the Makiwara. In so doing drop your shoulders, open your lungs, take hold of your strength, grip the floor with your feet and sink your intrinsic energy to your lower abdomen. Practice with each arm one or two hundred times.
5. When practicing Tode stances make sure your back is straight, drop your shoulders, take your strength and put it in your legs, stand firmly and put the intrinsic energy in your lower abdomen, the top and bottom of which must be held together tightly. 6. The external techniques of Tode should be practiced, one by one, many times. Because these techniques are passed on by word of mouth, take the trouble to learn the explanations and decide when and in what context it would be possible to use them. Go in, counter, release; is the rule of Torite, (releasing hands).
7. You must decide whether Tode is for cultivating a healthy body or for enhancing your duty.
8. During practice you should imagine you are on the battle field. When blocking and striking make the eyes glare, drop the shoulders and harden the body. Now block the enemy’s punch and strike! Always practice with this spirit so that, when on the real battlefield, you will naturally be prepared.
9. Do not over exert yourself during practice because the intrinsic energy will rise up, your face and eyes will turn red and your body will be harmed. Be careful.
10. In the past many of those who have mastered Tode have lived to an old age. This is because Tode aids the development of the bones and sinews; it helps the digestive organs and is good for the circulation of the blood. Therefore, from now on, Tode should become the foundation of all sports lessons from elementary schools onward. If this is put into practice there will, I think, be men who can win against ten aggressors.
“Tode did not develop the way of Buddhism or Confucianism. In the recent past Shorin-ryu and Shorie-ryu were brought over from China. They both have similar strong points, so, before there are too many changes, I should like to write these down. 1. Tode is primarily for the benefit of health. In order to protect one’s parents or one’s master, it is proper to attack a foe regardless of one’s own life. Never attack a lone adversary. If one meets a villain or ruffian one should not use Tode, but simply parry and step aside. 2. The purpose of Tode is to make the body hard like stones and iron; hands and feet should be used like the points of arrows; hearts should be strong and brave. If children were to practice Tode from their elementary school days, they would be well prepared for military service. When Wellington and Napoleon met they discussed the point that “tomorrow’s victory will come from today’s playground.” 3. Tode cannot be learned quickly. Like a slow moving bull, that eventually walks a thousand miles, if one studies seriously every day, in three or four years one will understand what Tode is about. The very shape of ones bones will change. Those who study as follows will discover the essence of Tode: 4. In Tode the hands and feet are important so they should be trained thoroughly on the Makiwara. In so doing drop your shoulders, open your lungs, take hold of your strength, grip the floor with your feet and sink your intrinsic energy to your lower abdomen. Practice with each arm one or two hundred times. 5. When practicing Tode stances make sure your back is straight, drop your shoulders, take your strength and put it in your legs, stand firmly and put the intrinsic energy in your lower abdomen, the top and bottom of which must be held together tightly. 6. The external techniques of Tode should be practiced, one by one, many times. Because these techniques are passed on by word of mouth, take the trouble to learn the explanations and decide when and in what context it would be possible to use them. Go in, counter, release; is the rule of Torite, (releasing hands). 7. You must decide whether Tode is for cultivating a healthy body or for enhancing your duty. 8. During practice you should imagine you are on the battle field. When blocking and striking make the eyes glare, drop the shoulders and harden the body. Now block the enemy’s punch and strike! Always practice with this spirit so that, when on the real battlefield, you will naturally be prepared. 9. Do not over exert yourself during practice because the intrinsic energy will rise up, your face and eyes will turn red and your body will be harmed. Be careful. 10. In the past many of those who have mastered Tode have lived to an old age. This is because Tode aids the development of the bones and sinews; it helps the digestive organs and is good for the circulation of the blood. Therefore, from now on, Tode should become the foundation of all sports lessons from elementary schools onward. If this is put into practice there will, I think, be men who can win against ten aggressors.
Anko Itosu. Meiji 41, Year of the Monkey (October 1908).”
The reason for stating all this is that it is my opinion that all students at the Okinawa Prefectural Teacher’s Training College should practice Tode, so that when they graduate from here they can teach the children in the schools exactly as I have taught them. Within ten years Tode will spread all over Okinawa and to the Japanese mainland. This will be a great asset to our militaristic society. I hope you will carefully study the words I have written here.
Anko Itosu died in 1916 at the age of 85 and in his wake left an impressive list of students: Kentsu Yabu (1866-1937), Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957), Chomo Hanashiro (1869-1945), Choshin Chibana (1885-1969), Kenwa Mabuni (1889-1952), Shinpan Shiroma (1890-1954), Shigeru Nakamura (c.1890-1971), Moden Yabiku (1882-c.1945), Anbun Tokuda (1886-1945), Chojo Oshiro, Jiro Shiroma and Kanken Toyama.
Kanryo Higaonna (as told by Mark Bishop, 1989) (sometimes written Higashionna) was born at Nishimura, Naha, was the fourth son of Kanyo Higaonna, the ninth generation successor of the Shin family line. Higaonna’s child name was Moshi but he was also nicknamed Ushi-chi; the Japanese pronunciation for his Chinese name was Shin Zen Enko. He was described as, “small but fast moving with powerful hips,” according to some sources he learned Ti when he was a youth and according to Shoshin Nagamine, from the age of twenty he learned Tode from Seisho Arakaki (Mayia Arakachi-gwa) of Kume village, Naha. Naha, at that time, was a comparatively large business center with many Chinese and Okinawans involved in the Naha-Fuchou trade. Contact with the Chinese traders meant that more than a few Okinawans had a chance to learn Chinese boxing and among these, some became well known for their expertise in technique; others, who learned a lot of Katas and few fighting techniques, were known derogatorily as exponents of “Hanchin-di (“lazy mans boxing”). Higaonna was hard pressed to find a good teacher because boxers of that time were not readily absolved to pass on their secrets and demonstrations of one’s techniques was considered bad form. According to Eiichi Miyazato, Higaonna thus decided to journey to China and at the age of 23 or 24 he finally got a passage to Fuchou on an introduction from Yoshimura UDUN. According to Katsumi Murakami in his book “Karate-do to Ryukyu Kobudo” Higaonna as a young boy had actually been an aide to Yoshimura UDUN and traveled to China with him several times. Sources are confused about whom actually taught Higaonna Chinese boxing in China. Several instructors are named: Ryu Ryo Ko (possibly Ru Ru Ko of Ryuei-ryu) and his assistant Wan Shin Zan (possibly Wai Shin Zan). From Wan Shin Zan Higaonna learned the essence of Hsing-i boxing.
Higaonna learned the basic Kata Sanchin and later the open handed Katas Seyonchin, Shisounchin, Sanseiru, Sesan, Kururunfua and Suparinpe. Kanryo Higaonna also learned Chinese weaponry and often read the illustrated Chinese boxing manual known in Japanese as “Kenpo Haku,” “because he felt that it contained the essence of Chinese boxing.”
Practice at Higaonna’s do-jo was tedious with the first three or four years doing only Sanchin and to those who persisted much was taught. According to most sources Higaonna called his style Shorie-ryu (lit. Enlightened Spirit Style); however it became known as Naha-te, to distinguish it from the karate taught at Tomari and Shuri. Juhatsu Kyoda was often told by Higaonna that “karate was not meant for hurting people, but for helping society, and karate needs technique, and karate needs a purpose.” Higaonna is sometimes quoted as having said: “In the martial arts spiritual improvement is important; so remember that if anything in life blocks your way turn aside and go around it.” Higaonna’s sparring was described as light with extraordinary footwork and low, fast kicks. Despite his active life, Kanryo Higaonna died of illness at the early age of 63 and was succeeded by his top disciple, Chojun Miyagi.
Chojun Miyagi, became a student of Kanryo Higaonna at the age of fourteen, after much devotion his technique improved. In May of 1915 Miyagi and a friend called Gokenki went to Fuchou in search of Higaonna’s teacher. They stayed for a year but everything had changed and although they visited several masters, the old school was no more; possibly due to the Boxer Rebellion of 1900. Gokenki, a Chinese by birth (1886-1940) became a Japanese citizen and adopted the name Yoshikawa. He was a tea importer by profession, but during his spare time he taught the southern Shoalin form of White Crane Boxing. Shortly after Miyagi and Gokenki returned from Fuchou, Higaonna died. Miyagi started to take on students and introduced a Kata called Tensho, which he had adapted from the Rokkishu of White Crane. This Kata, although similar to Sanchin in stance and function, contains techniques using the palm and back of the wrist to block and strike. Miyagi also introduced the Kata Saifua (which has hand and leg movements similar to those of White Crane) and sometime later made Gekisai Ichi and Gekisai Ni Katas for teaching to young school age children. During a karate demonstration on the mainland at the Dai Nippon Butokukai in 1937, Miyagi’s top disciple, Jinan Shinzato was asked by some of the presiding officials the name of his teacher’s style. Not knowing what to answer, Shinzato consulted Miyagi who replied by quoting his favorite clause from the “Kenpo Haku,” namely “Go-ju, Don-tosu” (hard-soft, spit-swallow or exhale-inhale); so the style became known as Goju-ryu. Chojun Miyagi died October 8, 1953 at the age of 65 of cerebral hemorrhage.
Kosei Kokuba (1900-1959)
Kosei Kokuba was the youngest son of a branch of the Okinawan Royal Family, the Sho Shi Family, was born in 1900, in the Kokuba Village or what is now Naha City, Okinawa. He began training in Karate-do as a young boy with Choki Motobu. He also studied with Kenwa Mabuni, Ryusei Tomoyori, Seisho Arakaki, Gokenki and many other martial artists. In 1924 he left his homeland of Okinawa for the larger islands of Japan. For several years he lived near Tokyo in the mountain village of Fuji-Yoshida-Shi, one of the small town located at the foot of Japan’s awe inspiring Mount Fuji. In 1940 Sensei Kokuba located in Osaka where he opened a business and also began formal teaching of the Okinawan Karate-Do of Founder Motobu-ha Shito-ryu. On June 6, 1943, Sensei Kokuba founded the Seishin Kan Do-jo. He took the name partly from the kanji for the temple located at the end of the street where he lived, Shotennoji. The character Sho can be read as Sho or Sei and the meaning is “pure”. Sensei Kokuba believed that true Karate-Do comes from the heart, so he called his dojo - SEISHIN or “pure heart” Do-jo. The Seishin Kan Do-jo became a famous meeting place for budo men in Osaka and the training was with the men who are the founders of Karate-do as it is taught in the world today. Sensei Kokuba continued to teach in the style of Sensei Motobu and when Motobu died in 1947, Sensei Kokuba became the second Soke or “Family Head” of the Ryu-Kyu Motobu-Ha Karate-Do. orn of the royal family and a samurai, Sensei Kokuba believed in the old traditions for samurai training. He trained his only son, Shogo, in the true samurai tradition. Sensei Kokuba continued to train and teach until he became ill in 1956. After his death in 1959, young Kosho became the third Soke of the Ryu-Kyu Motobu-Ha Karate-Do and renamed the Seishin Kan to Seishin Kai.
Shogo Kuniba (1935-1992)
Shogo Kuniba was born at Fugi-Yoshida City, Yamanashi Prefecture. His father was Kosei Kuniba, who had studied karate with Chokki Motobu. In 1940, Kosei Kuniba opened a do-jo in Osaka. It taught the Motobu-ha Karate-do and was later called the Seishin Kan do-jo. Shogo Kuniba began his karate study at his father’s do-jo that same year at the age of five. The do-jo was joined by Kenwa Mabuni and Ryusei Tomoyori who taught there in return for room and board. Mabuni sensei is the founder of Shito Ryu karate.
By 1947, after the hardships of World War 2, Shogo Kuniba achieved his black belt. He was awarded his Sho-dan by Master Mabuni. After three more years of study, he earned his Ni-dan from Masters Mabuni and Tomoyori. He was fifteen. In 1952, he was promoted to San-dan by Master Mabuni and began to diversify his studies. He went to Sakai City where he began to study Mugai-Ryu Iaido with Soke Ishii Gogetsu.
In 1955, at the age of 20, Shogo Kuniba, already studying for fifteen years, earned his Yon-dan from Master Mabuni. In the same year, he went to Naha City, Okinawa, where he began training at the Matsubayashi Shorin Ryu do-jo of Master Shojin Nagamine. While in Okinawa, Sensei Kuniba undertook serious study of Kobudo. With Master Shojin Kosha, he studied the use of the Bo and Manchaca. With Master Junko Yamaguchi, he studied the Tonfa. By 1958, Shogo Kuniba had achieved 5th Dan in Motobu-ha Karate-do, 4th Dan in Iaido, 6th Dan in Kobudo and been awarded the position of the first office manager for the Zippou Karate-do Rengokai. He was 23.
But not all went well for Master Kuniba. On October 17, 1959 his father, Kosei Kuniba, died. Shogo then became Soke for Motobu-ha Karate-do by succession. In this same year, Master Kuniba re-named the do-jo Seishin Kai and called the style “Motobu-ha Shito-ryu.”
In 1962, Soke Kuniba was promoted 6th Dan in the Nippou Karate-do Rengokai, 6th Dan in Iaido and 7th Dan in Kobudo. In 1966 he became 7th Dan in karate. In 1968, he relieved Shihan Terou Hayashi as the head of Seishin Kai. By 1973, at the age of 38, Soke Shogo Kuniba had achieved 8th Dan in Karate, Iaido and Kobudo. He was the youngest Master to have won such prestige.
Soke Kuniba was considered one of the premier martial arts instructors of Japan. There are perhaps only three or four other Masters that will equal his expertise. His tragic death after a long battle with cancer on July 14, 1992 leaves a void in today’s martial arts world. Soke Kuniba was promoted to 10th Dan, post-humously, by the Dai Nippon Budo Kan Kai.
Richard P. Baillargeon - 8th Dan (1930-1989)
Richard Baillargeon founded the National Karate and Jiu Jitsu Union in 1974, after having resigned from the Seishin Kai Karate Union. Mr. Baillargeon began his martial arts in Urmagawa, Japan in 1956. His first instructor was Sensei Kishan Kayo, who was 4th Dan Motobu-ha Shito-ryu and affiliated with the Seishin Kai Karate Union. Mr. Baillargeon studied with Soke Shogo Kuniba until 1964. By then, Mr. Baillargeon earned the grade of San-dan. Mr. Baillargeon returned to the United States in 1964 and became the United States representative for Seishin Kai. He served in that capacity for ten years. By 1974, he had been promoted to 6th Dan by Soke Kuniba. In the summer of 1974, he resigned from his position in Seishin Kai and shortly thereafter, formed the National Karate and Jiu Jitsu Union. In July of 1986, Mr. Baillargeon was awarded on 8th Dan in Motobu-ha Shito-ryu Karate by Soke Shogo Kuniba. He also holds a 6th Dan in Goshin Budo Jiu Jitsu.
Joseph Ruiz – 8th Dan
Joseph R. Ruiz is the founder of the International Karate Kobudo Union (IKKU). This union was founded to further the instruction of the Shito Ryu Karate, Koga Ryu Kobudo and Katsu Ryu Kempo systems. These systems were taught to Soke Ruiz during a life-long study of martial arts. Joseph R. Ruiz was born in Hawaii in l943. In l955, he began his karate training with Sensei Tommy Morita in Wahiwa, Hawaii. He soon transferred to Sensei Kyoshi Aihara’s do-jo in Honolulu where he studied the Zen Shoto Kai. system of Karate. He was awarded the rank of Ni-dan (2nd degree black) at age 22. Shortly thereafter, Sensei Ruiz joined the U.S. Army and was stationed in Korea. There he was able to travel to Japan and train at the main school for Zen Shoto Kai Karate-do. While there Sensei Ruiz trained under Master Kanki Izumikawa of the Goju Ryu Karate, Koga Ryu Kobudo and Katsu Ryu Kempo system. He soon discovered that Master Aihara had also studied under Master Izumikawa as well as Master Egami of the Shoto Kai Karate System. In l972, Sensei Ruiz moved to Augusta, Georgia. There he met Richard P. Baillargeon. Soke Baillargeon was the U.S. representative of the Motobu-ha Shito-ryu Seishin Kai Karate Union (SKKU). The SKKU was under the leadership of Soke Shugo Kuniba. Sensei Ruiz and Soke Baillargeon became good friends and Sensei Ruiz joined the Seishin Kai. In l974, Sensei Ruiz tested for 4th Dan in Shito Ryu Karate-Do under Soke Kuniba and was awarded that rank. In l974, Soke Baillargeon withdrew from the Seishin Kai and found the National Karate Jiu Jitsu Union (NKJU). Sensei Ruiz was invited to be the assistant Director and was awarded the title of Shihan Dai. He remained in this position for 15 years. During that time, he was confirmed by Soke Kuniba as 6th and 7th dan and awarded the title of Saiko Shihan. In l985, Saiko Shihan Ruiz withdrew from the NKJU and formed the International Karate Kobudo Union (IKKU). In l990, he was awarded 8th dan and given the title of Hanshi with the approval of Soke Kuniba.
Gene Williams – 6th dan
Mr. Williams has been practicing karate since 1968. He began his training in Macon, Ga. under Koto Higoshi of Matsubayashi Shorin ryu and received sho-dan from him in 1973. While living in Nashville, he practiced with the Wado ryu dojo until he met Richard Baillargeon and Joe Ruiz, students of Shogo Kuniba of Seishin Kai. When Mr. Baillargeon formed the NKJU in 1974, Mr. Williams joined as a student of Joseph Ruiz. In 1980, Mr. Williams opened the Milledgeville Bushido Kai in Milledgeville Georgia teaching a type of Motobu-ha Shito-ryu. In 1985, Mr. Ruiz left the NKJU and formed the IKKU, International Karate & Kobudo Union. Mr. Williams received the rank of go-dan in Motobu ha/Koto Su ha Shito ryu from Mr. Ruiz. In 1993, Mr. Williams left the IKKU and joined Richard Kelley of the Kita Kaze Bujutsu Kai as an assistant director and was promoted to roku-dan in Shito ryu by the dan board of Kita Kaze. Mr. Williams taught Motobu ha/Kotosu ha Shito ryu in Milledgeville, Ga. from 1980 until 1999, when he turned his dojo over to his Yudansha. Mr. Williams continues to train in a form of Shito-ryu.
Kogawa Bushido Kai
The Kogawa Bushido Kai was formed in 1999 teaching traditional karate-do, Kogawa Karate-do, in downtown Milledgeville Georgia. The senior instructors are Doral Mills – 5th dan (Fukukaicho), Arthur Allen – 5th dan, Dale Wallace – 5th dan, Len Roach – 5th dan, and Brooks Snider - 5th dan (Kancho).