This excellent article can also be found at: http://www.geocities.com/Colosseum/Field/5699/ , the site of Matsumura Seito Karate-Do and Kobudo , The Hakutsuru (White Crane) of Hohan Soken.
By Ed Goble,
Yondan in the Sui Ken System. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org with any feedback or comments. Various individuals have been quoted in this document because their information was accurate.
Table of Contents
Shaolin Admittance and Training
The Shaolin 18 Monk Fist and Bodhidharma
The Shaolin Five Animal System (Wu X'ing Q'uan)
The Fukien Shaolin Hakutsuru Style, or White Crane
Okinawa and the Development of Te
Stories about Matsumura
The Shaolin Temples
The Shaolin Temples (monasteries) are possibly the most revered and famous structures in the history of all martial arts. The history of the Shaolin order is obscure and shrouded in myth and secrecy. Even from their beginnings, they were constant targets of bandits and rebellious soldiers. According to tradition, the first Shaolin Temple was built in Honan provence sometime around 500 A.D., on Shao-shih Mountain south of Songshan mountain, 50 miles west of Zhengzhou. Traditionally, this was the original temple. The name Shaolin means "small (young) forest." There is a legend about how the Honan Temple recieved this name. The story goes that before the temple was built, there was a forest there. It had been cleared or burned down by orders of Emperor Hsiao of the Northern Wei Dynasty. When construction started on the temple, the emperor's gardeners planted new trees.
Because some people are not informed, they assume there was only one Shaolin Temple. They also assume that Honan Shaolin was the greatest and grandest. But contrary to popular belief, this is not necessarily the case, although the Honan Temple may indeed have been the original. There were 2 main temples, the Northern and the Southern. Many people whore aware of the stories about the Southern Temple believe that it was just legendary. In fact, it was quite real, as archaeological research has recently proven. It has been identified through archaeological research as "Linquanyuan" Temple of Fukien, about 18 km north of Putian county in the Fuzhou district. Through research, it has been shown that Fukien Shaolin is a lot more ancient than people thought previously. Some legends asserted that it was built around A.D. 1000. But now we know that it was built in the reign of the T'ang Emperor Zhen Guan (627-649 A.D.), not much more than 100 years after the Honan Temple. So it was quite old also. It was larger than the one in Honan. Legend has it that the effort to build the Southern Shaolin Temple was headed by a priest named Ta Tsun-shen.
Many people wonder why it took archaeologists and researchers so long to identify it. The issue is complex. However, there is some reason to believe that some people actually knew all along where it was, and the knowledge of the site was simply kept secret. According to certain legends, it was said to be in Fukien Province somewhere along the coast in the Fuzhou district. Many people doubted these tales, but now we have come to find out through solid research that the legends were correct. One of the reasons that people doubted this is because of one of the traditional names of the mountain where Fukien Shaolin was said to have been built. The mountian was called Jiulian (Chiu Lien), or "Nine-Lotus" somewhere in the Fuzhou district. The mountain that is generally known by the name of Jiulian is actually found on the border of Fukien and Kwangtung provinces. Although there was a temple in that area that was affiliated with Shaolin, it was not the Southern Shaolin Temple.
Because stories are sometimes romanticised and changed around to suit what people would like to believe, much history which actually happened at the Fukien Temple has been attributed to the Honan Temple. Contrary to some claims, virtually every major event that happened in Shaolin History from the later part of the 16th century on happened at Fukien Shaolin.
Shaolin Admittance and Training
The Shaolin temples were like martial arts universities. In order to be admitted, one would have to endure months or years of hard work and chores. After being admitted, they had to train for ten years in the basics. Then they could specialize in whatever they wanted to. There were masters who were specialists in particular areas of training, and the students could learn from the best in each field, or specialty style.
The Shaolin 18 Monk Fist and Bodhidharma
The consensus is that the fighting techniques of the Shaolin 18 Lohan Fist (supposedly the first style practiced there) were first introduced to the original temple (whichever one it was) by practitioners of pre-existing martial arts little by little. This refutes the idea that "all" martial arts have their origin in Shaolin.
Legend credits a man named Bohidharma (Damo, Tamo or Dharuma) as being one of the first to have an impact on the temple's style. Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence that he introduced fighting techniques. Although the possibility cannot be dismissed, we have nothing but legend to back it up. The tradition says Bohidharma was the third child of King Sugandha of southern India and was a member of the Kshatriya or warrior caste. He is said to have received his religious training from the Zen master Prajnatara. Supposedly, he also was trained in some Indian martial art. Who he recieved his martial training from is not mentioned in the legend. When Prajnatara died, he set sail for China at his master`s wish. In 520 AD, he landed in Canton (Guangdong) and made his way to Shaolin. Fortunately, there exists an eyewitness account of Bohidharma`s visit, written by Yang Hsuan-chih, and it has been dated to between 516 and 528 AD. This clearly indicates that Bohidharma truly existed and was an actual historical figure. However, Yang records that Tamo went to Yung-ning temple, and that he was actually Persian. Backing up this possibility is the fact that there are no records of him in India. So that apparently contradicts the tradition of him coming to Shaolin, and that he was from India. However, it is not improbable that he could have gone to both of these temples.
To help the Shaolin monks withstand long hours of meditation he supposedly taught them 18 breathing techniques and exercises (the Eighteen Hands of Lohan) to develop their strength. These drills were supposedly called the `Eighteen Hands of Lohan`. The concepts and principles taught by Bodhidharma were part of the basis that they built the temple's fighting style on, according to tradition. Tamo is said to have left two manuscripts. One has come down to us, and is called the Muscle Change Classics, supposedly containing the excercises he introduced by Damo. No verification of authorship exists for this, and the available version are from much later. The other manuscript is not extant, and it was the one that was claimed to contain the fighting techniques introduced by Damo. But the fighting techniques of the Lohan style were most likely either added later, or may have already been there for all we know, and probably had nothing to do with Damo.
The Shaolin Five Animal System (Wu X'ing Q'uan)
One of the most important happenings of Shaolin history was during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), probably in the late 1500s/early 1600s (However, some say that this took place around AD 618, and even others say it happened around the 13th century. It makes no difference really when it actually happened.) There were many rebellions against the Ming government at this time. The monks began to document what they had learned in their art. A man by the name of Chueh Yuan Shang-Jen (also known as Zhue Yuen, Gok Yuen and Kiao Yuan) was a great empty hand fighter and swordsman with a lot of martial knowledge. He went to Shaolin and learned the Monk fist. After analyzing the techniques carefully using the knowledge he already had, he came to the conclusion that the techiques were incomplete. They focused too much on external, hard movements. So he redesigned and combined them with new techniques that he either invented or already had. This made a total of 72 techniques in his new style, with a balanced structure of hard and soft. This new style became very popular. After some years he asked permission to leave Shaolin for a while. He travelled around China to consult with masters from other provinces. As he went, he added many other techniques to the new art. In Shensi province, he went to a city called Lan Zhou(Lan Chou). He witnessed a conflict between two men. The victor, by the name of Li Shou(Li Ch'eng), defeated his opponent with just a touch. Yet when Chueh was able to talk with him, he disclaimed any great knowledge of fighting. Chueh befriended Li, and exchanged much martial knowledge with him. Then Li Shao introduced Chueh to a master by the name of Pai Yu Feng (Bai Yu-Feng or Bak Yuk Fung). Pai Yu Feng was an internal stylist from Luke Yong Huck Seng Monastery near Emei Mountain. He practiced the Hit Tai Tau internal boxing style. Chueh convinced these two to return with him to Shaolin. After they arrived at Shaolin, they combined and altered their styles, and came up with a radically new and balanced internal and external style. They successfully combined internal Taoist techniques with that of the Lohan Shaolin system. The new style had 172 techniques, according to tradition. They also came up with new concepts and principles which they called the Shaolin Five Animals, also known as the Five Ancestors (not to be confused with the Five Elders that we will talk about later on, who are also sometimes called the Five Ancestors). The techniques were modeled after the characteristics of the following animals: Leapord(Bao), Tiger(Hu), Snake(She), Dragon(Long) and Crane(He). It is true that there were techniques that were "animal," and some that even looked like certain postures of these animals. But it was always the five concepts that were the important thing, no matter what techniques one practiced. Pai Yu Feng said that all people must develop all 5 aspects of the Five Animal Styles. It became the principal style of Fukien Shaolin.
The Fukien Shaolin Hakutsuru Style, or White Crane
There are several Chinese forms of the name "Hakutsuru" in different dialects: Pai Hao Q'uan, Peh Ho Kuen, Peh Hok, Bak Hok, Bai He Q'uan and He Q'uan. Other names of it are the Southern Five Elder Style (Wu Zu Q'uan or Five Ancestors Fist), and the Yong Chun Style, pronounced Weng Chun in Cantonese. To understand the origins of Hakutsuru, we must understand the revolutionary period in China, so we will give a brief overview here. Hakutsuru was probably originally formed right before or after the 1673 destruction of the Fukien Shaolin Temple. It became THE Shaolin style after that time. In other words, it was essentially Hakutsuru that the original Shaolin Five Animal style developed into. It was refined and modified by the remnants of the practitioners from the Shaolin Temple during the remainder of the Ching Dynasty after the destruction. Many of them probably had to go into hiding, and had to flee. But for the most part, they stayed around the Fukien Shaolin Area trying to organize their forces. Whether or not the temple was ever rebuilt or not after that time is a matter of conjecture, and cannot be proven one way or another yet. While there are traditions that the temple was rebuilt, nothing is conclusive. In Bushi Matsumura's case, it doesn't matter if he actually studied in the temple, or at the temple site. Either way it is the same for us. Perhaps further archaeological research may shed light on whether it was rebuilt or not now that the temple site has been discovered. Anyway, many other temples from the area had input into the Hakutsuru system including Taoist ones. Hakutsuru became strongly influenced by Monk (Lohan) Fist and Tiger Boxing. In contrast to Hakutsuru, which became the mainstream Shaolin style, there were many other branch styles from it that popped up all over the place, because there were some who left the Shaolin temple area during the revolutionary period. They went on their own to start many other styles based on Haktusuru, such as Hung Gar, Choy Li Fut, etc. To not get confused here, it will be important to understand that there are TWO separate styles known by the name of Yong Chun. One is the Haktusuru, and the other is the Wing Chun style taught by Yip Man, the teacher of Bruce Lee. Yip Man's Wing Chun is NOT Haktusuru, but it does have its roots in it, as do other revolutionary styles. It is just by chance that Yip Man's style happened to be known by that same name up until modern times. His style was not the original that was called by that name. Much legendary material that present day practitioners of Wing Chun, Hung Gar, Mok Gar, Choy Li Fut, and other revolutionary period styles attribute to the origins of their respective styles actually have more to do with the origins of Haktusuru. Most practitioners of Hakutsuru during the revolutionary period were rebels. Some people believe that the originators of Hakutsuru may have chosen the name Yong Chun ("Evergreen", "Always Green", or "Always Spring") for various reasons:
(1) It was the name of a village near Fukien Shaolin, and that villiage
apparently had a lot to do with the Fukien Shaolin martial arts. The monks
apparently named their training hall this same name.
(2) The name Shaolin means "Small Forest", and pine trees are "evergreens." So the name served as a way to hide the Shaolin origins of the art, but still show the essential symbolism of Shaolin.
(3) The rebels had mottos and phrases such as "Overthrow the Ching and restore the Ming!". Some believe that the name Yong Chun was part of one of these revolutionary phrases: "Always speak with determination, Don't forget the Han Nation, Spring will be back again." Spring, in this case, refers to the time when the Ming would be restored.
Which one of these three explanations is correct? I would bet that all of them are, because they all make quite a lot of sense.
The history of the Hakutsuru style is mixed up with myth and is quite obscure. In spite of that fact, hopefully we will be able to come to some conclusions. There are some legends about it that may shed light on its origins.
The first major legend about the Yong Chun Style is that of the Five Elders (Ancestors) of Shaolin:
The Shaolin order was politically neutral most of the time, but in the 1640's, the much hated Manchu (Ching) dynasty began. The cruelty of the Manchu made Shaolin reconsider its position. In about 1647, the Honan Shaolin Temple was utterly destroyed by the Manchu. Most of the monks were killed, but a few monks fled to the Fukien Shaolin Temple (some believe this took place in 1570. The problem with that date is that the Ming were still in power at that time. It appears that it was the Manchu that did it. The reasons that the Manchu would have done it make a lot more sense. Other legends allege that it took place not long after the Manchu took over.) Among those that fled to Fukien Shaolin were the most influential Shaolin masters. They brought the precious martial art books from the Shaolin Library with them. As a result of all this, the status of the Fukien temple changed, and it became the new Headquarters of the Shaolin order. It was a better base for anti-Manchu activities, because it was a strategic location.
The Fukien Temple became part of the rebellion almost immediately after the destruction of Honan. They allowed Ming officials to take refuge there to protect them. That is another issue. Why would they have given them refuge if the Ming just destroyed Honan Shaolin? They would not have. Therefore, it is much more likely that the Manchu did it.
The officials brought their martial arts with them. The monks also trained many of these officials in the Shaolin style. This was the first time that they allowed non-monks to train in the Shaolin style. Desparate times brought on many other changes. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. And it was in this climate that the most deadly and efficient martial art that ever existed was developed, as we shall see.
The Manchu could not govern very well in the South. There were many areas near rivers that they could not control, because the rebels kept them at bay. There were many places in Southern China where the rebels had virtually full control. But as yet, the Manchu had no idea that Fukien Shaolin was the headquarters of the rebellion.
Four sons of four Ming generals were sent to Fukien Shaolin to train in the martial arts. Their names were Chih Shan (Jee Shin or Chi Shin), Fung Doe Duk (Fung To Tak), Mew Hing (Miu Hin), and Bak Mai (Pak Mei or Bai Mei). These four along with many others trained under the head master of Fukien Shaolin at the the Evergreen Hall (Yong Chun Dein), which was the training hall of the temple.
According to legend, there was also a Shaolin nun there at this same time as these other four mentioned above, who also trained in the Evergreen Hall. Her name was Lui Sei-Leung, or Lu Si-Niang. But she is more popularly known by her Buddhist name Wu Mei (Ng Mui or Five Plums). One version of the legend says that Chih Shan was her teacher. But maybe he might have just been her senior. The most prominent martial art taught at the Evergreen Hall at that time was the five animal system. As time went on, they (the four monks and the nun) graduated from the temple. They were appointed to be part of the inner circle of Shaolin, and took an oath to restore the Ming dynasty. The head master of Fukien Shaolin died around that time. Before he died, he designated Fung Doe Duk as head master of Fukien Shaolin. The other four were also named head masters under Fung Doe Duk. These five became known as the "Five Elders of Shaolin."
They analyzed their situation very closely. They needed to come up with a plan to overcome the Manchu. The combat systems taught in the temple at that time were based on animal movements. They required that the monks master tens and hundreds of long, intricate forms, taking ten or twenty years. There was an enormous variety of techniques, many of them totally dissimilar to each other, and some of them were not very useful, because they didn't work very well. The Shaolin grandmasters recognized that this approach was unsuitable and unacceptable for the rapid development of an effective and efficient fighting force. A new training method made to fit the needs of the rebellion was necessary. In the South, the terrain was different, and there was a need for close range fighting tactics. Also, they needed a way to fight more effectively against and exploit the weaknesses of the fighting arts of their enemies. What they came up with was a radically new approach. Previously in the Shaolin style, the method they used was that they would literally try to copy the movements of animals exactly the way animals do them. The focus for the new system was on human biomechanics. They refined and modified the existing animal systems and movements into an essential core of techniques. They kept the basic principles that were already good, and threw out what was not good. They also added some new techniques. Yes, the techniques still "copied" animal movements. But now these modified techniques started to "look" less and less like animal movements, because they were engineered better to fit the way the human body works. They stopped trying so hard to do the movements exactly the way the animal would do them, and started applying the new principles they had discovered to the techniques. They identified the weak points and openings of other martial arts, and designed ways to exploit them. They engineering their style with the express purpose in mind of destroying the ability of the opponent to fight without hesitation the moment a weakness presents itself, and to make that second nature. What is the point of doing a particular technique if it opens you up and you have to go way out of your way to compensate for it? In the time it takes to do that, you have probably just lost your life. They filled in holes and weaknesses that existed in the form. Everything was simplified and pulled in closer. Little circles were used in place of big circles. Stances were shortened tremendously, and the acrobatics were thrown out along with every wasted movement. They wanted to get the job done using the least possible amount of time, movement and energy (Economy of Motion). They also put emphasis on attacking and defending the "centerline" of the body, that is, if you draw a line from the center of your head all the way down to the groin. The reason for this is that most of the body's weak points are concentrated along the centerline, so obviously, this should be the focus of both the defense and the offense. Also, if you don't attack your opponent's centerline, your force is dissipated if he rolls with your blow. If you hit him on his centerline, he must absorb the strike's full impact. And if you want to roll with his energy, you must make your centerline angle off from his attack. This same idea was taught in Okinawan karate. Choki Motobu always told his students: "Defend the center of the body and attack the center of the body." It is believed by some that emphasis on the center-line was a very important part of Shuri-te in the beginning although few branches of modern Shorin-Ryu stress it. Since Choki Motobu was a Shuri-Te practitioner, this would seem to be evidence of this. David Chow and Richard Spangler describe the stance and footwork of this new system the Five Elders invented in their book entitled KUNG FU: History, Philosophy and Technique. They wrote, "Master Jee's (Chih Shan's) initial instruction stressed close-quarter fighing methods. The stances were only fourteen inches wide. Four square feet would be enough room to perform an entire 'set.' His system was totally unlike the far-ranging jumping styles of the North, but it was extremely effective for combat in the confining alleys of China during the Ch'ing dynasty. Some streets were so narrow that they could not accept even the passage of a rickshaw or sedan chair. It could be compared to fighting in a twentieth-century clothes closet." These new revisions in the stances, form and postures were the next major evolutionary change in the temple style, and were obviously the most important. It was at this point that the basic form of Shaolin Martial Arts began to resemble the Matsumura form we know today.
They still kept the traditional 10 year training method for some people who wished to stick with tradition. But, in the new training method designed specifically for rebels, they were taught three kata which could be learned in in a few months, and took only three years to master them. This new method for the rebels was extremely rigourous, and focused on training them how to endure torture. Apparently, we can see this three-kata training method in Five Elder systems such as Wing Chun and Mok Gar, which only have 3 kata.
According to one tradition, it was Chih Shan that gave this new style the name of Yong Chun.
According to one version the story, the head masters of Shaolin had developed the new streamlined Shaolin system and 3-year training method before the temple was burned down in 1673. These versions also say that they had quite a substantial fighting force already trained for the rebellion before the destruction. In other versions, they did not develop the new style, training method and fighting force until after the temple was burned down.
Chih Shan is also credited with creating the Shaolin "guantlet." In order to graduate from the temple, the monks would have to go through a series of booby traps, and would be attacked by his fellow monks. The last obstacle was a urn of burning iron filings that the monk had to pick up, weighing several hundred pounds. The monk had to use more than just his forearms to support it, so all along his arms and the top of his chest were burned. Each side of it had an emblem, usually of a dragon and a tiger. These were branded into his forearms, being his "certificate of graduation."
Because of these new revisions, there became a split between the the Northern and Southern Shaolin styles. The North retained the original exaggerated movements and form, and the South adopted the new streamlined and efficient form. When I say North, I don't mean Honan Shaolin. I mean all the Shaolin practitioners in the North outside of Honan Shaolin. The reason I make this distinction is because Honan Shaolin was always in close contact with Fukien Shaolin, and there was always a heavy interchange. So Honan Shaolin implemented the new temple style form also.
Sometime around 1670, Manchu Emperor K'ang Hsi (who reigned 1662-1723) sent imperial troops against maurauding bands in the western border areas, and they were defeated. So the Emperor asked for volunteers. 128 Fukien Shaolin monks responded to the call. However, it was not out of any sense of loyalty to the government, but to make it appear that they weren't rebels. The monks defeated the enemy without a single casualty on their part. Despite the fact that the monks appeared innocent, the Manchu officials convinced the Emperor that it was not wise allow such a powerful force as Shaolin to exist, because if they were indeed rebels, they could cause them quite a problem at some future time. So in 1673 the Emperor ordered two generals to attack the Temple with thousands of soldiers. They besieged it and it was completely burned down. Legend has it that they were able to destroy it so easily because one of the monks betrayed Shaolin and sold out. According to one version of the story, after the destruction, the five went their separate ways and spent most of their time organizing the rebellion against the Manchu. They later became the figureheads of the Traid Societies. Legend has it that Chih Shan went back later sometime after the 1673 destruction of Fukien Shaolin and headed the effort to rebuild the temple. But again, how much validity there is to that is debateable.
There is no way to know if the stories about the Five Elders are real, but suffice it to say that they are symbolic of the five principles in the Shaolin style, just as the five animals are. If the legend is not real, at least it teaches us important principles. Hakutsuru is what it is, regardless of who the true creators of it were. It is sufficent to know that artifacts were found at the site of Fukien Shaolin that link it to the rebellion against the Manchu, and as a result of that rebellion, a major change took place in the form of the Shaolin style. That much is fact, so we know there is some truth to this tale.
All of the following legends start where the legend of the Five Elders leaves off (with the destruction of Fukien Shaolin), and they all build upon it.
The second major legend about Hakutsuru is Chih Shan and the Red Junk Opera Company:
After the 1673 destruction of Shaolin, Chih Shan was travelling the country, disguised as a beggar to elude the Manchu authorities. He was seeking students to train for the rebellion. He heard of the Red Junk Opera Company in Guangdong, and about its most famous performer, Wong Wa Bo. The opera travelled on boats called Junks.
The Red Junk performers were trained in martial arts and performing from an early age. Chih Shan believed that with that background, it would be easy to train them quickly into expert fighters. He went to see them perform, and he was quite impressed.
As the performers were packing up to leave in the Red Junk, Chih Shan came to meet them. He told them that he would not permit them to leave until they agreed to take him with them. They thought that he was just a beggar, so they tried to remove him. But he got into horse stance with one foot on the dock, and the other foot on the side of the boat. The stance anchored the boat to the dock. He was rooted so well that they could not move him one bit. He convinced them that he was no beggar, but a great martial artist. They were so impressed with his skills begged to be taught his martial art, and they eagerly invited him to come with them. The Red Junk performers learned his art, which, according to this legend, they called Yong Chun style to disguise its Shaolin origins. It is said by some that eventually, the Red Junk Opera performers met up with Yan Yong Chun (who we will discuss below) and her husband, and apparently they exchanged martial knowledge.
It is interesting that there is this link between the Yong Chun style and the Red Junks. David Peterson writes:
". . . the system was transmitted down the coast and along the rivers of south-eastern China by the people who ply those waters, such as fishermen, traders, opera junk performers and others, who would have had a use for good fighting skills and many an opportunity to test, refine and exchange skills." (http://www.wingchun.com/Altwc3.htm)
This may or may not have an Okinawan connection. Remember that Matsumura encountered a Chinese sailor and learned a kata from him by the name of Chinto. The Kata Chinto is said by many to be of a Chinese Haktsuru style. It is possible that Chinto may have come from Chih Shan's lineage by way of this connection, since this says that it may have been transmitted along the coast. It is said that Chinto was shipwrecked on Okinawa. It is likely that that ship was a junk that he was on.
The third major legend about the Hakutsuru is that of Wu Mei and Yan Yong Chun (Yim Weng Chun):
Wu Mei fled the destruction of the Fukien (Shaolin) Temple in 1673. She was hunted by Ching troops. So she sought refuge at the White Crane Temple in the Emei Mountains of Sichuan province. Another version of the story says that the White Crane Temple was in Yunnan. At the temple, Wu Mei witnessed a battle between a snake and a crane. The snake's darting and coiling moves evaded the crane's beak, while the crane swept the snake's strikes away with skilful use of its wings. Another version of the story says that it was a crane and a fox, and even another says it was a crane and a rodent. Anyway, this inspired her to create a new martial arts system which she named "white crane boxing" (Pak Hok or Hakutsuru) style of Kung Fu, after the bird that had ultimately proven victorious in the fight.
Anyway, nearby the White Crane Temple, there was a village where Yan Yong Chun lived. Another version of the story says that Wu Mei met up with Yan Yong Chun in Fukien later after she left the White Crane Temple. Eventually Wu Mei also took Yan Yong Chun under her wing and taught her the new system she had developed. Wu Mei concentrated only on the most essential, direct and effective techniques and training methods in her instruction. Yan Yong Chun trained day and night.
Then there is another version of the story where Yan Yong Chun was the witness to the crane and the other animal fighting rather than Wu Mei. One report says that Yan Yong Chun made a living as a professional fighter.
Just one side note. According to one legend, the originator of the Hung Gar style by the name of Hung Hay-Gung was taught by Chih Shan. In the legend his wife was named Fung Yong Chun. She was also supposedly a student of Wu Mei, and a practitioner of Hakutsuru. Whether she has anything to do with all this or not, we do not know. But it is clear that the name Yong Chun is closely associated with Hakutsuru. Also in this same legend, Wu Mei is credited with being the originator of Hakutsuru.
The fourth major legend about the origin of Hakutsuru is that of Fang Qi-Niang:
A Shaolin monk that had fled after the 1673 destruction of the Fukien temple was Fang Zhonggong (also known as Fang Zhen-Dong, Fang Zhang-Guang, Fang Honshu and Fang Huishi.) His specialty style was the Lohan Fist. He sought refuge in nearby Putian at the Shalian Temple while awaiting the overthrow of the Manchu government for a time. Later, he went to Yong Chun village. It was there that Zhonggong raised a family. His seventh daughter was named Fang Qi-Niang (Chi-Niang, Chi-Liang, or J'iniang). He taught her the Shaolin style. According to the Bubishi, one day some men from a neighboring village killed him. Q'iniang had not yet mastered the Shaolin style, but she wanted to avenge her father's death. She wondered how she could do it. One day she heard some strange noises coming from a grove of bamboo close to her house. She looked outside and there were two cranes fighting (or was it a mating dance of the crane some have suggested?). She noticed how they were able to evade each others attacks with such precision. She went out with a bamboo pole to try to shew them away. Each time she would swing or poke the pole at them, they would evade her every move, and finally they flew off. She was struck by this and pondered it. Soon she set out to evaluate the fighting methods of the crane. After that, she would always go out to the river near her house to watch the cranes. She used the Shaolin system as a base, and incorporated her interpretation of the fighting methods of the crane into it. She trained diligently for three years in her new method, and turned into an unusually skillful fighter. After she had become more enlightened, she did not seek revenge anymore on those who had murdered her father. She was undefeated, and her style became very popular in and around Fukien. It had a heavy influence on the Fukien Shaolin martial arts. Her story teaches some very important concepts from the Hakutsuru.
The Big Picture--Looking Through the Glass Darkly
Regardless of the discrepencies in the details of these legends, and regardless if the stories is true or not, a common theme or thread weaves through them. The commonalities are too numerous to be coincidence. The following is the overall picture and summary of the facts:
(1) Because of its revolutionary activities, the Fukien Shaolin Temple was
destroyed in 1673.
(2) In the Matsumura style, as well as other Hakutsuru styles, there are traditions where the number five figures prominently, which is probably related to its Shaolin origins.
(3) In all of the versions of these legends, there is some connection to the name or village of Yong Chun (Weng Chun) in the Fuzhou district, to the Fukien Shaolin Temple, to the 1673 destruction of that temple, and to the Five Elders of Shaolin.
(4) Either before or after that destruction, a group of five or more masters got together and formed a new style. This style was based on human biomechanics. They still mimicked animal movements, but engineered the techniques to work better with the nature of the human body with the express purpose of exploiting the weak points of other martial arts. This was a major innovation in the Shaolin martial arts. The Okinawan martial arts also seem to follow this lineage, since they resemble closely the styles of that family. All Okinawan styles are said to have roots in Hakutsuru. These Chinese "Five Elder" styles are also all said to have roots in Hakutsuru.
(5) There was at least one woman, and maybe two, involved in this development of Hakutsuru from the first. Some statements of Bushi Matsumura suggest that he knew that the roots of his style stem from the style of a woman.
(6) Common in many of these legends is a story of a woman who witnesses two animals fighting. The fight involved at least one crane, and maybe two. The woman who witnessed the encounter created the Haktusuru style. In all cases, it was after the destruction of Fukien Shaolin that this happened.
(7) Prominent in more than one version is the detail of the two animals evading each other's strikes. Evasion is an important element in all Hakutsuru styles, including the Matsumura style.
(8) I believe there may be a connection between the Five Elder three year training method and the fact that the Bubishi mentions that Fang Qi-Niang trained for three years.
There are those who will take the legends literally as true history. Others will take them as mere myth, and dismiss them altogether. Others will search for a common string of truth in them, and try to make a plausible reconstruction or historical model from the details. I am of the kind that will search for a common string of truth. David Peterson, a martial arts practitioner and historian who seems to be more skeptical of legendary material writes:
"Each tale seems to begin with some chance encounter . . . with an animal or insect engaged in mortal combat . . . the observer is able to go off and create a "new and improved" method for fighting . . .
"The "creator" usually has some kind of connection with the now famous Shaolin Temple . . . This relationship established, the authenticity of the system is therefore not in question because we all know that "If it's Shaolin, it must be good" . . .
"Some stories would even suggest that the founders, or at least the "key figures" in several systems were one and the same person. This practice of making a legitimising link with an established "authority" is by no means unique in Chinese society or history . . ." (http://www.wingchun.com/Altwc3.htm)
So, in researching the history of Matsumura and trying to find its Shaolin origins, are we "fooling ourselves"? Are we just seeking a "legitimizing link"? I don't think so. I think we are just naturally curious. We already have our fundamental and legitimate link to Bushi Matsumura. Where the lineage goes from that point is anybody's guess. But there is no sin in making an attempt ourselves to find the origins. Scholarship is very valuable in my opinion. In my view, it is more dangerous to dismiss something altogether than to study it carefully and try to make sense of it
One prominent scholar writes:
"You may accept any story naively or you may take it critically. What would you say if I were to accuse you of being very simple and gullible in rejecting the story . . . ? The cornerstone of "sound scholarship" in our day is the comfortable doctrine that the answer no can never be quite as wrong as the answer yes, a proposition which to my knowledge has never been demonstrated. Excuse me if I seem recalcitrant, but I find it odd that the one skill most appreciated and rewarded in those circles where the one hears everlastingly of "the inquiring mind" and the importance of "finding out for one's self" is the gift and power of taking things for granted."
Does being critical really mean that we must dismiss out of hand as nonsense anything that is not easily proveable? Should we call everything that is legend a fanciful story? No. To be critical does not mean dismissal. It means to dig in to what you are researching, and to look at it from all angles. It means that we must look at it objectively with an open mind. So, in reality, to dismiss something without researching it thoroughly is actually much more naive than an in-depth analysis of something, even if that something is not easily proveable. The fact that we can make an in-depth analysis, in fact, proves that it is a reasonable position to take.
In being critical, I am more inclined to believe written records than in legends. I believe that the written records should always take precedence over legends. Nevertheless, the use of legends can usually be very productive and lead to many important insights. This is why I favor the identification of the woman of legend who was the creator of Hakutsuru as Fang Qi-Niang. She has been proven to be a historical figure by written records. According to the book "The Essence of Shaolin White Crane" by Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming, he mentions that there exists a written record which confirms the existence of Fang Qi-Niang. Also we have the Bubishi, a written record, which also confirms her existence that we will deal with below. So in reality there are TWO written records which proves the existence of Fang Qi-Niang. On the other hand, there are NO written records whatsoever to confirm the existence of neither Yan Yong Chun nor Wu Mei. All we have for them is legend. But that does not mean they did not exist. It just means that Fang Qi-Niang, being a real person, was the actual creator of the Shaolin Hakutsuru or Yong Chun style.
But what of Yan Yong Chun and Wu Mei? What are we to do for them? On page 97 of Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming's book it says that "Yongchun Quan was derived from Southern White Crane during the Qing Qian Long period (1736-1796 A.D.)". The Yongchun Quan he refers to, of course, is the style we know today as Wing Chun, or Wing Chun Kuen, which was taught by Yip Man, the teacher of Bruce Lee. He identifies this "Southern White Crane" on page 91 as Fang Qi-Niang's style. On page 98, he writes that "According to Chinese traditional custom, a person normally could have two or even three names." It is my belief that Fang Qi-Niang and Yan Yong Chun are one in the same. Remember that, according to the Bubishi, Fang Qi-Niang was from the village of Yongchun! It could be that Wu Mei is also the same person also. Perhaps Fang Qi-Niang was a Shaolin Nun. Or perhaps Wu Mei is actually one of Fang Qi-Niang's teachers. Some legends suggest that this could be the case, since they name Wu Mei as Yan Yongchun's teacher. Either explanation is quite plausible. But I personally believe Wu Mei was probably Fang's teacher when we take everything into consideration.
According to the Bubishi, Zeng Cishu (Zheng Li) was Fang Qi-Niang's most prized student, and she passed on her art to him. He came to be the second grandmaster of the Yongchun Hakutsuru style. Zeng Cishu passed on the art to the families of Yongchun village. Then he had a student by the name of "Teng Shan" Wang Foudeng who became the third grandmaster of this line.
According to some sources, there were some of the kata passed down in Shaolin
Hakutsuru style. I cannot guarantee the accuracy of all these accounts. But
these kata are:
(1) Eighteen Scholar Fists (mentioned in the Bubishi)
(2) Saam Chien (Sanchin)
(3) Nepai (Nipaipo)
(4) Pai Hao (Paiho)
(5) Happoren (Paiporen or Papuren)
(6) Useishi (Useshi, Gojushiho or, as the Bubishi calls it, 54 moves of the Black Tiger)
Some believe that Hakucho is also from it. Hakucho is a kata from Gokenki's Kingai-Ryu taught in Matayoshi-ryu and Shito-ryu. There is a side note that I must make mention of here. Some have assumed that Hohan Soken studied under Gokenki. While it is true that he may have met him at some point, it is quite clear that he never studied from him. As we see from Ernest Estrada's interview with Soken, this fact is very clear:
"[Mr. Estrada, Interviewer:] I understand that you teach a white crane form. Is this the hakucho kata? [Soken Sensei:] No, hakucho, is another kata that, I believe, came from the Chinese tea seller, Go Kenki. He moved to Japan but my kata is much different. I call it hakutsuru."
As you can see, it is quite clear that Soken said that he "BELIEVED" that Hakucho came from Gokenki. He is talking as if he did not know for sure, or did not care too much. Either way, it is very clear that Soken did not concern himself with Gokenki's style and kata.
Anyway, back to the discussion about the Chinese Shaolin Hakutsuru style. It is very possible that Seisan came from this system also. You will recognize some of these kata that were mentioned above as being part of the Naha-te and Shuri-te curriculum. Some other Shaolin styles that are related to Hakutsuru also have similar kata. Dragon Boxing uses Peichurrin (Suparenpei), Seisan, Saam Chien and Eighteen Scholar Fists (mentioned in the Bubishi). Tiger Boxing also uses Saam Chien, Sanseiru, and Peichurrin. Dog Boxing also uses Saam Chien and Sanseiru. Shaolin Lohan Boxing, also known as Monk Fist (mentioned in the Bubishi) uses Saam Chien, Seisan, Jutte, Seipai, Ueseishi (Gojushiho), and Peichurrin. Lion Boxing uses Saam Chien and Seisan.
The Shaolin Hakutsuru over time broke up into many branch styles. The major ones are: Wing Chun; the Five Ancestral Fist; the Ancestral Crane(Zonghe, Suhe, or Zanhe Q'uan, also known as Sleeping or Trembling Crane); the Shouting Crane (Minghe Q'uan, also know as Whooping, Singing or Crying Crane); the Eating Crane (Shehe Q'uan, also known as Morning Crane); and the Flying Crane (Feihe Q'uan). The Fukien Jumping Crane is not related to these. It comes through different roots. (Of course, these are not the only styles that branch from it. The Okinawan Styles are also branches of it also, as we shall see.)
During the first half of the 19th century, a man from Yongchun village by the name of Li Shixian, a master of the Hakutsuru, moved to Fuzhou. He apparently opened up a dojo there. He taught Pan Yuba, who taught Xie Zhongxiang (1852-1930), the founder of the Shouting Crane. Ryu Ryu-ko (Liu Liu-ko or Liu Liu Kung) was Xie's nickname. One reference that I found stated that the teacher of Ryu Ryu-ko was a master that had studied at the Shaolin Temple. This may be referring to Pan Yuba, or perhaps even to Wai Shin Zan. Xie created the Shouting Crane style as a hybrid form, based on the Hakutsuru and other Fukien Shaolin styles. Interestingly enough, if we examine the long Shouting Crane kata, we find that it has many techniques in common with the kata of the Matsumura system, such as Pai Sai, Pinan, Hakutsuru, Gojushiho, and Naihanchi. There is obviously a heavy connection here between Matsumura and these masters. It seems that they all practiced the same basic style, the Hakutsuru. However, most of them seem to have made their own specialty styles that are based on Hakutsuru.
Higashionna (Higaonna) Kanryo trained from the time he was a boy until age 20 with Arakaki in Kumemura. Then later Higaonna learned the Shouting Crane in Fuzhou from Ryu Ryu-ko, and he also studied under Wai Shin Zan. It took him 10 years to master the style. He trained with Ryu Ryu-ko a total of 13 years (1874-1887). Higaonna later opened a dojo in Okinawa in 1889. The only kata from the Shouting Crane preserved in the Goju-Ryu (Naha-te line) is Sanchin, although it has undergone many changes. As you can see, apparently there is some influence in Naha-te from these other Shaolin Styles that we mentioned, such as Dragon, Dog, Tiger, and Lion, as Naha-te has preserved many of these same kata.
Iwah (Hi Houa) and Wai Shin Zan (Wai Xinxian or Waishingzan) have a strong connection with Kusanku, Ryu Ryu-ko and the Okinawan Crane practitioners. Apparently there was a dojo that they all practiced at in the Okinawan Compound at Fuzhou. Iwah was a military attache' and liaison to the Okinawan Compound. Various Okinawan masters, such as the Kojos and Makabes and Sakugawa, studied for many years there under Iwah and Wai. Apparently, Ku Sanku may have taught there also, which may explain why so many masters have connections with him. It also may explain why Wai was said to be his successor and senior student. One of the Kojos was said to be Iwah's assistant teacher. The Kojo family was said to have established a branch school of Iwah's dojo in Fuzhou.
The Hakutsuru was the "Shaolin style" referred to by Funakoshi and other sources that Iwah and Wai Shin Zan taught Bushi Matsumura, although one source says that Iwah taught Bushi his own form of it.
Patrick McCarthy made his own translation of a book called the Bubishi. The book contains much about the history of the Shaolin Hakutsuru style and also the Shaolin Lohan style. We can see from the Bubishi that it contains basic form and postures of Hakutsuru style.
Interestingly enough, a man named Lin Deshun introduced the Eating crane to Taiwan in 1922 from Fuzhou. He had a book named the "Shaolin Bronze Man book." This name refers to the picture of the Bronze Man statue in the Bubishi that has striking points on it. This book is today owned by the Liu family of Taiwan. Patrick McCarthy examined the Shaolin Bronze Man Book, and found that although it is formatted differently, its content is IDENTICAL to that of the Okinawan Bubishi. It is obvious that these two books have a common source. Hohan Soken himself said that the Eating Crane of Taiwan was a sister style to the Matsumura Hakutsuru.
A man by the name of Wu Xiangui (Woo Yin Gue or Go Ken Ki) was a tea merchant and White Crane master who moved from Fukien to Okinawa in 1912. He recieved Japanese Citizenship, and took the name of Yoshikawa. It is obvious that he practiced the Shaolin Hakutsuru, or a branch of it, because he taught the Nepai kata. His style was called Kingai-Ryu.
It is known that when Higaonna returned from China, he had in his possession a copy of the Bubishi from Fuzhou. So Miyagi could have got his first copy of it from Higaonna.
Mabuni Kenwa wrote in his book, Kibo Jizai Karate Kempo Seipai no Kenkyu, "Making a copy of a Chinese book on kempo that my venerated master, Itosu Anko, had HIMSELF duplicated, I have used the Bubishi in my research and secretly treasured it." That same year was when he made that book public. So he had gotten a copy of the Bubishi from Itosu Ankoh. Itosu duplicated it from someone. His principal teacher was none other than Bushi Matsumura who himself was said to have brought a copy of the Bubishi back from China.
According to Patrick McCarthy, Dr. Hayashi Shigo, senior student of Koju Kafu (grandson of Kojo Kaho), said Kojo Taitei brought a "secret text" with him from Fuzhou upon which THEIR STYLE, Kojo-Ryu (a Hakutsuru style) was based which text can be nothing other than the Bubishi, and they must have gotten it from Iwah.
Okinawa and the Development of Te
Just off the coast of Fukien is an island called Okinawa, which means "a rope tossed into the water." Repeatedly it was taken over by invaders. But the inhabitants had the doctrine of no resistance. They just submitted themselves and did not usually fight them, although they would defend themselves. They would do things secretly under the noses of their task-masters. The inhabitants themselves are a mixture of many different bloodlines. It is the melting pot of the Orient. At first the island had a tributary relationship with China, but that ended shortly after the Japanese conquest by the Satsuma clan in 1609. Since then, the island has been under Japanese rule.
Over the centuries, two indigenous martial arts had developed there. At first the development was independent of China. One was an empty-hand art called te. The other was an art of weapons called kobudo. Later on, there was much foreign influence on these systems.
But then, according to some sources, in the 8th century, the Chinese occupied Okinawa and introduced early Shaolin Boxing. The the king of Okinawa, Sho Neopashi, was so impressed by the Chinese art, that he ordered the masters to combine it with Te. This is the first known foreign influence on it. And this link between te and Shaolin Kung Fu has been very strong ever since.
Then there was even more foreign influence later on. According to William Durbin, a freelance writer and practitioner of kiyojute-ryu kempo, there was an early influence from mainland Japan. He writes that "Yoshimitsu Minamoto (1056-1127) played a pivotal role in the development of the Okinawan martial arts. . .In 1156 the Minamoto family rebelled against the Taira family. Known as the Hogen Conflict, the localized war arose because the Taira had established firm control over much of Japan and the Minamoto family was greatly weakened by the death of many of its leaders. Many of the Minamoto samurai fled, and some ended upon the island of Okinawa. Later, Tametomo Minamoto (1139-1170) escaped from his exile on Oshima island and traveled to Okinawa, where he and some followers prepared to exact revenge by overthrowing the Taira. They trained hard and further developed their martial ats skills. They also established a close relationship with the Okinawan nobility, and Tametomo even married a noble-woman who subsequently gave girth to his son, Shunten Minamoto. During this time, many members of the Okinawan royalty were exposed to and trained in the Minamoto clan's samurai fighting systems. . .Shunten then established a royal lineage that became the bloodline for the Shunten, Eiso, Satto and both Sho dynasties. Researchers also believe he established the martial arts system that remained solely in the hands of the royalty until modern times." This author also claims that this Japanese art was preserved in Motobu-Ryu. This article can be found in Karate/Kung Fu Illustrated--December 1995.
In 1372, China and Okinawa began to engage in an expansive trade and cultural exchange when Emperor Satto opened the Ryukyu waterways to the Ming Emperor of China. A mission of Chinese officials was sent to Okinawa that year, exposing Okinawans to ch'uan-fa. As Okinawa gained more contact with China over the years, te was influenced even more by Chinese kung fu, although, according to most sources, it was a "hard" style. Then in 1392, 36 families from Fukien were sent to Kume Village (Kumemura or Kuninda) where they settled. There was a cultural exchange, and as part of that exchange, they taught the Okinawans their martial arts. In 1470, Okinawa was reunited under the king by the name of King Sho Shin, under whom the posession of weapons, especially swords, was banned. As a result, the people were forced to look to different methods of defending themselves. The weapons used in the kobudo of Okinawa were derived from common farm tools. In 1609, the Satsuma Clan of Kyushu, Japan occupied Okinawa and again banned the possession of weapons. This spawned a more rapid development of te.
There was an even greater influx of Chinese influence on te in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as more masters visited China and studied under Chinese experts. This led to the creation of three hybrid styles of what became known in Okinawa as "karate," or "China Hand." They were a mix of te and Chinese styles. They were Naha-te, Tomari-te, and Shuri-te. The styles were named after the cities of Okinawa in which they were developed. But these "cities" were so close that you could live in one "city" and walk next door and be in the next "city." In reality, these "styles" were just different interpretations of the same stuff (i.e. Hakutsuru), contrary to most assumptions. The masters of each all had basically the same form, but many practiced kata that the others did not. The kata practiced by each master seems to have been based on both tradition and personal preference. Miyagi Chojun said, "They say that karate has two separate sects: Shorinryu and Shoreiryu. However, there is no clear evidence to support or deny this. If forced to distinguish the differences between these sects, then I would have to say that it is only teaching methods that divides them." (Issue #4, Spring-Summer 1995 of Furyu: The Budo Journal. When Masters Meet, by Patrick McCarthy). Another author wrote, "It is important to note, however, that the towns of Shuri, Tomari, Naha are only a few miles apart, and that the differences between their arts were essentially ones of emphasis, not of kind. Beneath these surface differences, both the methods and aims of all Okinawan karate are one in the same" (Reid, Howard & Croucher, Michael (1991), The Way of the Warrior, The Overlook Press, New York, as quoted in the History section of the Karate BC website--http://www.karatebc.org/history/). The original stances taught by Miyagi (the founder of Goju-Ryu) and his teacher were more upright, just like the Matsumura Seito stances.
The further you go back, the more Chinese all of the Okinawan arts get, and the more obvious it becomes the they are all Haktusuru. Contrary to some claims, the reason some are called Shorin-Ryu (Shao Lin-Liu) and others are called Shorei-Ryu (Zhao Ling-Liu) is actually a distinction between Shuri and Naha, although there is not much of a distinction. It does not mean that the styles were different. The words Shorei and Shorin actually both mean Fukien Shaolin.
Wang Ji (Wan Su) was one of the earliest Chinese masters to influence the te of Okinawa. Someone made a Wan-Su kata in honor of him. Some say that his lineage later became known as Tomari-Te.
Around 1760, Kusanku, a Chinese envoy, was sent to Okinawa. Some say that he was a Shaolin monk, and others say he learned from a Shaolin monk. Another form of his name is Guan Kui or Guan Gui. Once he was on a boat going to Satsuma, and that it was blown off course during a fierce typhoon, and drifted to shore on Oshima beach of Shikoku Island. At that time, he gave a martial art demonstration. The book Ohshima-Hikki that contains tha account says, "with his lapel being siezed, Kusankun applied his martial art and overcame the attacker by scissoring his legs." He lived for a time at Kume village on Okinawa, and according to some sources, brought some of his students with him. Some sources say that Wai Shin Zan was one of these.
Sakugawa was born in Shuri Toribori on March 3, 1733 and died on August 17, 1815 at the age of 82. Sakugawa Satunushi was a samurai. Some say that his name was Shungo. His dying father suggested that he learn the fighting arts. In Akata village, Shuri, Sakugawa found Peichin Takahara (1683-1760). Takahara was a monk, mapmaker and astronomer. Takahara, Peichin was born in the village of Akata Cho in Southern Shuri. Takahara who 67 at the time and was a famous warrior of the Okinawan fighting arts. Sakugawa respectfully asked Takahara to become his student, and was accepted. He studied under him diligently.
One evening in Kumemura, a visiting master and a military attache, Ku Sanku, stood on a bridge and was looking out over the water. Sakugawa, at the time was quite a bully, and was in need of an attitude change. He made an attempt to push Kusanku off the bridge as a prank. As he went towards him to push him in, Kusanku change-bodied out of the way and grabbed him. He then scolded him, and lectured him, telling him that what he was doing was quite unwise, and that he should have more respect for his elders and not misuse his martial art. Later on after his attitude had changed, he decided that he would like to study under Ku Sanku. He asked Takahara for his blessing to study with Ku Sanku, and Takahara approved. Sakugawa improved day by day as he studied with Ku Sanku. Legend has it that two days before Takahara's death, he summoned Sakugawa to his bedside. He told him, 'After I die, you are to be known as Karate Sakugawa.'" Thus, he was called "Karate" or "Tode" which means "China (T'ang) Hand."
When Master Kusanku returned to China, Sakugawa followed him and remained in China for six years still studying with him. Sakugawa became a famous samurai, and was given the title of Satunuky or Satonushi by the Okinawan king. It was most likely, Sakugawa that created the kata Ku Sanku.
Bushi Matsumura was born in 1797, and died in 1889. 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 began training Bushi at Akata when he was 14 years old, 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.
Sakugawa trained him up until his death, and then Sokon was probably on his own for a while. According to oral history, he studied under Sakugawa for 4 years.
Bushi was recruited into the service of the Sho family. At that time, Sho Ko, the king of Okinawa, desired to have him change his last name, as was the custom, and suggested the name Muramatsu (Muramachi), or "village pine." After discussing the matter with some friends and relatives, he decided that Matsumura (Machimura), or "pine village", would be more appropriate. Sokon asked the king to let him change the name to that, and the request was granted. Some say this happened at age 17, which would probably put it around 1813.
Bushi was defeated by his wife to be, Yonamine Chiru, in a prank that was designed to scare her, much to his dismay. She came from a family known for their martial arts skills. Yonamine knew that it was him. She said that she could no longer marry him until he was able to defeat her, because she could never marry a man that could not beat her. According to tradition, this was when he was 19 years old, which would make it 1815. Sometime after that, Bushi was promoted to Satunushi (Satunuky), and was then known as Satunushinunjo Machimura. After his promotion Machimura gained some confidence to try and defeat his wife to be. Acting on the advice of a colleague he feinted at her breast and kicked her. The feint was enough to delay her response, and his kick landed, startling her. She then decided that he had now achieved his goal, and that he had learned not to underestimate a woman. Soon after, they married. Apparently at this point in Machimuraís training Kusanku was his favourite kata. Later he rose to become a Chikutoshi, having the title of Chikatosinumjo (or Chikudon).
Many sources say that Bushi Matsumura trained in China, and it is certainly a strong tradition. Hohan Soken said that Bushi trained at "Fukien Shaolin" for 26 years and some months. Other reports claim it was only for ten years. However, it is more likely to be as Soken said it was, because other accounts corroborate the idea that some Okinawans spent decades there. For example, one account says that a master from the Kojo family was sent to study under Iwah. He studied there for 20 years. According to some sources, "Chatan" Yomitan Yara, the grandson of Kitan Yara, spent twenty years on the Chinese mainland learning the Shaolin style. Legend has it that at 12 years of age, his uncle convinced his parents that the best place for him to receive martial training was in China. According to some, he studied there under Ku Sanku.
We have no reason to doubt that Bushi Matsumura studied in China. One report says that the name that Bushi was known by in China is Bu Be Tatsu (Wu Cheng Cheng-Da). Most reports say it was "Fukien Shaolin" where Bushi studied at. But when the tradition says "Fukien Shaolin" what does that mean? There are two theories:
(1) The first theory is that Fukien Shaolin actually means the actual Fukien Shaolin temple itself. This is the more traditional view, and is more likely to be correct. It is believed by most that the Shaolin Temple had been destroyed for some time by the time Bushi got to China. But contrary to this assumption, there are some accounts that back up the idea that the Fukien Shaolin Temple was rebuilt by the time of Bushi Matsumura. There is an account that says that the Fukien Shaolin Temple was there up until the turn of the century. Supposedly, the temple was burned down during the Boxer Rebellion. Another account reports says that Ryu Ryu ko, the teacher of Higaonna, studied at the Shaolin temple. And even another account says that Chojun Miyagi had visited the Fukien Shaolin temple. If this is true, then it was not destroyed during the Boxer Rebellion.
(2) The second theory is that "Fukien Shaolin" actually refers to the Kojo/Iwah dojo in Fuzhou. All available reports say that Bushi Matsumura's principal teachers were Wai Shin Zan and Iwah. These were the same teachers of the masters from the Kojo family. These reports also establish that the "dojo" these two taught at was in Fuzhou at the Okinawan compound there. Also, some sources say they were Shaolin practitioners and students of Ku Sanku, who was also was a Shaolin practitioner. Some say that Wai was Ku Sanku's senior student and successor. Therefore, the "Fukien Shaolin" that Bushi Matsumura studied at could have been this Kojo/Iwah dojo Fuzhou.
The idea that Bushi Matsumura studied with Wai Shin Zan and Iwah does not contradict the idea that he could have studied at the Fukien Shaolin temple also. According to tradition, the King of Okinawa sent Bushi on his first trip to China around 1830, and it was at that time that he studied at Fukien Shaolin. This would have been Sho Ko or Sho Iku. Don Lucas in his article "White Swan of Hohan Soken", reports that it was King Sho Tai that sent him on this first trip to China. This must be mistaken, because Sho Tai reigned from 1848 to 1879, a total of 31 years. It is likely that Sho Tai actually did send him to China, but on some other errand. It is a well established tradition that indeed Matsumura had a SECOND trip to China in the 1860's to Fuzhou. This would have been the trip that Sho Tai sent him on, and it would have been the trip in which he studied with Iwah and Wai Shin Zan. After that, he brought back Iwah to Okinawa with him, and they together taught many other Okinawans the Hakutsuru system. Bushi became famous throughout Okinawa and became known as Sui Machimura (Sui is Shuri in the Hogan dialect).
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 up 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 suprise, 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 apparently 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 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 speculated that he created these kata from what he leared from Channan.
Bushi dedicated his life to training in his empty-handed art. He had no wish to train in weapons, and did not at all, according to Hohan Soken, contrary to what some have claimed. He never studied the weapons arts of the Japanese, contrary to recent claims. He was a Shaolin practitioner, and followed the traditions of Shaolin. Backing up this fact, is a statement made in the book, Asian Fighting Arts by Donn F. Draeger and Robert W. Smith on page 45. It says Buddhist temples were forbidden by their religion to use knives or axes. One of the head masters of Fukien Shaolin was reputed to have said, "We may not have knives, so make every finger a dagger; without spears, every arm must be a spear, and every open hand a sword." So perhaps he adopted this tradition.
Besides, Bushi knew that weapons are an extension of the hand anyway, and virtually anything done with empty hand can be done with weapons and vice versa. The fact that Hohan Soken practiced Kusanku with hairpins is one example. Bushi fought only to defend the monarchy. He would first demoralize his opponents, which defeated them before any battle could commence. He was never defeated and died a natural death.
Some prominent students of Bushi Matsmura were Yasutsune Itosu and Chotoku Kyan, although there were many more. Itosu's head student and successor was Chosin Chibana, who formed Kobayashi Shorin-Ryu from Itosu's version of Shuri-Te. Kyan's students formed Shobayashi Shorin-ryu from his personal brand of Shuri-te. Another student of Itosu was Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan. Once in a while, Itosu would take him to study under Bushi Matsumura. He was also a student of Azato, a Shorei-Ryu master.
Keeping with Samurai tradition, a close family member was selected as his successor in his personal system. His grandson Nabi Matsumura was chosen. Nabi's birth and death dates are kept secret.
Bushi's senior student was Itosu. Because of that, it is assumed by some that Itosu was his successor. However, Nabi was the heir to Bushi's personal system. Itosu added some to it, creating his own system. He was not part of the Matsumura family, and could not succeed in the family style, although he was a great master. In 1928, Chosin Chibana became head of Itosu's system following Itosu's death. It was at that time that Chibana designated Itosu's version of Shuri-te as Shorin-Ryu. The pure and unchanged Matsumura Shuri-te taught by Nabi and Soken was not known as Shorin-Ryu until Soken changed the name later.
Some say Nabi Matsumura was very strict and secretive. Others recieved the glory, but he remained in obscurity. Possibly, he wished it to be that way. Not much information is available about him. His birth and death date are either not known, or are kept secret. It is said he was born in the 1850's and died in the 1930's. Nabi inherited everything his grandfather possessed, including his title "Bushi Matsumura." Nabi's wife and first child died soon after the child's birth. He did remarry later only later to get divorced and to spend much of his time avoiding his ex-wifeís efforts to get some financial support.
Nabi he chose Hohan Soken, his nephew, to be his successor. Soken was born May 25, 1889 and died November 30, 1982. He was born into the old Okinawan Samurai class, and for many years, Soken was the world's oldest living active karate master. Thus he was known as the "Last Samurai." Because of the hardships placed upon the Samurai when their class was abolished, Soken, had to work a more lowly type of job in the rice fields with the commoners. Nabi, however, noticed Soken's potential. So he proposed to him that he would train him in Hakutsuru if he would simply show enough dedication, patience and control. Soken eagerly accepted. This was when he was 14 years old in about 1902 or 3. Nabi began training him in the basics. This training lasted 10 years (till about 1913). Finally, after that he knew that Soken was ready for Hakutsuru.
Hohan Soken and Kyan Chotoku left Okinawa (along with other prominent Karate masters) in 1924 because of the Japanese draft. Soken and Kyan both went to Negro, Argentina, an Okinawan trading colony. Kyan apparently did not stay there for long. Soken Sensei learned the Spanish language perfectly. He worked as a photographer and had a clothes cleaning business down there, and left some students. They did many demonstrations. Who these students are is not known. Soken returned in 1952, making it 28 years total.
When Soken returned to Okinawa, he found that Karate had greatly changed. Sport Karate had pretty much replaced the old way. He refused to join some of the more popular Karate Associations. For many years he was the World's oldest living active Karate Master. At first he called his system Matsumura Shurite (Machimura Sui-di), but later named it Shorin-Ryu Matsumura Seito (Seito means "orthodox") to distinguish it from sport karate. Soken, unlike his uncle and great-grandfather, practiced weapons. He learned the art of Kobudo from Ushi Komesu of Ihonohara village and apparently also from Mantaka Chiken.
Soken, as with Nabi, had 2 wives. One was Argentinian, while his second wife was Okinawan. None of his sons took an interest in their fatherís tradition. In 1954/5 Soken took on a house-boy, who would live at Sokenís house for just over 10 years. His name was Nishihira Kosei, who ended up training with Soken Hohan up until his death in 1982. Nishihira Kosei is often pictured in the side or the background of many photos taken with Soken Sensei on Okinawa. Soken Kinen Kan and Suiken Association recognise Nishihira Kosei as the true heir to the Matsumura Seito tradition. After Soken's death, Nishihira inherited his possessions. Ryoku, the head of Sui-Ken, had also studied with Soken up until the time of his death. He continued to study karate with Nishihira after that, and is presently still under him.