July 13, 2024

The other day I wrote a series of articles about how Motobu Chōyū’s Unsū has been transmitted to several lineages in Okinawa. In one of the articles, I quoted a sentence from an article written by Higa Yūchoku Sensei of the Kobayashi-ryu (Shorin-ryu). Again, it is quoted below.

Next, the purpose of the meeting with Motobu no Umē (Motobu Chōyū) Sensei was to study the kata of “Gojūshiho” and “Unsuū” [sic]. (Note 1)

Regarding the above, I wrote that Kyūdōkan’s Unsū is similar to other Motobu Chōyū’s Unsū, and thus is certainly in the lineage of Motobu Chōyū. However, because of his age, it was difficult for Higa Sensei to study directly under Motobu Chōyū, and I speculated that he learned it through someone else.

In addition, I didn’t mention anything about Gojūshiho of Higa Sensei, as I hadn’t come across any information other than the above. However, I recently found out from a comment on this blog that there is information about this in Ōtsuka Tadahiko’s Textbooks of Goju-ryu Kensha Karatedō (1977). Ōtsuka Sensei was a disciple of Ichikawa Sosui Sensei, but he also studied under Higa Sensei. The book says the following.

Gojūshiho = (learned from) Motobu Chōyū Sensei’s disciple, Mr. Kinjō (Note 2)

According to this, Higa Sensei learned Gojūshiho from Kinjō. It also says that Unsū was learned from Motobu Chōyū’s disciple, “Venerable Akamine.” It would be interesting to know who this Venerable Akamine was, but in this article, I would like to discuss Motobu Chōyū’s disciple, Mr. Kinjō.

In fact, Uehara Seikichi testified that in Motobu Chōyū’s kata class there was a man named “Yacchī of Kanagusuku.” Kanagusuku (金城) is the Okinawan dialect of Kinjō (金城). Yacchī is a word of the warrior class, meaning older brother. Therefore, Yacchī of Kanagusuku means “Kinjō’s older brother” or “ Senior Kinjō.”

Unfortunately, we hadn’t heard of this Kinjō’s first name. In the olden days, it was common to call seniors by their honorific titles, Yacchī, and not to ask their first names, so I guess even Uehara Sensei did not know his first name.

Higa Yūchoku Sensei has, to my knowledge, never mentioned in his biography that he studied under Mr. Kinjō, and thus this information is only found in the book by Ōtsuka Tadahiko. However, in an interview with Kinjō Hiroshi in the old Monthly Karatedō, Higa Sensei mentioned the name Kinjō once.

Kinjō Hiroshi: Can you tell me the names of some of Chibana Sensei’s disciples who are currently active in the field?

Higa: Probably me and Miyahira Katsuya, but Nakama Chōzō and Kinjō Kensei don’t seem to be doing karate at present. I always encourage them to start training again. (Note 3)

Kinjō Kensei (金城兼正) is a misprint of Kinjō Kensei (金城兼盛, 1900- ?). He is said to be the founder of Kūshin-ryu. He was one of the few disciples to be awarded the 9th dan by Chibana Sensei. Kinjō Kensei also received his Shihan (instructor) license from Mabuni Kenwa Sensei when he lived in pre-war Osaka.

From Karate Studies (1934), edited by Nakasone Genwa.

The photo above is of the dan ceremony held by Mabuni Sensei in 1934, and the person to the left of Mabuni Sensei seems to be Kinjō Kensei. He was the first person to be granted a Shihan license by Mabuni Sensei. Perhaps he was not a direct disciple of Mabuni Sensei, but had already trained with other karate masters during his time in Okinawa and received his Shihan license from Mabuni Sensei in recognition of his ability.

There is no confirmation that this person is the Kinjō that Higa Sensei mentioned. But as far as I know, he seems to be the most likely person. If I’m wrong, I hope someone will point it out to me.

By the way, the current Gojūshiho at the Kyūdōkan is from the video below.

It is quite different from the Gojūshiho of Itosu. A similar Gojūshiho is the Gojūshiho of Nakama Chōzō.

Nakama Sensei’s Gojūshiho is said to have come from Hanashiro Chōmo, and since Motobu Chōyū and Hanashiro Sensei were friends, it is not surprising that the two kata are similar. It is interesting to note that in these two Gojūshiho, Bō-geri (literally stick kick) without bending at the knee is performed.

Bō-geri is still handed down to Motobu Udundī to this day. What makes the story of Higa Sensei learning Gojūshiho from Motobu Chōyū’s disciple so compelling to me is the inclusion of Bō-geri in the kata. Other Gojūshiho include the general front kick, not Bō-geri. Hence, further elucidation of Motobu Umē’s Gojūshiho may reveal more about the history of the Gojūshiho.

Note 1: “The 3rd Okinawa Prefecture Karate-dō Martial Arts Festival,” 1992, page 63.
Note 2: Otsuka Tadahiko, “Volume 11: Genealogy of Shuri-te, etc.,” Textbooks of Goju-ryu Kensha Karatedō, Goju-ryu Kensha Karatedō Kyokai, 1977, p. 40.
Note 3: “Monthly Karatedo,” June issue, Vol. 1, №2, Karate Jihōsha, 1956, p. 54.

The original English translation was posted on the Ameba blog on November 22, 2020.

Thank you for reading my story. If you don’t mind, please applaud and follow me.

Written by Motobu Naoki

Shihan, Motobu Kenpō 7th dan, Motobu Udundī 7th dan. Discusses the history of karate and martial arts, and introduces Japanese culture and history.  https://www.motobu-ryu.org/