Kobudo Masters

The Kobudo | Kobudo History | Origin of Kobudo | Kobudo Philosophy | Way of Ancient Weapons | Kobudo Masters | Weapons and Kata | Aikibudo and Kobudo | Kobudo Stick Styles | Bo Weapon | Kama Weapon | Nunchaku Weapon | Tonfa Weapon | Sai Weapon

Shinken Taira (1897 – 1970); Original surname Maezato, is regarded as the principal force behind a preservation of the art for future generations, (1955 – Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai). He learned from many masters, among them his most renowned teachers were:

Kanegawa Gimu (1862 – 1921): Kama, Surujin, Tekko, Tinbe

Gichin Funakoshi (1868 – 1957): Tonfa, Sai (Shotokan Karate)

Yabiku Moden (1882 – 1941): Bo, Sai, Tonfa, Nunchaku, Eku

(Ryu Kyu Kobujutsu Ken Kyukai)

Mabuni Kenwa (1889 – 1952): Bo, Sai (Shito ryu Karate)

Kamiya Jinsei (1894 – 1964): Bo, Sai (Goju ryu Karate)

His students were:

Eisuke Akamine (1925 – 1998): 2nd President of Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai

Motokatsu Inoue (1918 – 1993): Principal Director for Kanto District

Ryusho Sakagami (1915 – 1993): Principal Director for Tokai District

Teruo Hayashi (1924 – : GM for Kansai District, Founder of Kenshin ryu Kobudo


Matsu Higa (1647-1721) from island Hamahiga, learned empty hand and weapons from Zhang Xue Li, a Chinese emissary who visited Okinawa in 1663. In 1683 the Ching government sent a large ambassadorial contingent led by Wanshu (Wang Ji) to Okinawa. He was a diplomat, writer, calligrapher and skilled martial artist. Wanshu taught Higa techniques of Chuan Fa (Shorinji kempo). These techniques were modified and transmitted into “Tode”, Okinawa Te. Matsu Higa was a short man and had very strong forearms. Often he fought against bandits visiting his home island. Matsu Higa along with Peichin Takehara is considered responsible for the shift in the Okinawa Te to Bushi no Te.

Chatan Yara (1668 – 1756) from Chatan village that served a Shuri castle. Original name Yara Pehchin, later also called Uekata, which is highest rank for samurai in the former Kingdome of the Ryu Kyu. He is said to have studied martial arts in China for twenty years. He was an expert in fighting with Sai, Tonfa and Bo. His style and Kata greatly influenced Ryu Kyu Kobujutsu. Techniques of Sai was used by Chikusaji – ancient Ryukyuan policemen. It is also said that Ufuchiku, or the ancient Ryukyuan chief police officer, always carried and used Sai (iron truncheon) for the purposes of directing his policemen, guarding VIPs, regulating the crowd and so forth. Pehchin class of feudal Okinawa made arrests, took custody of prisoners and ensured that court sentences were carried out in Kingdome. They were cultivating Sai jutsu. Jutte used in Japan is a modified truncheon.

Shitahaku Oyakata (?-?) In 1682 he was a general administrator at the office of the Chinese minister in Naha (Kuma village). Tsuken Shitahaku no Sai is the Kata presents fundamental of Sai jutsu.

Peichin Takehara (1683-1766), from Akato, was born to the Kogusuku family of Kumemura. He was a priest, mathematician, cartographer and astronomer. He was samurai as well, learned martial arts from Matsu Higa and later brought a meditation practice to Okinawa martial arts system. Peichin, Pechin or Pehchin is a title of status and they served Ryu Kyu dynasty since 1509 until 1879. As officials they were largely responsible for civil administration and law enforcement. One of his student was Sakugawa Chikodun Peichin Kanga who later became very famous warrior.

Ko Sokun (?-1761) also known as Kushanku, Kusanku, Kong Su Kung and Kouh Shang Kouh. He was a Chinese sifu who immigrated in 1756 to Okinawa where he served as military attaché. It is recorded that in 1761 he displayed Chinese boxing and grappling techniques to a delighted audience in Okinawa. Kushanku was skilled Kempo master and he is the earliest known ancestor of Pinewood karate style. The royal guards were permitted to study To de and Yara Pehchin (Chatan Yara) became his student for sometime (?). Later he developed Kata based on training with Kushanku sifu. Form was also developed by Sakugawa and passed to Soken Matsumura. From him was transmitted to Chotoku Kyuan and passed to Tatsuo Shimabuku who used Kusanku kata as foundation for kata Kusanku Sai in Isshin ryu. There are two versions, one with and other without kicks. Kusanku may be translated as “To view the sky”.

Sakugawa Kanga (1733-1815) Satunuku (Shungo) born in Teruya Kanga in Shuri’s Torihori village. Sakugawa became a student of Takehara, who lived in close by Akata village, at the age of 17. His father having been beaten to death by bandits, the young Sakugawa was determined to master the martial arts. Nickname Tode received from hi teacher Takehara. Later he studied under Kushanku a military attaché in Okinawa. Story says that in age of 23 Sakugawa attacked Kushanku while standing near to river bank out of Shuri on a bridge and looking out over the water. As he moved to push Kushanku from behind, Kushanku suddenly sidestepped the attack and instantly grasped his wrist and said: “when you came to Shuri ask for Kushanku and I will teach you not only How but also Why in martial arts”.

With Takehara’s blessing Sakugawa became his disciple. Kushanku taught him “Kumiuchi-jutsu” i.e. fighting and grappling techniques and also principle of “Hikite”. Upon return Kushanku to China, Sakugawa followed him and remained there for six years. According some sources Sakugawa may have been sent to China to learn Chinese martial arts in order to better train the Okinawa Bubishi. When Sakugawa returned to Okinawa he became the chief Shuri official of the Yaeymama Island area. He was given the title Satunuku of Satunoshi – samurai serving the Okinawa king. As a reward for his service the Shuri government gave him a small Island and names it Sakugawa. He took the name of the Island for himself and became Sakugawa Teruya Chikodun Peichin Kanga. Sakugawa is behind establishing the regulations and rules at Dojo. He was strict to speculation of narrow specialization and emphasized a Chinese traditional way of martial arts.

Soken Matsumura (1797-1889) also known as Bushi Matsumura began training with Sakugawa (4 years) at the age of 14 when Sakugawa was 78 at that time. In age of 20 he was skilled “Tode” martial artist. He was recruited into the service of the Sho (king) family. Matsumura rose to become a bodyguard for the Royal family an served three Okinawa kings, Sho Ko, Sho Iku and Sho Tai. Later was sent to Shaolin temple in China. Upon his return to Okinawa he established Shuri te that later became Shorin ryu (Shaolin in Japanese call Shorinji – pine forest). He believed that speed was a key to power. Matsumura was a pioneer in the use of a twisting motion of the hips to help generate power. He received title Satunuku of Satunoshi and later Chikutoshi. The King gave Matsumura the official title of “Bushi”. Matsumura’s wife Yonamine was skilled in martial arts too. Famous Matsumura’s student were Tawada Peichin no Meigantu (Sai jutsu), Motobu Choyu and Anko Itosu.

Tawada Meigantu (1814-1884), also known as Tawada Peichin, Shinboku, Shinkazu, student of Sokon Matsumura. He was a schoolteacher, archeologist and noted botanist with an interest in herbal medicine. Tawada taught OKinawa Shuri te, which became later known as Shorin ryu (Naihanchi and Pinan kata-s) and Kobudo Sai jutsu as well. Yabiku Moden was his kobudo student.

Anko Itosu (1830-1915) was born in the Yamakawa area of Shuri, a student of Matsumura at an early age. Itotsu was well educated in Chinese and Japanese literature. He served as a translator to Sho Tai, the last of the Ryukyu-an kings, until Sho Tai’s fall from power in 1879. In 1901, Itosu first introduced Karate into the physical education curriculum of the Okinawa public school system. Itosu was its first instructor. He developed a unique exercise called the 8 point kick which consisted of kicking at targets representing the floating ribs, solar plexus, junction of legs and torso, groin, and inner thigh. He simplified and streamlined more logical sequences into Kata and created the original Pinan (peaceful mind) katas, shodan through godan.

Chinen Pechin (1846-1928), also known as Chinen Sanda, learned martial arts from his uncle Chinen Sanjin. Chinen is a small village near by Shuri. He studied several kinds of Bo jutsu and developed the cudgel traditions of Shushi, Shirotaru and left-handed Yonegawa. He’s most prominent student was Yabiku Moden.

Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957), he learned from Itosu Anko, Azato Anko. Founder of Shotokan Karate, Shoto – waving pine, Kan – hall. Shoto was his nickname; as he often walked under pine trees. Funakoshi adopted from Judo Kyu and Dan system to Karate and changed names of Kata-s by Japan zed them. In his books we can read …there are throws in Karate…Hikite position of hand it is as grabbing and pulling…seated self defense techniques are demonstrated as well.

Yabiku Moden (1882-1941),(1878-1945)? studied Bo jutsu (Yamane ryu) under Chinen Sanda. Sai jutsu learned from Sanda Kanagusukuwa (from Shuri, bodyguard to King Sho Tai). He also studied Bo and Sai under Tawada Peichin . Karate learned from Itosu Anko. In 1935 he introduced Okinawa Kobudo in Japan by set up a dojo in Gumma Prefecture. He taught any that were interested in the art of weapons, as this art was beginning to die out. In 1911 (1925?)founded the Ryukyu Kobujutsu Research Association on Okinawa; an organization dedicated to the preservation of Kobudo kata. It was regarded as the first force to establishing Kobudo as a simple discipline. This organization existed until his death during the Second World War.

Mabuni Kenwa (1889-1952) was a descendent of the warrior class whose ancestors served the Okinawa lords for hundreds of years. He began learn under Yasutsune Itosu in the village of Shuri. Later study Naha-te from Kanryo Higaonna, who was introduced to him by a childhood friend, Miyagi Chojun. He becomes adept at traditional Okinawa weaponry while also incorporating elements of Chinese Kung Fu into his style. In 1929, after military service and a career as a police officer, Mabuni Sensei left Okinawa for Osaka, Japan to teach Itosu-kai. He blended the teachings of Shuri-te and Naha-te to create Shito-Ryu. He formed this name by taking the first ideogram from the names of his two teaches, Sensei Itosu and Higaonna. In this way, he chose to honor and respects his great teachers. He was honored by emperor with the family crest (mon) of the circle with four bars.

Kamiya Jinsei (1894-1964) learned Karate form Chojun Miyagi. He was listed as official Karate instructor also teaching Sai jutsu of Yaraguwa (Chatan Yara) and Bo jutsu of Choun and Soeishi. He was a physician, president of Itoman All Sports Association, financially supporting a martial arts development.

Taira Shinken (12.6.1897-) born in Village of Nakazato’on Kumejima Island. Officially recorded as Maezato Shinken, he often used his mother’s maiden name ‘Taira’. After graduated from Nakazato Jinjo Elementary school he later worked at a mine in Minami Jima. During one of his shifts he was caught in a cave-in and buried alive. Although badly wounded, with broken leg he managed to dig his way to safety. When he recovered he continued to work as a miner, but later decided to leave. Because of the accident he was left with a limp which he was to carry for the rest of his life. He felt embarrassed and ashamed. That decided him to learn Bujutsu.

At 25 he left to Japan intent on studying Judo. In Tokyo he had a chance meeting with Funakoshi Gichin. Taira was so impressed what Funakoshi told to him, reconsidered his plan and stay from 1922 for the next eight years in his Dojo. He became his assistant instructor and one of his closest students. He often traveled and demonstrated Tameshi waza – breaking techniques. In 1929, with Funakoshi’s recommendation; he entered Yabiku Moden’s dojo to study Ryukyu Kobudo. During his study under Yabiku, Taira mastered the use of such weapons as the Tonfa, Bo, Nunchaku, Sai, and Eku. In 1932, he was granted by permission to open a dojo and taught Kobudo and Karate as well. In 1933 he received his formal teaching license in Ryukyu Kobudo from Yabiku Sensei.

In 1934, Taira Shinken invited Mabuni Kenwa. He accepted the invitation and taught Taira until his return to Okinawa in 1940. Taira expanded his knowledge of Kata and techniques of the Bo and Sai. Later he began to experiment with the idea of full contact weapon sparring and was trying to develop flexible and strong armor, so as not to hinder any movement, but also be able to resist the strike of a Bo. Teaching in Gunma Prefecture he visited a Buddhist temple to pray for success of his newly opened Dojo. It was there that he saw a large Manji which in Taira’s eyes resembled as a Sai kobudo weapon. Direct he got inspired as how to create a weapon from its shape. He developed the Mariji sai and created Jigan no Sai .The Kata takes advantage of many double handed thrusting techniques. Kanji of this Kata can be translated as the foundation of love / compassion’ which shows a connection with Buddhist symbol.

In 1940 he returned to Okinawa and after the death of Yabiku sensei, established the Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinko-Kai (Association for the promotion and preservation of Ryukyu Kobudo, in 1955). He continued to make visits to the Kansai and Kanto in Japan. In the early 1960’s he published the first book on Ryukyu Kobudo in Japanese entitled “Ryukyu Kobudo Taiken.” In 1960 he appointed his students to different positions in the Shinko Kai and established testing and licensing standards. In 1963 the Kokusai Karate-do Kobudo Renmei was formed with Higa Seiko as the chairman and Taira Shinken as the vice chairman. In 1964 he was recognized as a master teacher and awarded with Hanshi certification by the All Japan Kobudo Federation. After Taira Shinken’s death his most senior student Akamine Eisuke, took over the position as chairman of the Ryukyu Hozon Shinko Kai and opened his own Shinbu Kan dojo in 1971. This was followed by other students of Taira opening their own respective Dojo-s.

Ryusho Sakagami (1915-1993) graduated from Kokushikan university, his specialty was Kendo. Studied from Yabiku Moden, Mabuni Kenwa (who appointed him as 3rd generation head Itosu ryu Karatedo). Established Shito-ryu Itosu –kai. He learned also from Shinken Taira. Highly educated in styles, lineage and Kata.

Motokatsu Inoue (1918-1993) born in Tokyo, started martial arts from an early age. His first teacher was Seiko Fujita, his father’s (general in Army) body guard. By the age of 18 obtained a good understanding of Ju jutsu, Shuriken jutsu and stick fighting. Sumo learned at Keio University. Also studied under Yasuhiro Konishi. Shinken Taira became his primary instructors after Seiko Fujita death. Inoue founded of his own style called the Yuishinkai.

Eisuke Akamine (1925-1998), born in Aza village, Okinawa. At age 24 started studied Kobudo under disciples of expert Chinen Sanda. In 1956 he became a direct student of Shinken Taira. In 1962 received Shihan menkyo and dedicated rest of the life to study and preserve Kobudo for next generation. After Taira sensei died, he became 2nd president of Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinko Kai. In 1976 was awarded by Kyoshi hachidan license and in 1985 by Hanshi license from Zen Okinawa Karate Kobudo Renmei.

Teruo Hayashi (1924- ) learned Karate and Kobudo from Kenko Nakaima. He combined Ryuei-ryu with Shito-ryu Karate he had learned from Kenwa Mabuni to create his own branch of Shito-ryu Karate. Hayashi also combined Kobudo taught by Shinken Taira with Ryuei-ryu and created Kenshin-ryu Kobudo. To honor both of his teachers, Hayashi name his Kobudo style “Kenshin”, utilizing the first syllables of his teachers. His system reflects the blend of both Okinawa and Japanese methods in Kobudo and Karate. He learned also from Kosei Kokuba, Shoshin Nagamine (founder of Matsubayashi ryu). His learning progressed motivated him for fighting challenges, which eventually few Dojo-s accepted because Hayashi was so formidable. In 1995, he received his 9th degree black belt from the Japan Karate Federation (JKF).

Nagamine Shoshin (1907-1997), his teachers: Kyan Chotoku (student of Sokon Matsumura) and Motobu Choki (student of Kosaku Matsumura). Founder of Matsubayashi ryu. His student was Kyan Shinei and Teruo Hayashi.

Kyan Shinei (1914-1997); Learned Sai jutsu and Bo jutsu from Oshiro Chojo – Yamane ryu

Shinko Matayoshi (1888-1947), Born in wealthy family in Naha. He learned Kama, Tonfa, Nunchaku and Eku from Chokuho Akena, Ryuko Shiishi, Yamani Chinen, Matsutaro Irei and his father Shinchin Matayoshi. At 22 ventured via Hokkaido and Sakhalin to Manchuria and joined team of mountain bandits. From them learned bow and arrow as other weapons as well, all from horse back. After retuning to Okinawa again left to Fuchow learn Shorin kempo White crane style and to Shanghai learn herbal medicine and acupuncture.

Shimpo Matayoshi (1922-1997); Since age at 8 started his martial arts training under Chotoku Kyan. Upon his fathers return from China in 1934, began to train in Karate and Kobudo under his tutelage. Later he learned Hakutsuru (White Crane Chaun’ fa) that his father had been taught. In 1970, he formed the All Okinawa Kobudo Federation (Zen Okinawa Kobudo Renmei). Until his untimely death was the technical advisor for all Okinawa Kobudo styles.

Takamatsu Toshitsugu (1887-1972) born in Akashi. Named Hisatsugu,also known as Jutaro, Chosei, changed his name to Toshitsugu. Had several nicknames as Nakamushi (Crybaby), Kikaku (demon horns) and Moko no Tora (Mongolian tiger). From 9 started to learn sword techniques from Toda Shinryuken Masamitsu (Shinden Fudo Ryu Jutaijutsu, Gyokko Ryu Kosshijutsu, Shinden Koto Ryu Karatejutsu / Koto Ryu Koppojutsu, Gyokushin Ryu Ninjutsu, Kumogakure Ryu Ninjutsu and Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu). Around the age 13 began studying Takagi Yoshin Ryu Jutaijutsu from Yoshitaro Tadafusa. From 17 under Ishitani Matsutaro Takekage learned Kukishin Ryu, Hontai Takagi Yoshin Ryu and Gikan Ryu koppojutsu.

He was ordained be a priest, but he wasn’t a religious man. Anyway being involved in Tendai Budhism in his early 30’s went to China for ten years and was employed by many warlords in Manchuria and Northern China. He had several deadly contests there.

His father Gishin had a good relationship with Kuki family. The Kuki have kept records of their family, and of the ryu-ha, over several generations. While Takamatsu was in China, the Kuki family doubted his return. In 1919, he returned to Japan and became a head-monk at a mountain temple of esoteric Buddhism in the Yamato district. Since 1921, showed great respect to, and established a strong friendship with the 21st generation family-head Kuki Takaharu. By generations Kuki family lost many of their fighting skills, and asked Takamatsu to “re-educate them”. He was permitted to read and copy a scroll, the inner secrets of Kuki Nakatomi. Kuki family scrolls were destroyed in 1945. Takamatsu was able to reconstruct the scrolls from his notes and memory and presented them back 3 years later. Takamatsu also wrote to Kuki Takaharu that started training a small group of students. His dojo named Sakushin (“cultivating spirit”). Takamatsu stopped training actively when he was 80 years old, though he continued to supervise Masaaki Hatsumi.

Sokkaku Takeda (1858-1943) considered as 35th Grandmaster of Daito ryu, born in Aizu, his family originated from Shinto’s priests. Since his young age he started to learn O shiki uchi from Tanomo Saigo and relatives, also Iaijutsu and Kenjutsu. As family tradition he mastered Daito ryu Ju jutsu and founded Aiki Jujutsu. Ancient concept of Ki is connected with concept of Shinto and Takeda accepted it as principle of his Budo. During a life he had large numbers of contest, won all of them. Most famous student he had was Morihei Ueshiba (called O sensei by Aikido-ka), founder of Aikido.

Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953), his teacher was Higaona Kanryo. From Naha Te style he founded Goju ryu Karate, in this school is practiced Geki Sai Dai Ichi and Ni kata. The name Goju Ryu is taken from a line of the Bubishi, a record of the eight precepts of Chinese Kempo. Go Ju appears in the sentence, “Ho Goju Dont” (the way of breathing is hardness and softness), describing the hard and soft of his style. Thus Go Ju Ryu was the first style of karate not named after the city of its origin. His student was Kamiya Jinsei (Sai and Bo).

Seiko Fujita (1899-1960),14th Head master of the Koga ryu ninjutsu and the last known of his kind to work for the government. Fujita thought Karate was too linear and Aikido too circular for practical use in close fighting. His style was a very aggressive form of Ju jutsu as Aiki jutsu with particular emphasis on attacking the eyes, throat and groin using open hand techniques and low kicks. He also taught weapons, a skilled exponent of anything he picked up, but his preference was those peculiar to Ninjutsu, especially the Shuriken.

Jigoro Kano (1860-1938) was born in Kobe, Japan, into a wealthy family. From 1877 studied Tenshin – Shinyo Ju jitsu under Hachinosuke Fukuda and Masatono Iso . From Tsunetoshi Iikubo he learns Kito ryo which emphasise Nage waza – throws. He is a founder of Judo (Gentle way). He used to practice Bo jutsu as well and since 1921 also studied Kukishin ryu Jo techniques from Shimizu Takaji.