Bushi Matsumura

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BUSHI MATSUMURA SOKON 松村宗棍
by Scot Mertz

Unyu, Bucho, Wu Chengda, Kayo Sokon, Kiyo Sokon, Bu Seitatsu Unyu
1809-1899 (Tomb Dates, confirmed by family Koseki)

Before we start on Matsumura himself, we need to take a look at his family.  According to documentation from the Bureau of Genealogies, Esu Anji Soso was the founder of the house of Bu (武).  The family name was Kayo (or Kiyo) spelled as 嘉陽, and this was the family name from around 1719 until around 1790, then many of the family members changed the name to Muramatsu (村松) and others changed it to Kiyo (井陽), later in 1861 the majority of the family reverted their name back to Kiyo.  Sokon being of the linear lineage kept the family name throughout.

Family lineage: (Name, Chinese Name, dates)
Ensu Anji Soso - Bu Genmin - 1472
Soju - Bu Sei'an - 1519
Zayasu Okite Pechin So'ei - Bu Sho'an - 1468-1560
Kobashikawa Okite Pechin Somo - Bu Eiso - 1519-1585
Noguni Pechin Sosho - Bu Juntoku - 1567-1648
Noguni Pechin Soho - Bu Kaishun - 1599-unk
Sobi - Bu Tokusei - 1649-1718
Sosa - Bu Eiho - 1675-1740
Soryu - Bu Chuyu - 1698-unk *exiled to Miyako 1729*
Soju - Bu Shisu - 1708-1752 - Had no legitimate sons
Sosho - Bu Yosho - 1714-1777 - Grandson of Sobi - Continued lineage
Shoshi - Bu Tokuon - 1742-1786
Sofuku - Bu Kosho - 1766-1828
Sokon - Bu Seitatsu - 1809-1899


On May 30, 1809 a young Kiyo Sokon (井陽宗棍) was born in Yamakawa Village to Kiyo Sofuku and Yoshie.  Kiyo Sokon was the 10th generation of the Bu clan (武) and the 7th generation of the Mo (莫) clan.  His father was Chinese (from the 36 families) and his mother was Ryukyuan.  Sokon was a fast study in Chinese and was called Wu Chengda by his Chinese friends (Bu Seitatsu in Japanese) and later in life when he traveled to China he used the name again.  The Bu and Mo families were always associated with great martial artists, and because of his ability to learn quickly and natural talent he also became a great martial artist.


Sokon trained with his father from 1821 to 1825 and learned Kake, Kumite, Shima, and bojutsu.  It was during this time that Sokon learned the value of Bun Bu Ryo Do (文武両道), which is the ability to balance physical training with mental training.


In 1826 Sokon entered into the service of the Ryukyu King Sho Ko.  At this point Sokon’s surname of Kiyo (井陽) was abandoned, as was the tradition for Royal guards.  When his name was changed to Matsumura (松村), Sokon was given the title of Chikudan Pechin.


Shortly after entering service Matsumura began training with the man who he was replacing.  This man was named Pechin Kojo Chinpe (also known as Umare Bushi of Kume, Nmari Bushi, Higa Kanematsu, Higa Machu, and Matsu Higa).


(**family legend**)  In 1828 King Sho Ko was conducting a plot to overthrow the Satsuma samurai that were on Okinawa.  Sho Ko sent Kojo and Matsumura to China as part of an envoy to try local training and possibly garner support for a military coup on Okinawa to oust the Satsuma.  This trip lasted for around 4 years.  Later in 1828 Sho Ko abdicated.


During his time in China Matsumura studied martial arts under several different instructors.  Some of them were also military attachés such as Iwa (Yáo Wéi Bó/瑶違伯) and Ason (Liú Lóng Gōng/劉龍公).  However he also looked at traditional martial arts and spent a lot of time at the Shaolin Temple (南少林) in Fujian province.  It was likely through this experience in China that Matsumura was first introduced to the idea of “kata”.


Matsumura returned to Okinawa in 1832.  He had just returned home when the new king, Sho Iku, told Matsumura that he needed a swordsman as a bodyguard.   In 1832 Matsumura traveled to Kagoshima, to train in Jigen Ryu from the legendary Ijuin Yashichiro.  Matsumura spent a total of 5 years learning Jigen Ryu.


Matsumura returned to Okinawa in 1837.  In 1838 he married a young woman named Yonamine Tsuru (與那嶺鶴).  At this time Matsumura was 30 years old, and his wife, Tsuru, was around 16.  Tsuru-sama was a bit of a tomboy growing up, and a lot of the locals in her village of Yonahara (area around Shuri Castle) use to call her "Yonamine no Bushi Tsuru".  Her family owned a business called the Yonahara Yonamine, they would sell items for the local farmers.  It was kind of like a farmer’s market.


Between 1838 and 1860 Matsumura Sokon became a highly trusted advisor of King Sho Iku, and the personal tutor of the young King Sho Tai.   He continued to train with local masters, such as Lord Yabiku, Lord Motobu, and various other famous karateka of the day.  Also during this time Matsumura produced quite a few writings and poetry, for his artist works he would sign his name as Unyu.


In 1860, Matsumura made a second trip to China as part of the Royal Emissary.  While there he made arrangements with the Ryukyukan in Fuzhou and ultimately came back from China in 1865 with Kojo Tatei, Kojo Isei, and Iwa (Yáo Wéi Bó/瑶違伯).


On March 11, 1879 King Sho Tai gave power of the Ryukyu Kingdom to Japan as part of the Haihan-Chiken (廃藩置県).  Chinese Viceroy Li Hongzhang (李鴻章) protested the annexation, and tried to enter discussions with former US President Ulysses S. Grant and other foreign dignitaries with no avail.


It should be noted that the Kiyo family name changed shortly after 1879.  There was an issue with families who had Chinese kanji in their names.  井陽 was considered too Chinese; the first character was changed back to 嘉陽 and pronounced as Kayo or Kaiyo.  This did not affect Matsumura himself, but all of his family had to adhere to the change.  To this day the family uses 嘉陽.


By the end of 1879 Matsumura became the guard at the Royal Gardens (御番, Uban), and was teaching karate to locals who were interested in the old ways of combat.  During this time there were several letters penned by Matsumura, most of them were signed as "Bucho".


Matsumura Sokon passed away on August 8, 1899.  Some of his students included Pechin Sakihara, Pechin Sakuma, Pechin Kiyuna, Ishimine Bishi, Kyan Chotoku, Motobu Choyu, Yabu Kentsu, Kuwaye Ryosei, Hanashiro Chomo, Chinen Sanda, Chikudun Pechin Tawada Shinboku, Itarashiki Chochu, Asato Anko, and Chibana Chosho.

Researchers Scot Mertz and Andy Sloane at the tomb of Bushi Matsumura in 2015

--- This research was compiled from various sources, the bulk of which was from interviews with family members of the Kayo family and direct descendants of Matsumura.  Family documentation was referenced for many of the dates.  Additionally the Bu Clan (house of Kayo) Genealogies from Shuri was referenced as was documentation from the Kojo (Koshiro) family for supporting references.  Some of this was also validated against research by Andreas Quast and his book Karate 1.0 and other conversations. ---