The lineage of Gojushiho
Published: March 12, 2020
Gojushiho is said to be a very old kata, being taught by the legendary Sokon ‘Bushi’ Matsumura (1809 – 1899). Some sources say that Gojushiho was taught to Matsumura by Iwah, a Chinese military. In 1828 Sokon Matsumura travelled to China, together with Matsu Higa, on a diplomatic mission. There they met Iwah, who taught them Gojushiho and also Seisan and Sanchin.
However, there are so many kata attributed to Matsumura, for which there is no historical evidence. But for Gojushiho, there is historical evidence that he taught it.
In ‘Karate no omoide’ (‘My Memories of Karate’) which was published on May 7, 1942, in the Okinawa Shinpō Newspaper, Chotoku Kyan confirmed that he learned Gojushiho from Sokon Matsumura when he was 15 years old: “I never forgot when I went to Shikina-en together with my father in the spring of my 16th year. My father took me to Matsumura Sōkon Sensei, the restorer of Okinawa Karate of whom I had heard tales of. (In his way) I was able for the first time to meet with and to receive instruction from Matsumura Sōkon Sensei through my father. I remember Sensei was 80 years old at that time. The kata of karate that I was taught was Gojūshiho and I still have not forgotten it.”
(Source: ‘Kata taught by Matsumura Sokon (2)’ by Andreas Quast - http://ryukyu-bugei.com/?p=7489)
One of Kyan’s students was Zenryo Shimabukuro (1908 - 1969), the founder of Shorin-Ryu Seibukan. Shimabukuro confirmed that he learned Gojushiho from Chotoku Kyan. Kyan also taught Gojushiho to Joen Nakazato (1922 - 2010), the founder of Shorinji-Ryu.
The Shorin-Ryu Seibukan version of Gojushiho, performed by Zenpo Shimabukuro
Another student of Sokon Matsumura who confirmed he learned Gojushiho from him, is Chōgi Yoshimura. He was born in Shuri, on September 27, 1866. His mother was the eldest daughter of prince Ie Chōchoku, the fifth son of King Shō Kō (1787 – 1834), who held the throne of the Ryukyu Kingdom from 1804 to 1828, when he was forced to abdicate. So Chogi Yoshimura was the great-grandson of King Shō Kō.
In 1941, Chōgi Yoshimura published his autobiography, in which he remembered when he learned Gojushiho from Sokon Matsumura: “At the age of seventeen, around 1883/84, I had reached the handsome age of manhood. It was around that time that I began to seriously pursue training with Bushi Matsumura. I remember the honorable Matsumura had already passed the age of seventy at that time. We served together as royal guards at the Southern Parks (=Shikina-en). […] I mainly trained Ūsēshī (i.e. Gojūshiho), as well as Kūsankū. Since about that time my eyes gradually opened up to the martial arts and an incentive began I undauntedly maintained throughout my life. With Bushi Matsumura’s personal instruction, I was to become an expert myself, and one day my conduct was to become a reflection of it. The years of my awkward age had passed, giving way to a time of life experience.”
(Source: ‘Kata taught by Matsumura Sokon (1)’ by Andreas Quast - http://ryukyu-bugei.com/?p=7474)
Anbun Tokuda and Kanken Toyama
Katsuya Miyahira (1918 – 2010) was the founder of the Shidokan Dojo. He was a student of Choshin Chibana. However, he did not learn Gojushiho from Chibana, but from Anbun Tokuda. Tokuda was not only a student of Anko Itosu, but also of Kentsu Yabu at the Okinawa Normal School. When Tokuda was in his 3rd year, so was Kanken Toyama, the founder of Shudokan. (Source: ‘Yabiku Motoku – Disciple of Kentsu Yabu’). Toyama was also a student of Kentsu Yabu. If we look at Shidokan’s Gojushiho and Shudokan’s Gojushiho, they are very close. Kentsu Yabu is known to have taught Gojushiho.
Interesting thing is that, according to Masatoshi Nakayama, Shotokan’s Gojushiho Dai (JKA) comes from Kanken Toyama:
“Through Master Kanken Toyama, the kata ‘Koryu Gojushiho’ […] was introduced into the Shotokan style…”
When Gichin Funakoshi came to Tokyo in 1922, he didn’t teach Gojushiho, as you can read in ‘The Technical System of Shōtōkan-ryū’ by Andreas Quast).
Another student of Anbun Tokuda was Yoshihide Shinzato (1927 - 2008), the founder of Shinshukan. Yoshihide Shinzato also studied with Chōshin Chibana and was good friends with Katsuya Miyahira. Shinshukan’s Gojushiho is almost similar to Shidokan’s Gojushiho. Yoshihide Shinzato probably learned Gojushiho from Anbun Tokuda too.
The Shorin-Ryu Shidokan version of Gojushiho performed by Morinobu Maeshiro
The Shudokan version of Gojushiho performed by José Luis Necul
The Shinshukan version of Gojushiho
Yuchoku Higa, founder of Shorin-Ryu Kyudokan, is said to have learned Gojushiho from Chozo Nakama (1899 – 1982). According to Mamoru Nakamoto of the Bunbukan Dojo (Mamoru Nakamato’s father Masahiro Nakamoto was a direct student of Chozo Nakama), Chozo Nakama learned Gojushiho from Chomo Hanashiro. (Source: ‘Gojushiho of Nakama Chozo’ - https://amba.to/3gIgE3S).
That Chozo Nakama studied with Chomo Hanashiro, is confirmed by Nakama himself, as you can read in Mark Bishop’s book ‘Okinawan Karate – Teachers, styles and secret techniques’: “When I visited him there, he told me that he had started karate training during his elementary-school days and, when at middle school, had trained under Anko Itosu, Nago and others teachers, including Kenwa Mabuni. Between the ages of 16 and 17 he learned karate from Choshin Chibana and then spent two years with Chomo Hanashiro and three years under Choki Motobu, before finally returning to Chibana.”
The Shorin-Ryu Kyudokan version of Gojushiho performed by Nashiro Masami
The Chozo Nakama version of Gojushiho performed by Mamoru Nakamoto of the Bunbukan Dōjō
Nakama also taught Gojushiho to Seitoku Higa, the founder of Bugeikan, as you can also read in Mark Bishop’s book: “Seitoku Higa also learned Chinto from Chomo Hanashiro and Gojushiho from Chozo Nakama from Shorin-Ryu (Kobayashi).”
One of Nakama’s other students was Yasuhiro Uema, the son of Yoki Uema, the founder of the Shubukan Dojo. Shubukan’s Gojushiho is very close to the version of the Bunbukan dojo. However, Shubukan’s Gojushiho comes from Shinpan Gusukuma, who taught it to Yoki Uema. So Nakama’s Gojushiho and Gusukuma’s Gojushiho are very close. That made me wonder if Shinpan Gusukuma also learned Gojushiho from Chomo Hanashiro.
The Shorin-Ryu Shubukan version of Gojushiho performed by Yasuhiro Uema
Seiichi Iju was the first teacher of Shuguro Nakazato, the founder of Shorin-Ryu Shorinkan. Shorinkan’s Gojushiho comes very close to Nakama’s Gojushiho. And Seiichi Iju learned Gojushiho from Shinpan Gusukuma. Iju’s living years are not known, but as he is never mentioned as a student of Anko Itosu, and he was a student of Shinpan Gusukuma, who was born in 1890, I estimate that Seiichi Iju was not born before 1900.
The Shorin-Ryu Shorinkan version of Gojushiho performed by Eiroku Saijo
Gojushiho is part of the large kata curriculum of Shito-Ryu. Now there are a lot of kata in the current curriculum, that weren’t part of it originally. For example Rohai and Tomari Bassai. It was around 1938 that Kenwa Mabuni for the first time published a list of his ‘current kata’. This list names a total of 33 kata roughly categorized according to the lineages they originated from. 23 kata are categorized in the ‘Itosu-ha lineage, including Gojushiho. (Source: ‘Mabuni Kenwa and the establishment of Shito-Ryu’ by Andreas Quast - http://ryukyu-bugei.com/?p=5404)
Kenwa Mabuni not only studied with Anko Itosu and Kanryo Higaonna, but also with Chomo Hanashiro when Mabuni was a student at Okinawa’s Prefectural First Middle School, as you can read in ‘Ancient Okinawa Martial Arts - Volume 2’ by Patrick McCarthy: “In 1902, a just 13 years of age, Mabuni first started learning Toudi-jutsu directly under the eminent master Itosu Anko. Mabuni studied at the old master’s home in Shuri, but later went on to learn from Hanashiro Chomo (1869 - 1945), while Mabuni was a student at Okinawa’s Prefectural First Middle School.”
Now if we look at the Shito-Ryu version of Gojushiho, it has more similarities with the versions of Gojushiho in the Hanashiro / Nakama lineage, than it has with version of Gojushiho in the Anbun Tokuda lineage. (Like the Shidokan version of Gojushiho.)
That made me think that Kenwa Mabuni may have learned Gojushiho from Chomo Hanashiro, and not from Anko Itosu. (May have learned. Not: learned.)
The Shito-Ryu version of Gojushiho
Shoshin Nagamine (1907 - 1997), was the founder of Matsubayashi-Ryu. He was a student of Chotoku Kyan (1870 - 1945), Choki Motobu (1870 - 1944), Kotatsu Iha (1873 - 1928), Ankichi Arakaki (1899 – 1927) and Chojin Kuba (1904 – 1989).
Shoshin Nagamine confirmed that he learned the kata Passai, Chinto, Wankan, Rohai, and Wanshu from Kotatsu Iha:
“... The martial art of the venerable old gentleman (Kosaku Matsumora) was inherited by Giki Yamazato, Koho Kuba and Kotatsu Iha. In his role as the karate instructor of the Tomari Student Council, Kotatsu Iha in particular handed down the martial arts of the venerable old gentleman (Kosaku Matsumora) to many of Tomari’s youngsters. This author (Shoshin Nagamine), too, inherited such kata as Passai, Chinto, Wankan, Rohai, and Wanshu of Tomari-te from this teacher, and continues to preserve and research these kata in my current Matsubayashi-ryu Karate-do Kodokan Dojo.”
However, there is no written information on who taught him Gojushiho. Now, he was a student of Chotoku Kyan, who confirmed he learned Gojushiho from Sokon Matsumura. But the Matsubayashi-Ryu version looks different than the Seibukan version of Gojushiho. Actually, it looks more like a hybrid version of different Gojushiho. So who taught Gojushiho to Shoshin Nagamine is still unknown.
Recently, Naoki Motobu, Choki Motobu's grandson, found out that Choju Motobu also taught Gojushiho, as you can read in his article 'Gojūshiho of Motobu Umē (Chōjū)', where he quotes Higa Yūchoku Sensei, the founder of Shorin-Ryu Kyudokan:
"Next, the purpose of the meeting with Motobu no Umē (Motobu Chōyū) Sensei was to study the kata of Gojūshiho and Unsuū."
(For the full article: https://ameblo.jp/motoburyu/entry-12639603564.html?frm=theme)
What is interesting is that it is also said that Yuchoku Higa learned Gojushiho from Chozo Nakama, as you can read above.
It is not known who taught Choju Motobu Gojushiho and what his version looked like, but as Choju Motobu studied directly with Sokon Matsumura, there is a high probability that he learned it from Matsumura.
Anko Itosu and Gojushiho?
Anko Itosu (1831 – 1915) had a lot of students. If you look at the year of birth of all of them, you can separate the first-generation and second-generation students.
Choyu Motobu (1865)
Kentsu Yabu (1866)
Gichin Funakoshi (1868)
Chomo Hanashiro (1869)
Choki Motobu (1870)
All of the above students also studied directly under Sokon Matsumura. And from the above students, only Choyu Motobu, Kentsu Yabu and Chomo Hanashiro are known for having taught Gojushiho. There is no historical, written evidence that Choki Motobu taught Gojushiho.
As you have red above, when Gichin Funakoshi came to Tokyo in 1922, he didn’t teach Gojushiho. According to Masatoshi Nakayama, Shotokan’s Gojushiho Dai (JKA) comes from Kanken Toyama.
And according to the same Masatoshi Nakayama, Gojushiho Sho (JKA) comes from Kenwa Mabuni: “Master Funakoshi never stopped to study other forms of Karate. When we visited master Mabuni, he told me to learn the Gojushiho and Nijushiho Kata, so that we could address them more intensively later on. Right after that, Mabuni Kenwa taught me these Kata.”
The JKA version of Shotokan Gojushiho Sho performed by Yoshinobu Ohta
The JKA version of Shotokan Gojushiho Dai performed by Yoshinobu Ohta
Moden Yabiku (1878)
Choshin Chibana (1885)
Anbun Tokuda (1886)
Kanken Toyama (1888)
Kenwa Mabuni (1889)
Shinpan Gusukuma (1890)
We just found out that the two Gojushiho in Shotokan, come from Kanken Toyama and Kenwa Mabuni. Choshin Chibana did not teach Gojushiho. (Which does not mean he did not know it.) Anbun Tokuda and Shinpan Gusukuma did teach Gojushiho.
Kanken Toyama did not only study with Anko Itosu, but also with Kentsu Yabu at the Okinawa Normal School. When Kanken Toyama was in his 3rd year, so was Anbun Tokuda. (Source: ‘Yabiku Motoku – Disciple of Kentsu Yabu’ - https://amba.to/36NzBxq)
Now if we look at Shidokan’s Gojushiho and Shudokan’s Gojushiho, they are very close. Shidokan’s Gojushido comes from Anbun Tokuda, who taught it to Katsuya Miyahira, and Shudokan’s Gojushiho of course comes from Kanken Toyama.
Anbun Tokuda and Kanken Toyama were peers at the Okinawa Normal School and both studied under Kentsu Yabu.
As you have red above, Yabu had started training under Sokon Matsumura and became Itosu’s student later on. If we look at Itosu’s first-generation students, only those who also studied directly under Sokon Matsumura, taught Gojushiho (Choju Motobu, Kentsu Yabu and Chomo Hanashiro.) If we look at Itosu’s second-generation students, only those who also studied with either Kentsu Yabu or Chomo Hanashiro (Anbun Tokuda, Kanken Toyama, Kenwa Mabuni and Shinpan Gusukuma) taught Gojushiho.
Kenwa Mabuni and Shinpan Gusukuma were peers (Mabuni was born in 1889, Gusukuma in 1890) and good friends. They studied together under Anko Itosu ánd Kanryo Higaonna. (Gusukuma started training with Higaonna in 1908 and Mabuni in 1909.)
I wouldn’t be surprised if Anko Itosu never taught Gojushiho. After all, there is no written historical evidence that he taught it to anyone. One side note; in 1938 Kenwa Mabuni published a list of his ‘current kata’. Gojushiho is mentioned as one of the 23 kata of the ‘Itosu lineage’. (Source: ‘Mabuni Kenwa and the establishment of Shitō-ryū’ by Andreas Quast http://ryukyu-bugei.com/?p=5404)
But, being of the Itosu lineage, doesn’t necessarily have to mean that he learned it from Itosu. After all, Chomo Hanashiro was also from the Itosu lineage. Mabuni also mentions kata like Saifa and Tensho being from the ‘Higaonna lineage’, but both kata were developed by Chojun Miyagi. Mabuni and Miyagi were both students of Kanryo Higaonna and they were good friends. Of course, it’s plausible that they exchanged kata, for example Saifa and Tensho.
Putting it all together
Sokon Matsumura was the first one to teach Gojushiho on Okinawa, after he learned it in China from Iwah, in 1828.
He taught it to Choju Motobu, Chōgi Yoshimura, Kentsu Yabu, Chomo Hanashiro and Chotoku Kyan.
The two main lines became those of Kentsu Yabu and Chomo Hanashiro.
Kentsu Yabu taught it to Anbun Tokuda (1886), Motoku Yabiku (1886) and Kanken Toyama (1888).
Chomo Hanashiro taught it to Kenwa Mabuni (1889) (assumption), Shinpan Gusukuma (1890) and Chozo Nakama (1899).
Based on the facts and assumptions above, the lineage of Gojushiho is as shown below.
Author: Olaf Steinbrecher