The History of Matsubayashi-Ryu

Discussion in 'Karate' started by Anth, Mar 27, 2008.

  1. Anth

    Anth Daft. Supporter

    Matsubayashi-Ryu is one of the four major Shorin styles of Okinawan Karate. The other three being Kobayashi, Shobayashi, & Matsumura Orthodox. The Japanese Kanji characters for Shorin translate as "pine forest" and in certain Chinese dialects translate as "Shaolin" thus establishing perhaps a certain link with China. There is no doubt that Chinese Boxing had influence upon the development of Okinawan Karate as Okinawa had a tributary relationship with China for many centuries. Trade and cultures were exchanged as a result and it would be natural for fighters to exchange their favorite techniques. There are many examples of Okinawan Bushi (warrior class) traveling to China for the express purpose of studying the Chinese arts. Even so, most of this Chinese influence seems to have been restricted to the Naha area and styles coming out of Naha such as Uechi-Ryu and Goju-Ryu. The styles coming from Shuri and Tomari (such as Matsubayashi) retained mostly original Okinawan techniques.

    Matsubayashi-Ryu was founded by Shoshin Nagamine in 1947 to pay honor to two great Okinawan Karate teachers who instructed two of Nagamine's previous teachers. They were Sensei Kosaku Matsumura of Tomari villiage and Sensei Sokon Matsumura of the town of Shuri. Allthough having the same name, they are not related. The history of Matsubayashi-Ryu is therefore the history of Shoshin Nagamines Karate training.


    Shoshin Nagamine ​

    Shoshin Nagamine
    (1907- Nov 2nd, 1997 ) Born in Naha, he was the son of a farmer and as a child suffered from poor health. To improve his health he began Karate training at the age of 17 under Chojin Kuba who taught a style of Tomari-Te. He eventually became captain of his school Karate team and at this time was receiving instruction from Taro Shimabuku, Ankichi Arakaki, and Kodatsu Iha.

    In 1928, he was drafted into the army and served in an artillery regiment in China. After his return to civilian life in 1931 he entered the police force and served at the Kadena police station .He had the opportunity to study under Chotoku Kyan. In 1936 , he was sent to Tokyo to study police work at the Metropolitan Police Academy.

    While there, he studied Karate under Choki Motobu and met Chomo Hanashiro and Kentsu Yabu. Both of these teachers warned him the Japanese were drastically altering the Okinawan Kata. They asked Nagamine to keep the kata in their original form , which Nagamine promised to do.

    In 1940, Nagamine received a Renshi title in Karate (master instructor) upon the recommendation of Chojun Miyagi (the founder of Goju-Ryu). At the same time he was promoted to 3rd Dan in Kendo. In 1941 he composed the kata Fukyukata-Ichi which was accepted as official Karate Kata in 1945
    He opened his first Dojo in 1942 in the town of Tomari. In 1947 Shoshin Nagamine founded our particular style of Shorin-Ryu and named it Matsubayashi-Ryu in honor of Kosaku Matsumura and Sokon Matsumura.

    Their teachings have greatly influenced the development of Matsubayashi-Ryu. In 1953 Nagamine resigned from the police force and decided to devote his full attentions to Karate. He built his present Dojo and called it The Kodokan at Naha.

    When the Okinawa Karate-Do Federation was formed in 1956 Nagamine was its first vice president and later on served as an adviser to that organization.

    Nagamine has one son, Takayoshi, who runs an organization in the United States called the World Matsubayashi-Ryu Karate-Do Association. Their Web Site address is

    Since Nagamine's death in 1997, Matsubayashi-Ryu on Okinawa proper has been run by a board of directors. Nagamine's personal dojo has been taken over by his son.

    At this point we begin the history of Matsubayashi-Ryu in America and the man most responsible for its early spread was Ueshiro Ansei.


    Ueshiro Ansei

    Ueshiro Ansei (1933-....) Ueshiro Ansei was born into a Bushi (warrior class) Okinawan family. His uncle was Ankichi Aragaki who was one of Shoshin Nagamine's teachers. There is little known about his early childhood years but one might assume that he led a normal life for that time The battle for Okinawa took place when Ueshiro was thirteen years old. During this battle both of his parents were killed and Ueshiro suffered severe burns over a large portion of his body. Most of his fingers on both hands were burnt off.

    Despite these injuries, he eventually became one of the best Bo technicians on Okinawa.

    Ueshiro was taken in by some relatives but because of his injuries and emotional trauma they felt that he had very little potential to learn a trade and lead a normal life.

    At the age of thirteen they enrolled him into Shoshin Nagamine's Karate Dojo. Since Nagamine was wealthy compared to the typical Okinawan at that time, he provided his students with a place to sleep and food.

    This fact of course took a burden off of Ueshiro's relatives. For the following years all that Ueshiro did was to train everyday. In those days Karate instruction was very informal and boiled down to "learning by imitating" the more advanced students. This particular learning method fit Ueshiro well because he was quiet by nature and his emotional trauma probably made him even more withdrawn.

    In time, Ueshiro attained a level of skill which was remarkable considering his injuries. After a few years Ueshiro was an instructor at the Dojo and began to observe and learn from other Karate masters outside of the Nagamine Dojo. As exceptional as Ueshiro was in Kata and with the Bo he was most well known for his fighting abilities. He was said to have been absolutely terrifying in combat.

    Ueshiro's basic survival needs had been provided for by Nagamine but he had no money nor a trade. In an effort to make spending money Ueshiro would go to the bars and prostitution houses and perform karate breaking demonstrations and also served as a bouncer and debt collector.


    Ueshiro Ansei demonstrates perfect technique with James Wax

    During the years of the Armed Forces occupying Okinawa Ueshiro had the opportunity to teach many American servicemen at Nagamine's Dojo. One of these was James Wax . James Wax married Nagamine's niece and moved back to New York after his enlistment was up. Eventually Wax requested that Nagamine send Ueshiro over to the States to teach Matsubayashi-Ryu here.

    Although no-one can say for sure exactly why Nagamine agreed it is not unreasonable to make the assumption that politics were involved. Even though Wax was related to Nagamine by marriage he was still a "round eye" and it would have been much more desirable to have a fellow Okinawan in charge of Shorin-Ryu here in the states. Also, we may wonder if Ueshiro wasn't somewhat of a thorn in Nagamine's side considering his outside methods of making money.

    At any rate Nagamine promoted Ueshiro to seventh dan and sent him to New York. Ueshiro arrived unable to speak English and without a job.

    He eventually found some backers willing to finance a Dojo because of the prestige that Ueshiro would bring them. Soon, Ueshiro had many loyal students but after six months the backers had paid neither the rent nor Ueshiro and had disappeared.

    The decision was made to continue the school on their own and two years later in 1964 a group of ten black belts began forming a Shorin-Ryu organization around Ueshiro Ansei. In these early years of struggle, survival was a day to day event for Ansei.

    As time passed however, his students and their students were acquiring a reputation as being top fighters. In a further effort to survive financially, Ueshiro began to charge for lessons, promotion fees, and organizational fees. With these moneys he was just barely able to eek out a living.

    The fact that Ueshiro was charging fees for Karate training bothered Nagamine. Also, he was troubled by the fact that Ueshiro's students were developing a taste for hard rugged kumite. The Americans for their part did not like being subservient to Nagamine who they had never even seen.

    The relationship between Shorin-Ryu in America and Shorin-Ryu in Okinawa was starting to fall apart. A further wedge was driven in when Bob Yarnell (one of Ansei's top students) went to Okinawa for advanced training. Nagamine requested that Yarnell write an essay as part of a promotion test. Yarnell replied that "He'd come to Okinawa to train, not to write" and refused to write the essay.

    For whatever reason, Yarnell was promoted anyway. Prior to his leaving Okinawa, Yarnell was told by Nagamine that there was to be no more kumite in American dojos. At this same time Ansei was summoned back to Okinawa to revise his teaching methods and training attitudes. After years spent in America building the Shorin-Ryu community and with financial success finally starting to come his way Ueshiro Ansei refused to return to Okinawa.

    In 1969 Sensei Nagamine and his associates traveled to the United States visiting Ansei's dojos which he and his students had founded. He announced that Ueshiro Ansei was "officially" retired as the head Shorin-Ryu man in the States.

    Chotoku Omine was now to be the top man of Shorin-Ryu in America. After Ansei's "retirement", rumors spread that he had been misappropriating funds. These rumors were completely unfounded and untrue.

    Some dojos accepted this decree but a great many did not refusing to recognize Omine and remained loyal to Ueshiro Ansei.

    Since 1969 Ansei owns a trucking company somewhere in New York I am told, and periodically attends his students Karate functions. The strongest support for him seems to come from New York where Sensei Bob Scaglione still advertises Ueshiro Ansei as the grand master of Shorin-Ryu in America. During the years that Ueshiro Ansei controlled and spread Shorin-Ryu in America the style was at its strongest. Even today, twenty some years after Ansei's "retirement" Shorin-Ryu people are respected for their toughness and fighting ability, two traits which we have Master Ueshiro Ansei to thank for.
  2. reedk

    reedk Valued Member

    hi any history of chinese martial artists learning from karate fighters or vice versa during this time. did karate originate from kung fu or did kung fu originate from karate?

    mma fanatic
  3. Dark Planet

    Dark Planet New Member

    Everything from India through China.

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