“Who is Real and Who is not Real”
the Matsumura Seito System of karate
For years now I have been contacted by many of you looking for the truth as to who I think is real, and who is not, when it comes to the Hohan Soken’s Matsumura Seito style of karate-do.
Many have, and still do make claim to have, this rank or that rank in Matsumura karate, coming from one Sensei or another. That being said, just how did these many different men or women attain their respective ranks?
Lets start back at the beginning. In 1960 I became a student of Fusei Kise, In 1961, I became Master Hohan Soken’s first American student, and Fusei Kise’s first American black belt.
I was lucky enough to have trained under Soken Sensei’s tutelage from 1961 through 1964. This training, at Soken’s home, consisted of my private lessons with the Master, as well as semi-private lessons with both Kise and myself.
In 1972 Soken and Kise made their first trip to the United States, and it would turn out be the only trip for Soken sensei. This visit lasted less than two or three weeks before both masters returned to Okinawa.
The purpose for the trip was to start an American branch Headquarters for the now defunct OKF (Okinawan Karate Federation), which Sensei Soken had closed back in the mid 50’s.
Glenn Premryu and myself were chosen to be the acting heads of the now re-formed O.K.F. Premryu was given the rank of 6th Dan after never having trained, or met either Soken or Kise, nor had he been exposed to the system of Matsumura Seito karate-do. In 1974 the O.K.F. was once again closed by Soken, this time the reasons were due to the allegations that Mr. Premryu was misappropriating funds from the Federation.
Soken, along with Sensei Kise were to reformulate yet another karate association in 1975. The name this time was “SMOKA”, Shorin-ryu Matsumura Orthodox Karate Association. The Masters contacted me requesting that I become the Stateside head for the SMOKA. I accepted the appointment eagerly. So now we have had two associations sanctioned under Hohan Soken/Fusei Kise.
Ok, now my point…….. The first association/Federation formed in 1972 started recruiting and accepting members. The policy back then was as follows: Every new member black belt was issued and received a OKF certificate with both Soken’s and Kise’s signatures and Chops (seals) stating that they were now in fact a black belt in Matsumura karate, and most of them had never studied even one day in the Matsumura system. They now possessed a Certificate that read Matsumura Karate.
I’m sure you can imagine how many black belt certificates were issued. Next came SMOKA in 1975, and by the authority of Sensei Soken, Fusei Kise, I was acting on his behalf to issue certificates in the same manner. So there were hundreds, if not thousands of karate students, as well as instructors possessing a certificate from Soken Sensei, either directly or indirectly claiming Matsumura Seito in their lineage. (Also with my signature)
This holds true even today. Some claim to be a part of the Matsumura Seito family, teaching and claiming to hold high ranks within the system. But the truth is, they simply joined the association and were given equal, or higher ranks than what they had prior to joining, out of courtesy.
Does this joining an association or attending a seminar really enable them to teach the system? The answer of course is NO! Some have stopped teaching their old styles and now only teach their “new” style calling it Matsumura.
So just how much training in a certain style of karate does it take really to become able to teach that style? How many years?, How many seminars? How many private lessons? Would you say one seminar per year for four straight years is enough to become proficient to teach the system? Or to be able to claim a high rank within that system? Again I say No.
Just how does one justify his/her rank? Let’s use this example: A man with fifteen years of karate background, say a fourth or fifth Dan in a Japanese/Korean or other non-Matsumura style, joins the Matsumura association today. Is he/she automatically a 4th -5th Dan now in the Matsumura system?
No, again of course not, how could that be? He might have learned the basic drills, and kata up to their former ranks, but do they really have the knowledge in the system after such a short time? Not quite. These ranks are honorary only.
A comparison would be a podiatrist that has been practicing for years, and, is very qualified in his field. He decides to attend a cardiology seminar. After attending a few heart seminars he decides he wants to become a heart surgeon. He quits being a foot doctor and now claims to be a heart specialist. Is he qualified? No he’s not. Is he still a doctor? Yes he is.
This is the same when a large university awards an PHD to someone. Are they qualified to teach at the college level, on par with the other professors who spent decades specializing in a field? I think not.
Over and over we hear of people holding two, three, and even four high ranks in different styles of karate. But are they really qualified to teach all of them? Again I say no. How can they be? While a karate-ka is TRUELY trying to master one and only one style, their old styles are going down hill simultaneously while you are training in a new style. Now I don’t say “don’t change” your training if you find what you think is better. What I AM saying is this: don’t change your style after a short time and then turn around and claim to be the same rank that you were prior to changing!.
Ego: is the most damaging part of a person. Once he has reached the black belt level, there is no way that most students will want to start over at the bottom. AND, they don’t have too! But just because you are a black belt in one style does not make you a black belt in another new style. Does this mean that you are no longer a black belt? Of course not, you are still as you were before, you changed styles, only now you are learning something new. Once you have spent four to five years of constant regular instruction in the new style/system, then, and ONLY then, are you qualified to teach as a black belt in that new system. And I don’t mean teaching your old style at the same time you are teaching the new.
In conclusion, those that have trained for years directly under Hohan Soken and received a given rank from Soken can claim THAT rank as Matsumura Seito. Those that got their rank from Soken then got promoted to a higher rank from a different instructor that is not within the Matsumura Seito style should not be able to claim THAT HIGHER rank in Matsumura Seito. It is that simple.
Those of us that have spent our complete life in ONLY the Matsumura Seito system and have been promoted to higher ranks from Only Soken can claim the Matsumura style of karate as our true system. The students we have promoted to the higher ranks should also be able to make such a claim after training in the system for many, many years. These men and women can claim their ranks to be Matsumura Seito after having the appropriate time and training.
Those that received a Sho-dan rank from Soken, but are now claiming 6th-7th- and even 8th Dans, under someone else, should not claim the higher ranks in Matsumura seito karate-do. Even though they are the rank they claim in another system. Their training did not come through the Matsumura System for that rank. Just because some other instructor promoted them to a higher rank that was not Matsumura does not give them that right.
If you are a 8th – 9th or even a 10th dan in a given system, and you join another association, (Matsumura for example) and even if you have been or are changing over to the Matsumura system you should not claim to be a 8-9-or10th Dan in Matsumura, because you are not. Again does this mean you lose your rank or title? No, what it means is that you continue to claim to be a 10th Dan in whatever that rank is in, but are now teaching the Matsumura Seito style of karate. This should hold true no matter what your certificate says. Only if you have received each and every rank promotion from the same instructor that got his or her ranks the same way can you make the claim of rank in that style.
This holds true even if there is a high rank given by a “General” association, or certificate mill. Some of these associations have a board of black belts in various styles. They get together and say “Hey Joe!” “Isn’t it time for you to have a promotion?” So they get together collectively and put whatever style that “Joe” has a history in on the certificate. These people are NOT authorized or qualified, to promote out of their collective systems! AND the person authorizing ANY high rank, HAS to be of that system, to be able to judge a persons capabilities for the appropriate rank.
It’s that simple!!!!