Student of Ankichi Arakaki, Chotoku Kyan and Choki Motobu, Great Master Shoshin Nagamine, founder of the Matsubayashi style, was one of the most important teachers in the island of Okinawa until his death in 1997, since that moment, his son Takayoshi leads his father's dojo, the Kodokan, at the centric neighborhood of Kumoji, in Naha. Our collaborator Salvador Herraiz has visited this dojo in many opportunities but until now he hadn't presented us Soke, who's today 67 years Old.
text & photos by: Salvador H�rraiz, 7th Dan, Kumoji, Naha. Practiced Karate specially under Taro Shimabuku's direction, and under Shoshin Nagamine (1907-1997) trained in karate under the direction of Taro Shimabuku,in a lower extent with Kuba and Kodatsu Chojun Iha (student of Kosaku Matsumora) and later with Ankichi Arakaki (his main instructor) Kyan and Choki Motobu Chotoku.
In March 1928 Shoshin Nagamine graduated from School Business in Naha, and months later he enlisted in the Army in 47th Infantry Division, in Oita Prefecture, being sent later to the skirmishes, of Sainan, in China, there, he achieves the 8th Order of Merit for this. Being a police officer for years, in 1940 received the rank of Renshi of Butokukai, by recommendation of Chojun Miyagi. In December 1941, he's sent as coach to the Police in Tokyo, where he from time to time, taught highly valued conferences on "the mysteries of the Karate-ka policemen". Then ... World War II came.
In 1945, Takayoshi is born, Shoshin's son is who protagonists these lines. Just a few years after his father creates the Matsubayashi style in the Shorin -Ryu line, honoring Sokon Matsumora.The name of this new style in Karate in after the okinawan pronunciation of kanjis "Matsu" and "Hayashi", together, these two words become "Matsubayashi", and it refers of "Forest of Pines. These same Kanjis, are pronounce in chinese as ""Shorin", and are used to name a famous Shaolin Temple, represented by the word "river", this means that our art should be fluent with our life, like water running in this river. (*1) This meaning is perfect for Nagamine, whose childhood nickname was Chipai Matsu (Gaju) and it means "persevering and tenacious pine". Therefore, when we're talking about Matsubayashi, is not actually necessary to add Shorin-Ryu,since both words, mean, actually, exactly the same (*2)
Shoshin Nagamine is elected President of the Okinawan Karate Federation in 1956, in 1977 he achieved the distinction in "Sport and Physical Education of Okinawa Prefecture", in 1982 received the award Kun Goto Kyokukitsusho, for their e fforts and contribution for years. Shoshin Nagamine wrote four books between 1975 and 1986, and created kata Fukyu Gata chi. In april of 1988, Prime Minister of Japan awarded him with the Order of the Rising Sun.(*3) En 1997, Shoshin dies at 90 years old and practicing karate until his final days. In fact, not long before, on december 15th writes the song Karate Do Sanka, during events held in his honor, these events, had place in Honolulu Hawaii.
Although, this reporter has visited Great Master's Dojo many times, to be honest, I've never made up my mind in presenting him to the readers of "Cintur�n Negro Magazine" (*4). But this time, I decided to write about Soke Nagamine and I share with him this wish I had.. He agreed with this and after we arranged our meeting, one evening I went to his Dojo. Is a beautiful Dojo, located at the heart of Kumoji, just two blocks away from populous Kukosai door, the most famous street in Naha. Nobody was there, but soon, one of his student arrives and starts practicing by his own each one of his Katas. (*5) This Young decided to knock on one of the doors that communicates the Dojo with the house and private areas of the building. After insisting a lot, and saying that I had arranged a meeting with him, he finally "dare" to interrupt Nagamine. Once there, Master Takayoshi Nagamine invited me to one of those private rooms,, where we had a quiet interview.
-What memories do you have of your beginnings with your father?
-My father, never told that I had to practice Karate, but I always saw him (practicing), An I wanted to start doing the same thing. Anyways, he always asked me to do my own chores before practicing.
- Master Nagamine, what differences do we have between To Te, practiced in Okinawa in the 1900's and the contemporary karate?
-Basically, I don't think there's much difference if we keep our history and traditions everyday. Karate is for life. Karate coexists with life and death, with life and with living on. Karate can't just be compare with any of the sports, because sports are about a different philosophy. Sports are mean to compete against another person, and in Karate you just compete against yourself.
-Let's talk about this Dojo, when it was opened?
-First, it was opened in 1938, in Tomari by my father and in 1953 he transferred it to Kumoji.
And how many regular students come here?
-About 40 students.
-And what ranks?
The teachings in this Dojo is based in the study and practice of Kata. To sensei Nagamine "Kata isn't designed to compete athletically against another person. Like 100 years ago there was not even public displays of karate and it was often taught separately to each student, while maintaining their practice in secret. It was not about getting many students and making a lot of money out of it. It was a matter of transmitting a culture, a discipline, a character ...."
He's now wearing his karate gi, he's showing us some techniquess and we can be very aware of how strong, explosive and good he is. "Many people, when they want to apply a lot of power in a hit, it takes them a bigger distance and that means it will also be slower, it would require more time to make a longer distance to reach the target Here we make the techniques from a shorter distance with a maximum power and applying the three forms of defense"
He's making reference to the three forms of defense in Matsubayashi, practiced with emphasis, (*6) but very similar to the concepts applied by my dearest Wado Ryu (where are known as Gonosen, Sennosen & Sensennosen)and are based in the three levels of anticipation in the attack.
"There are three types of defenses. The first one is when we block an attack. The second is when we hit back while blocking the counter attack and the third is when we do not block, and we anticipate the attack."
In other forms, there are different requirements and other techniques, but even in competitive karate, these three type of defense technique are being used, and for the third defense is necessary to provoke an attack or just wait for it, in this case we let the attacker think that is him who's going to counteract while, indeed we will do it through his alleged counter attack. (*7)
The Dojo has a little space between the gates of entrance and the front door (8*), when the gates are closed, this little space is use as a small car garage. In japan cars are kept in any available space, since is responsibility of the owners having a stable place where to park. Of Course! Nagamine's car is in his Dojo and is a tiny one. In that area, we can find some old makiwaras, that were left stood in the open.
"The practice of makiwarais helpful to practice the measure between the impact with the right distance. We need to hit with the strength of our bodies, of our hips and with an explosiveness from within. That inner strength is what is important"
But we not only have makiwaras in the Nagamine Dojo. All over the floor, around the wooden tatami, we can find all sort of Okinawan traditional equipment for strengthening. To Sensei Nagamine it's use is to "strengthen muscles, tendons, bones, in a good way for karate, we aren't seeking for physical volume but a body that can move quickly"
Later, to demonstrate his powerful short-distance "kime" , and maybe to amaze us a bit, Nagamine put on a little show for us, in which he breaks some hashis by using the edge of a soft paper, in just one hit in a very short distance. I don't know how important is this but he puts a lot effort in surprising me�.. and I don't want to disappoint him.
I've observed that the main Teachers in Okinawa are the ones with a 10th Dan Rank, and that all of them wear three golden stripes on their belts ( just like O'Sensei Nagamine used to)but Sensei Nagamine has four. We have to say that in the Matsubayashi tradition that black belts ranked as Renshi, wear one stripe, Kyoshis, two, Hanshi, three, and there's a special rank call Hanshishei, a special rank left for the Great Master of Matsubayashi, who wears four stripes.The other styles in island keep the other system with only three stripes as a maximum.
Takayoshi Nagamine has been a widower for years and the truth is that his home is a bit messy.(*9)
-"I have a daughter and a son"
-Are they karate-kas?
-No, At least not in a serious way. I also have a younger brother and a sister.
-Do you only do Karate or have another job like many other Great Masters in the island?
- I just dedicate myself to Karate and in being Soke Nagamine.
-So how's your work as head leader of Matsubayashi?
-Well, president (of the association) is Yasuharu Makishi, Hanshi. We've a dozen of Dojos in Okinawa and many more outside. We've many students in the United States and Europe (Ireland, France, etc)
-And how many Dojos of any Karate style do we have in Okinawa?
-Around a 500 total in the Island, and 200 out of those 500 are in Naha, the capital.
The first seed in the United States was planted by himself, between the years 1966 and 1976, during that time he leaded Matsubayashi in person, from Long Island, New York, or from Ohio. Once there his vision became wider and Nagamine is an open-minded person who tells me "In 1991, we made a Taekwondo exchanged with Korea. It was something very different and interesting"
Regarding the United States ,he's very critical of many of their instructors and rather kept the finest to a large number of followers. Takayoshi seems interested in my trips to Okinawa, whom I 've talked with , what do I know about he's even eyeing on our waitress responsible of our service, a fine young lady. What waitresses have to endure with! (*10)
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