Gensei-ryu

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Gensei-ryu (???, Gensei-ryu?) is a karate style with roots in Shuri-te, one of the three original karate styles of Okinawa Japan. It was developed by Seiken Shukumine (1925-2001) who combined classic techniques with his own innovations thus developing the special characteristics of Genseiryu. Shukumine had two known teachers, Sadoyama and Kishimoto. The name of Genseiryu was first used in 1953. In Japanese the name consists of three different characters (Kanji):???.

The first is Gen (??) and means ‘mysterious’, ‘occult’, and ‘universe’ but also ‘a subtle and deep truth’. The second is Sei (??) and translates to ‘control’, ‘system’, ‘law’ or ‘rule’ but also ‘creating a form.’ The last is Ryu (?, ryu?) which simply means ‘style’ or ‘school.’ The combination of Gensei (???) could be translated as ‘to control the universe’, but reading Japanese Kanji is not that simple. In this combination the meaning becomes something like “to pursue the deep truth and making it clear through the form,” which can be regarded physically as well as spiritually.

Genseiryu has its roots in an old karate style called Shuri-te. Some sources speak of Tomari-te being the source, but the differences were minimal since both styles were derived from Shorin-Ryu. In the 1920s and ’30s there were three major karate styles in Okinawa. They were all named after the cities where they were developed: Naha, Tomari and Shuri. These three styles (Naha-Te, Tomari-Te and Shuri-Te) are sometimes called more generally Okinawan Karate.

Sokon “Bushi” Matsumura (1809-1898) was one of the masters of Shuri-te. His many students who later became legends of karate included Yasutsune (Anko) Itosu. A lesser known pupil was Bushi Takemura. He developed a version of the kata (?) Kushanku that is still trained in Gensei-ryu and Bugeikan today. One of Takemura’s pupils was Soko Kishimoto (1862-1945, some sources speak of 1868 as birth year). He became the later teacher of Seiken Shukumine.

The young Seiken Shukumine, born 9 December 1925 in Nago-shi on the Japanese island of Okinawa, started at age 8 with karate lessons from Anko Sadoyama, a grandmaster in Koryu Karate (“Old style/school Chinese techniques”). He trained him for four years. When Shukumine was about 14 years old, he was accepted by Soko Kishimoto. Kishimoto was very selective: he had only nine kohai (=pupils/students) throughout his life and also Seiken Shukumine had to insist many times, before Kishimoto decided to teach the young man. The last two students of Kishimoto actually were Seiken Shukumine and Seitoku Higa (born 1920). Another source states that Seiken Shukumine was tested before Kishimoto accepted him as a student. When Shukumine and Kishimoto met for the first time, Kishimoto took a poker and threw a piece of wooden coal with full force towards Shukumine, who evaded. Kishimoto accepted him as a student on one condition: to promise him to keep the techniques a secret.[1][2]

During the Second World War the 18-year-old Shukumine was drafted into the navy and had to join the Japanese Kamikaze Corps where he became a “kaiten” pilot, a one-man ship packed with explosives used in kamikaze suicide attacks against American warships. Seiken Shukumine was trained to guide this small craft through the protective maze of steel netting that was laid down in the water around the ships, to prevent them from being attacked by these kaiten. He thought in a martial art way to man oeuvre between these steel nettings and he tried to think of techniques to avoid enemy torpedoes. He learned that he had to work hard to penetrate the enemy’s defenses, and the imagination of the martial artist in him saw how such an approach could be adapted to traditional karate to make for a more supple and dynamic form of combat.

Fortunately Shukumine was never appointed for a suicide attack and he survived the war. But when he came back home he found Okinawa demolished by the bombings and his master Soko Kishomoto was killed during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. Shukumine retreated in solitude for a couple of years and started to develop his karate style with in the back of his head his training as a kaiten pilot. He combined his new techniques with the classic techniques he had learned from his masters Sadoyama and Kishimoto, thus developing the special characteristics of Gensei-ryu.

In 1949 in the town of Ito (Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan) Seiken Shukumine demonstrated publicly his karate techniques for the first time. In October 1950 Seiken Shukumine participated in a karate exhibition arranged by Nippon TV. In this demonstration also participated other masters like Hidetaka Nishiyama (of the Japan Karate Association, JKA), Yasuhiro Konishi (Ryobukai) Ryusho Sakagami (Itosukai), H. Kenjo (Kenshukai), Kanki Izumikawa and Shikan (Seiichi) Akamine (both of Goju-ryu). Shukumine demonstrated a.o. the kata Koshokun dai, Tameshiwari (breaking technique, in this case Shukumine broke 34 roof tiles with shuto, the edge of the open hand) and Hachidan-tobi-geri (jumping kick with 8 kicks in one jump). In the early 1950s Shukumine creates Sansai no kata, a masterpiece of Gensei-ryu karate.

In 1953 Sensei Shukumine started to give lessons on the Tachikawa military base to the Self-Defense Forces and for the next 10 years he gave lessons at many dojos (like at universities and corporate groups) around the Tokyo area. It was in 1953 that Shukumine officially announced his techniques were Gensei-ryu, but the year 1950 is often mentioned as the year of the beginning of Gensei-ryu. In January 2005 a joint celebration was held for 55 years of Gensei-ryu and 40 years of Taido in Tokyo, Japan, where also the wife, son and daughters of Shukumine were present [1].

In 1962 Shukumine introduced a new martial art. This martial art is a further development of Gensei-ryu which he named Taido. Taido is not to be regarded as karate, but as a new martial art. From that point on, Shukumine was mainly involved with Taido and many of his pupils started to train Taido as well. However, some Taido people kept a friendly relationship with some Gensei-ryu people and Shukumine was still occasionally involved in Gensei-ryu karate. For example, he wrote books about karate (1964 and mid 1970s) and occasionally gave lessons to his former students of Gensei-ryu karate. Some say he wanted to convince them to join him in Taido. Pictures show he taught several Gensei-ryu karate kata during these unique lessons. He even held examinations under the name of Gensei-ryu. The organization Genseiryu-Butokukai claims that Shukumine never held any examinations in Gensei-ryu after October 1961. However, several certificates signed and stamped show this claim is incorrect. After he started to focus mainly on Taido he appointed his successor, Yamada, one of Shukumine’s first students. Yamada started the organization called the Nippon Karatedo Budo Kyokai (translation: Japanese Karatedo and Martial Arts Association) of which he became the first president. At the moment there are disputes about who is the official successor and the current head instructor of Gensei-ryu. Some mention Yamada as the official successor. Others claim that Tosa, another early student of Shukumine, was announced to be successor.

In 1964 Shukumine published his book Shin Karatedo Kyohan in which he describes the techniques and kata, which among others are being used in the World Genseiryu Karatedo Federation. Some of the kata in the book are explained thoroughly, with pictures.

There are many more kata mentioned in this book, without pictures, a total of about 44 kata, including Taikyoku-Shodan, Tensho-no-Kata, Wankan, etc. In the book he mentions the name Genseiryu a few times. He refer to the contents of the book as being Koryu (??), which is considered as ‘old tradition’ or ‘old school’ karate. In the book he added some kata that he created himself: Ten-i no Kata Chi-i no Kata Jin-i no Kata and Sansai. In the book Shin Karatedo Kyohan many kata and techniques and training materials are described. The book shows that Genseiryu is based on a combination of this ‘old school’ or classic karate (with the kata Naifanchi, Bassai and Kusanku (or Koshokun (Dai)) with new techniques and the typical Genseiryu kata Ten-i no Kata, Chi-i no Kata, Jin-i no Kata and Sansai.

From the 1960s Gensei-ryu started to spread also outside Japan, to countries like the USA, Spain, Finland, Holland, Denmark, Australia, Brazil, India, etc.

In the mid 1970s, Shukumine wrote another book which is much lesser known in the karate world than his first one. The title of this book is (translated into English) “The Karate training by complete drawing” and has about 200 pages where he describes karate techniques but also the differences between karate and judo, karate and aikido, karate and Taido, etc.

In 1988 Shukumine published another book, this time about Taido. In this book Taido gairo, he describes the basic principles and techniques of Taido. In the book he also states that people interested in Gensei-ryu would find important information in his first book Shin Karatedo Kyohan.