The Once and Future King, Part 2: Crossroads of Okinawa Kenpo

At this juncture it is important to provide some clarification on the Okinawa Kenpo lineage and style decisions that were made about the events after Shigeru Nakamura passed away.  I will phrase them in the forms of questions in order to provide the most concise and clear information to date.

#1: “Taketo was too young to take over the mantle of Okinawa Kenpo.”
I have heard this phrased so many ways-
“He was too young.”
“He was just a boy.”
“This was too much responsibility for someone so young.”
“…Taketo was quite young and unable to fully lead Okinawa Kenpo.”

In order to clarify what actually happened I went right to the source and asked GrandMaster Taketo Nakamura himself. When I was finished with the interview, I walked away with a better picture of what occurred at the time of and after Shigeru Nakamura’s death.

As for the age of Taketo….

In January of 1969 when Shigeru Nakamura passed away, Seikichi Odo was 42 years old. Taketo Nakamura was 37 years old.  Yes, 37. This is verified with both his birth record and the ever useful Okinawan Driver’s License. I do not think the 5 or 6 years difference in age between Seikichi Odo and Taketo Nakamura is that great. Recall, Taketo built, essentially single-handedly, the largest dojo in Okinawa upon completion in 1953.  By 1969, he was an accomplished martial artist, metalsmith and master calligrapher.

So I hope it is clear that age is not the choice or factor that he was not selected by Shigeru Nakamura to take over Okinawa Kenpo.  The next time you read something that says that “Taketo was too young to take over,”  please consider the source first. Secondly, you now know this was clearly not the situation in Okinawa at the time.

Taketo Nakamura, GrandMaster & Saiko Shihan, Okinawa Kenpo Karate Kobudo

#2: “Seikichi Odo was the sempai of the Nakamura dojo, therefore he was the one selected to lead Okinawa Kenpo.”

Seikichi Odo joined Nakamura’s dojo in 1949. He certainly was one of his older students, but according to dojo attendance records, scroll records and verification of Taketo Nakamura, Hiroshi Miyazato was the sempai of the dojo in Nakamura’s dojo located in Nago, Okinawa.

Shigeru Nakamura dojo

#3: “Did Nakamura name anyone to head the Okinawa Kenpo Renmei upon his passing?”

Going back to the source again, I asked Taketo Nakamura this question.  Grandmaster Nakamura was at first silent. He paused and said very very clearly the following:

“My father selected Odo Seikichi as the next leader of the Okinawa Kenpo Renmei, to take his position in this lineage.  The association and the lineage blended as one, when in fact, the Ryu Ha is the key element to our Ryukyu Ti, not the association.  My father selected Odo sensei to fill his position in both the lineage and Renmei.  When it was clear that the Renmei no longer was going to function as it had in the past, we had decided that in the event of Odo Seikichi’s death, the lineage of our Ryukyu Ti, Okinawa Kenpo would revert back to myself in Nago, Okinawa.  Upon my death I will have my son Yasushi take the helm of our RyuHa, Okinawa Kenpo.  My father’s wishes was for everyone to follow Odo after my father’s death.  There was much discussion on why Odo Seikichi was selected.  I think this way now, as I think back in 1969:  My father selected Odo Sensei because he truly captured the essence of what my father Shigeru Nakamura had done. My father felt Odo Seikichi, (and I felt this too) that Odo Seikichi at the time WAS Okinawa Kenpo.  People should know if they have directly studied under Odo Seikichi for a period of time, they should know they were being taught how my father taught all of us.”

#4: “Shigeru Nakamura taught only empty hands forms, no weapons. The decision for his senior students to leave was because Nakamura taught only empty handed forms.  The introduction of weapons into the dojo goes again the will of Shigeru Nakamura.”

I asked this question to Taketo Nakamura. He responded first by saying,

“What do you see on our dojo walls? They are filled with our history and practice of Kobujutsu.  My family Nakamura’s system has several weapon katas accredited to my ancestors, one specifically to my grand uncle.”

Kamas at the Nago Dojo

Weapons at the Nago Dojo

To examine this closer, I looked to investigate and answer from three perspectives:
[1] The Nakamura family lineage
[2] The Sakiyama-Kuniyoshi lineage
[3] The Okinawa Kenpo Renmei (Association) formed in 1955

According to the Ministry of Education of Japan, Prefectural Okinawa Branch and Taketo Nakamura, in the Nakamura family line there were several kobudo forms that are considered part of the Nakamura family system, with one being named after Ko’Ichi Nakamura.  These weapons are the Bo, the Sai, and the Nunchaku.

Again, according to the Ministry of Education records, the documents show that the Ryukyu Ti system from the Sakiyama-Kuniyoshi lineage, there are clearly kobujutsu forms within that family’s heritage, most notably the bo form of “Kobo” which Shigeru Nakamura directly instructed my sensei, Seikichi Odo.

As for the Okinawa Kenpo Renmei/Association:  It is common knowledge of the two founders of this Renemi were Shigeru Nakamura and Zenpo Shimabukuro.  What is not usually noted is that two of the outstanding senior members of this club were kobujutsu specialists as well.  Those two kareteka were Seikichi Uehara of Motobu Udundi and Shimpo Matayoshi, of Matayoshi Kobudo.

If the division of Nakamura’s students split was based on “weapons vs. no weapons” reasoning- from a Nakamura family system, a Ryukyu Ti lineage system and an Okinawa Kenpo Renmei point of reference, clearly in all three cases not only kobudo was taught, it was integral to the part of Okinawa Kenpo.

After all that is said and done there are several things that are clear about Okinawa Kenpo.  We should study the past with as much information we can access to understand the present.  We should be proud as practitioners of Okinawa Kenpo of any kind to move forward in practicing the art we know so well.  Our RyuHa of Ryukyu Ti/Okinawa Kenpo, in all of it’s forms has lasted over 500 years.  My goal is to make sure it lasts another 500.

One response to “The Once and Future King, Part 2: Crossroads of Okinawa Kenpo

  1. Very nice and well done!

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