The next successor in the lineage of Matsumura Shorin Ryu was Hohan Soken(1889-1982). He began training at age thirteen under his uncle, Nabe Matsumura. Soken had to work in the fields as a youth in spite of his Samurai heritage. This was due to a political reorganization in the Ryukyu Islands and all of Japan as a result of the Meiji restoration. After ten years of basic training under Nabe Matsumura, Soken began learning the techniques of the white crane or Hakutsuru. This was in 1912 when he was twenty-three years old. According to Soken, this was a secret technique or training methodology which was confined to the Matsumura family. Bushi Matsumura had learned the white crane system in China. Soken’s instruction in the white crane technique emphasized balance training. One training method that he practiced was to perform the Hakutsuru kata on a board floating in a pond. The board was just large enough to support his weight. The Hakutsuru kata, which was erroneously referred to as the “White Swan” technique in a 1967 magazine article is the advanced level of Matsumura Shorin Ryu. The Hakutsuru technique is the main part of the style. It manifests the Chinese concept of the soft (defensive) fist and balance training while imitating the delicate movements of the white crane. In fact, this concept is inherent and woven throughout all the kata of Matsumura Shorin Ryu. For example, Chinto uses the one legged stance of the crane extensively, Gojushiho uses the movements of the neck and beak of the crane in its technique and Hakutsuru uses the wing (hane) of the crane. Master Soken also trained for a while with Kenwa Mabuni (1889-1953) and Gokenki, a Chinese tea merchant living in Okinawa. Gokenki, Soken, Mabuni and several other Okinawans all trained together as a group. Gokenki’s style was Hakutsuru Kenpo (white crane fist style) and he was from the Fukien coast of China.
Up until the 1950’s Master Soken referred to his martial art as Matsumura Shuri-Te, then he began calling his style Matsumura Seito(orthodox) Shorin Ryu. The empty hand kata of the style included those passed on by Bushi Matsumura (as previously noted). However, Master Soken later added to his system’s repertoire Rohai 1, 2 & 3. Rohai means vision of a crane and was originally a Tomari-Te kata dating back to the 1600’s. Hohan Soken was a highly respected master in Okinawa.
He helped pass on the legacy of Matsumura Shorin Ryu. Perhaps his life is reflected best in his own words – his death poem:
“I have taught you all I know. There is no more I can teach you. I am a candle whose light has traveled far. You are my candles to whom I have passed on my light. It is you who will light the path for others. Today I see around me the lights of Shaolin. The flame of tomorrow. My task is done, soon my flame will end. Teach the true spirit of karate-do and one day you may enter the Temple of Shaolin“.
Hohan Soken’s light was most certainly passed on to a candle to help light the way for others. Hohan Soken gave his Menkyo Kaiden to Fusei Kise prior to his death. The legacy of Matsumura Shorin Ryu continues with MASTER KISE FUSEI.