Traditional Genseiryu karate History
Genseiryū (玄制流?) 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 Genseiryū. Shukumine had two known teachers, Sadoyama and Kishimoto. The name Genseiryū was first used in 1953. In Japanese the name consists of three different characters (kanji):玄制流.
The first is gen (玄?) and means mysterious occult and universe but also a subtle and deep truth.
The second is sei (制) and translates to control system law or rule but also creating a form.
The last is ryū (流 ryū) which simply means ’style or ’school.
The combination of gensei (玄制) could be translated as to control the universe, but is interpreted by members of the school to mean something like to pursue the deep truth and making it clear through the form, which can be regarded physically as well as spiritually.
Genseiryū 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 Shōrin-ryū.
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.
Sensei Matsumura “Bushi” Sōkon (1809-1898) was one of the masters of Shuri-te. His many students who later became legends of karate included Yasutsune (Ankō) Itosu. A lesser known pupil was Bushi Takemura. He developed a version of the kata (型) Kushanku that is still trained in Genseiryū and Bugeikan today.
One of sensei Takemura’s pupils was sensei Kishimoto (1862-1945, some sources speak of 1868 as birth year). He became the later teacher of sensei Seiken Shukumine.
Sensei Seiken Shukumine, born 9 December 1925 in Nago on the Japanese island of Okinawa, started at age 8 with karate lessons from Ankō Sadoyama, a grandmaster in koryū karate (“Old style/school Chinese techniques”). He trained him for four years. When sensei Shukumine was about 14 years old, he was accepted by Kishimoto. Kishimoto was very selective: he had only nine kōhai (=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 sensei Seiken Shukumine was tested before Kishimoto accepted him as a student. When sensei Shukumine and Kishimoto met for the first time, Kishimoto took a poker and threw a piece of wooden coal with full force towards sensei Shukumine, who evaded. Kishimoto accepted him as a student on one condition: to promise him to keep the techniques a secret.
During the Second World War the 18-year-old sensei 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. sensei 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 manoeuvre between these steel nettings and 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 sensei 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. sensei 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 Genseiryū.
In 1949 in the town of Itō (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 Television. 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 Gōjū-ryū). Shukumine demonstrated a.o. the kata Koshokun dai, Tameshiwari (breaking technique, in this case Shukumine broke 34 roof tiles with shutō, the edge of the open hand) and Hachidan-tobi-geri (jumping kick with 8 kicks in one jump). In the early 1950s Shukumine created Sansai no kata, a masterpiece of Genseiryū 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 (e.g. at universities and corporate groups) around the Tokyo area. It was in 1953 that Shukumine officially announced his techniques were Genseiryū, but the year 1950 is often mentioned as the year of the beginning of Genseiryū.
In 1962 sensei Shukumine introduced a new martial art. This martial art is a further development of Genseiryū which he named Taidō. Taidō is not to be regarded as karate, but as a new martial art. From that point on, Shukumine was mainly involved with Taidō and many of his pupils started to train in Taidō as well. However, some students of Taidō kept a friendly relationship with some students of Genseiryū and Shukumine was still occasionally involved with his former students, as he wished for them to join him in Taido.