matsumura2The Precepts of Master Matsumura

Sokon Matsumura, also known as Bushi (Warrior) Matsumura and Shuri Matsumura (1797-1889), was one of the most renowned martial artists of his time. He was known as a master “par excellence” and the organizer and founder of Shorin Ryu Karate. Matsumura is responsible for carrying on the teachings of the old Shuri-Te martial arts. Matsumura chose the name Shorin Ryu (Shaolin Ssuin Chinese) as the name of his Ryu because it is related back to the Shaolin Temple in China, renowned for its fighters. Although some authorities believe that Anko Itosu (1830-1915), Matsumura’s student, is actually responsible for adopting the name Shorin Ryu.

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“You must first resolve to study if you wish to understand the truth of martial arts. This resolve is very important.

Fundamentally, the arts and the martial arts are the same. Each has three fundamental elements.

As far as Art is concerned they are Shisho-no-Gaku, Kunko-no-Gaku and Jussha-no-Gaku.

Shisho-no-Gaku is the art of creative writing and reading – in a word, literature.

Kunko-no-Gaku means to study the past and gain an understanding of ethics by relating past events to our way of life.

Both Shisho-no-Gaku and Kunko-no-Gaku are incomplete until supplemented by Jussha-no-Gaku, (the study of the moral aspects of the teaching of Confucius).

Have a tranquil heart and you can prevail over a village, a country, or the world. The study of Jussha-no-Gaku is the supreme study over both Shisho-no-Gaku and Kunko-no-Gaku. These then are the three elements necessary for the study of the Arts.

If we consider Budo, there are also three precepts. They are Gukushi-no-Bugei, Meimoko-no-Bugei and Budo-no-Bugei.

Gukushi-no-Bugei is nothing more than a technical knowledge of Bugei.

Meimoko-no-Bugei refers to a person who has physical understanding of Bugei. He can be a powerful and violent person who can easily defeat other men. He has no self-control and is dangerous and can even harm his own family.

Budo-no-Bugei is what I admire. With this you can let the enemy destroy himself – just wait with a calm heart and the enemy will defeat himself.

People who practice Budo-no-Bugei are loyal to their friends, their parents and their country. They will do nothing that is unnatural and contrary to nature.

We have “seven virtues of Bu”. They are:

  1. Bu prohibits violence.
  2. Bu keeps discipline in soldiers.
  3. Bu keeps control among the population.
  4. Bu spreads virtue.
  5. Bu gives a peaceful heart.
  6. Bu helps keep peace between people.
  7. Bu makes people or a nation prosperous.

Our forefathers handed these seven virtues down to us.

Just as Jussha-no-Gaku is supreme in the arts, so Budo-no-Bugei is supreme in the martial arts.

“Mon-Bu” (Art and Martial Arts) have the same common elements. We do not need Gukushi-no-Bugei or Meimoko-no-Bugei – this is the most important thing.

I leave these words to my wise and beloved deshi Kuwae.”

– Bucho Matsumura


This is a great quote from Sokon Matsumura.  It is easy to see his mindset in life and karate.  He appears to be a true gentleman, having respect for himself and for others.  I personally find it encouraging that he does not say to spend all your time practicing karate.  Rather, he encourages his students to educate themselves, learn proper manners (be a true old world gentleman), and gain wisdom.  All three of these traits or characteristics have been deemed unnecessary by our modern “enlightened” society.  Personally, I think this view of constant improvement in education, culture and manners, and wisdom is something we should all strive for.  Lastly, I would note that he, does not see a conflict between the warrior and maintaining peace.  Note how he says “Bu prohibits violence, Bu keeps discipline in soldiers, and Bu helps keep peace between people.”  The clear assumption being that the function of the warrior is not to rape, pillage, and burn.  Rather it is to stabilize and provide peace, even if force is required to overcome the ones who are attempting to rob a people of peace.  Perhaps you disagree.  Share your thoughts and comments below!

From a Biblical perspective on education, chivalry, and wisdom, I would add Romans 12:1-2 into the conversation:

Therefore, I exhort you, brother, through the mercies of God to present your bodies a living, holy, pleasing sacrifice to God, (which is) your reasonable worship.  And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of the mind so that you prove the will of God, (which is) good and acceptable and perfect. (Nathan’s Translation)

We should daily strive to be transformed into the likeness of Christ.  This, of course, requires active participation on our part.

Sensei Nathan Brown

Wake Forest Shorin Ryu Chrisitan Karate & Kobudo