The 20th century saw martial arts spread from the far east to every corner of the globe and Matayoshi Shinpo was one of the great oriental masters of this era. He believed that in spreading the art of Kobudo, he might spread some of the Okinawan character around the world as well. Something that he thought would help the world become a better place to live. He was a good man and when people recollect their experiences of knowing and training with him, they are always warm and amusing.
In Britain, we never got the chance to know Matayoshi Sensei, he died before most of us began training. We rely on connecting with him through the rigorous practice of his martial arts, through studying the many videos that were made of him and by listening to the words and teachings of those who did know him well enough to pass on his legacy. It sounds like we missed out on many funny experiences.
From speaking to those who knew him well, we learn about his wonderful sense of humour. He was a playful and mischievous teacher who liked to tease people, make jokes and to be teased himself. He liked to have a good belly laugh at any opportunity and he would often play around. Alongside his great sense of humour, he was kind hearted and generous, he did not teach for financial gain and he never ran his dojo as a business. Indeed, he would only ask people to pay for training with what they could afford, if that was nothing, so be it.
Some of the stories about Matayoshi Shinpo are hilarious and he bordered on the ridiculous with some of the funny things he did and said. He did not suffer fools and he teased sycophants affectionately. He used humour often to get around awkward situations and tried to encourage the right spirit in those who he taught.
The Okinawan spirit is one built upon avoiding conflict and promoting harmony, laughter is a key part of that. This is just one reason why their martial arts are so good, because their understanding of balance is not just carried out in the physical exercises they practice, but also in their cultural outlook. Okinawans are happy fun loving people, who live long lives and promote goodwill, tolerance and parity.
In contrast, some particularly unpleasant people in the world today are attempting to control the teaching and spread of Matayoshi Kobudo for their own financial gain. These people are the sort who write and circulate ‘open letters' illegally defaming and slandering others, the sort who take people’s private correspondence and make it public on the internet, and then doctor them to further their cause, the sort who employ lawyers to try and unsuccessfully gain control of Matayoshi Kobudo in other countries, the sort who constantly bad mouth others to distract from their own physical, spiritual and technical inabilities and short comings.
Fortunately these bad people are a tiny minority in the world of Matayoshi Kobudo and if you encounter such negative people, please do not become disillusioned with the art. Even though these people announce themselves as being of importance within the Matayoshi Kobudo community, they are not and are strongly disliked. Not least because the way they act is unlawful and so unbefitting of civilised people, but also because such behaviour is not at all what Matayoshi Shinpo promoted or would have accepted. There are many good Matayoshi Kobudo people around the world and the MKAGB would be happy to direct any people to the honourable instructors.
Matayoshi Shinpo worked hard to share the Kobudo of Okinawa with the world. It was his vision to see many people around the world share and enjoy the art in the Okinawan spirit of openness, friendship and fun. For the vast majority of the Matayoshi Kobudo world, this is what you find. The Matayoshi Kobudo community is on the whole a friendly, vibrant and respectful one.
photo by Alan Dollar