Follow-up on Ufutun Bō

Previously I wrote about Ufutun Bō. As is often the case, there were no tangible answers or new informations shared by even the most authorative persons. In Okinawan martial arts, there are official narratives and these are strictly to be observed and repeated by students and teachers alike.

However, after some time had passed, a colleague send me a 1979 Matayoshi program, which included the following page:

In short, it shows that Maeshiro Shusei performed Ufutun Bō in 1979. Here Ufutun Bō uses the same characters as used in the 1961 newspaper article, that is 大屯棒. Therefore, it seems that the use of the designation Ufutun no Kon 大殿の棍 in the 1999 Matayoshi program was a mistake.

Overall, it is like this:

Ufutun Bō大屯棒1961
Ufutun Bō大屯棒1979
Ufutun no Kon大殿の棍1999

I also wonder whether the 1999 story of origin of the kata also added some confusion. To wrap it up,

  • There was a village bōjutsu from Ufutun in Ōzato Village called Ufutun Bō which was handed down since at least around 1900. This Ufutun Bō was presented in 1961 by a certain Shiroma.
  • Eighteen years later, in 1979, Maeshiro Shusei performed a bōjutsu also named Ufutun Bō.
  • Then, another twenty years later, in 1999, an official Matayoshi program describes Ufutun no Kon as an age-old bōjutsu from the Shuri lineage which was also called “Tunchi Bō” (Tunchi was an aristocratic class of Shuri), and further by the abbot of the Shikina Shrine, and further by others, and finally to Maeshiro Shusei.

Post Scrictum

A Canadian colleague and student of Yogi just now replied on Facebook, saying that Yogi and four other kobudō persons went to a village and still teach something they learned there. Unfortunately, while that Canadian colleague is a student of Yogi’s, he doesn’t speak a word of Japanese, so it is unclear where this story comes from. However, another Matayoshi experts then joined in and also said that Yogi Sensei told him the same story of the five guys going to the village elders larning the kata….

Then, I went on to search for the origin of the story. And I found it. It says the following in an article from 2007:

Yogi Jyosei relates that he and a number of other seniors went at Matayoshi’s direction to a member of his Uechi dojo to learn the kata Ufutun bo, which they later modified to fit the characteristic of the Matayoshi style.

Frederick W. Lohse III.: Matayoshi Kobudo. A Brief History and Overview. In: Meibukan Magazine No. 9, July 2007.

So what it says is that Yogi Sensei and his colleagues went to the Uechi dojo (of Maeshiro Shusei), and not to the village elders.

This is also verified by a colleague of mine earlier this year, who also inquired with Yogi Sensei specifically about Ufutun Bō. This is because Yogi Sensei is one of the few persons who teaches Ufutun Bō. What Yogi Sensei clearly said during two occasions was that Maeshiro Shusei learned Ufutun Bō from a certain master, and that Yogi afterwards learned Ufutun Bō from Maeshiro. Upon inquiring about the name of the person who taught Ufutun Bō to Maeshiro, Yogi Sensei clearly replied that he doesn’t know it.

It was further made clear that Ishiki Hidetada and Yamashiro Kenichi did not learn Ufutun Bō from Maeshiro (while Yogi was still his student), but probably later. In any case, Ishiki became Okinawa world champion in August 2022, during which he also used Ufutun Bō and it has become a standard competition winning kata in Okinawa.

While there are many people in Okinawa, and communication is easy these days for interested parties and those who have access to the kobudō circles on Okinawa, I am unaware of any person who inquired directly with Maeshiro Shusei to clear up the question surrounding the origin of Ufutun Bō as raised in the previous and this current articles.

That is, it seems that nobody has an interest in clarifying it.

© 2022, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.

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