The 2nd Okinawa Karate Academy — An unknown group of early modern Karate persons (2) — Matsuda Seiei

On Monday, November 25, from 2-4 pm, the “2nd Okinawa Karate Academy” was held at the Auditorium on the 4th floor of the Okinawa Prefectural Office. The topic was new findings regarding “An unknown group of early modern Karate persons.”

Good friend Ulf Karlsson from Sweden and Morikazu Kyan from Okinawa attended, and Ulf shared the minutes of the lecture.

The speaker was Nakamura Akira of the Okinawa Prefectural Karate Promotion Division.


The achievements of experts such as Itosu Ankō (1831-1915), Hanashiro Chōmo (1869-1945), and Yabu Kentsū (1866-1937) are well known. However, there are karate persons from the initial stages of karate’s spread in educational settings who were forgotten and buried in history. In the current lecture, Nakamura Akira introduced three unknown karate persons and the “secret story of karate’s introduction” to school education.

2. Matsuda Seiei (1887? – death dates unknown) — Beginning the Spread of Karate Towards School Education

Short curriculum vitae

  • Around 1887: Born in Shuri Kinjō.
  • 1903: Entered the Prefectural Middle School.
  • 1904, May: Gave a speech with the topic “Concerning Firmness of Character (Inner strength)” at the oratorical meeting of the Prefectural Middle School.
  •  About 1904, April to June: Demonstrated Karate as a side show during class meeting, which caught the attention of the prinicpal.
  • 1904, December: Performed Karate during his speech at the oratorical meeting.
  • 1906: It seems that he has dropped out of Prefectural Middle School (maybe he was expulsed).
  • About 1906 to 1909: Immigration to Hawaii.
  • 1910: Together with Yabu Kenden, he was involved in the establishment of the association of people from Okinawa prefecture called the “Kyūyō Club.”
  • 1910: a Karate performance is held at the opening ceremony of the same club (Matsuda Seiei is head of the athletic department).
  • 1912: Published a New Year’s greeting announcement in the New Year’s Day issue of the  Hawaii Colonization Newspaper (Hawaii Shokumin Shinbun).
  • 1934: Nakayoshi Ryōkō publishes the article “The Founder of Karate Gymnastics — The Pride of the 1st Middle School / Reminiscences of our Classmate Matsuda who Created that Stimulus“ (Yōshū, No. 35, 1934).

Regarding details on how karate was introduced to school education, it has been written in contemporary sources that:

1905 <omission> – From the end of last year, all present staff members and teachers commenced research and since it [karate] was approved as being valuable for education, it is imposed on general students starting this current academic year

“The History of the Prefectural Middle School,” in: Okinawa Education, No. 33, 1908.

In other words, Shuri middle school staff began practicing karate in 1904, and began teaching it to students from January 1905. (NOTE: Apparently, according to researcher Nakamura Akira, the academic school year at that time started in January. Today, on the other hand, the academic school year starts in April.)

However, there was also an event/incident that should be called the “Secret Story of Karate’s Introduction.” The process of it was described by Nakayoshi Ryōkō in an article published in the alumni magazine of the prefectural middle school:

The original stimulus that led to the spread of karate to the world was my classmate Matsuda from Kinjō town in Shuri.

Nakayoshi Ryōkō: “The Founder of Karate Gymnastics — The Pride of the 1st Middle School / Reminiscences of our Classmate Matsuda who Created that Stimulus.“ In: Yōshū, No. 35, 1934

About a class meeting on one day in 1904 it was written:

“Above-mentioned Matsuda performed karate as his showpiece. <Omission>. Everybody celebrated Matsuda with “Banzai” and a lot of applause, but the person most interested was the school principal Ōkubo sensei. Ōkubo sensei, who knew this was a martial art suitable to temper mind and body, was delighted in the same way that Christopher Columbus must have been when he discovered America. The next day he immediately talked to Hanashiro Chōmo, a physical exercises (taisō) teacher at the time, and talked to early modern karate expert Itosu, and transferred karate to school.

In other words, after seeing Matsuda Seiei’s performance of karate, Shuri middle school principal Ōkubo Shūhachi recognized the effectiveness of karate, invited Itosu Ankō through Hanashiro Chōmo, and introduced karate into school education.

It was Ōkubo Shūhachi 大久保周八 (orange circle) who recognized the effectiveness of Karate, invited Itosu Ankō through Hanashiro Chōmo, and then introduced karate to school educaation. Hanashro Chomo (left) and Itosu Anko (right) on a photo discovered by Nakamura Akira. From a photo donated by the Nakagusuku family to the Kochi Prefectural Library.

Therefore, it can be said that Matsuda’s performance was the beginning of karate instruction in school education, that is, a monumental performance for the departure of karate towards modern times.

However, currently little is known about Matsuda. Nakayoshi continues above secret story of karate’s introduction, remembering that:

Matsuda dropped out of school halfway and traveled to Hawaii, where he seems to have struggled hard. Finally he was attacked by the demon of ill health and died in the middle of his activities.

After migrating to Hawaii, Matsuda was known to have played a central role, including acting as a sports club manager for the Kyūyō Club, an association of people from Okinawa prefecture (Cf. Japanese-Hawaiian Daily, September 12, 1910). In addition, from the fact that Matsuda Seiei was a karate master and head of the athletic department of the Kyūyō Club, and since karate performances were held at events of that same Kyūyō Club, he must have been more or less involved in the karate performances.

As a side note, in an academic study of the Hawaii Colonization Newspaper (Hawaii Shokumin Shinbun) about the atheltic activities of Japanese-Americans in Hawaii from 1908 to 1914, it was also established that sumō, fencing (gekken), and jūjutsu were actively played by Japanese-Americans at that time. Due to the knowledge we gained on Matsuda Seiei, karate can also be added to that list.

Nakayoshi closes his text about Matsuda Seiei by noting that

It would have been a dream for all of us to perform karate as peerless as he at a class meeting party.

Therefore, Matsuda Seiei, whose karate conquered the whole world, is a person whose influence should be reexamined by the karate world.

© 2019, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.

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