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Gusukuma Shinpan
1890-1954

Gusukuma Shinpan

  One of Yasutsune "Ankoh" Itosu's students was Gusukuma Shinpan (1890-1954) who was also a peer of Chibana Choshin. Gusukuma, also called Shinpan Shiroma by the Japanese, is virtually unknown due to the fact that he was a very quiet individual who was not interested in spreading the art that he so loved. His only concern was to teach good karate and hence only had a few dedicated students.
 

SHORIN-RYU TRAINING IN THE 1950'S
Although a peer of Chibana Choshin, very little is said about the master technician, Gusukuma Shinpan. He began teaching shortly after WWII and was close friends with Miyagi Chojun, Kyoda Jyuhatsu and Kyan Chotoku. He taught regularly at Shuri Castle and had a dojo at his home in Nishihara City. He was a school teacher by profession but his first love was Shuri-style karate.

One of his former students was Iha Seikichi (who presently resides in East Lansing, Michigan) who often talks about his teacher. The following are some thoughts concerning how it was like to train in the l950's under Gusukuma:

Training under Gusukuma-sensei was very strict and traditional. It was a lot of self-training where he would watch to see how hard you wanted to learn. All students would first become an apprentice student and help clean the dojo for six months to a year. They could watch training but could not take part in receiving instructions.

When Gusukuma-sensei thought that they were ready, he would then tell them to join in. Sensei never actively taught but would have the senior students do all the teaching. Sensei would only teach the top two or three students and then have them pass on the knowledge. This was a very traditional way of teaching.

During class, sensei would evaluate every student and advise them of their weaknesses. He would allow each student to demonstrate two kata for him while he watched. Sensei would then tell them that they needed work on their stances, or their power, etc. They would then train themselves based on sensei's evaluation. Sensei would sometimes show a student a technique and then say, "Ha, I showed you something! You are very lucky I did this! Now go train!!!"

Gusukuma-sensei would personally teach the top two or three senior students and it was then their responsibility to pass on the methods to the rest of the students. One senior would always be there to teach while sensei observed or trained by himself. Sensei was about 5'1" and weighed about 125 pounds. He was extremely strong and trained his fists and toes on the makiwara everyday. He believed a karate-man must be able to generate power equivalent to three times their own body weight with either fist or foot. Needless to say, the students were constantly repairing the makiwara punching boards.

If a student did not train hard, Gusukuma-sensei would tell him that he should leave and come back when he was ready to train. If the student continued with this attitude, Gusukuma-sensei would tell him not to come back unless he was serious about learning and training. Sensei was hardest on students that did not listen. He had a good memory and would often tell a student to work on his punch or kick or kata. If the student did not do this then sensei would bring it to their attention and kick him out of the dojo for wasting his time by not listening.

GUSUKUMA'S TRIP TO JAPAN
Just before the war and when Gusukuma Shinpan was in his prime he vacationed in Japan and saw a martial arts demonstration. He watched a group of female yari (spear) experts who had a dojo by his home in Tokyo. He was so impressed by their focus that he decided to take lessons in the yari from the female Sensei.

Gusukuma then went to her dojo and requested lessons. He also stated that he would only be in Japan for about three months because he was a high school teacher in Okinawa and that he had to return to teach. The teacher then gave him a wooden yari and showed him how to perform "nuki" (a spear thrust). He was then told to practice for about two or three hours.

Gusukuma continued to go to the dojo every day for three months and the only technique he practiced was the "nuki." Just before he returned to Okinawa, he asked the Sensei if he was doing well and whether he should practice other techniques. She replied that he was doing well but that he needed more practice before he could learn another technique. He then asked her what was the average time it took to go on to another technique. She replied, "about three years."

At the end of his stay in Japan, Gusukuma once again approached his Sensei to advise her he was returning to Okinawa. He thanked her for her time and stated that he would continue to practice and would be back next year.

She then took a long look at the great Gusukuma and said, "I'm glad that you'll continue to practice. We all need to do this in order to learn the WAY. Thank you for your efforts and good-bye." She then walked away.

GUSUKUMA'S CONSIDERATIONS
Gusukuma Shinpan often spoke of the eight consideration in kicking and the four considerations of the punch.

Considerations for kicking:
1. When kicking in kata or kumite, the back must be straight and true so as to allow you to punch if blocked.
2. The quickest kicks are of the snapping variety.
3. The kata kicks are performed with the toe-tipped foot.
4. The most important kick is that done to the chudan (middle) area.
5. Consider the knee the "hinge" of the kick.
6. The ankle must be strong in kicking as the wrist is strong in punching.
7. The leg is loose and flexible while the toes are tight. Just like a punch, the arm is loose while the fist is tight.
8. When kicking, kick with both legs.
 

Considerations for punching:
1. The large knuckle finger and the thumb squeeze the index finger in a good fist.
2. In making a strong fist, the index finger is folded first.
3. Punching is done with a loose arm and tight fist.
4. You strike with the index knuckle first.

* from Ernest Estrada, Okinawa Shorinryu Kyoshi

 

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