|Ufugusuku Kenyu rescuing princess Momoto Fumiagari|
One of the earliest of Okinawa's famous martial arts masters was Ufugusuku Kenyu [大城賢雄]. He was better known as Uni Ufugusuku [鬼大城] or "Ufugusuku the Ogre", a moniker he received because of his imposing stature (reportedly he was almost 6' tall). He was a 15th century scholar-aristocrat (descended of Okinawan royalty) and was the personal attendant/protector of Momoto Fumiagari [百度踏揚] the daughter of the King Sho Taikyu [尚泰久]. He was a master of Kenjutsu [剣術] and Bojutsu [棒術] as well as the ancillary (grappling based) unarmed fighting method of the period (the forerunner of Ti [手]).
|Ufugusuku nu Mun [大城の紋]: Symbol of the Ufugusuku family|
I suppose some folks will be surprised by the mention of Kenjutsu. However, it is important to understand that during this period Okinawan martial arts were essentially Japanese based. Japanese martial arts entered Okinawa via a large influx of members of the Minamoto [源] and the Taira [平氏] clans as a result of the Genpei Gassen [源平合戦] (1180–1185). It is beyond the scope this article, but it is worth mentioning that Okinawan royalty is closely associated with the Minamoto clan and that Taira is still a very common name on Okinawa. Japanese weapons, bujutsu, and military strategy became closely associated with Okinawan royalty and the Aji [按司].
Or to be more accurate, it is because of these weapons, martial skills, and strategies that these families were able to seize power and become kings and lords in the first place.
Uni Ufugusuku traveled with Momoto Fumiagari to Katsuren-gusuku [勝連城] when she married Amawari [阿麻和利] the Aji of that castle. Amawari was famous for his ambition and king Sho Taikyu sought to use a family bond to decrease the chance that Amawari would attempt to depose him.
|The ruins of Katsuren-gusuku|
|The ruins of Naka-gusuku fortress|
|Sui-gusuku (Shuri Castle)|
Now, with his primary obstacle removed, Amawari turned his attention towards his real objective; stealing the throne of his father-in-law king Sho Taikyu. Princess Momoto Fumiagari (along with her loyal attendant/protector Uni Ufugusuku) was able to learn of her husband's plot and, with the aid of Uni Ufugusuku, was able to escape Katsuren-gusuku and warn her father of the impending attack. Uni Ufugusuku lead the forces of Sho Taikyu in the successful military campaign against Amawari. Uni Ufugusuku used his katana [刀] to personally execute Amawari. Ufugusuku's sword continued to be passed down as a cultural treasure into the 20th century. However, during the Battle of Okinawa Ufugusuku's katana was lost, stolen, or destroyed...
|Sign mentioning Ufugusuku's martial arts mastery in front of the ruins of Chibana-gusuku|
In recognition of his martial skill and loyalty to the king, Uni Ufugusuku was given Chibana-gusuku [知花城] (which he restored). Ufugusuku Kenyu married princess Momoto Fumiagari who had fallen in love with him after he rescued her from her power-obsessed husband Amawari and saved her father from violent overthrow.
|Tomb of Uni Ufugusuku|
|Tomb of Momoto Fumiagari (Uni Ufugusuku's wife)|
MORE TO COME...
Learn how modern martial arts masters like Mabuni Kenwa [摩文仁賢和], Hokama Tetsuhiro [外間利弘], Oyata Seiyu [親田清勇], Oshiro Tetsuhiro [大城利弘 ] and others are linked to the ancient Ufugusuku Legacy