Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Ufugusuku Legacy

This article on Uni Ufugusuku and his descendants attempts to explore the major impact that the Ufugusuku family has had on Ryukyu martial arts. This is only the first part. Check back soon for more.
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
Still somewhat concerned that the power-hungry Amawari could possibly attempt a coup d'état, king Sho Taikyu turned to his father-in-law Gosamaru [護佐丸] who was an extremely powerful Aji and had Gosamaru build the Naka-gusuku [中城] fortress.
The ruins of Naka-gusuku fortress
Naka-gusuku was built directly between Katsuren-gusuku and Sui-gusuku [首里城] and would allow Gosamaru's forces to intervene if Amawari ever attempted to march on the capital to seize Sui-gusuku (and thus the Ryukyu kingdom) for himself.


Sui-gusuku (Shuri Castle)
However, Amawari was clever enough to quickly remove the obstacle imposed by Gosamaru and the forces of Naka-gusuku. He somehow managed to convince king Sho Taikyu that it was really Gosamaru who was plotting against him. So the combined forces of Amawari and Sho Taikyu attacked Naka-gusuku. Gosamaru committed seppuku [切腹] which in my personal opinion confirms his loyalty to his son-in-law the King.

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 [] 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

12 comments:

  1. It is very difficult to find any information on Uhugusuku no tan mei (our way of spelling the family name, I know "F" & "H" are pronounced the same in Japanese), the Bushi who taught my instructor, Taika Seiyu Oyata. So any information you have discovered would be greatly appreciated. If you do have information, could you please let me know how you found it. My wife is Japanese, so if you have anty Japanese language references, we could translate them. Sincerely, Gerard Senese www.ryushukan.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will be discussing Ufugusuku nu Tanme [大城のタンメー] and the art he briefly taught Oyata Seiyu shinshi [親田清勇先生] as the article proceeds. However, if you are impatient, I'll say that the tuidi [取手] (joint-locking) and Kobujutsu [古武術] of Ufugusuku are extremely closely related to the joint locking art and weapons techniques taught Kanagusuku Sanda [金城三郎]. This is not at all surprising given Ufugusuku's function as gate guard at Sui-Gusuku and the relation of this to the role of the Ufuchiku [大築].

      Delete
  2. The Ufugusuku nu Mun is the same as the Mabuni family crest that is used to represent the Shito-kai. Is there a connection between the two families, do you know? Or is it common for the same symbol to represent multiple families?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Mabuni family descends from the Ufugusuku family (or is a branch of it to be more accurate) and continues to use the Ufugusuku family crest for that reason. This is why Mabuni Kenwa shinshi chose to use the Ufugusuku nu Mun as the emblem for Shito ryu. Likewise, the Hokama family also descends from the Ufugusuku family which is why Hokama Tetsuhiro shinshi uses the Ufugusuku nu Mun as the emblem of Kenshi-Kai.

      Delete
    2. Awesome Ryan...I look forward to hearing about those connections that you mentioned...Hokama Sensei and Mabuni Sensei are among my most admired budoka and top 10 inspirations.

      Delete
    3. Nakamoto Kiichi also uses the same mon.

      Delete
  3. [大城賢雄]. Kenyu Oshiro is the real name of the legendary samurai.
    [鬼大城] Oni Ufugusuku It was his nickname that means ghost of the castle or devil of the castle

    ReplyDelete
  4. As I said above, his name was Ufugusuku Kenyu. The Japanese pronunciation of his name is Oshiro, but since he was Uchinanchu the Uchinaaguchi pronunciation "Ufugusuku" was is "real name". Uni Ufugusuku (Oni Oshiro in Japanese) is, as I said above, his nickname which he received due to his great size (Uni were large mythic ogres or if you prefer "devils")

    ReplyDelete
  5. http://blogimg.goo.ne.jp/user_image/28/16/aa13a0a4956e16bf673f448349dd614c.jpg

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the sign says his nickname is Uni-Ufugusuku. Which is also what I said. The part which is "nickname" is "Uni" (Oni in Japanesea). Oshiro and Ufugusuku are the Japanese and Uchinaaguchi pronuciations of the same name. Since he was Okinawan the correct pronunciation is *Ufugusuku*. If you don't believe me I suggest you contact Miyara Shinsho or one of the other experts on Ryukyu languages at the Ryudai.

      Delete
  6. Is there any info as to when Uhugusuku passed away???

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is my understanding that Uni Ufugusuku committed seppuku after a a coup d'etat in which Sho Toku (who had no sons) was killed. This would place his death around 1469 (or a little later). However, I have never seen firm birth or death dates for him.

      Delete