Soken Hohan

In 1889 Soken Hohan was born to a samurai family in Gaja, Nishihara, Okinawa. By the time Soken sensei was born the Japanese had successfully invaded Okinawa and deposed the Okinawan king. This created a great hardship for many Okinawan shizoku1. From a young age Soken sensei was forced to work in the fields along with the rest of his family despite their noble status. He also took occasional employment pulling a rickshaw and gaurding the Gaja fields against thieves and bandits.

Soken sensei was introduced to karate at the age of thirteen. His training was led by his maternal uncle, Matsumura Nabe. Nabi Tanmei was Matsumura Sokon's grandson so Soken sensei was the great-grandson of the style's founder. By the age of 23 Sokon sensei was said to have learned all of the kata og his uncle's system including the rare Hakutsuru (trans. White Crane) form. Nabe is supposed to have learned all of these kata from his grandfather but he once made a contradictory statement that Matsumura Sokon taught the Hakutsuru kata only to his son. This leaves open the possibility that Sokon sensei picked up some kata from sources other than his uncle.

In 1920 Soken sensei emigrated from Okinawa to Argentina. He spent the World War II period there working as a farm worker. His absence from Japan allowed him to maintain the purity of his style at a time when others were coming under the influence of Japanese martial arts methods. In 1952 he returned to Okinawa and began teaching his style of karate calling it Matsumura Seito Shorin Ryu, writing Shorin with the Chinese characters for Shaolin. It's worth noting that Sokon sensei acknowledged that there were other legitimate Shorin ryu styles. According to him his great-grandfather had around a dozen dedicated students each of whom modified and expanded what they were taught. His claim to seito or orthodox teaching, derived from the fact that his uncle learned only from Bushi Matsumura and taught only what he had learned, leaving Sokon sensei with a pure version of the original style.

Soken sensei's teachings included a variety of traditional karate kata as well as a variety of traditional weapons (specifically the sai, kama, kusarigama, tonfa, suruchin and nunchaku) all learned from his uncle. He was also known to teach bo kata learned from Ushi Komesu Tanmei of Nishihara. This was something of a rarity at the time. When Soken sensei was young kobudo was rarely taught. In Sokon sensei's opinion, much of the kobudo taught today derived from what was originally taught by Matsumura Sokon.

Sokon sensei died in 1983, survived by two sons who, unfortunately, had little interest in karate.

1 lit. "of samurai stock"


Bishop, Mark. Okinawan Karate: Teachers, Styles and Secret Techniques

Interview with Soken Hohan published by Fighting Arts and available on-line at