Introduction of the style to Germany

The training of Shorin Ryu (少林流) began for the first time 1970 in Landstuhl. This was triggered by the strong presence of the US Army in Okinawa, as with many other karate styles, there was always a lively exchange between the soldiers and the Okinawan grandmasters of the fighing art. In the case of Landstuhl, there was an American soldier who was stationed in Okinawa for several years and in the end was transferred to US-Air-Base Ramstein in Rhineland-Palatinate. In the process he brought his knowledge of Shorin Ryu with him. Together with other members of the military, a local karate group was set up and five years later the Landstuhl Karate Club was founded by Peter Koenig and Werner Klein. In the years between 1975 and 1979, Peter Koenig deepened his knowledge of Shorin Ryu through several stays in Okinawa. He also had the opportunity to train with grandmaster Hohan Soken.

Peter Koenig with Grandmaster Hohan Soken (1976)

At last, Karl-Heinz Johna joined the club in Landstuhl in 1976 and Thomas Leonhard in 1979, thus both became students of Peter Koenig. At the end of the 1980s, the founders of the Karate club Landstuhl handed over the leadership of the training to Karl-Heinz Johna and Thomas Leonhard.

Karl-Heinz Johna and Thomas Leonhard also maintained contact with Okinawa and thanks to their tremendous efforts, were finally accepted as direct students by grandmaster Yuichi Kuda. Until his death in 1999, both trained under his guidance in the style of Matsumura Kenpo (松村拳法). Each are one of eight personal students of grandmaster Yuichi Kuda.

Grandmaster Yuichi Kuda with his personal students Thomas Leonhard (left) and Karl-Heinz Johna (right), 1997 on his visits to Germany

The contact of the two has also intensified with grandmaster Yuichi Kuda’s son Tomosada Kuda. The annual mutual visits ensured constant further training for the two trainers, so that in 2022 after decades of training they were finally promoted to Shihan (師範, grandmaster). This promotion also symbolizes the official completion of the training.

Grandmaster Tomosada Kuda with his personal students Thomas Leonhard (left) and Karl-Heinz Johna (right), 2022 at the promotion to Shihan (grandmaster)

Today, the Landstuhl Karate club is under the sole management of Karl-Heinz Johna and Thomas Leonhard is head of the Karate club Bischofsheim, that was founded by him in 1998.

The style Matsumura Kenpo

As shown in lineage of the masters of our style, Matsumura Kenpo (松村拳法) is deeply grounded in Shorin Ryu (少林流).

The Shorin Ryu style is characterized by the alternation between “hard” and “soft”. On the one hand there are solid stances and powerful techniques used at the right moment (hard), on the other hand there is natural breathing, a natural (rather high) stance and flexibility (soft). Think of it as the branch of a tree that moves lithely in the rhythm of the wind, but when under tension it can develop explosive power.

Characteristic of the Matsumura Kenpo style are quick evasive movements as well as the simultaneous execution of defense and counter techniques. The goal is to stop physical attacks as quickly and efficiently as possible.

This style was strongly influenced by the founder Yuichi Kuda, among other things through the development of the Nisedi-Katas (二世でぃ型), which can only be found in Matsumura Kenpo. The Nisedi katas contain highly dynamic techniques, are physically very demanding and therefore particularly preferred by younger karateka. It is not without reason that the meaning of Nisedi is also “second generation” or “kata of the young man”, because Yuichi Kuda’s son Tomosada Kuda shapes the Matsumura Kenpo to this day with his fast and smooth style.

Another kata introduced by Yuichi Kuda is the so-called Kobudi kata (こぶでぃ). This kata includes techniques from grandmaster Hohan Soken, which he showed even in old age as his preferred techniques for self-defense. In contrast to the Nisedi katas, the meaning of the kata Kobudi is “advanced kata of the old man” and thus belongs to the advanced katas of our style.

As in any other style of karate, the katas (型) are the core, because they encode the original fighting system. With the katas, the essence of the style can be passed on from teacher to student. In addition, the katas have the fine imprint of the grandmaster who originally developed the kata as well as the influences of the grandmasters, who passed this knowledge on to their students over generations. The corresponding style can only be mastered by intensively learning the katas and understanding the fighting techniques contained therein.

In addition to the Nisedi-, Pinan- (平安) and Naihanshi-katas (鉄騎), the katas Passai (拔塞), Chinto (鎮東), Goju Shiho (五十四歩), Kusanku (公相君), Rohai (鷺牌) and Kobudi complete the unarmed katas of Matsumura Kenpo. As one of the traditional Okinawa Karate styles, so-called Kobudo katas (古武道) are also taught in Matsumura Kenpo. The weapons include bo (棒), nitanbo (二短棒), tonfa (トンファ), sai (釵), kama (鎌), eku (櫂), and nunchaku (双節棍).

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