Akamine Eisuke Hanshi

Akamine Eisuke Hanshi

Akamine Eisuke
1925 – 1999

“If I teach you kata, you will forget it tomorrow. But, if I teach you waza, you will have it for a lifetime.”

Akamine Eisuke was born May 1, 1925 in the last years of the Taisho Era. Until his death on January 13, 1999, he lived in the Nesabu section of Tomigusuku, the small village in southern Okinawa where he was born.

In 1942, at the age of seventeen, he began the study of Yamani-ryu bojutsu (staff art) under Higa Seichiro, Higa Raisuke, Higa Jisanburo and Akamine Yohei (no relation). From his early teachers, Akamine Sensei learned these kata: Soeshi no Kon, Sakugawa no Kon, Shirataru no Kon and Yuniga no Kon.

In 1944, Akamine Sensei married Shizuko. Shortly thereafter, at age nineteen, he was drafted into the Japanese army where he served one year in Taiwan. When he returned to Okinawa, Akamine Sensei resumed vegetable and sugar cane farming and his study of Yamani-ryu bojutsu.

Akamine Eisuke and Taira Shinken

Akamine Eisuke and Taira Shinken

In 1959, Taira Shinken was teaching kobudo in a Goju-ryu karate dojo in Naha, Okinawa. While there, he heard of great bojutsu teachers who lived in the Kakazu section of Tomigusuku village. To satisfy his curiosity, he went to Tomigusuku to study Yamani-ryu bojutsu with Akamine Sensei’s teachers. This was the first meeting between Taira Shinken and Akamine Sensei.

One day, Taira was asked to demonstrate tekko (metal knuckles), nunchaku (horse bridle) and sai (truncheon). Akamine Sensei had never seen these weapons before. He was so impressed with Taira’s waza that he decided to become his deshi (student).

As Taira’s senior student, Akamine Sensei would be in the unique position of watching him organize the various waza into a system that would eventually become Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai.

In addition to building a structured curriculum, Taira was adding a training element that would permeate all Ryukyu Kobudo waza and kata and as a result become part of the signature of this weapons system. Higa Yuchoku was a student of Chibana Chosin and a noted teacher of Ti, the origin of karate. Higa and Taira Shinken were close friends.

Akamine Eisuke at the Shinbukan

Akamine Eisuke at the Shinbukan

As he continued his relentless study, Taira recognized that kobudo, while effective, lacked the explosive power found in Ti. Specifically, it lacked gamanku (hip technique).

Taira’s ability to effectively demonstrate gamanku was limited by his rigid, muscular physique and a permanent ankle injury. However, he insisted on it from his students.

So, he asked Higa Yuchoku to help infuse his system of kobudo with gamanku. After Taira’s death, Akamine Sensei continued to seek Higa’s counsel on the use of gamanku.

In his later years, Taira primarily taught in the garden at Akamine Sensei’s home. The torrential rains common in Okinawa often interrupted training. In 1970, at Taira’s request, Akamine built a tin roof over the garden and enclosed two sides. Shortly before his death, Taira gathered his students at Akamine Sensei’s dojo and distributed certificates of rank. During this ceremony, he also awarded Akamine Sensei the title of shihan (full instructor). Akamine Sensei’s shihan license and the certificates of rank issued that day were the first and only kakemono (scrolls) ever issued by Taira Shinken.

After Taira succumbed to cancer in 1970, Akamine Sensei finished the remaining two sides of the dojo with traditional stacking windows to provide ventilation. Once completed, he named the dojo the Shinbukan in honor of his teacher. It is this same dojo that Akamine Sensei’s original students came to train.

In the years since, the original building has been replaced by a more modern, three-story building which contains Akamine Sensei’s home, dojo and his daughter’s koto (string instrument) dojo. Little else has changed. Akamine kept the name, structure and goals of Taira’s organization intact.

Akamine Sensei taught waza and kata for all of the nine weapons of Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai:

Akamine Eisuke at the Shinbukan

Akamine Eisuke at the Shinbukan

  • bo (staff)
  • sai (iron truncheon)
  • nunchaku (horse bridle)
  • kama (sickle)
  • tekko (metal knuckles)
  • tsuifa (millstone handle)
  • eiku (oar)
  • suruchin (weighted rope)
  • tinbe (shield and short spear)

In addition, Akamine Sensei continued Taira’s tradition of research and with the help of his students, brought several kata back from extinction.

By all accounts, Akamine Sensei was a quiet and stern teacher whose primary focus was the development of waza. Within the Okinawan martial arts community, he was known as a teacher’s teacher … someone that teachers came to for a deeper understanding of their own techniques.

With a small dojo and a focus on quality rather than quantity, Akamine Sensei intentionally kept his student roster small. He only had fourteen first generation students.