This is a very famous story, told in many different versions, which helped Matsumura win his „bushi” (warrior) title. It shows that a true martial artist does not only need to be a good technician but an intelligent and resourceful person too.
This story took place under the King Sho Ko’s reign, it was marked with court intrigues, corruption and the government power in the hands of a small group of people in his court. This is always the case when the power falls in the hands of a weak king.
With the intent of keeping the population under control despite the constant tax raises, the king established an annual event that included bull fights and martial arts to entertain the populace. It immediately became one of the most important events of the year.
One specific year, after the king had received a fine bull from the Emperor of Japan, he decided to have the best martial artist of the island fight with it, Matsumura. This announcement created immense expectation among the islanders. People forgot about their problems and waited anxiously the fight between the king’s bull and Matsumura in Aizo-Shuri.
When he heard about the king’s edict, Matsumura decided to take no chances whatsoever. He went directly to the king’s stables and paid the bullkeeper a visit at his home. The keeper was totally dumbfounded when he saw Matsumura’s figure at the door, a man idolized by Okinawans as a semi-god. He could only stand there staring unfocused at him, holding his breath and with his mouth agape.
„May I see the bull?”, asked Matsumura, trying to get the man to relax.
„Whatever you say”, he finally answered very uncomfortably and started to take Matsumura towards the stable.
„Please do not mention to anybody that I have come to pay the animal a visit”, said Matsumura, „and make sure the bull is tied up strongly”.
The keeper looked at him strangely and nodded his head, while he watched Matsumura put on his battle equipment and the helmet-mask on. He first checked that the bull was firmly strapped, then he carefully entered the corral and started to get close to the animal…
When the day of the encounter arrived, people from all over the island massed in towards Aizo-Shuri even from as far as Hama-Higa. The air was full of festivity and people had completely forgotten about their taxes. They were all prepared for the most incredible show on the face of the Earth: Matsumura fighting with the fine bull of the king.
When the bull trotted into the arena an expectant silence arose and then a collective roar of admiration. It was truly a magnificent animal. Even the king must have asked himself if any human being could beat such a beast.
The bull scraped the ground and snorted ferociously as the cheers arose from the public. In one of the corners Matsumura had appeared. He walked slowly towards the bull, dressed in full battle equipment and his helmet-mask. The public in complete silence waited for the decisive moment. The bull preparing his attack, eyes ablaze. But then the bull finally caught Matsumura’s smell, gave a bellow of fear, turned around and ran out of the arena.
The spectators let out a deafening roar. Nobody had ever in their lives seen, or heard, of anything like this. Even the king was dumbfounded, he asked himself how Matsumura had made the bull run out with such fear without even touching it. When he finally regained his composure he announced to the public:
„Today by royal edict, Matsumura is named ‘Bushi’ (warrior title), in recognition Of his unusual skill in the martial arts”.
From that day on Sokon Matsumura was known as Bushi Matsumura.
But how did he do it? Well, when we left Matsumura, he was in the stable with the bull strongly strapped down. He then proceeded to take a very long needle out from his sleeve, he then plunged it deeply into the nose of the bull. The reaction was tremendously loud. The bull roared deafeningly with pain and vainly tried to attack his torturer. Matsumura very pleased with the results, repeated the process every day until the bull learned to recognize and fear him.
Based on a story by Richard Kim