Kusanku – was a Chinese military attaché. He was known as a highly skilled Kenpo master and famous for his fighting ability. Although not much is known about Kusanku, he is most noted for being one of the founders of Karate and the teacher of “Tode” Sakugawa. Shortly after his death, his student Tode created the Kusanku kata.
Takahara Peichin – was born in the village of Akata Cho in Southern Shuri in 1683 and later died in 1760. He was known as an astronomer, mapmaker and was also a member of the upper class of Okinawan society. Although not much is known about Takahara, he is most noted for being one of the founders of Karate and the teacher of “Tode” Sakugawa.
Satanuka “TODE” Sakugawa – was born in the Okinawan village of Shuri in 1733 and later died in 1815 at the age of 82. A famous samurai later in life, he was an important figure in the development of karate. Sakugawa was known for studying first under Peichin Takahara, and later under Kusanku. In the service of the Okinawan King, Sakugawa was awarded the title of Satonush, an Okinawan military position slightly above Samurai status. His most famous student in this style was Soken “BUSHI” Matsumura.
Sokon “BUSHI” Matsumura – was born in the Okinawan village of Shuri in 1796 and later died in 1893 at the age of 97. At age 14, he became a student of Tode Sakugawa where he trained until Sakugawa’s death. Sokon was responsible for the development of the “Shuri” branch of karate. At the time there were only three methods of karate, all referring to the village locations they were located in. (Shuri-te, for the Okinawan village of Shuri; Naha-te, for the Okinawan village of Naha; Tomari-te, for the Okinawan village of Tomari). Sokon Matsumura had many famous students. The purest form of his style stayed within his immediate family and was passed down to his grandson, Nabe Matsumura.
Nabe Matsumura – or “Nape no Tanme” (old man Nabe), was born in the Okinawan village of Shuri in the 1860’s and died some time in the 1930’s. Nabe, the grandson of Sokon Matsumura, was the next in line to learn the Shorin-Ryu style. Little is known about Nabe because he preferred to keep the Shorin system within the family, so teaching outsiders was rare. Nabe’s lineage was passed down to Hohan Soken, Nabe’s nephew.
Hohan Soken – was born in Okinawa in 1889 and died in 1982 at the age of 93. Soken began his training under Nabe Matsumura at age 13. As a youth, Soken was forced to work the fields as a common peasant despite his Samurai heritage. This was due to the political upheaval and modernization in Japan and the outlying islands during the Meiji restoration. Soken is best known for the white crane technique or Hakutsura, which was passed down from his uncle. This technique was traditionally passed down through immediate family only. As of today, the only karateka said to know this technique is Fusei Kise.
Fusei Kise – was born in Okinawa on May 4th, 1935 and is still training today. Kise began his karate training at age 12 from his uncle, Master Makabe. In 1958, he began his training under Grandmaster Hohan Soken where he trained until Soken’s death. Although Kise formerly began his training in Shorinji-Ryu, in 1967 he formally switched over to the Shorin-Ryu style. On January 3, 1972, he received the title of “Hanshi” by passing his Hachi-Dan (8th Degree Black Belt) examination, held by Grandmaster Hohan Soken and Master Makabe. On September 1, 1976, Grandmaster Soken promoted him to Ku-Dan (9th Degree Black Belt). In 1990, Grandmaster Kise was recognized by the Okinawan government as the successor to Master Soken and as the head of Shorin-Ryu Matsumura Orthodox Karate.
James “Jimmy” Coffman – was born in the United States on January 31st, 1943. He began his “Real” Karate Training while in Okinawa under Master Fusei Kise in 1960. In 1961 he became the first American to achieve Sho-Dan under Master Kise and was also accepted as the first American student of the late Grand Master Hohan Soken. Sensei Coffman continued training with both Masters, Sensei Kise on a daily basis, and would study privately (with Kise present) bi-weekly to bi-monthly with Soken, at the Grand Master’s home dojo. Mr. Coffman, with the help of others, established the first American run Karate Dojo on Kadena Air Force Base, Okinawa in 1960-1961. After leaving Okinawa as a Yon-Dan (4th Degree Black Belt) with a teacher’s certificate in hand, he organized his first Karate Class at Fort Bragg (1965). In 1977, Sensei Coffman was promoted to the rank of Shichi-Dan (Nana-Dan – 7th Degree Black Belt), by the same two masters he had begun his training with in the 1960’s. Today he is the highest ranked non-Okinawan Black Belt in their system of Matsumura Seito Karate. Sensei Coffman has never left his original roots, training, kata or fighting techniques and continues to teach and train today.
Al Gagne – was born in the United States on August 17th, 1947 and is still training today. He began his karate training in 1969, while serving in the U.S. Air Force, under Vince Weigand. He attained the rank of Sho-Dan (1st Degree Black Belt) 3 years later and in 1972 was honorably discharged from the military. In 1974, he was promoted to Ni-Dan (2nd Degree Black Belt) by his first teacher, Vince Weigand. Mr. Weigand studied under Fusei Kise and Hohan Soken while in the U.S. Army and serving in Okinawa. In 1976, Sensei Gagne attended a karate seminar conducted by Sensei James H. Coffman and promptly joined Sensei Coffman’s organization (S.M.O.K.A.). Since that time, Sensei Gagne has continuously trained and has recently been promoted, by Sensei Coffman, to the rank of Roku-Dan (6th Degree Black Belt) May 20, 2005. Sensei Gagne is currently teaching out of Smithfield, Rhode Island and is a retired Corrections Officer for the Massachusetts Department of Corrections.
Deus Marchacos Yon-Dan – SMOKA Charter Member in Rochester, New Hampshire
A. Joseph Gagne – San-Dan – US Air Force Veteran 1989 – 1999
Dr. George Jutras – San-Dan – SMOKA Charter Member in Sebastian, Florida
Gerard Hamel – Yon Dan
Michael Ballou – San Dan
Daniel Parker – Ni Dan
Brett Swanlund – Ni Dan
David Richard – Sho Dan – SMOKA Charter Member in Thompson, CT.
Marc Gaumond – Sho Dan – USMC Veteran
Andrew Doyle – Ni-Dan ( Graduate of Norwich Military Academy in Vermont, USMC ROTC )
Michael Fleury – Ni-Dan
SENSEI GANGE’S NON-ACTIVE BLACKBELT’S
Joanne Shuman – Ni Dan
Katelyn Courtot – Sho-Dan
Keith Dulude – San Dan U.S. Navy Veteran
Eugene Cazeault – San Dan
Dale Drowne – San Dan – Army Veteran
Correy Maher – San Dan
James Hughes – Ni Dan U.S. Navy Veteran
Paul Comtois – Ni Dan
Paul Mainville – Ni Dan
David Britt – Ni-Dan
Jon Denault – Sho-Dan
Chris Kane – Sho-Dan
Gerard Morin – Sho-Dan
Matthew Brooks – Sho Dan
Jeffrey Irzyk – Sho-Dan in Stratford, Connecticut
John Smith – Sho Dan – Tennessee
Andrew Cardillo – Sho Dan
James Carter – Sho-Dan
Henry Lavimodierre – Sho-Dan – US Marine Corp Veteran (Vietnam)
Roger St. Pierre – Sho-Dan
Joseph Rademsky – Sho-Dan
George Ansay – Sho-Dan
Scott Cornell – Sho-Dan – 12/14/1985
Francis (Bud) Cook – Sho-Dan – 8/22/1987
Betty Mencucci – Sho-Dan
Steven Pinder – Sho-Dan
Nicholas Pinder – Sho-Dan – U.S. Coast Guard Veteran