Shorin-Ryu Karate is one of the two original Karate styles formally systemized in Okinawa. It is considered by some authorities to have had the most influential impact on the development of all modern Karate systems, following their emergence in Okinawa. Shorin-Ryu Karate eventually splintered off into four (4) groups.

Technically the Shorin-Ryu styles tend to use more upright stances than the Japanese styles, thus giving the Okinawan stylist more mobility. Unlike the Japanese stylist, the Okinawan Shorin-Ryu stylist does not emphasize constant forward pressure when engaging in a confrontation, or like the Chinese stylist, indirect countering; rather, he maintains enough flexibility to use both approaches very effectively and efficiently.

These four groups are as follows:

First, is the original Shorin-Ryu style founded by SOKON “Bushi” MATSUMURA, known, as a result, as MATSUMURA ORTHODOX. It is also reported that this style was founded by Hohan Soken, who was born in 1889. Reportedly some of the style’s followers have changed its name to Sukunai Hayashi.

Second is SHOBAYASHI-Ryu (small forest school), was first taught by Chotoku Kyan, a famous student of Yasutsune Itosu and trained several notable students such as Shoshin Nagamine who in 1947 founded the Matsubayashi Ryu branch of Shorin Ryu.

The third style is KOBAYASHI-Ryu (young forest school). Choshin Chibana is credited as the first to teach Kobayashi Ryu. According to some sources, this system is identical to Shobayashi Ryu. It is believed that Choshin Chibana simply misspelled the kanji characters, which changed the pronunciation from Shobayashi Ryu to Kobayashi Ryu.

The last is MATSUBAYASHI-Ryu (pine forest school). The last three names refer to the small pine forest where the original Shao-lin temple was located in China. All Shorin-Ryu styles are interpreted as Shorin-Ryu, or “Shao-lin way,” reflecting their Chinese heritage.

Satsunuku Tode Sakugawa
Sokon Bushi Matsumara
Yasutsune Anko Itosu
Chosin Chibana
Shugoro Nakazato - Hanshi 10th
Minoro Nakazato - Hanshi 10th
Doug Perry Hanshi 9th Dan
Pat Haley Kyoshi 8th Dan
Claude Johnson Kyoshi 8th Dan
Andries Douglas Renshi 5th Dan

Shorin-Ryu Shorinkan History

The patch itself is circular, just like most traditional karate patches, to represent the full circle of martial arts training from student to teacher and back to student again, everything in Karate from techniques to principles, always moves in a circle. Originally new students were given red belts not white belts and masters simply returned to the red belt representing that they had travelled full circle. The Japanese writing on the patch is called Kanji, the small writing on the bottom reads “Shorin-Ryu” which means “Small Pine Style” and the larger writing above it reads “Shorinkan” which means “Small Pine House.”

Karate had its influences from Chinese Kung Fu, Japanese Jujitsu and the original Okinawa art of Te. “Shorin” in Japanese means the same thing as “Shaolin” in Chinese and therefore it is possible that Shorin-Ryu Karate may have been influenced by Shaolin Kung Fu and Feeding Crane Kung Fu. Inside the red and white Shuri gate or “Shureimon” is some smaller Kanji that read “Shu Rei No Kuni” which literally mean “Land of Propriety.” The gate on the patch represents the mane gate leading to the Shuri castle or on Okinawa. The Shureimon was a gift to Okinawa from China.

Okinawan Karate dates to the sixth century when Bodhidharma’s (Daruma), born in India, travels took him to China where he settled at a Shao-lin (Shorin in Japanese) Monastery. The introduction of ch-uan-fa (“fist way”) occurred in the late 1300’s with the expansion of trade and cultural exchanges between Okinawa and China. Evidence suggests that te (“hands”), in fact, was indigenous to Okinawa, (the birthplace of Karate), developing in the villages of Shuri, Naha and Tomari. Thus begins the lineage of Shorin-Ryu Kobayashi Karate from the Shuri-te system.

TAKAHARA, Peichin (1683-1760)

was revered as a great warrior and is attributed to have been the first to explain the aspects or principles of the word do (“way”). These principals are: 1) ijo, the way-compassion, humility and love. 2) katsu, the laws-complete understanding of all techniques and forms of karate, and 3) fo dedication seriousness of karate that must be understood not only in practice, but in actual combat. The collective translation is: “One’s duty to himself and his fellow man.” Most importantly, he was the first teacher of SAKUGAWA, Kanga “Tode” who was to become known as the “father of Okinawan karate.”

 KUSANKU, (AKA: Kung Syanag, Koso Kun)

is a Chinese diplomatic title. This emissary was a military official, who traveled to Okinawa, as documented in 1761. Kusanku was sent to Okinawa as an ambassador of the Qing Dynasty. He resided in the village of Kanemura, near Naha city and instructed Takahara Sakugawa after the death of his first instructor, Takahara Peichin. Kusanku’s name is associated with several kata in the Shorin-Ryu styles. KUSANKU’s name is associated with several katas in the Shorin-Ryu styles.

SAKUGAWA, Kanga (1733-1815)

“Tode” meaning “karate,” was a nickname given to him by his eminent instructor TAKAHARA. Known as the “father of Okinawan karate,” SAKUGAWA traveled to China to study the fighting arts. During this time he is attributed for combining the Chinese art of ch-uan fa and the Okinawan art of tode (“Chinese hand or empty hand”), forming Okinawa-te (“Okinawa hand”) which would become the foundation for Shuri-te. He passed down Kusanku, which is said to be one of Okinawa’s oldest katas. Furthermore, he developed a bo kata, Sakugawa no Kon.

Tode Sakagawa began his study martial arts under. One day he came across Kusanku standing on a bridge overlooking the water. Sakagawa, being the rebellious young bully, attempted to push Kusanku off the bridge. As he moved to push Kusanku from behind, Kusanku suddenly sidestepped the attack and knocked him into the water, then gave Sakagawa a harsh lecture about respecting his elders, the point being that a karateka needs to know “why,” not only “how.” Sakagawa studied under Kusanku for six years. When Kusanku died Sakagawa developed the first version of the Kusanku kata to honor his teacher’s memory.

MATSUMURA, Sokon (1796-1893)

“Bushi” (“Warrior”) it is acknowledged, began his training at an early age under the tutelage of SAKUGAWA, “Tode” and made several trips to China to further study the fighting arts. He is credited, by several sources, for making the most singular contribution, katas, to the development of Okinawan karate. The Shuri-te system of katas that are still practiced today in the Kobayashi Shorin-Ryu system are Naihanchi I-III, Passai Dai, Chinto & Gojushiho. Soken “Bushi” (Warrior) Matsumura was the first to systematize Shuri-te from which the various Shorin-ryu styles have been passed down to us today. Born into a prominent family in Shuri, Matsumura was a good scholar and athlete. He learned the fundamentals of chi na as a young boy (customary for upper class youths of the time) and later, according to many historians, began his formal martial arts training under Tode Sakugawa. From Sakugawa he is said to have learned use of the bo and the kata Kusanku. While serving as a bodyguard and martial arts instructor to the last three Ryukyuan kings, Matsumura made a number of official visits to China and Japan where he studied Chinese boxing and Japanese swordsmanship. Following retirement from service to the royal family, Matsumura taught Karate in Shuri. Among his many noteworthy students were Itosu Yatsutsune, Kentsu Yabu, Chomo Hanashiro, Gichin Funakoshi, Chotoku Kyan and Nabe Matsumura. Sokon Matsumura is credited with having originated or having developed important variations of many Shorinkan katas including Gojushiho, Kusankudai, Pasai Dai (Matsumura No Pasai), Chinto, Naihanchi Shodan and Naihanchi Nidan.

ITOSU, Yasutsune (1830-1915)

“Anko” (“Iron Horse”) trained under MATSUMURA, Sokon and is credited for introducing the Pinans (“Peaceful Mind”) I-V Katas to the Okinawan public schools in 1901. He is also credited for Kusanku Sho and Passai Sho. Some of the most important modern day instructors that trained directly under him reads like a who’s-who of famous Karate masters and include: CHIBANA, Chosin, FUNAKOSHI, Gichin, KYAN, Chotoku, MABUNI, Kenwa , YABU Kentsu, MOTOBU Choki, NAKAMURA Shigeru, to name just a few. Perhaps the greatest teacher in the history of Karate, Yasutsune “Anko” Itosu simplified many of the ancient katas, created several new ones of his own and pioneered teaching methods that would revolutionize the art by making its study easier and less dangerous for future generations. For this, he is recognized as the “Father of Modern Karate.” Born in Shuri, Itosu began his Karate training at an early age under Sokon Matsumura and subsequently trained under several other teachers, possibly including Kosaku Matsumora of Tomari. Well-educated in Chinese and Japanese literature, Itosu served as a translator to Sho Tai, the last of the Ryukyuan kings, until Sho Tai’s fall from power in 1879. In 1901, Itosu first introduced Karate into the physical education curriculum of the Okinawa public school system. This was a crucial step in transforming the public perception of Karate as a feudalistic killing art to one in which the emphasis was in health and spiritual well-being. Itosu created the original Pinan (peaceful mind) katas, Shodan through Godan, practiced today in various forms by virtually all Shorin-ryu styles. He is also credited with developing the Shorinkan Naihanchi Sandan, Pasai Sho and Kusankusho.

CHIBANA, Chosin “Hanshi no Sogo” (1887-1969)

was one of Itosu’s top students. CHIBANA Sensei was the first to differentiate his system of karate from others by naming it Kobayashi-ryu (“young forest” style), in 1930, instead of Shuri-te or by his own name (e.g. Chibana-te) as had been done in the past within the Shorin-ryu systems. This decision was brought on by the growth and development of te, not only on Okinawa, but also with the foresight of international introduction. CHIBANA Sensei was one of the founding committee members of karate masters in 1936 that agreed karate should be translated as “empty hand.” After the war Chibana resumed formal teaching in Giho-cho, a section of Shuri City. During the 1950’s he maintained his dojo as well as a position as the Chief Karate Instructor for the Shuri City Police Department, and in May 1956 his accomplishments were recognized by his appointment as the first president of the Okinawa Karate-Do Association. In 1957, he was awarded the title of Hanshi (High Master) from the Dai Nippon Butokukai (The Greater Japan Martial Virtue Association). In 1960 Chibana Sensei received the First Sports Award from the Okinawa Times Newspaper for his accomplishments in the study and practice of traditional

Okinawan Karate-do

In addition, he was awarded the Fourth Order of Merit of the Sacred Treasure (Kunyonto) from the Emperor of Japan, in 1969, for his life long contributions to the martial arts. Chibana sensei is credited with creating the three kihon kata that we practice in the Shorinkan. It is attributed by some sources that he passed down the Kusanku Dai and Gojushiho katas. CHIBANA Sensei’s most influential student of the modern day is Hanshi Judan NAKAZATO, Shugoro, to whom CHIBANA Sensei presented his personal black belt, which was a great honor and tribute to NAKAZATO Sensei’s devotion and martial arts skills. Choshin Chibana was born on June 5, 1885, at Tottori-cho in Shuri City, Okinawa. He began his karate training with Yasutsune “Anku” Itosu in 1900 with whom he studied until Itosu’s death. In 1920 Chibana opened his first dojo in Tottori-bori and later a second in Kumo-cho Naha where he instructed until he suspended his teaching during WWII. Chibana’s reputation as a Karate master continued to spread, not only in Okinawa but also in mainland Japan. He passed away in Ohama Hospital on February 26, 1969 from cancer,

NAKAZATO, Shugoro “Hanshi Ju Dan” (1920 – 2016)

Hanshi Ju Dan NAKAZATO has spent most of his life in the martial arts and in 1967, after nearly twenty years of training, was awarded 9thDan by his eminent instructor CHIBANA Choshin. Upon CHIBANA Sensei’s death in 1969, NAKAZATO Sensei became the president of the Okinawan Shorin-Ryu ShorinKan Karate-do Kyokai and was promoted to 10th Dan in 1980. NAKAZATO Sensei is one of the most influential living karate Grand Masters in Okinawa and travels many times a year to promote the traditional Okinawan Shorin-Ryu ShorinKan Karate (Kobayashi-ryu) system. NAKAZATO Sensei headed the Okinawan karate delegation and was asked to give a special performance at the 1996 Olympic Games held in Atlanta, Georgia. Most recently in May 1999, he led an Okinawan seminar delegation of Grand Masters to the United States promoting The 1st Okinawa Traditional Karatedo & Kobudo World Tournament. In addition, Hanshi Ju Dan NAKAZATO is credited for the introduction of the Gorin kata. In August 2000, the Okinawan Prefecture Board of Education bestowed upon Hanshi NAKAZATO the title of “Kenmukei Bunkazi” – Intangible Cultural Asset. In addition, on November 4, 2007, the Japanese Prime Minister under the hand of the Emperor of Japan awarded Nakazato Sensei the “Order of the Rising Sun with Gold and Silver Rays” – Asahi Soukou sho.

NAKAZATO, Minoru “Hanshi Ju Dan”

Minoru Hanshi Ju Dan is the son of our founder Hanshi Shugoru Nakazato, a living legend in the field of martial arts. August of 2016 was a very sad time for all of Shorinkan across the world. Shugoro Nakazato Hanshi Ju Dan passed away after a life dedicated to growing the art of Okinawan Karate and Kobudo. A few years prior to his passing he had retired from actively teaching and appointed his son, Minoru Nakazato, as head of the Shorin Ryu Shorinkan Association worldwide. Minoru Nakazato Hanshi has brought a youthful, vigorous method of training along with very fine details into Shorinkan since his appointment. Nakazato Hanshi travels the world to teach seminars and those students lucky enough to travel to Okinawa train directly with him at the headquarters dojo located in Aja, Nahashi. As with many systems the torch has been passed from one generation to the next and the future looks great with Nakazato Hanshi leading us forward. Minoru Nakazato Hanshi has been very active in the development of Karate in Okinawa including assisting with overseeing the new Karate Kaikan training hall and museum as an appointee on their board. Hanshi Ju Dan Minoru Nakazato, 10th Dan Black Belt is the chairman of the Okinawa Karate-Do Shorin-Ryu Shorin Kan Association and also the Instructor in the International Okinawa Kobudo Federation.