Okinawan History

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

Our style of Karate the Shorin-Ryu Shorinkan is one of the oldest most prestigious styles of martial arts in the world. It is important to realize that there are currently four major branches of Shorin-Ryu Karate practiced in the world today, Kobayashi-Ryu, Shobyashi-Ryu, Matsubyashi Ryu and Matsumura Seito. In the Shorinkan we practice Kobayashi Shorin-Ryu. The Shorinkan is headed by Hanshi Minoru Nakazato Sensei. He is the son and student of the late Shugoro Nakazato Sensei, a man who is literally considered an intangible cultural asset of Karate by the Japanese government. Our Karate rank comes directly from Okinawa Japan and is internationally recognized by Karate practitioners. This means that getting a black belt in the Shorinkan from our dojo, will allow a person to train and be recognized as a black belt worldwide.

Shugoro Nakazato Sensei’s patch is worn on the left chest of thousands of Shorin-Ryu practitioners world wide. The Shorin-Ryu Shorinkan has Hundreds of Karate schools worldwide and hosts International camps and seminars to help spread karate throughout the world.

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. He instructed “Tode” after the death of TAKAHARA, SAKUGAWA’s first instructor. 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.

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.

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 were: CHIBANA, Chosin, FUNAKOSHI, Gichin, KYAN, Chotoku, MABUNI, Kenwa to name just a few.

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.”

In addition, he was awarded the Fourth Order of Merit from the Emperor of Japan, in 1969, for his life long contributions to the martial arts. 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.
NAKAZATO, Shugoro “Hanshi JuDan” (1920 – 2016)

Hanshi JuDan 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 10thDan 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.

Hanshi JunDan 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 JuDan 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.