Yamashita Shorin-Ryu Karatedo

Karatedo means “the Way of the Empty Hand”
Shorin-Ryu or Kobayashi-Ryu is translated as the “Young Forest Style”

There are many styles of Karate, and here at Jeff Bateman’s Isshinkan Academy of Martial Arts, our style is called Okinawan Shorin-Ryu. It is a sport and self-defense. It is also a traditional style of karate with a philosophy for life. It develops the whole person, and it has no age limit or restrictions.

It is difficult to find the true history, However there are some answers. “Shorin” is also known as “Pine Forest”. It dates back to the Chinese. “Shorin” is Japanese for Shaolin in China. Ryu simply means “methods handed down” or “methods of learning” such as those of a school. In the mid 1880’s it is said that Choshin Chibana, who was born on Okinawa, founded Shorin-Ryu Karate. There are two systems 1) Kobayashi 2) Matsubayashi. The system that we teach here is the Kobayashi-Ryu, which is directed by Hanshi Shugoro Nakazato in Okinawa. When Grand Master Chibana died, Hanshi Nakazato took over the reins of the Kobayashi-Ryu. Hanshi Nakazato is a 10th Degree Black Belt.

The Chinese Buddhist monks were first taught at the Shorin Temple. They exercised the art of learning to control and master the body, mind, & soul. The Chinese invaded Okinawa in the 8th century and brought their fighting techniques along. The Okinawan’s had already developed their system of self-defense, It was called “Te” or “Hand”. The King of Okinawa ordered both the art of the Shorin Temple and that of the Okinawan Te to be combined. So the combination of the Chinese and Okinawan system was the beginning of Karate. The Japanese overruled Okinawa during the 17th century. They disarmed the Okinawan warriors, and the Okinawan’s could not then use, carry, or own any weapons. They had to practice in private, and this lead them to master their techniques until they were as deadly as their weapons were. Then, they took their farm tools and developed them into their weapons.

History of Okinawan “Kobayashi” Shorin Ryu Karatedo

Okinawa, Japan birthplace of modern day karatedo and kobudo. The following is a compilation of different sources of information about the evolvement of Kobayashi Shorin Ryu and Okinawan Kobudo. Historians believe that the art of Okinawa Te, first originated independently of any other combat system. it is also believed that this system on unarmed combat can be traced back over 1000 years. Because the islanders were of not of wealthy status, weapons were scares. Also the islands own un-unification gave rise to many aggressive warlords, each battling for supremacy of the island. As a result these circumstances rendered a strong incentive for the evolvement of unarmed combat.

By the mid 1340’s, Okinawa entered into a trade relationship with China. This trade and political friendship allowed the Okinawan people to observe the different aspects of China, and were thus exposed to Chinese boxing systems. Furthermore, by the late 1300’s, in a tributary relationship, 36 Chinese families and businessmen settled on Okinawa. These families brought with them a variety of skills, including Chinese martial arts.

Through the 1400’s, the island experienced much turmoil. At first the island was unified by King Sho Hashi in 1429. At this time the Okinawan’s were still able to posses weapons. However in 1470, King Sho Hashi destroyed the former dynasty and made due with his own. Soon all arms were banned on the island, in fear that the reign might be over thrown. As a result, the emphasis on the fighting arts further progressed. The main villages of Okinawa are credited with the main styles that emerged from Okinawa Te. From the village of Shuri, came Shuri Te. From the village of Naha, came Naha Te. Finally from the village of Tomari, came Tomari Te.

Beside empty hand combat, the Okinawan’s also began the practice of Kobudo (weapons). Because of King Sho Hashi’s ban on the traditional weapons (such as the samurai sword), the Okinawan’s began using their everyday farming implements as weapons. From this practice the most commonly thought of weapons became known as the: Bo (six foot staff), the Eku (six foot oar), the Kama (grass or cain sickle), the Tonfa (utility handle), and the Nunchaku (horse bit, and even rice flail). However because the Okinawan’s never restrained the practice of survival, it is conceivable that these particular weapons might not have been the only weapons practiced. In fact the Zen Okinawan Kobudo Renmei (Matayoshi Kobudo), makes use of the Kuwa (Japanese Hoe), the Timbei and Rochin (Shield and dagger), as well as the Nunti (Japanese like spear).

These styles of unarmed and armed combat were practiced in secrecy for years. Differences between Te styles suggest the different influences of various Chinese styles. Shuri-Te seem to utilize the external system of Shaolin boxing. While Naha-Te incorporates the use of internal Taoist techniques. Tomari-Te appears to be a mix of both internal and external fighting systems. These variances alone, are responsible for the evolvement the different systems into the distinct martial art styles they are today.

In 1609, Okinawa was seized by the Japanese Satsuma Samurai clan, for refusing to recognize Japan’s newest Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu. As a result, the Shogunate banned the Okinawa people from carrying weapons. This only further fueled the importance of further developing the martial arts as a means of survival.

Although at this time the Japanese had banned all trade relationships with other countries. The Japanese still, however, allowed Okinawa to trade with China.

As a result, around the mid to late 1700’s a Chinese diplomat named, Kusanku, moved to Okinawa for 6 years. During his stay he began teaching the Chinese system of Ch’uan-Fa. As these influences became introduced into the different local martial arts, they gradually became known as Tode (or Chinese Hand). By the 1800’s these styles were again re-named. Shuri and Tomari-Te formed the basis for Okinawan Sho Rin Ryu, while Naha-Te formed Goju Ryu and Uechi Ryu.

Although Kusanku is often believed to be a culmination of different Chinese officers, he is often referred to as one person. As is recorded, Tode Sakugawa began studying under Kusanku-sensei. The teachings of Kusanku enabled Sakugawa to combine the essence of both Te and Chinese Boxing principles. These principles form the basis of modern day Shorin Ryu.

The following is a record of the lineage of Shorin Ryu Karatedo. Each master featured was the direct instructor of the next. Listed art the names of the kata’s each instructor was either known for or even introduced into the system.

Kusanku = Kusanku Kata

Tode Sakugawa = Passai Kata

Sokon “Bushi” Matsumura = Passai Kata & Chinto

Ankoh Yasutsune Itosu = 5 Pinan Kata, Naihanchi Nidan, Naihanchi Sandan, Passai Sho, Passai Dai, Kusanku Sho, Kusanku Dai.

Itosu-sensei was such an incredible instructor, that in 1903, he became the first martial artist to introduce karate-do into the public schools of Okinawa. His students include Gichin Funakoshi-sensei. It was not until the late 1800’s that Funakoshi-Sensei termed the essence of Te as “Karate-Do” meaning, “The Way of the Empty Hand.” Funakoshi-sensei later founded ShotoKan Karate.

Chosin Chibana = Gojushiho Kata

As Shorin Ryu began to branch further and further, and other styles evolved from Itosu-sensei’s karate. An attempt was made by one of Itosu-sensei’s students to preserve his instructors teachings. Itosu-sensei’s most loyal and dedicated student, Chosin Chibana-sensei, renamed the style Kobayshi-Ryu (Shorin Ryu – “Young Forest Style”) to indicate that he taught Itosu-sensei’s original style.

Shugoro Nakazato = Shorin Ryu Shorinkan

Chibana-sensei’s most notable student, Shugoro Nakazato-sensei, who became the head of Shorin Ryu-Shorin Kan branch of Kobayashi.