Shorin-Ryu Shorinkan patch (40kB)
Shorin-Ryu Shorinkan

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Shorin-Ryu is a very popular style of karate that also has a long history. It's considered to be a purely Okinawan style, unlike Shotokan (the primary influence in Iki Shin Do), which is often called "Japanese karate", even though it, too, started in Okinawa. Sensei John Anderson is currently a 6th dan in Shorinkan (Kobayashi) Shorin-Ryu and a 5th dan in Iki Shin Do. With his promotion to 6th dan, he shifted the emphasis in the dojo from Iki Shin Do to Shorin-Ryu, feeling that he should be spending most of his time teaching the style in which he possesses the higher rank. An image of a Shorin-Ryu Shorinkan patch is in the upper left corner of this page. Click on it to download a larger image (40kB).

Shorin-Ryu traces its beginnings to Matsumura Sokon (1809-1901). He studied under the tode master Sakugawa in his home village of Shuri. Sakugawa studied ch'uan fa (Chinese boxing, or "kung fu") under Kong Su Kung (or Kusanku, after whom two Shorin-Ryu kata are named) in China. Matsumura Sokon functioned as a security officer to the last three consecutive Ryukyuan kings. He then visited Fuzhou, China, studying ch'uan fa under Iwah. He also visited Satsuma, Japan, and trained in Jigen-Ryu sword fighting. These styles all formed the basis for his tode (karate).

Matsumura never named his particular form of tode, and it's with his students that shorin-ryu splits into many sub-styles or interpretations of Shorin-Ryu (although, his style was called "Shuri-te", just as Goju-Ryu was originally named "Naha-te", named after the villages where they were developed). For a more complete discussion of those styles, read Okinawan Karate by Mark Bishop and Shotokan's Secret: The Hidden Truth Behind Karate's Origins by Bruce D. Clayton, Ph.D. and other good books or web sites.

The style that is referred to today as Matsumura Orthodox Shorin-Ryu came from Sokon's grandson, Nabe (one of Sokon's students). I don't know that the kata or techniques of this style are any more authentic to Sokon's style than any other branch of shorin-ryu, but because it stems from a descendent of Sokon, it's considered to be the present day style of Sokon Matsumura.

The student that begins the line to both (Kobayashi) Shorin-Ryu and Shotokan is Itosu Anko (1832-1916). He studied under Matsumura Sokon, but also later studied under two instructors in the village of Tomari, one of whom, Shiroma, was Chinese. Itosu is credited for creating the modern day karate "corkscrew punch", based on a Chinese punching technique. He also created the five pinan kata.

Both Funakoshi Gichin and Chibana Choshin were students of Itosu Anko. Funakoshi Gichin modified Itosu's karate when he moved to the Japanese mainland, and called his style Shotokan, which was the basis for Iki Shin Do. Among other things, he modified and reordered the Pinan kata to form Shotokan's Heian kata (both pinan and heian mean "peaceful mind", pinan being the Okinawan dialect and heian Japanese).

Chibana Choshin, on the other hand, kept to Itosu's style, and is credited by most with first calling it Shorin-Ryu. The kanji (ideographs) used are the Chinese kanji which mean "small (pine) forest", and are pronounced "shaolin" in China. These kanji were mispronounced by Japanese mainlanders as "kobayashi", and this name has, unfortunately, stuck as a way to differentiate this particular shorin-ryu style from the others. The more correct term to differentiate this style is "Chibana-ha".

After Chibana was diagnosed with cancer and knew he would not live much longer, he had his ninth dans agree to wait 5 years after his death, and then move up to tenth dan. It was agreed that Miyahara's school would be called Shidokan (sensei Iha's style) and Nakazato's would be Shorinkan. (Note that this is somewhat unusual--usually there is one 10th dan.)

Nakazato was born in 1919. He first studied for six years under Selichl Ishu (also spelled Seiichi Iju) in 1935. After World War II, he studied under Chibana Choshin, and remained his student until Chibana's death. One of his higher ranking students is Ernest Estrada. When my sensei, John Anderson, was young, he met and trained (at first in kobudo, but then later in Chibana-ha Shorin-Ryu as well) under Roger Pratt, a high ranking student of sensei Ernest Estrada. Sensei John Anderson is now a student under Sensei Pratt and Sensei Estrada. This completes the Chibana-ha Shorin-Ryu lineage all the way down to me. Note that Sensei Estrada is deemphasizing the Shorinkan title and instead using the term Chibana-ha in part to try to undo some of the splintering of the Shorin-Ryu sub-styles, which really are all the same thing, and should probably be considered as such.