|Self-defense is as old as the human race, and is virtually impossible to trace the different systems of self defense back to their origins. One could reason that just as animals have some type of inherent self defense (fangs, claws, poison, etc.), man also has found it necessary to utilize his own features and intellect to defend himself.Of all the systems of self-defense, the oriental forms are among the oldest and most effective systems of unarmed combat. It is a general belief that many of these systems trace their origins back to a Buddhist monk named Bohdi-Daruma(520 A.D). Dharma journey to China from India to instruct the people on the tenants of Buddha. Upon his arrival, he founded a monastery (in the Wei Kingdom of North-Central China) to centralize his teaching and offer a communal place for worship and study. Very quickly it became obvious that the Chinese were developed much better in their intellectual ability than their physical ability. The monks became exhausted quickly from the severe discipline and pace of their training. Dharma decided to incorporate a physical fitness program into his teachings. Rather than have the monks practice monotonous calisthenics, Dharma taught a physical discipline based on the self-defense movements of various animals and warriors that he had encountered during his travels. From this beginning, the monks of the Shaolin Temple, became the most formidable fighters in China.|
|There is an island chain that extends off the southern tip of Japan to the island of Taiwan. It is called the Ryukyu-Pescadores archipelago. The principle island of the Ryukyus is Okinawa. Due to its central position, it has long served as a port of trade between China and Japan. Chinese traders probably first introduced their fighting techniques into Okinawa during the Chinese Sui Dynasty (618-906 A.D.).|
|However, when King Sho-en established a tributary relationship between his Okinawa domain and China in 1372, many Okinawans left home to reside in China. Moreover, hundreds of Chinese were sent by the Chinese the Chinese Ming Dynast emperor to advise the Okinawans in the arts of navigation, ship building, and trade. Many of them settled in the village of Kumemura, a part of modern day Naha. In 1429, King Sho Hashi unified Okinawa under a native dynasty for the first time. This heralded the “Golden Age” of the Ryukyu islands (approx. 1385-1570 A.D.) during which feudal wars were ended and the private ownership of weapons of war was banned.In 1609, the Satsuma samurai clan of southern Japan attacked and subjugated the Ryukyus. In 1669 they banned the possession of all weapons by the populace. After 1684, the center of Japanese trade shifted from Okinawa to Nagasaki, and the Ryukyus entered a period of decline. Smuggling and piracy became common problems.|
|Between 1606 and 1866, the Chinese government sent ten separate missions to crown successive new Okinawan kings. Each of these missions had a large military contingent. Possibly, it was from these military attaches that we learn of the names of such Chinese master as Saifa, Seienchin, Ason, Waishinzan, Ananku, Chinto, and Kusanku.Shorin Ryu is by far the most popular of the traditional Okinawan martial arts (Uechi Ryu, Goju Ryu, Isshin Ryu, Okinawan Kempo) practiced on Okinawa. Legend traces the history of Shorin Ryu to two ancient Chinese masters, Iwah and Waishinzan. One of Waishinzan’s students, Higa Matyu, was the primary influence on Sakugawa Tode (1733-1815, the founding influence of Shorin Ryu. Sakagawa Tode, nicknamed “Karate” or “Chinese Hands”, was taught by the Okinawan master Takahara and the Chinese master Kushanku. Sakagawa was the originator of Kusanku kata and Sakugawa no kun (Bo Staff kata).By far the most important fighting master of the mid-Meiji era (1867-1912) was Matsumara Hohan (or Sokon), the “Bushi” (Warrior) (1805-1893). While he trained with Sakugawa, he also learned from Mayamoto (Matsumoto), Suekata, Makube, and traveled to Honan Province in China where the Shaolin temple is said to have existed. While in China he studied Go-no-Kempo (“Hard Fist Way”) of Ch’uan-fa (Fist Way). Matsumara’s exposure to these Chinese fighting methods left us with two of the oldest empty hand kata used in Shorin Ryu; Chinto and Bassai.The senior student, not related to Matsumara, Itosu Yasutsune (Yasuzato)(1840-1925) is credited for developing a system of katas that made it easier to teach the fighting principles of Shorin Ryu. Itosu, known as “Ankoh” or “Iron Horse”, developed the Naihanchi and Pinan katas and revised the Kusanku kata.
Yabu Kentsu, senior student to Itosu Yasutsune, took over his master’s dojo when Itosu the master passed on. Yabu’s fighting skill was legendary, he is said to have killed over 60 Chinese in hand to hand combat during his service on the mainland in the military.
Upon Yabu’s retirement, the second ranking student among Itosu’s students, Chibana Chosin (1887-1969) took over Itosu’s dojo. Chibana is the first one to have named his style Shorin Ryu in 1928. In 1967, Chibana was decorated by the Emperor of Japan as the Dai Shihan (Great Master) and elevated to National Treasure. Chibana is credited for leaving behind Kusanku Dai and Gojushiho katas.
The style of Shorin Ryu Karate we’ll be practicing, Kobayashi Shorin Kan Shuwakai (Little Forest Shorin School of all Shugoro’s Students) was originated by Nakazato Shugoro (born 1921). Nakazato’s most famous student is Yamashita Tadashi, who achieved fame in the United States for his abilities as a competitor, judge, demonstrator and teacher.