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Shorin-Ryu Shorinkan Karate 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 Shorinryu Karate practiced in the world today, Kobyashi-Ryu, Shobyashi-Ryu, Matsubyashi Ryu and Matsumura Saito. In the Shorinkan we practice Kobyashi Shorin-Ryu. The Shorinkan is headed by Hanshi 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. In 2012 Nakazato Hanshi appointed his son, Minoru Nakazato Hanshi, as his personal successor to the ShorinKan system. Minoru Hanshi has been actively growing the system 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 school 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 traveled full circle. The Japanese 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.

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Okinawa Karate dates to the sixth century when Bodhidharma's (Daruma), travels took him to China where he settled at a Shao-lin (“Shorin” in Japanese) Monastery. The introduction of ch'uan-fa (“first 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 the indigenous fighting art of Okinawa (the birthplace of Karate). Te was taught in all three major cities: Shuri, Naha, Tomari, which lead to the original styles of Okinawa Shuri-Te, Tomari-Te and Naha-Te. It was mixed with ch'uan-fa to develop tode (“Chinese hand”), which would turn into modern day Karate (“empty hand”). This begins the lineage of Shorin-Ryu from the original tode system of Shuri-te.

Takahara Peichin (1683 – 1760)

 Takahara Peichin was revered as a great warrior and is attributed to having been the first to explain the aspects or principles of the word do (“way”). These principals are 1.) Ijo, the way of compassion, humility and love; 2.) Katsu, the complete understanding of all techniques and forms of Karate; and 3.) Fo, dedication and 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.” He was to become know as the “Father of Okinawa Karate.”

Kusanku (1720 – 1790)

Kusanku was sent to Okinawa as an ambassador of the Qing Dynasty, as documented in 1761. 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.

 Tode Sakagawa (1733 – 1815)

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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.

 Soken “Bushi” Matsumura (1796 – 1893)

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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.

Yasutsune Itosu (1830 – 1915)

 

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.

A list of Itosu's students reads like a who's-who of famous Karate masters and includes Gichin Funakoshi, Chomo Hanashiro, Chotoku Kyan, Chosin Chibana, Kentsu Yabu, Choki Motobu, Kenwa Mabuni and Shigeru Nakamura.

Chosin Chibana (1885 – 1969)

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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.

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. Chibana's reputation as a Karate master continued to spread, not only in Okinawa but also in mainland Japan. Prior to his death in Ohama Hospital on February 26, 1969 from cancer, Sensei Chibana was recognized with honors such as:

  • 1957 - Title of Hanshi (High Master) from the Dai Nippon Butokukai (The Greater Japan Martial Virtue Association)

  • 1960 - received the First Sports Award from the Okinawa Times Newspaper for his accomplishments in the study and practice of traditional Okinawan Karate-do

  • 1968 - awarded the 4th Order of the Sacred Treasure (Kunyonto) by the Emperor of Japan in recognition of his devotion to the study and practice of Okinawan Karate-do

Chibana sensei is credited with creating the three kihon kata that we practice in the Shorinkan.

Legends of the Shorinkan

Shugoro Nakazato

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Hanshi Judan Nakazato has spent most of his life in the martial arts and in 1967, after nearly twenty years of training, was awarded Ninth Dan by his eminent instructor Chibana Choshin. Upon Chibana Sensei's death in 1969, Nakazato Sensei became the president of the Okinawa Shorin-Ryu Shorinkan Karatedo Kyokai, and was promoted to Tenth 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 Okinawa Shorin-Ryu Shorinkan Karate (Kobayashi-ryu) system. Hanshi Jundan headed the Okinawa Karate delegation and was asked to give a special performance at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. In May 1999, he led an Okinawan seminar delegation of Grand Masters to the United States promoting the first 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. Hanshi Judan Nakazato's recognized current influential students in the United States include the following Kyoshi: Eddie Bethea, Eberhard Welch, Noel Smith, C.D. Williamson, Sean Riley, Cheech Luzzi and Hanshi Doug Perry, to name a few.

 

August of 2016 was a very sad time for all of Shorinkan across the world. Shugoro Nakazato Hanshi Judan 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 world wide. 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 of us 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. Shorinkan's history is still in the making and we are very honored to be a part of helping people learn authentic Okinawan Karate as it was meant to be.

 

 Our Lineage in Karate

Does Lineage Matter?

When a person begins to look into the martial art system they will be studying more than likely they overlook one of the most important aspects of it. This is the lineage of the instructor. Put simply lineage is how the art was handed down in an unbroken line of successions. Each person who trains will be a set generation under the Master of the system and a good lineage will date to the earliest of times.

Our students are very fortunate that our lineage in Okinawan Karate dates back to the early 1500's. It was Chosin Chibana Sensei who first named the system we teach as Shorin Ryu. Chibana Sensei chose the name and Japanese Kanji of Shorin because it directly translates in Shaolin  thus paying respect to the Chinese influence on its development. Shorin means "pine forest" and where the temple of Shaolin is located is in a heavily wooded pine forest in China.

It was Chibana Sensei who appointed Shugoro Nakazato as the most senior instructor in Shorin Ryu. Nakazato Sensei was permitted to open a dojo in Aja, Naha to teach others. History has it that people came from all over Okinawa and Japan, as well as the world, to train under Nakazato Sensei since he was known for handing the Kata down exactly as they were created as well as for his power, in-depth knowledge of old Okinawa Karate called Tode (Ti) and his ability to take people out with a single blow. The American servicemen training in Okinawa after World War II referred to Nakazato Sensei as "a one punch man" meaning he only hit you one time and you were done.

In 1966 Eddie Bethea was stationed in Okinawa and while traveling to his duty station he noticed a sign from the highway that read "Nakazato Karate Gym". After he was processed in he headed right out to Nakazato Sensei's dojo and signed up to train. He has been training under Shuguro Nakazato since that time. Eddie Bethea is an 8th degree black belt and holder of the Kyoshi teaching license directly from Shugoro Nakazato. He is also a 7th degree black belt in Kokusai Rengokai Kobudo as well. Bethea Kyoshi is a 1st generation black belt under Shugoro Nakazato Hanshi and is the teacher of Steven Franz who owns and manages Franz Karate.

Steven Franz is a 6th degree black belt and holder of the Shihan teaching license from Shugoro Nakazato. Since he trains directly under Eddie Bethea Kyoshi he is 2nd generation black belt. Franz Shihan travels to Okinawa yearly to be reviewed and bring back the purest form of Okinawan Karate to his students. This lineage means that YOU, the student, will learn a true form of Okinawan Karate from a pure source.

To those who claim lineage doesn't matter it is because they don't have a direct line to the pure form of the art they proclaim to teach. There is a true difference in commercialized / sport karate and real Dento (Traditional) Karate that focused on self defense and self improvement. In our dojo we teach Karate as it was meant to be making your investment in classes a true learning experience from a valid source.

Pictured Above (left to right) Franz Shihan, Minoru Nakazato Hanshi, Eddie Bethea Kyoshi in Okinawa after training during 2017

 
About Our Dojo

Franz Karate offers the absolute best in Traditional Martial Arts  training for all ages. Our system is Shorin Ryu ShorinKan Karate, which is one of the first systems to be developed in Okinawa. Our dojo has been in operation since 1991 and our goal is top level, professional and authentic Karate training for all ages. Our Master instructor is Steven Franz Shihan. Shihan is a Rokudan, 6th degree black belt, with over 38 years of training in the martial arts certified directly in Okinawa.
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