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Karate-KOBUDO (Japanese Weapons)

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Brief Description of Shorin Ryu and it's History


Numerous books have been written on this subject and this is not intended to be an in-depth and all incisive bible of Shorin Ryu. This is merely a brief description of our art. If I have made any mistakes or left anyone out it is neither intentional nor malicious. This is a very in-depth and complex subject so please allow me some latitude.

Shorin Ryu is the oldest of the three original styles of Karate on Okinawa. The other two styles are Goju Ryu, founded by Chojun Miyagi, who was a student of Naha Te master Kanro Higashiona who in turn was a student of Ryu Rukyo, and Uechi Ryu, founded by Kanmei Uechi after studying Pangainoon in China. All three styles, if practiced correctly, have much to offer the student and all three are excellent for self-defense -and personal development. Shorin in Japanese (or Shaolin in Chinese) means small forest and Ryu means method or style. Thus Shorin Ryu means small forest style. Shorin Ryu is named after the Shaolin Temple style of boxing founded in China. Quick, evasive movements and explosive techniques characterize Shorin Ryu. The stances are not as deep as in some styles instead the emphasis is on mobility. Shorin Ryu is a parent art and most modern styles of Karate practiced today came from Shorin Ryu.

It's commonly believed that Okinawa had a type of empty hand fighting called simply, Te (Hand). Sakagawa was a student of Te master Peichin Takahara. Sakagawa had the opportunity to study with a noted Chinese master of Chaun Fa named Kusanku. Sakagawa became known as Tode Sakagawa. Tode means China hand. Thus Tode was a name used in reference to this style of empty hand fighting originating in China and propagated by Sakagawa. Sakagawa taught legendary "Bushi" Matsumura who was the Kings chief bodyguard. Shuri castle was the Capital of Okinawa and where the King held court. Thus "Bushi" Matsumura's art became known as Shuri-Te (Shuri hand) after the royal village of Shuri. Other styles at the time were Naha Te which later became Goju Ryu and Tomari Te which blended with Shuri Te to make Shorin-Ryu. Shuri Te Karate Master Ankoh Itotsu who was a student of "Bushi" Matsumura was the first to introduce the "secret" art of Karate to the general public. He believed that Karate practice would not only benefit the individual's body, mind, and spirit, but also benefit society in general. There is some debate as to whether Itotsu or his student, Grandmaster Chosen Chibana, was the first to use the name Shorin Ryu.

Tomari Te was named after Tomari village, as was the custom of the time. The main exponents of Tomari Te were Kosaku Matsumora, Kokan Oyadamori, and Chatan Yara. Chotoku Kyan studied under all of these masters. Tomari Te blended with Shuri Te to become Shorin-Ryu.

Shorin Ryu is divided into several branches and sub-branches too numerous to list here. However all Shorin Ryu styles share a common history. Karate was known as Tode or Tote. The Kanji for To meant Tang for the Tang Dynasty that ruled China for so long that eventually the name represented China. De is the Okinawan Hogan pronunciation of Te meaning hand. Tode meant China hand. The Kanji for To could also be pronounced Kara. Thus it could also be pronounced Karate. The Kanji for Kara was changed to mean empty. Karate-Do Means Empty Hand Way. Do is a path or way of life. If one follows the Do eventually the path will lead to enlightenment. Do is a total approach to ones life. It is a way of life. It is a Budo. The way of Karate is a life long journey.

Karate's bottom line is efficient, effective self-defense. However, Karate is much more than just self-defense. Confidence, discipline, self-esteem, respect for others and ones-self, improved awareness, flexibility, strength, endurance, overall health and reduced stress are just a few of the benefits of Karate practice. There is no age limit and you don't have to be "in shape" to start. However you should get your physician's recommendation before starting any strenuous exercise.

Unfortunately today the word Karate is applied to just about any thing that may loosely resemble martial arts. It is an unfortunate fact that the general public is often fooled or misled by charlatans and unscrupulous business people who have little or no real knowledge of any Martial Arts. Often times something is marketed as Karate but really has no connection to it. Some people seek to cash in on the popularity of Karate with little regard for the art or the student. Remember to do your research and let the buyer beware. O'Sensei Shimabukuro says a cat can only give birth to another cat and a dog will have another dog and a lousy martial arts instructor usually has bad students as well.

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