THE MARTIAL ART     THE "HIDARI GOMON" (Legend on the origin of the symbol of Okinawa) 
   THE INFLUECE OF BUDDHISM     THE DEVELOPMENT OF KARATE DO 
   THE MARTIAL ART IN CHINA     THE GREAT MASTERS FROM OKINAWA 
   THE MARTIAL ART IN JAPAN    THE KATAS OF SHORIN RYU KOBAYASHI 
   THE MARTIAL ART IN OKINAWA   

 

 

abrir imagenTHE MARTIAL ART
To begin an accurate investigation on martial arts, we must search on the origins of the human kind, for martial arts reflect the sense of self preservation of the human being. First, we should not forget that human beings are meant to live in society; this is the reason why, since its appearance, human beings have gathered to subsist. It is a well known fact that self preservation is instinctive in every living being, and men have had to search for means of defense to overcome the adversities, fighting against the many dangers existent, day by day. So mankind strived to develop their abilities through planned training, which, however, where first used for hunting, and only later for defense against those of their own kind. In primeval times, warriors belonged to family casts, and devoted themselves to the development of fighting techniques, with weapons and with there bare hands. The gradual enlargement of human communities implied, in most cases, the appearance of leaders, with enough power to create large organized group of warriors. This was the beginning of armies as we now understand them, and their efficiency lent heavily on the training they undertook. Naturally, the political leader (kings, emperors, etc.), had to be himself a skillful warrior, hence those who had detached on battle could became teachers of the most powerful man. So consecrated, their fighting system would be preserved and passed many generations on, evolving to art. The Real Academia Espaņola defines art as "the implementation of human faculties, prepared by previous experience", and fighting methods, of every kind, individual or collective, fulfill this definition, becoming known as Martial Arts. Certain facts about the origin of Martial Arts are very hard to establish, for we count only with folklore, and very few written documents. However, it is an established fact that martial training eventually occurred in a well differentiated fashion, among peasants, who sought self defense; and militias who owed their loyalty to the head of the established power, where trained systematically, and served the purpose of defend and control society. It should be noticed that martial training sought, in both stamens of society, not only a high development of physical aptitudes, but also to obtain moral discipline. It cannot be said for sure when the first army appeared. The oldest documentation of martial training is found in Egyptian mural paintings, about five thousand years ago, and, more recently, the Greek pankration. This is indicative of the fact that, wherever society exists, martial arts are constantly being developed. Nonetheless, it can hardly be denied that Asia has witnessed the highest development on Martial Arts. To name a few, the Indian Vajra Musti, which can be traced back to the year 1124 B.C., from Birmany, the Bandy, Letwei, and Banshai, Thai box, a national sport in Thailand, the Pentjak Silat from Indonesia, the Arnis from the Filipinas Islands, Chinese Wu Shu, Tae Kwon Do, Hwaran Do, Subak, Chabi y Chariwk from Korea, and last but not least, Japanese Judo, Aikido, Kendo, Sumo, and Karate Do.


THE INFLUECEOF BUDDHISM
Asiatic martial arts were, in their origin, highly influenced by the many religions existent in the region. But a historical event of paramount religious importance unified the landscape, and remains fundamental to the core of martial arts philosophy to these days. Hence we shall devote a few words to recall this event. Siddartha Gotama, son of the king of the Sakyas, Suddhodana Gotama, was born in North India, in the year 553 B.C. Siddartha grew up locked up in his father’s palace, surrounded by luxury, and highly protected from any exterior menace. He was trained for war and government since he was a child, being prepared for the royal succession. He is forced to marry princess Yasodhara, at the age of sixteen. A few months later, the young prince begins, secretly, a long journey through his lands, and gets extremely shocked by poverty, and the physical suffering of his people. Pain was, to that point, unknown to him. He returns to his father, but at the age of 29, little after his only son, Rahula, is born, he leaves his father’s home for ever. He is decided to find truth on existence and means to avoid any pain. He walked through the Ganges valley for six years, met many religious wise men, and devoted himself to the spiritual and physical exercising that they demanded to him, but found no satisfaction or glimpse of truth. He abandoned all religious tradition, and searched for his own path. Illumination came to him at the age of 35, when hi was meditating under a tree. It was the year 528 b.C. (Illumination is sometimes described as the perception of absolute truth, and the end to all suffering.) From know on, he will be called Buddha, who has waken to truth, and will devote himself to propagate a new doctrine , which is to this days, still known as Buddhism.
In the year 520 B.C., in the course of one of his voyages, crossed the Himalayas on foot, and arrived to the north of China. Seeking refuge, he asked for shelter on the temple Shaolin (little woodland). He was received kindly, and taught his doctrines to the monks. But they where week, and could not devote themselves properly to meditation. So Buddha complemented spiritual guidance with physical exercises, which he had learnt in India, during his martial training. This routine of exercises taught by Ta Mo, so was Buddha called in this country, to the Shaolin monks, was divided into Ensankyo, the art harmonically developing the body by ordered exercises, and Senzuikyo, the art of keeping pure and clean the body, as foundation of spiritual purity . Ta Mo`s teachings, true knowledge can only be obtained by a strong mental and physical discipline, were carefully followed by the monks. They found this exercises wonderfully effective, and so trained every day, tirelessly.
Buddha dies in the year 483. He leaves to human kind a new religion that will influence most martial arts, and is full of concepts that we still found enlightening.
THE MARTIAL ART IN CHINA
The techniques taught by Ta Mo constituted the art Shi Pa Lo Han Sho (the eighteen hands of Lo Han, so called because the original body of exercises divided naturally in eighteen items). This techniques, the origin of most modern Asiatic martial arts, where not originally meant as a mean of self defense, as we have already explained. Legend tells that, nearly forty years after Ta Mo`s death, the Shaolin temple was attacked by common thieves, as would we usual till the twentieth century, but this time, one of the monks, called the mendicant, defended himself applying the movements hi had learnt from Ta Mo, killing some of the enemies, and forcing the others to flee. Moved by this experience, he continues to develop the exercises into a method of self defense, which would be later known as Ch` uan Fa (the first method). The other monks quickly appreciated the importance of this development, and accepting the guidance of the mendicant monk, soon became excellent fighters. Besides religion, from that moment on they also devoted to the development of fighting methods, and it is believed that, to this days, they are responsible of nearly 400 martial arts. A few tenths of years later, a Ch`uan Fa teacher rediscovered the original Shi Pa Lo Han Sho, which had gradually been forgotten, and augmented the number of techniques from eighteen to seventy two. Not satisfied with this development, he continued his search in collaboration with another teacher of Ch`uan Fa. The discipline that finally emerged consisted of one hundred seventy techniques, ordered in five groups .Each group was named after an animal, for the exercises it comprehended reflected the instinctive movements of self defense of that animal, and was meant to develop specific human skills. So the tiger movements allow the strengthening of bones and muscles, the dragon movements give temple and spiritual development, the leopard, speed an accurateness, the crane, flexibility, equilibrium, and patience, and the snake movements, the chi (inner energy, in Japanese, ki). A warrior trained in the five animals would have a solution to any situation in weaponless fighting, making him or her potentially unbeatable. But it became tradition that each monk should specialize in the animal that suits best his aptitudes.
Their religious philosophy urged the monks to leave the temple and share their knowledge with the peasants. Simultaneously, noblemen and soldiers, who were mostly Taoists, used to practice Chinese boxing. This fighting method was absorbed by the new methods that were being spread all over the country by the monks, and Chinese boxing became highly popular. From that moment on, it evolved in two different styles: an internal, Taoist, line that would be known as Shang Wu, and an external, Buddhist, style, known as Shaolin. Both are known under the generic name of Wu Shu (Martial Arts), and are known to us, erroneously, as Kung Fu (continuous work). This last term was used by Chinese teachers to explain their art to occidentals, and so the confusion aroused. The Shaolin Martial Art evolved from the year 600 for over one thousand years to become the most complete Wu Shu in China. The monks developed the inner power, the exterior strength, meditation, methods of fighting with weapons, and medicinal skills, as massage and acupuncture. .


THE MARTIAL ART IN JAPAN
In Japanese culture, Martial Arts play a prominent role. They are of paramount importance in the social history of Japan, and, to some extent, it may be said that the history of Japan is the history of its martial arts. The origin of modern Japan can be traced back to the year 660 b.C., when a large mass of Mongolic people, under the leadership of a man called Jimmu, migrated to the archipelago. They displaced a small native population of Caucasian origin, called the Ainus. These immigrants brought with them their own martial arts, prominently centered on the use of the spear. Their fighting style is that of infantry. But, in the I century, iron makes its appearance, and in the VII century, already with a centralized political power, the importation of the Mongolic horse will definitely change their methods to cavalry. In the VIII century, the political power in the archipelago declares its independence from China, and the first Japanese Emperor is proclaimed. Japanese Martial Arts begin to evolve independently from their Chinese counterparts. The use of the sword, and the arrow and bow, came to the fore, while innumerable wars for the dominion of the archipelago were taking place. But a fighting system without weapons, which had been brought from India and was called Jiu Jitsu, was also very much exercised when during the battle, the warriors lost their swords. Near the end of the Kamakura period, diplomatical relations with China are reestablished, by the recognition of Japan as an independent state. The military governor of the archipelago, Minamoto Yoritomo, gives himself the supreme title of Shogun (greatest general). He codifies the duties of a warrior, and those who specialized themselves in the use of the sword, bow and arrow, or Jiu Jitsu, were called Samurai (he who serves). The Samurais, essentially prepared for war time, became, however, of the greatest importance in Japanese society. They become also scholars and artists, devoted to their Lord with absolute loyalty, and are regarded as examples of moral statue. They developed their own lifestyle, and it was commonly said that "As the cherry flower stands first among all other flowers, the Samurai stands first among men".
By the end of the XIII century, the Samurai lifestyle has evolved into a moral code, known as "the rode of the bow and the horse". But Samurais had been slowly decaying as warriors, and this was painfully felt when the continental attempts to conquer the archipelago reappeared with renewed strength. This forced them again into intensive martial training. At the same time, Zen Buddhism, which had been introduced in China by the monk Boddhidarmha (called in Japan Daruma Taishi), arrived to the archipelago, and influenced Samurais strongly. The "rode of the bow and horse" evolved to become the Bushi Do ( the road of the warrior). In those times of perpetual war, this new moral code became soon universally accepted among Japanese warriors, and for many years, no battle, no matter how violent, would escape the rules set by the Bushi Do. The core of the Bushi Do has survived to our days, and lays at the foundation of all modern Japanese Martial Arts. Fire guns were introduced in Japan around the year 1543, by Portuguese merchants. The Samurai fighting method became seriously threatened, and many of them were killed by fire guns in the battle field. In the year 1550, the Emperor commands the Daimyos (general) Nobunaga Oda, to pacify the state. He pacts with the Portuguese to obtain fire guns, and is killed for this reason in the year 1582. His successor, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, take away the weapons from the peasants. The reunification will be finally achieved by Ieyasu Tokugawa in the year 1600. This is the beginning of the long, peaceful, and culturally brilliant Edo period. Ieyasu Tokugawa organized Japan as a feudal monarchy. He carried two swords, signal of his hierarchy, and had power over the lives of his inferiors. It is in this epoch that ritual suicidal becomes a codified matter. Samurais should commit seppuku for fidelity to their Lords, or as punishment for having committed any fault. Samurais lost the right to be anything but warriors. So, in this period of peace, they devoted themselves to the various forms of art. Samurais will now train themselves not to be efficient warriors, but to be spiritually efficient, they will no longer be men doing the art of war, but martial arts will build the men. In the year 1639, the Tokugawa closed Japan to the world. No one could enter the country, and no Japanese could leave. Moreover, in the year 1699, the Daimyo Satsuma de Kagoshima, forbids the importation of fire guns. The Edo Period, characterized by the Tokugawa peace, ended in a terrible Civil War, the result of the confrontation between the Emperor Mutsuhito, who wished to reopen Japan, and the Shogun of the Tokugawa. Under the pressure of Europe and the United States of America, the Emperor assumed the military power, and forced the last Shogun to submission. This victory of the Emperor reopened Japan to the world in the year 1868, the beginning of the Meiji period. Samurais were no longer obliged to carry their swords, and nearly four hundred thousand of them were practically relegated to a complete inactivity. Of course, many small rebellions occurred among them. The greatest of them took place in the year 1898, lead by Satsuma, but was finally suffocated by the government. This was the end of Samurais as a real power. From this point, they will become legend. In the year 1882, Higoro Kano , great master of Jiu Jitsu, creates Ju Do, by eliminating from the ancient art its most dangerous aspects. This is the beginning of the sportive aspect of martial arts. To close this short review of Japanese history, let us mention that Japan enters WWII under the leadership of Emperor Hirohito, and surrenders to the Americans in the year 1945. Now the archipelago is under military government, the leader being General McArthur. The new democratic constitution is proclaimed in the year 1946, ending the true power of the Emperor, who remains only as a symbol. General Mc Arthur retires from the power in 1951, but the military occupation by USA will not end until the year 1972, when the last American troupe leaves Okinawa.

THE MARTIAL ART IN OKINAWA
Karate Do is original from Okinawa, main island of the Ryu Kyu, group of sixty islands that extend from the southern extreme of the island of Kyushu till the island of Taiwan, over 1300 kilometers of sea . The Ryukyu have always been closely connected, politically and economically, to Japan. In spite of this, the central government never paid attention to the Ryukyu. A fortuitous accident in 753, an imperial delegation which was returning from China, with a famous Buddhist monk among them, was dragged by a furious storm to the Ryukyu, attracted, for the first time, the attention of the imperial court to them.
The history of the Ryukyu is extremely agitated. Near the 1300 , with the local King in decadence, the main island, Okinawa, was divided in three kingdoms: Nanzan (southern), Chuzan (in the middle), Hokuzan (northern).
In the year 1350, Satto was crowned king of Chuzan, who, taking advantage of the natural ports, established the first commercial treaty with the Ming emperor of China. This situation soon established Chuzan as the most powerful Kingdom in Okinawa, though the other two managed to maintain political independence till the year 1429. This is the year of the reunification of the Ryukyu by King of Chuzan Sho Hashi, who establishes the dominant class (shishoku) in the new capital Shuri.
In those times, martial arts in the Ryukyu were mainly represented by a few Samurais. But the prohibition by King Sho Shin of the use of weapons, and even of the practice of any martial art, causes a slow decadence in the field. Only a few members of the Shishoku escaped the prohibition. They traveled to China to be trained, and slowly developed a variant of Chinese box.
The Kingdom of Ryukyu kept its independence till the year 1610, when Shogun Tokugawa invades the islands and forces King Shonnei to accept tutelage from Japan , to tribute yearly a cargo of rice and to maintain, under death penalty, the prohibition to use weapons.
Many historians agree in that it is this second prohibition which most stimulated a tremendous development of methods of self defense. The local peasant are know exposed to the soldiers of the emperor and common thieves, and must resource to martial arts of empty hands, and even to their tools(origin of Kobudo), for their defense. On the other hand, the King used to send clandestinely members of the Shishoku of his confidence to China for martial training. Clandestiny is evident in that we find in folkloric dances of that time clear indices of martial movements. This prohibition lasted to the Meiji period, and as a secondary effect, we have no written documentation on the development of Karate Do.

THE "HIDARI GOMON" (Legend on the origin of the symbol of Okinawa)
It is said that a few years, during the Edo Period, Okinawa suffered a great lack of rain, to the point that the yearly tribute of rice could not be sent to Kagoshima. Forced by the circumstances, the Lord of Ryukyu decides to ask for liberation of that year’s tribute. The messenger of the lord of Ryukyu, followed by two bodyguards, was received by the Lord of Kagoshima. But he felt angry, for he found extremely disrespectful that the Lord of Ryukyu had sent an emissary without the rice, and ordered their Samurais to slain them all. But, to his surprise, the unarmed bodyguards easily dominated the Samurai who attacked the messenger. The Lord thought his Samurais where invincible. At this point, the messenger says that, if he cannot feel pity for the suffering of the people, he should at least respect their courage, which they were not using against his power. Meanwhile, the fight drives the two warriors and the Samurai to fall to a large cauldron where oil for the lamps was boiling. Moved by this gesture, the lord of Kagoshima accepts to dialogue with the emissary of the Lord of Ryukyu, and not only forgives that’s year tribute, but send rice to diminish the needs of the people of Ryukyu. In return, he asks for masters in the martial arts to be sent to teach his warriors.
Back in Shuri, the emissary `s recollection of the events moved the Lord of Ryukyu: thanks to those men, a new paradigm in the relations between the two feuds was beginning. To tribute the memory of those warriors, he commanded the creation of the Hidari-Gomon, which is, since then, the symbol of the islands.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF KARATE DO
As has already been mentioned, the commercial relation of Okinawa with China allowed the mixing of Chinese martial arts, especially those developed in the Shaolin temple of Fu Chou, in the province of Fu Chien, with the local fighting techniques. This mixing would evolve into Karate Do, but the process took hundred of years, and careful research by many great masters. In the meantime, the art of fighting with the bare hands had many names. It is said that in the islands, the fighting methods of Chinese origin were first known as Ti, the Chinese word for hand, or Tu Ti (Chinese hand). But, in time, Ti changed to Te, the Japanese word for hand. A King of the islands, Satunuke Satugawa, traveled to China to learn the martial secrets of the masters of Fu Chuan. He was missing for many years, and was even thought dead. But eventually he returned, and taught what he had learnt under the name of To Te. With time, the art of fighting with the bare hands developed into three main styles, named after the main cities in Okinawa where they were practiced: Naha Te, from the city of Naha, Shuri Te, from Shuri, and Tomari Te, from Tomari. Being very similar, eventually Tomari Te and Shuri Te fused into a common style, known as Shorin Ryu (shorin is the Japanese word for shaolin, and ryu means school ). Well differentiated from the other to, Naha Te is now known as Shorei Ryu. Naturally, both styles are nonetheless, highly related.
Goyu Ryu and Uechi Ryu are styles that originate on Shorei Ryu.
On the other hand, Shorin Ryu gave place to many styles, which, however, differ very little among them, but for the way in which the various katas are learnt.
Even though the schools from the villas Tomari, Shuri, and Naha, have their common origin in the Shaolin temple of Fuchou, Shorin Ryu maintains the predominance of the fist, as a mean to preserve the traditions of the island (techniques of the old Ti and ancient fighting style of the island). Old masters used to say that the characteristic features of Shorin Ryu are due to the fact that Tomari and Shuri lay in mountainous regions. This favored the strength of the legs, and hence quick, sharp movements. In contrast, Shorei Ryu retained to a larger extent the techniques of Chinese boxing, full of movements with open hands, and very demanding for respiration, for Naha lays in a region were rice grew, and it was not unusual that the training would take place with half body in the water, a situation suited for higher thoracic development and concentrated movements.
The above comments make natural to accept that the main differences between Shorei and Shorin Ryu lay in the basic movements and the respiration technique. For Shorin Ryu, a step is executed by moving the feet on a straight line, the speed and strength of the strokes are well synchronized between defense and attack, respiration proceeds naturally, and the bases are as comfortable as advisable, so as not to produce unnecessary tiredness. For Shorei Ryu, in contrast, a step is executed by moving the feet on half-circles, and respiration is forced in accordance with the particular movement performed.
In 1868, end of the reign of the Tokugawa in Japan, the Ryukyu become part of Japan. After this Meiji restoration, the Sho dynasty, which had governed the Ryukyu for two generations, disappears when, in 1879, the last King Sho Tai is forced into exile to Tokyo. The Meiji government defines the archipelago as a province called Ryukyu Han, and the main island is officially known as Okinawa. All threads of political relations to China and Taiwan are definitely cut.
After all this profound social and political changes, Shorin Ryu and Shorei Ryu become jointly known as Okinawa Te, maybe as a mean to enhance cultural identity, and only some years later, some instructors begun to speak about Kara Te. However, kara is the lecture of the ideogram for China and the ideogram for empty. Hence it is very likely that that the original idea was to speak about “Chinese hands”. It is to be noticed that, to this point, the art had no stable name. Each instructor named it to his own accord, and it was still common to call it Te, or Bushin no Te (hand of the warrior). It is also likely that the name Kenpo (from ken, fist, and po, method) gained popularity in those days, as a generic denomination.
This state of affairs finally ended in 1930, when the instructor Gishin Funakoshi was asked by the University of Keio to create a research team on Karate. He proposed to call the art he had been asked to investigate Dai Nippon Kenpo Karate Do (literally, road of the empty hands and method of the fist of the great Japan). Karate Do became the universally accepted name, meaning empty hands.
Why was empty favored over Chinese? In the words of Funakoshi:” to favor empty hands is justified by the fact that the karate we practice nowadays is very different from the old art of Chinese boxing, and from the evident fact that this art of self defense does not use weapons, but the bare hands and feet. Moreover, those who practice this art seek to empty their hearts and minds of vanity and earthly burdens, and is for believing, like Buddhists, that emptiness lays at the foundation of matter and all creation, that I have always insisted on using that particular character to denominate this art.”
Due to close contact between Funakoshi and the father of Judo , Higoro Kano, Gishin creates the sportive karate that will become popular all over the World. In 1949 is created the Japan Karate Association, but it is not till 1957 that the first competition among all styles will take place in Japan.

THE GREAT MASTERS FROM OKINAWA
It is a well known fact that there were no Karate Do schools in the old times, due, of course, to the prohibition to practice martial arts. Instructors chose their pupils carefully, and taught to them secretly. This makes very hard to obtain any certain fact on the oldest great masters of the Ryukyu. In the following we shall, however, sketch briefly the biography of those great masters about whom something is known with some certainty.

Chatan Yara (1670- 1746).
He was of great importance for the diffusion of Karate Do in Okinawa. It is said that the remarkable strength of young Yara convinced his uncle, a successful merchant, about that he could become a great martial artist. Hence he suggested to the boy’s parents that he should be sent to China for martial training, and so was done. Under the tutelage of Chinese instructors he became an outstanding martial artist, particularly devoted to the art of the Bo and the twin swords.
He returned to Okinawa twenty years later and soon became of great importance for merchants and government officers, for he could read and write Chinese. His many duties obliged him to practice during the earliest ours of the morning.
It is said that one night, he saved a young lady that was been attacked in the beach. The event impressed the old men from the village, commonly assaulted by Japanese merchants and Samurais, and hence they proposed to Yara to become martial instructor of the young.
The main disciple of great master Yara was Pechin Takahara, monk from Shuri at the service of the King, instructor of Samurais in martial arts and writing, and first designer of an official map of Okinawa.

History preserves the name of the instructor from the islands Teijunsoku (also known as Nago Oyakata), for a poem hi has written, were the Chinese Ti is mentioned.

Satunuke Sakugawa (1733- 1815).
Great master Sakugawa started his martial training with the instructor Pechin Takahara, moved by a piece of advice his father gave to him little before dying. He became an excellent martial artist, to the point that Takahara himself advised him to travel to China to be trained by Ko So Kun. He spent many years in China , but eventually returned to Okinawa, were he became martial instructor. He called his art To Te, and is remembered to our days for being the creator of Dojo Kun, the principles of the Dojo. It can be said confidently that Sakugawa is the first instructor of the so called true karate from Okinawa.

Disciple of Satunuke Sakugawa was Chokun Makabe, whose pupil, Mabai Changwa, can be taken to be the originator of Tomari Te. Other great masters of Tomari Te were Kokan Oyadomari, Maeda Pechin, and Kosaku Matsumura. Matsumura, direct pupil of Mabai Changwa, trained the great master of Shorin Ryu Choki Motobu.

Choki Motobu (1871- 1944).
Choki Motobu´s family was devoted to martial arts and training. They were considered outstanding fighters, and devoted themselves to the protection of their village. Choki was the youngest son, and wished to train with his brothers even at too early an age for his father to allow it. But Choki will nonetheless, start to train himself, spying his family to learn the movements. When he was discovered spying, his father ran after him to punish him, but most of the time Choki managed to escape the anger of the great Motobu by climbing a high tree, so his family used to call him “the monkey”.
It is said that the Motobu where once defied by a very powerful and experienced Russian warrior. He had a fame of being unbeatable. Motobu family decided that young, inexperienced Choki should fight first, to allow the others to study the techniques of the impressingly big Russian. So was done, and to everyone amazement, Choki, with extremely high speed, strikes the Russian warrior in the chest, breaking him a rib. The broken rib perforates the lungs of the warrior, and so he is completely defeated by Choki. From this moment on, Choki is considered a great warrior on equal foot with all his family.
James Mitose, from Hawaii, was a pupil of Choki Motobu, from 1920 till 1935 in Japan. Back in Hawaii, he creates the Kosho Ryu Kenpo.

As a representative and precursor of Naha Te, we should mention Kanryo Higashiona (1852- 1916). Higashiona lived in China nearly fifteen years, where he learnt Chinese boxing .Back from China in the year 1889, he settles on Naha, and begins to teach his art. His pupil Chojun Miyagi (1888- 1953), is the creator of Goyu Ryu, and the founder of a club devoted to the study of karate, the Okinawa Karate Jutsu Kenkyu Kai. Also studied with Higashiona: Chutatsu Kyoda, Tsunetaka Shiroma, and Kenwa Mabuni (1893- 1957). Mabuni is the father of Shito Ryu, so christened to honor his teachers, Higashiona and Anko Itosu.
Shuri Te has got, as the highest representative among the old master,

Sokon Matsumura (1792- 1886).
Born in Yamagawa, Shuri, was already in his youth an outstanding calligraphist and practiser of Ti. Later he studied martial arts under the tutelage of great master Satunuke Sakugawa, who was at the time 78 years old.
He was bodyguard of three generations of kings of the Ryukyu. He traveled to Fouchou (China), where he visited several schools of Chinese boxing, the Shaolin temple, and learnt military strategy with the great generals Ason and Iwa.
After retirement, Matsumura taught his art till his death in Sakishama, Shuri, and named it Shorin Ryu, the Japanese version of Shaolin.

The art of Matsumura has been kept unaltered by his disciples Nabe Matsumura (grandson of Sokon), and Hohan Soken (nephew of Nabe). Soken lived in Argentina from 1920 till 1952, year in which he returns to Okinawa, and creates the school known as Matsumura´s Orthodox Shorin Ryu. Soken retired from teaching in 1989, and the school is maintained by his pupils Seiki Arakaki, Mitsuo Inoue, Jushin Kohama, and Hideo Nakazato, the heads of the Matsumura Association for Shorin Ryu Karate Do.
Of the many students of Sokon Matsumura, two are of paramount importance in the history of Karate Do, being the founding fathers of two contemporary styles of Shorin Ryu: Anko Itosu and Chotoku Kyan.

Chotoku Kyan (1870- 1945).
The son of the butler of the last King of the Ryukyu, Sho Tai, Chotoku traveled with his father to Tokyo, when the King was exiled. But he returned to Okinawa, where he studied martial arts with Sokon Matsumura (with whom he spent the largest period), Kokan Oyadomari, Maeda Pechin, and Kosaku Matsumura , instructor of Tomari Te.
Students of Kyan were Ankichi Arakaki and Taro Shimabuku. He used to travel with them, seeking to be defied by other martial artists. Despite being of very small size, Kyan was never beaten, due to his amazing speed and skill.

Among the outstanding students of Kyan is Shoshin Nagamine.


Shoshin Nagamine (1907- 1997).
He started to train with Chojin Kuba, Tomari Te instructor, when he was seventeen years old. Afterwards, he became student of Ankichi Arakaki and Taro Shimabuku. In 1931, after finishing with military duties, joins the police force, where is trained by Chotoku Kyan himself. Nagamine was also student of Choki Motobu, Anko Itosu, Chomo Hanashiro, and Kensu Yabu.
In the year 1942, Nagamine opened his first Dojo, in Tomari, which would be destroyed during the battle of Okinawa. In 1947, he founds the Matsubayashi Ryu (small pines forest), to honor Kosaku Matsumura and Sokon Matsumura.
In 1951 Nagamine is promoted to police chief inspector. He retired from the force in 1953. That year he opened in Naha the Dojo Kodokan, where he taught till his death.

Anko Itosu (1832- 1916).
Native from Yamagawa, Shuri, started his martial training very young, he was thirteen years old, as a student of Sokon Matsumura. He also studied Tomari Te with Gusukuma Shiroma. He was the personal secretary of Sho Tai, last King of the Ryukyu, until his exile.
In 1901, Itosu taught, for the first time, his art in the primary school of Jinjo, Shuri, and in 1905 became teacher of the municipal school Dai Ichi, and the Municipal school for the training of professors. Itosu maintained that To Te should be taught in every school, as the training would help to prepare the children for military duty.
Among the outstanding students of Itosu is

Chosin Chibana (1885- 1969).
He was born in Torihori, Shuri, and begun his training at the age of fifteen, as mentioned, as a student of Anko Itosu, the only teacher he ever had. Chibana started teaching at the age of thirty-four, and in the year 1935 created the style Kobayashi Ryu (the ideograms for Kobayashi are the same as those for Shorin). In 1954 Chibana becomes instructor of the police force of Shuri. He was the founding father of the first martial arts corporation, the Okinawa Karate Do Renmei, in 1956, which put an end to the old tradition of transmission of leadership (Menkio) in Shuri Te. In 1957, Chosin Chibana is awarded the 10° Dan degree by the Dai Nippon Butokukai.
Chibana creates in 1958, the Okinawa Shorin Ryu Karate Do Kyo Kay (Shorin Ryu Karate Do Association of Okinawa), and enters the Federation.
In 1960, Chibana is awarded the Okinawa Time Shinbun, a prize in recognition to his various services to physical culture. In 1961, the name of the Federation was changed to All Okinawa Karate Do Federation, but Chibana quitted the Federation the next year. Chibana is awarded by Emperor Hiroito the Kunyonto recognition as a Sacred Treasure in 1968.
Great master Chosin Chibana died of facial carcinoma in 1969. He was eighty-four years old.

Chibana´s main student, Katsuya Miyahira, became the president of the Shorin Ryu Karate Do Association of Okinawa.


Katsuya Miyahira ( 1918- ).
He started to practice Karate Do at the age of fifteen, as a student of Chibana. He also studied with Ambun Tokuda, Anko Itosu, and Choki Motobu.
During WW II, Miyahira taught self defense in schools. After the war, he taught at his home, and later moved to Naha, where he opened his first Dojo, in Goeku. At the same time, he was teaching at the University of Okinawa, in Shuri.
In 1956, Miyahira built, only with wood, a Dojo behind his new home in Tsuboya. He named it Shidokan.
In 1958 Miyahira was awarded by the Martial Arts Federation of Japan (this is the supreme organization which regulates all martial arts in Japan), the grade of Great Master in Martial Arts, Kyoshingo (he who can teach), and was designated permanent member of the jury.
Miyahira was designated Permanent Member of the Shorin Ryu Karate Do Association of Okinawa in 1969, position which he presently holds.
Miyahira is responsible for developments of capital importance in contemporary Karate Do: the introduction of analytic movements for each Kata as an obligatory part of the practicing, and profound studies on the philosophical foundations of Karate Do. His principles for the Dojo are: reason, justice, union and cooperation (goro, goho, kiodon, kioei).
Great master Miyahira , 10° Dan, is the president of the Okinawa Shorin Ryu Karate Do Kyo Kay.

We should also briefly mention the important instructor Doshin Sho. He learnt his art in China, from the Shaolin monks. In 1948, in the island Todotsu, Japan, creates the Shorinji Kenpo.c

We would like to close this review with the
man who made karate known to the World:

Gichin Funakoshi (1868- 1957).
He was born in Shuri, only son of an unimportant functionary. He was almost a baby when he was left to the care of his motherly grandparents. Already in primary school, he became close friend of the son of Tasutsune Azato, a well known karateca, who had been taught, among others, by Sokon Matsumura. So young Funakoshi became a student of Azato, secretly, for the prohibition to practice martial arts was still in force in the Ryukyu.
Azato was close fried of Anko Itosu, who used to go to practice to his house. So Funakoshi also had Itosu´s guidance.
In 1902, Funakoshi was invited to Kagoshima (big island of Japan), to perform a demonstration for Shintaro Ozawa and a school commissioner of the prefecture of Kagoshima. He performed the first public exhibition in Okinawa in 1906 and in Tokyo in 1917.
In 1922 Funakoshi traveled to Tokyo, again invited for an exhibition, but this time, moved by the people’s enthusiasm, remained in Tokyo, where, in 1936, he opened his first own Dojo, and named it Shotokan.
As is well known, Funakoshi was forced to change to some extent the techniques from Okinawa, to make karate more accessible to the naturals from Naichi (big island of Japan). As was already explained, he is also responsible for the name Karate Do and its modern meaning.

THE KATAS OF SHORIN RYU KOBAYASHI

Kihon Kata (from ichi dan to go dan).
They where created to exercise the basic positions by Chosin Chibana. The Kihon Kata allows the student to combine the various basic techniques and achieve adequate coordination. They are also useful to learn how to stand and walk for self-defense , by demanding an adequate positioning and a correct situation for the centre of gravity.

Naihanchi ( from Shodan to Sandan).
It is not known who created them. These katas where already practiced in the schools of Shuri and Tomari, before the pignan were created. Hence they are taught nowadays before the pignan. It is said that they were simplified from the original form taught by Matsumura, by Anko Itosu.
These katas are an excellent exercise for the spinal column, the feet and the legs, and so become fundamental to any future technical development. The position characteristic of this katas, kiba dachi, allow us to find the right position: straight spine, low shoulders, hidden chin, and the strength concentrated in the low abdominals (tandem).
With regard to self-defense, these katas represent a fight in a small, narrow space (e.g., a corridor). They contain ashi barai techniques and defenses from grasping of arms and wrists.

Pignan (from Shodan to Godan).
They were created by Anko Itosu in 1907, in order to adapt the practice of Karate do to primary school. They are based on techniques taken from the kata Kusankuso. (It is sometimes said that these katas were taken from another kata, which Itosu had learnt from a Chinese instructor, Chiang Nan, who lived in Okinawa in those days. But Chiang Nang, being of difficult pronunciation to the people from Okinawa, was changed to Pignan.)
The Pignan are a natural step after the Kihon katas, and make easier to learn Kusankuso. Their applications comprehend techniques to neutralize composite attacks from every side.

Fukyu Kata (Dai Ichi and Dai Ni).
The Ichi was created by Shoshin Nagamine in 1941, also with the purpose of teaching karate to children. It has been changed to become accepted by the Karte World Federation. These katas are not taught in Miyahira´s Shidokan.

Pasai (Sho and Dai).
Pasai means “to walk around the fortress”. It is a kata of great strength, its movements are soft and flexible, hence powerful. Both Pasai have many crossed defenses, which demand great speed and precision.
Sho means short, and dai, long.

Kusanku (Sho and Dai).
It is believed that this katas originate in a kata brought to the Ryukyu by a Chinese instructor, Kusanku or Kosokun, around the year 1761. It is told that Satunuke Sakugawa (in those days, pupil of Pechin Takahara), while crossing a bridge, saw a Chinese admiring the reflection of the moon in the water. Young Sakugawa decided to play him a joke, by throwing him into the river; but when he was about to push the strange, he turned around swiftly, and grasped Sakugawa´s hand. “Why did you do that? -asked the Chinese- You shouldn’t play this way. But people in Ryukyu has been very kind to me, I’ll let you go peacefully”.
Sakugawa was very surprised. Meanwhile, a man from the village came and offered some water to the Chinese. Sakugawa bowed his head to the the man who had just arrived, and the Chinese asked him if he knew young Skugawa. “Yes-answered the man- He is a student of martial arts from the village”. Then the Chinese looked at Sakugawa and said: “If you ever go to Kamemura, ask for Kusanku, and I’ll teach you not only the ways of martial arts, but also the why.” As has already been said, Sakugawa traveled to China under the tutelage of Kusanku, and remained there for many years. At his return, he started to teach a kata named after his master.
The Kusanku katas were revised by Sakugawa´s disciple Choken Makabe.
All basic techniques are contained and developed in the Kusanku katas, and we can find defenses against attacks with Bo, and techniques for hiding (udetate zenkutsu dachi).

Chinto.
Chinto is the name of the Chinese monk who brought the kata to the Ryukyu.
In Chinto, the stress is on low positions (neko ashi dachi kudushi, siko dachi, kokutsu dachi), and demands perfect equilibrium to perform the defense tsuruashi (a foot hooked in the standing leg, behind the knee).

Goyushiho.
Goyushiho means 54 steps. It develops techniques of simultaneous defense and attack. We see among its movements many defenses and attacks to be performed with open hands, which evokes the Chinese origin of our art.

Teisho.
Teisho was created by the great master Katsuya Miyahira. As announced in its name, it allows to practice the hit teisho (also, shotei), very useful for self defense.

Jion
It is named after the temple Yi On in Okinawa, were the monk who introduced it used to live. Jion is an outstanding kata, for it develops every position and technique, elementary and very advanced, in a balanced fashion, to achieve perfect training of every part of the body. This kata is not taught in Shidokan.

Koryu Pasai.
Old Pasai. It has recently been rescued from oblivion by Katsuya Miyahira. Koryu Pasai is the old form of modern Pasai katas without modifications.


 

 

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