The art of Shorin-Ryu can be traced back to an 18th Century Chinese military officer but the early history of Karate is veiled in mystery. It was illegal for the early practitioners to own weapons or to train in empty-hand techniques. Karate, for centuries was originally practiced in secret, cloaked in classical Okinawan dance. The fighting art was closely guarded by family members, teachers and practitioners.
Okinawa, an island chain geographically situated between China and Japan, has strong influences from both cultures, thereby borrowing martial art philosophy, technique and training methods from the two outside societies. China and Japan were, for centuries, involved in a tug of war to conquer and overrule Okinawa, an important stopover point for seaborne commerce and trading ships from the surrounding countries.
Shorin Ryu evolved in Okinawa over a period of 600 years when the Okinawan Islands were ruled by the Chinese and Japanese Governments.
The RyuKyu islands stimulated by their development of the weaponless fighting art incorporated the martial ideas of the various cultures into karate thereby further developing (te) empty hand and combat with farm implements. In order to protect themselves and their families from invaders the Okinawans used the only weapons they had at their disposal; their bodies. They combined the knowledge of their own martial heritage with the methods they learned from the Chinese and others.
Sokon Matsumura is considered to be the father of Shorin-Ryu. He served as the head of all royal bodyguards and was reported to have fought many death matches. He created and refined many of the kata that be practice today.
Around the turn of the century, the martial arts began to become more visible and, in turn, more accessible to the public. By the early 1900’s, martial arts training had become part of the Okinawan public school curriculum.
With few exceptions, karate, as it had become known by then, remained relatively unknown outside of the Orient until after WWII. The occupation of Japan by U.S. forces and the establishment of permanent military bases on Okinawa gave American soldiers the opportunity to learn the ancient art of karate. When soldiers returned to the United States, they brought with them an effective form of self-defense that captured our imaginations and let to the establishment of numerous dojos throughout the United States.
Branches of Shorin-ryu:
SHORIN-RYU Karate is one of the two original Karate styles formally systemized in Okinawa. It is considered by some authorities to have had the most influential impact on the development of all modern Karate systems, following their emergence in Okinawa. Shorin-Ryu Karate eventually splintered off into four (4) groups.
These four groups are:
1. The original Shorin-Ryu style founded by SOKON "Bushi" MATSUMURA, known as MATSUMURA ORTHODOX. It is also reported that Hohan Soken, who was born in 1889, founded this style. Reportedly some of the style's followers have changed its name to Sukunai ayah.
2. SHOBAYASHI-Ryu (small forest school), was first taught by Chotoku Kyan, a famous student of Yasutsune Itosu, and trained several notable students such as Shoshin Nagamine who in 1947 founded the Matsubayashi Ryu branch of Shorin Ryu.
3. KOBAYASHI-Ryu (young forest school). Choshin Chibana is credited as the first to teach Kobayashi Ryu. According to some sources this system is identical to Shobayashi Ryu. It is believed that Choshin Chibana simply misspelled the kanji characters, which changed the pronunciation from Shobayashi Ryu. to Kobayashi Ryu.
4. MATSUBAYASHI-Ryu (pine forest school). The last three names refer to the small pine forest where the original Shao-lin temple was located in China. All Shorin-Ryu styles are interpreted as Shorin-ryu, or "Shao-lin way," reflecting their Chinese heritage.
~ Note there are many deviations within each of these branches, but these branches are by far the most popular and widely known.