Karate, as we know it today, originated on the Ryukyu Archipelago, more commonly known as the Island of
Okinawa, (Birthplace of Karate), Japan. The major sites were the villages of Naha, Shuri and Tomari.
Sakugawa Kanga "Tode"
(1733-1815) "father of Okinawan karate"
Matsumura Sokon "Bushi"
Itosu Yasutsune "Anko"
Chibana Chosin "Hanshi no Sogo"
Nakazato Shugoro "Hanshi JuDan"
There are no known authentic pictures of:
Sakugawa Kanga "Tode"
Matsumura Soken "Bushi"
The traditional Kata (forms) have been handed down from instructor to student. To quote Chibana Sensei,
"Karate is teaching Kata (form) we have taken from forefathers without changing it at all." There are 15
traditional Katas and in Kobudo (Okinawan Art of Weaponry) there are 6 weapons with individual Katas for
Founding Eminent Okinawan Karate Masters of "Karatedo" Association in 1936. (Front-from right) Chojun
Miyagi, Chomo Hanashiro, Kentsu Yabu, Chotoku Kyan (Back-from right) Genwa Nakasone, Choshin
Chibana, Choryo Maeshiro, Shinpan Shiroma
Okinawan Karate dates to the sixth century when Bodhidharma's (Daruma), born in India, travels took him to
China where he settled at a Shao-lin (Shorin in Japanese) Monastery. The introduction of ch’uan-fa ("fist 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 indigenous to Okinawa, (the birthplace of Karate),
developing in the villages of Shuri, Naha and Tomari. Thus begins the lineage of Shorin-Ryu Kobayashi
Karate from the Shuri-te system.
TAKAHARA, Peichin (1683-1760)
was revered as a great warrior and is attributed to have been the first to explain the aspects or principles of
the word do ("way"). These principals are: 1) ijo, the way-compassion, humility and love. 2) katsu, the laws-
complete understanding of all techniques and forms of karate, and 3) fo dedication 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" who was
to become known as the "father of Okinawan karate."
KUSANKU, (AKA: Kung Syanag, Koso Kun)
is a Chinese diplomatic title. This emissary was a military official, who traveled to Okinawa, as documented in
1761. He instructed "Tode" after the death of TAKAHARA, SAKUGAWA’s first instructor. KUSANKU’s name is
associated with several katas in the Shorin-Ryu styles.
SAKUGAWA, Kanga (1733-1815)
"Tode" meaning "karate," was a nickname given to him by his eminent instructor TAKAHARA. Known as the
"father of Okinawan karate," SAKUGAWA traveled to China to study the fighting arts. During this time he is
attributed for combining the Chinese art of ch’uan fa and the Okinawan art of tode ("Chinese hand or empty
hand"), forming Okinawa-te ("Okinawa hand") which would become the foundation for Shuri-te. He passed
down Kusanku, which is said to be one of Okinawa’s oldest katas. Furthermore, he developed a bo kata,
Sakugawa no Kon.
MATSUMURA, Sokon (1796-1893)
"Bushi" ("Warrior") it is acknowledged, began his training at an early age under the tutelage of SAKUGAWA,
"Tode" and made several trips to China to further study the fighting arts. He is credited, by several sources, for
making the most singular contribution, katas, to the development of Okinawan karate. The Shuri-te system of
katas that are still practiced today in the Kobayashi Shorin-Ryu system are Naihanchi I-III, Passai Dai, Chinto
ITOSU, Yasutsune (1830-1915)
"Anko" ("Iron Horse") trained under MATSUMURA, Sokon and is credited for introducing the Pinans ("Peaceful
Mind") I-V Katas to the Okinawan public schools in 1901. He is also credited for Kusanku Sho and Passai
Sho. Some of the most important modern day instructors that trained directly under him were: CHIBANA,
Chosin, FUNAKOSHI, Gichin, KYAN, Chotoku, MABUNI, Kenwa to name just a few.
CHIBANA, Chosin "Hanshi no Sogo" (1887-1969)
was one of Itosu’s top students. CHIBANA Sensei was the first to differentiate his system of karate from
others by naming it Kobayashi-ryu ("young forest" style), in 1930, instead of Shuri-te or by his own name (e.g.
Chibana-te) as had been done in the past within the Shorin-ryu systems. This decision was brought on by the
growth and development of te, not only on Okinawa, but also with the foresight of international introduction.
CHIBANA Sensei was one of the founding committee members of karate masters in 1936 that agreed karate
should be translated as "empty hand." In addition, he was awarded the Fourth Order of Merit from the
Emperor of Japan, in 1969, for his life long contributions to the martial arts. It is attributed by some sources
that he passed down the Kusanku Dai and Gojushiho katas. CHIBANA Sensei’s most influential student of
the modern day is NAKAZATO, Shugoro, to whom CHIBANA Sensei presented his personal black belt, which
was a great honor and tribute to NAKAZATO Sensei’s devotion and martial arts skills.
NAKAZATO, Shugoro "Hanshi JuDan" (1921 - Present)
Hanshi JuDan NAKAZATO has spent most of his life in the martial arts and in 1967, after nearly twenty years
of training, was awarded 9thDan by his eminent instructor CHIBANA Choshin. Upon CHIBANA Sensei’s death
in 1969, NAKAZATO Sensei became the president of the Okinawan Shorin-Ryu * ShorinKan Karate-do Kyokai
and was promoted to 10thDan 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 Okinawan Shorin-Ryu *
ShorinKan Karate (Kobayashi-ryu) system. Hanshi JunDan headed the Okinawan karate delegation and was
asked to give a special performance at the 1996 Olympic Games held in Atlanta, Georgia. Most recently in
May 1999, he led an Okinawan seminar delegation of Grand Masters to the United States promoting The 1st
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 first generation students in the United States are Kyoshis: Nabil
NOUJAIM, Doug PERRY, Patrick HALEY, Eddie BETHEA, Raymond KELLER , Eberhard WELCH, Noel SMITH,
C.D. WILLIAMSON, Chris ESTES, Sean RILEY, Kevin ROBERTS and Cheech LUZZI, to name a few.
NOUJAIM, Nabil "Kyoshi-Nanadan" (1950 - Present)
NOUJAIM, Nabil "kyoshi-Hachi Dan" 8th Dan (1950 - Present)
Kyoshi (NanaDan) Nabil Noujaim, 8th dan-Karate, 6th dan-Kobudo, is one of Hanshi
Judan Nakazato Sensei’s senior students in the U.S.A. and Southern California.
Kyoshi Noujaim has been a student of Shorin-Ryu*ShorinKan Karate since 1972 and
is the head instructor of Noujaim’s Shorin-Ryu Karate in El Centro, CA., U.S.A. His
ranking students have Shibo Dojos in Indiana, New York, Chile, Puerto Rico,
Argentina, Mexico and various California cities including El Centro, Brawley, Berkeley,
San Miguel and Paso Robles. Kyoshi Noujaim travels extensively promoting
Shorinkan not only nationally but also internationally including seminars in Israel, Chile,
Jordan and Mexico. His travels also take him to Naha City, Okinawa, Japan where he
trains under Shugoro Nakazato Sensei, Grand Master Shorin-Ryu Shorinkan Karate &
Kobudo. In addition, his annual November Camp, Noujaim’s Cal South International
Martial Arts Camp draws from all the martial arts disciplines. The 2003 CAMP was
honored to have Nakazato Sensei as the Guest of Honor along with his son, Minoru
San and several ranking Kyoshis from Okinawa. In 2008 Kyoshi Nabil Noujaim was
inducted in to the "Hall of Fame".
Click to view Sensei Sal's Biography
This brief synopsis of Okinawan Karate history is nothing more than just that, brief. Please refer to the
references listed on the home page and/or your own library and resources.
-Nakazato Sensei Receives Award-
The government of Japan via the Japanese Prime Minister
under the hand of the Emperor of Japan on November 4, 2007
awarded to Nakazato Sensei the "Order of the Rising Sun with
Gold and Silver Rays" - Asahi Soukou sho.
From all the prefectures in Japan a total of 960 Asahi medals
were awarded in various fields with Shugoro Nakazato Sensei
being the ONLY martial artist to be presented with this