MY GREEN BELT PAPER
Four Branches of Shorin-Ryu Karate
by Nathaniel Embick
Shorin-Ryu is a style of martial arts from Okinawa, Japan. This particular style of
karate has been around for more than 1,000 years. There are 4 branches of Shorin-
Ryu Karate: Matsubayashi (pine forest school), Shobayashi (small forest school),
Matsumura (orthodox), and Kobayashi (young forest school). Each branch
represents a different discipline of Karate. My style is Kobayashi. The individual
styles are taught by different sensais around the world. Following is a brief
discussion of each branch.
The Matsubayashi branch of Shorin-Ryu was founded by Nagamine Sensei.
Generally, Matsubayashi means “Pine Forest School,” but sometimes, it means
“River” because Matsubayashi flows through people’s hands and feet. Nagamine
founded it sometime around 1947. It was first introduced to the U.S. in 1960.
Because of the death of Nagamine Sensei, some school have split of from the
Matsubayashi discipline and gone over to others. Nagamine Sensei held it all
Shobayashi originated from Toute-Jutsu, another type of karate. It was founded by
Chotoku Kyan, and it was passed on to Eizo Shimabukuro. This style was
introduced in 1939. Eizo Shimabukuro learned the naihanchi katas and koryu
passai and the advanced kata Seisan, Ananku, Wanshu, Gojushiho and Chinto and
he passed them down to his students. When his uncle Kyan died in 1940, Eizo
Shimabukuro was left with the task of running the school.
The current sensei of Matsumura is Soken Hohan. His style was founded by Kayo
Soken, a bodyguard to three different Japanese rulers. After he served all three, he
changed his name to Matsumura Soken and founded the style. When Matsumura
Soken died, he allowed Soken Hohan’s uncle to use the style as his own. He then
passed it down to Soken Hohan, who became the style’s Grand Master. In 1902-
1903, there were not that many followers of Matsumura. One of the greatest senseis
at that time, Itosu Ankoh,had less than a dozen students. Soken Hohan’s uncle only
had one. But since then, the style has grown a lot.
Kobayashi is the style of Shorin-Ryu Karate that I practice. It is one of the most
authentic types of karate. Shorin-Ryu was created in Okinawa, by a visiting Chinese
diplomat, Kusanku-sensei who had moved to Okinawa for 6 years. Huri-Te and
Tomari-Te, older forms of Okinawan martial arts were being practiced and they
became the basis for Shorin-Ryu. Kobayashi was later developed by Shorin-Ryu
Master Senseis sometime in the 19th century. The style then moved to the
mainlands of Japan in the early 1920’s.
I hope you have found this essay fascinating. You learned about Matsubayashi,
Shobayashi, Matsumura, and Kobayashi. These are the four branches of Shorin-
Ryu. My experience with Karate has been that you have to keep on trying, even if
you want to quit, or if it gets hard. Ultimately, once you walk through the dojo door,
you leave your school, family problems, and other distractions behind. You enter,
and do karate