|The Four Branches of Shorin Ryu
By Kenny Hicks
Shorin Ryu is one of the oldest styles of karate. It is also one of the main Okinawan
martial arts. Shorin means pine tree and Ryu means school. Shorin Ryu was named by
Chosin Chibana in 1933. Even though Chosin Chibana is considered the founder of
Shorin Ryu, he did not invent everything in the style. His sensei was Anko Itosu. Multiple
branches exist in both Okinawa and the western world today.
There are four main branches of Shorin Ryu. Those branches are Kobayashi Ryu,
Shobayashi Ryu, Matsubayashi Ryu and Matsumura Seito. Kobayashi Ryu is the style
that we study and was founded by Chosin Chibana. Shobayashi Ryu was founded by
Eizo Shimabukuro. Matsubayashi Ryu was founded by Shoshin Nagamine. Matsumura
Seito was founded by Soken Matsumura.
All of the branches are in Japanese, Chinese, or Okinawan. Matsubayashi Ryu means
Pine Forest Style. Kobayashi Ryu means Young Forest Style. Shobayashi Ryu means
Small Forest Style. Matsumura Seito means Pine Tree Village.
Each branch has some of its own katas. For example, Matsubayashi Ryu does Fukyugata
Ich, Fukyugata Ni, Ananku, Wanku, and Rohai Wanshu but Kobayashi Ryu does not. But
all of them have at least one kata in common. For example, Kobayashi Ryu and
Matsubayashi ryu both have Pinion Shodan, Pinion Nidan, Pinion Sandan, Pinion
Yondan, Pinion Godan, Chinto, Naihanchi Shodan, Naihanchi Nidan, Naihanchi Sandan,
Passai Sho, Passai Dai, Kusanku Sho, and Kusanku Dai.
Even though there are many types of styles of martial arts, they all have the same origin.
Centuries ago, Japanese rulers forbade the citizens to have common weapons so they
started to make and learn weaponless self defence techniques. Some people also used
farming tools as weapons. These weapons were the nunchaku, comma and tonfa. The
nunchaku was a rice flail. The comma was a sickle. The tonfa was a lever. The eku was
not made out of a farming tool, but it was not meant to be a weapon. It was originally a
boat oar. The sai is not one of these because it was made specifically to be a weapon. A
lot of people think that it was a blunt dagger with two prongs coming from the handle, or a
dagger shaped truncheon.
Shorinkan practices Kobayashi ryu. Shorinkan’s current grand master is Shugoro
Nakazato. It is also lead by Minoru Nakazato who is Shugoro Nakazato’s son. Some of
Shorinkan’s previous grand masters were Tode Sakugawa, Bushi Matsumura, Itosu
Yasutsune, & Chibana Chosin. Kyoshi Nabil Noujaim is a senior student of Nakazato
Sensei. My sensei, Sensei Salvatore Cirincione is a student of Sensei Nabil.
Each branch has there own way of arranging their belts. Kobayashi’s belt levels go White,
Yellow, Orange, Purple, Blue, Green, Brown, Black. The highest belt possible to get is
Red Belt. The only people that ever got that belt were the grandmasters and occasionally
their senior student. One example of this is Shugoro and Minoru Nakazato. Shugoro is
the grandmaster and has a red belt but his senior student and son, Minoru Nakazato has
a red belt too.
Karate is a huge part in my life. Even though I have done a different style and have only
been doing this style for about a year and a half it has been an amazing year and a half. I
love to do karate and compete in tournaments. Karate is an amazing experience and I
have a lot of friends at the dojo. I would like to thank the Grandmasters for making
Okinawa Shorin Ryu Karate.