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
verything 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.