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Shorin-ryu (???, ???, or ???, Shorin-ryu?) is one of the major modern Okinawan martial arts. Said to have been founded by Sokon Matsumura during the 1800s, Shorin-ryu combines elements of the traditional Okinawan fighting styles of Shuri-te and Tomari-te. Shorin-ryu is widely considered to be one of the two major modern styles of Okinawan karate, along with Goju-ryu, which is rooted in the third traditional Okinawan style, Naha-te.
Sokon Matsumura was a renowned warrior of his time; bodyguard to three kings of Okinawa, he has been called the Miyamoto Musashi of Okinawa and was dubbed bushi, or warrior, by his king. However, while he is often referred to as the “founder” of Shorin-ryu, he did not invent all the components of the style, and perhaps didn’t refer to it as Shorin-ryu himself. It is quite possible that he synthesized his knowledge of Okinawan arts with Chinese fighting styles that he learned on his travels and taught it as a coherent system to some eager students, who subsequently refined it, labeled it, and passed it on. Shorin is the pronunciation of the Chinese Shaolin in Hogun (“Hogen” is standard Japanese for “dialect”; the suffix “-ben” is also used, but the modern use of the word “Hogen” is current Okinawan local “slang” for Uchinanchuguchi, TFA.) The primary dialect of Okinawa, although now an almost dead language due to the taking over of okinawa by Japan.; and ryu means “Association”. Therefore, Shorin-ryu (“Shaolin association” or “small forest”) reflects the Chinese influences intrinsic to the art.
Along with being a style on its own, Shorin-ryu is also perhaps the most influential single ancestor of modern Japanese karate. One of Matsumura’s best-known students, Anko (or “Ankoh”) Itosu became a great practitioner and teacher of Okinawan karate and developed the five Pinan kata, which are now taught not only in Shorin-ryu, but also in a wide variety of Okinawan, Japanese and derived martial arts. It is also believed by some that the first three Pinan kata were actually developed by Matsumura and the last two by Itosu. In addition, Itosu and another student of Matsumura’s named Anko Azato were among the primary influences on a fellow Okinawan named Gichin Funakoshi. Funakoshi introduced his Okinawan martial arts to mainland Japan in 1922, and in subsequent decades was instrumental in developing what he termed simply karate or karate-do into a popular Japanese martial art. The style Funakoshi taught on mainland Japan is now called Shotokan karate.
Shorin-ryu is generally characterized by natural breathing, natural (narrow, high) stances, and direct, rather than circular movements (with the exception of Shorin-Ryu Kyudokan, which makes extensive use of circular movements). Shorin-ryu practitioners will say that correct motion matters, being able to move quickly to evade violence by having fluid movements and flexible positions is quite important, and that a solid structure is very important for powerful moves, but stances that are too deep, will most likely make body movement very difficult.
“… now the Japanese call it ‘kobayashi style’ but that is incorrect – but that is all right because only people who do not know Okinawan karate will call it by that name. Since they do not know you must gently remind them or the Okinawan people will laugh at their ignorance. After all, it is funny, many foreign people call it kobayashi shorin-Ryu – that is just like saying shorin shorin-ryu. It doesn’t make much sense …”  Miyahira Katsuya hanshi Okinawa Shorin-Ryu Karate 10th dan
There are many dojos who use the term “Shorin-ryu”. Some of the best known schools of Shorin-ryu were started by Matsumura’s students, keeping with Okinawa’s tradition of successorship. Each of Matsumura’s Deshis (students) changed the name of their system when they took over, so the branches began: Sukunaihayashi (Shorin-ryu Seibukan), Ryukyu Hon Kenpo, Kodokai Shorin-ryu, Matsumura Seito (orthodox) Shorin-ryu, Seidokan, Kobayashi Shorin-ryu (Shido-kan, Shorinkan, Kyudokan), Matsubayashi-ryu, Okinawa Kenpo, and Shobayashi-ryu, but there are many others, most with long and distinguished histories that trace back to Matsumura and his students, for example Shinjinbukai, founded by Yoshimitsu Onaga in 1988.
Hohan Soken was the founder of the Matsumura Seito (orthodox) style of Shorin Ryu. Soken began training in karate and kobujutsu at age thirteen under his uncle, Nabe Matsumura. Nabe was the grandson of Bushi Matsumura of Shuri. After ten years of basic training under Nabe Matsumura, he began learning the techniques of the white crane known as hakutsuru. According to Soken, the techniques of karate and kobujutsu he learned from Nabe Matsumura were the same ones practiced by his samurai ancestors hundreds of years ago. Soken also received kobujutsu training from an old man from Nishihara Village by the name of Ushi Komesu. Komesu practiced Shuri-te and taught Soken the Tsuken (Chikin) Bo Kata.
In 1924 Soken moved to Argentina where he lived for twenty one years before returning to Okinawa. After returning to Okinawa he slowly began to accept a few students. Soken retired from teaching in 1978, however for many years was the oldest living karate master still actively teaching.
There are different sets of kata, ranging from kihon (exercise kata) to rohai (vision of the crane kata). This is a list of the main kata series studied in Shorin-ryu karate. Not all kata are practiced by all schools. In some styles of Shorin-Ryu Kihon Kata or Kihongata is taught before Fukyugata or it takes the place of Fukyugata.
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