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Origins Of Okinawan Karate

Published: December 17, 2019
Categories: History
Black and White Photo of Shuri Castle

The origins of Okinawan karate date back to the 18th and 19th century. Literally meaning “Chinese hand or empty hand”, karate became the accepted term for the empty-handed system of self-defense of Okinawa. Prior to that time period, it is believed that when Okinawa was invaded by Japan (they two were independent countries) there may have been a ban on all weapons, and confiscation of all the Okinawans? weapons. Without any weapons to defend themselves, the Okinawans practiced empty-handed self-defense techniques in order to defend themselves from the armed Japanese invaders. The self-defense system they developed was called te, and over time evolved into a more sophisticated form of martial arts which is known as karate.

On the main island of Okinawa, karate developed in three major cities: Shuri, Naha, and Tomari, which are all located within a few miles of each other. The early styles of karate were named after the cities where it was practiced; Shuri-te, Naha-te, and Tomari-te. Shorin-Ryu Shorinkan is a small branch that evolved from the Shuri-te system of fighting.

Development of Shorin-Ryu Karate

Ankoh ItosuAnkoh Itosu (1830-1915) was one of the most influential karate practitioners. Born in Shuri, Okinawa he taught karate in the public school systems. He felt that some of the kata or techniques were too difficult for schoolchildren to learn, so he developed a simplified series of katas in order to improve the teaching of karate in a public school setting. He also was the instructor of Chosin Chibana.
Chosin ChibanaChosin Chibana (1885-1969) started his martial arts career when he was fifteen years old. When he began to teach, he wanted to be able to differentiate the various styles which developed within the Shorin-Ryu system. Rather than naming his style after himself, which was the popular practice, he called his style Kobayashi-Ryu or young forest style. He opened his first school in 1917 and was the karate instructor for the Shuri police department from 1954 to 1958. Chibana’s top student was Shugoro Nakazato
Shugoro NakazatoShugoro Nakazato (1920-2016) was involved in martial arts nearly his entire life. He began to study judo at age thirteen and started his karate instruction under Chosin Chibana in 1933. After twenty years of training under Chibana, Nakazato was promoted to ninth dan or ninth degree black belt. Chibana also presented Nakazato with his own black belt, which is one of the greatest honors. Upon Chibana?s ‘eath in 1969, Nakazato became president on the Shorin-Ryu Shorinkan Karate association and was promoted to tenth dan in 1980.

Published: December 17, 2019

Categories: History

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