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Shorin-ryu (小林流 (松林流, 少林流),
Shōrin-ryū?) 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 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 other
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, the primary dialect of Okinawa; and "ryu" means style. Therefore,
Shorin-ryu, "Shaolin style", or (small pine 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
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
deep stances are not important for powerful moves, and that only correct
There is not a known, whole system of Shorin
Ryu except for Matsumura Shorin Ryu. There are many dojos who use the term
however for simplicity's sake. 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 Shobayashi-ryu,
Ryukyu Hon Kenpo, Matsumura Orthodox Shorin-ryu, Seidokan, Kobayashi
Shorin-ryu (Shido-kan and Shorinkan), Kyudokan, and Matsubayashi-ryu,
Okinawa Kenpo, and Sukunaihayashi (Shorin-ryu Seibukan), but there are many
others, most with long and distinguished histories that trace back to
Matsumura and his students.
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