History of Shorin-ryu Shorinkan Karate

History of Shorin-ryu Shorinkan

All Karate schols associated with Shorin-ryu Shorinkan, the association created in 1975 by Sensei Shugoro Nakazato teach the Okinawan Karate system or style known as Shorin-ryu.   There are four branches of Shorin-ryu Kobayashi-te,  the branch from which Shorinkan teaches, then there are Matusbasyashi-ryu, Shobayashi-ryu and Matasumura Orthodox.  As you will learn further on all of these schools stem from a common progenerator,  Yasutsune Itosu.  

Shorin-ryu Lineage chart


Throughout the world there are millions of people who study the art of Karate. Karate was born on the island nation of Okinawa, developed through the blending of Okinawan Te with Chinese Kung-fu. Those who practice Okinawan Karate say it not only develops ones fighting abilities it also helps in maintaining health.

It is believed that Okinawan Karate owes much to the Indian Buddhist Monk named Bodhidharma who taught the Shaolin Monks the Indian Martial artt called Vajramushti around 527 CE. From this system the Chinese developed Kungfu which eventually found its way to Okinawa.

Chinese Kungfu blends with Okinawan Te

Chinese martial arts found its way to Okinawa due to trade with China. China established a trade agreement with the Okinawan Kingdom this new relationship resulted in many Chinese government officials and traders visiting Okinawa and sharing with them Chinese Kungfu. The Okinawans learned their techniques. They didn’t merely copy the techniques, they studied them and absorbed the ideas and made them part of Okinawan Karate, the concepts where made to blend into the Okinawan concept of fighting of short quick powerful movements.

Te often varied from one town to another, so to distinguish among the various types of te, the word was often prefaced with its area of origin; for example, Naha-te, Shuri-te, or Tomari-te.

Originally in Okinawa there was only Te or “hand”, it was also called ToDe “Chinese Hand”. There was no standardization of Te throughout Okinawa. This resulted in a generic naming convention, Te was referred by the name of the city in which a student studied. There were 3 primary names for Okinawan Te prior to World War II, Naha-te, Shuri-te and Tomari-te, found respectively in the cities of Naha, Shuri and Tomari.

Three Schools of Okinawan Karate
Eventually these three systems became known by other names, to further distinguish their unique teachings and ideas.

Naha-Te, also known as Shorei-te, evolved into Gojo-ryu and Uechi-ryu

Shuri-Te, was renamed by Sensei Choshin Chabana to Shorin-ryu and later his students branched off and named their variations Kobayashi-Ryu, Matusbasyashi-ryu, Shobayashi-ryu and Matasumura Orthodox.

Later in 1975 after Sensei Chibana passed his mantel to Sensei Shugoro Nakazato, Shorin-ryu Shorinkan was created for 41 Years Sensei Nakazato stood at the head of the Shorinkan association, after his passing his son Sensei Minuro Nakzato assumed the role of the head of the association.

Karate ,regardless of the system studied, is Kata Sensei Chibana is know to have said “Karate is teaching Kata we have taken from forefathers without changing it at all”

Those forefathers of Kobayashi Shorin-ryu, the system studied by those of us in Shorinkan


Kanga Sakugawa ( 1733-1815)Tode meaning  China hand  was a nickname given to him by his eminent instructor TAKAHARA. Known as the  father of Okinawan karate,  SAKUGAWA traveled to China to study the fighting arts. During this time he is attributed for combining the Chinese art of ch’uan fa and the Okinawan art of tode ( Chinese hand or empty hand ), forming Okinawa-te ( Okinawa hand ) which would become the foundation for Shuri-te. He passed down Kusanku, which is said to be one of Okinawa’s oldest katas. Furthermore, he developed a bo kata, Sakugawa no Kon.


Sokon Matumura ( 1796-1893)

Bushi (Warrior) it is acknowledged, began his training at an early age under the tutelage of SAKUGAWA,  Tode  and made several trips to China to further study the fighting arts. He is credited, by several sources, for making the most singular contribution, katas, to the development of Okinawan karate. The Shuri-te system of katas that are still practiced today in the Kobayashi Shorin-Ryu system are Naihanchi I-III, Passai Dai, Chinto & Gojushiho.

Anko Itosu
Anko Itosu

Yasutsune Itosu ( 1830-1915)

Anko ( Iron Horse ) trained under MATSUMURA, Sokon and is credited for introducing the Pinans ( Peaceful Mind ) I-V Katas to the Okinawan public schools in 1901. He is also credited for Kusanku Sho and Passai Sho. Some of the most important modern day instructors that trained directly under him were: CHIBANA, Chosin, FUNAKOSHI, Gichin, KYAN, Chotoku, MABUNI, Kenwa to name just a few.

choshin Chibana
choshin Chibana

Chosin Chibana ( 1887 – 1969 )

CHIBANA Sensei was the first to differentiate his system of karate from others by naming it Kobayashi-ryu ( young forest  style), in 1930, instead of Shuri-te or by his own name (e.g. Chibana-te) as had been done in the past within the Shorin-ryu systems. This decision was brought on by the growth and development of te, not only on Okinawa, but also with the foresight of international introduction. CHIBANA Sensei was one of the founding committee members of karate masters in 1936 that agreed karate should be translated as  empty hand.  In addition, he was awarded the  Fourth Order of Merit  from the Emperor of Japan, in 1969, for his life long contributions to the martial arts. It is attributed by some sources that he passed down the Kusanku Dai and Gojushiho katas. CHIBANA Sensei’s most influential student of the modern day is NAKAZATO, Shugoro, to whom CHIBANA Sensei presented his personal black belt, which was a great honor and tribute to NAKAZATO Sensei’s devotion and martial arts skills.

Sensei Shugoro NakazatonShugoro Nakazato ( 1921 – 2016 )

Sensei Shugoro Nakazato earned his 9th Dan almost 20 years after he started training in karate, this rank was presented to him by Sensei Choshin Chibanana.  In 1969, Sensei Nakazato became the president of the “Okinawan Shorin-Ryu ShorinKan Karate-do Kyokai”  and was then promoted to 10th Dan in 1980. 

Sensei headed the Okinawan karate delegation and was asked to give a special performance at the 1996 Olympic Games held in Atlanta, Georgia. In May 1999, he led an Okinawan seminar delegation of High ranking Okinawan Karate-ka to the United States promoting The 1st Okinawa Traditional Karatedo & Kobudo World Tournament. Durring the 1996 Olympics in Georgia Sensei Nakazato demonstrated and introducted the Kata now known as Gorin.

Sensei Shuguro Nakazato received the title of “Intagible Cultural Asset”, or Kenmukei Bunkazi, in August 2000.  Then he received the “Order of the Rising Sun with Gold and Silver Rays”, Asahi Soukou Sho, from the Japanese Prime Ministers under the direction of the Emperor of Japan.

Sensei Minoru Nakazato
Sensei Minoru Nakazato

In August 2016 Sensei Shugoro Nakazato passed, and left the Shorin-ryu Shorinkan in the hands of his son, Sensei Minuro Nakazato

Kyoshi Noel Smith
Kyoshi Noel Smith

Sensei Noel Smith

Sensei Noel Smith then 4th degree black belt in a martial art known as Okinawan Shorin-ryu. He had only one goal in mind, to teach the martial art of Karate-do as he learned it in Okinawa from Sensei Shugoro Nakazato to students in Virginia Beach.

Sensei Smith began his study of Kobayashi-te Okinawan Shorin-Ryu karate while stationed in Okinawa during the Vietnam war. Since the early 1970’s the Dojo has produced many champion Karate-ka over the years, while focusing on traditional Shorin-ryu karate techniques and rooted in the Budo philosophy.
Sensei Smith likes to say that “we teach Karate in the way it was intended”. This means that while most schools simply teach their students to try to land a quick punch for competition, OBI Karate focuses on logical fighting and defense first. After all this is the art of self defense and protection.
Our training is based on tried and true process developed over hundreds of years on the island of Okinawa. Through Kata and sparring we develop our abilities to control our bodies & our minds. Our curriculum is small, only 15 kata but within these kata are all the tools needed to defend and protect yourself, in addition there are other benefits of practicing this art. Kata is a wonderful system to develop cardiovascular strength, lose weight and strengthen your body.

Sensie Noel Smith teaches both Karate “Open Hand” as well as Kobudo or weapons. Our weapons curriculum covers Nunchucku, Sai, Bo, Eku, Tonfa & Kama our only bladed weapon.
In the Early 1970’s he was instrumental in helping Sensei Shugoro Nakazato create and set up the Shorin-ryu Shorinkan association.
it is now one of the largest Karate associations in the world.