History of Shorin-Ryu

Shorin-Ryu is a combination of Shuri-Te and Tomari-Te – two of the three forms of traditional Okinawan Te, or To-Te. It is essentially Shuri-Te, as taught by Sokon Matsumura, but is heavily influenced by the teachings of Yasutsune Itosu, (a student of Matsumura).

Over the last half of the 20th century, Shorin-Ryu developed four distinct styles, namely Matsumura Saito, (or Matsumura Orthodox), Matsubayashi Shorin-Ryu, Sobayashi Shorin-Ryu, and Kobayashi Shorin-Ryu.

Of these four styles of Shorin-Ryu, Saito is the purest of the original teachings of Sokon Matsumura. Shobayashi and Kobayashi both developed into their own separate styles, while Matsubayashi seems to be a mixture of these last two styles.

Matsumura Saito (Orthodox)

The purest teaching of Sokon Matsumura was carried on by his son, Nabe Matsumura. He received his training in the family style of Matsumura Shorin-Ryu, which also included secret techniques from White Crane Kung Fu. In later years Nabe Matsumura was referred to as Nabe Tanme (Old man Nabe), and in keeping with tradition, he only had one student – his nephew, Hohan Soken.

Hohan Soken started training in the Matsumura style under his uncle at the age of 13, and at the age of 23 started training in White Crane Kung Fu as well. These influences can still be seen in many of the Matsumura Shorin-Ryu katas. Chinto uses the one-legged stance of the crane extensively, Gojoshiho uses the movement of the neck and beak of the crane and Hakutsuru uses the wings of the crane.

Up until the 1950’s Soken referred to his style as Matsumura Shuri-Te (which it was), but then changed it to Matsumura Saito (Orthodox) Shorin-Ryu to distinguish it from other styles of Shorin-Ryu emerging from the Shuri-Te line.

Soken handed Matsumura Saito over to Fusei Kise, who started his training under his uncle Makabe Cho in 1947. He also studied under Nobutake Shingake, before eventually studying under Hohan Soken. He also became a student of Nakamura Shigero (founder of the Okinawan Kenpo Karate-do Federation) and after 5 years with Shigero was promoted to 7th Dan in 1965.  Kise continued to train in both Shorinji-Ryu (a Shobayashi style) and Matsumura Saito under Soken. In 1972 he qualified for his 8th Dan, and in 1976 for his 9th Dan, both from Soken. In 1977 he founded the Shorin-Ryu Kenshin Kan Karate and Kobudo Fediration and got his 10th Dan in 1987 from Shigeru Tamaiya.


Shoshin Nagamine was the founder of Matsubayashi Shorin-Ryu. He began his training under Chojin Kuba at the age of 17. When he moved to Shuri, he started studying under Taro Shimabuku and later with Ankichi Arakaki, both of which were students of Chotoku Kijan, founder of the Shobayashi style. He also studied with Kodatsu Iha (a student of Sokon Matsumura), before joining the military. When he returned, he studied under Chotoku Kijan, Choki Motobu, and later Choshin Chibana.

He opened his own dojo in 1953 and named his style Matsubuyashi. If you take a close look Nagamine’s teachers, you will notice that he was trained by Iha (Matsumura Saito), Kijan, Arakaki and Shimabuka (Shobayashi) as well as Chibana (Kobayashi). This seems to indicate that Matsubayashi is a mixture of the other three styles of Shorin-Ryu. It is however distinctly different from the other three in that it is much faster and lighter.

Nagamine was head of Matsubayashi until he passed away in 1997, when his son, Matayoshi Nagamine took over the style, until his own death in 2012. Since then, the style is headed by Yoshitaka Taira.


Chotoku Kijan, a student of Yasutsune Itosu, is generally credited with being the founder of Shobayashi Shorin-Ryu. His students, of which there were many, included Ankichi Arakaki and Shoshine Nagamine, both of who is now associated with Matsubayashi. Some of his other students, who went on with the Shobayashi line include Joen Nakazato (Shorinji-Ryu), Zenryo Shimabukuro (Chubu Shorin-Ryu), Taro Shimabuku (Chuba Shorin-Ryu), Tatsuo Shimabuku (Isshin-Ryu), and Eizo Shimabuku, who took over the Shobayashi style from Kijan.

Eizo Shimabuku trained under Miyagi Chojun and Choki Motobu before eventually studying under Kijan. Because Shimabuku maintained the traditions and excellence of Shorin-Ryu through the Shobayashi style after Kijan’s death, Kangen Toyama (founder of Shodukan Karate and President of the All Japan Karate-do League) promoted him to 10th Dan in 1959. This makes Shimabuku the youngest man ever to be promoted to 10th Dan, at the age of 34.


Chosin Chibana was a student of Yasutsune Itosu, and the founder of Kobayashi Shorin-Ryu. He studied with Itosu until Itosu’s death in 1915. For 5 years he continued training on his own, and in 1920 opened his own dojo in Shuri, but as his reputation spread, he soon opened a second dojo in Naha. He lost both these dojo’s during World War II, but after the war he opened a new dojo and continued teaching.

Although many of Chibana’s top students served and died in World War II, by the time Chibana passed away, he still managed to achieve a near impossible feat and train 5 of his students to the level of 9th Dan. They were Chozo Nakama, Katsuya Miyahira, Kensei Kinjo, Yukho Ku Higa (Shorin-Ryu Kyudokan Shinko Kai), and Shugoro Nakazato (Shorinkan).

Yukho Ku Higa started his training under Jiro Shiroma, who was a specialist in Shuri-Te. He studied under Shiroma for 6 years until Shoroma’s death in 1933. Higa then spend a year training on his own, before becoming a student of Jinnan Shinzato, who was in turn a student of Chojun Miyagi. Shinzato belonged to the Naha-Te school, and Higa learned the characteristics of the style which is nowadays known as Goju-Ryu.

In 1943 Higa met Chibana, and quickly became his top student. Higa later founded the Shorin-Ryu Kyudokan Shinko Kai – a style of karate that follows Chibana’s Kobayashi style of Shorin-Ryu.

Shugoro Nakazato was another top student of Chibana. Nakazato started his training in 1936 under Ishu Seiichi and studied with him for 6 years until he joined the military. After World War II, in 1946, Nakazato started studying under Chibana. Nakazato was instrumental in helping Chibana open his Dai Ichi dojo in Naha, and in 1954 he became Chibana’s main assistant. After a year and a half as Cibanna’s assistant, Chibana commissioned Nakazato to start a new line of Kobayashi Shorin-Ryu, and open a dojo in Aza, Naha. Nakazato did so and named this new Kobayashi style Shorin-Ryu Shorinkan.

Shugoro Nakazato passed away in 2016, but before his death, in 2013, he retired from active teaching, and handed his Shorinkan style to his son, Minoru Nakazato, who is the current head of the style.

The Villieria Tigers Shorin-Ryu Shorinkan Karate Dojo teaches Nakazato’s Shorinkan, and therefor also Chibana’s Kobayashi Shorin-Ryu by default.