Mounting evidence suggests that the Asian martial arts originated in India. According to Chinese traditions, in the fifth or sixth century A.D., a Buddhist monk named Bodhidharma traveled from India to China, transmitting the doctrine of Ch’an (Japanese: Zen). Bodhidharma is also suspected to have initiated the physical training of the Shaolin monks who played a large role in systematizing the Chinese martial arts.
However, just as calculus developed on the European mainland at the same time it was being developed independently in England, the martial arts could have originated in different places at the same time.
There is little debate, however, that the Chinese families who practiced kung-fu played a large role in advancing the martial arts for many centuries. The Okinawans who studied the Chinese arts developed the art known today as karate (空手).
When the Satsuma clan of Japan subjugated the Ryukyu islands (including Okinawa) in 1609, they banned the use of weapons. This ban served to accelerate the study of the art of te in secret. Even in secret, the art of karate took shape and merged with the Chinese exercises to become the forms (kata) we practice today. A notable teacher to emerge from this period was Kusanku, whose name is preserved in one of our advanced kata.
The earliest known reference to the Chinese art of te on Okinawa appears in a seventeenth century Okinawan poem. An eighteenth century Okinawan karateka named Sakugawa (whose teaching is preserved in a 2nd-degree black belt form, Sakugawa-no-kon) had studied To-te in China. Whereas the Chinese art of To-te used more open-hand techniques, an Okinawan teacher named Kanryo Higaonna is sometimes credited with changing many of the open-hand To-te techniques to closed-fist techniques in the late nineteenth century.
Osensei Shoshin Nagamine
After World War II, an Okinawan police officer named Shoshin Nagamine recognized that Japanese culture was in need of revitalization. He formed a judo team with his fellow police officers. After much disappointment and hard work, they began experiencing success at judo tournaments. In 1953, Nagamine Sensei founded his dojo (“way place”) and began his life as the founder of Matsubayashi-ryu, a style of Shorin-ryu. Nagamine gives a great deal of credit to his own instructors: Ankichi Arakaki, Chotoku Kyan, and Choki Motobu. The character on the left-hand side in the patch is 松 (Chinese: sho, Japanese: matsu), which means “pine”. The character on the right is 林 (Chinese: rin, Japanese: hayashi), which means “forest”. A phonetic change occurs in Japanese so that the the combined characters read “matsubayashi”. Shorin-ryu and Matsubayashi-ryu are used interchangeably, and both mean “the pine forest way”. The weapons in the patch represent Nagamine’s background in the weapons art of Kobudo (古武道) or “the old martial way”.
Sensei Tommy Morita
In 1964, a boxing champion and karate instructor in Hawai’i named Tommy Morita traveled to Okinawa to study under Nagamine. He began teaching Matsubayashi-ryu in 1965 and was eventually belted with the rank of 8th dan. Morita developed a system known as Shinden-ryu. This name is preserved in the thirty-six Shinden-ryu self-defense “tricks” that are taught at Midwest Martial Arts. The two characters in the upper-right-hand side in the Shinden patch represent the two characters that make up the name “Morita.” The word “Shinden” is the Chinese pronunciation of those two characters. From top to bottom, right to left, the characters read “Shin-den-ryu kara-te-do”.
Sensei Bert Kajitani
A Hawaiian practitioner named Bert Kajitani was a devoted student of Morita. Kajitani traveled to Kansas and became an instructor at the Topeka Parks and Recreation program in the 1970s. Morita Sensei granted Kajitani the privilege of establishing his own patch for his style known as Hawai’i Shorin-ryu Karate-do. The flames on the patch at the right refer to the first character of Kajitani’s name: Kaji, meaning “fire”. The Chinese character in the center is tao (Japanese: do) meaning “way”. Hawai’i Shorin-ryu is still taught under Sensei Wells Bridges (6th dan) at Central Park Community Center in Topeka.
Sensei Ronnie Moore
Sensei Ronnie Moore studied Hawai’i Shorin-ryu under Kajitani Sensei for many years and traveled to Hawai’i to meet with Morita and even Osensei Nagamine. In 1987, Moore established the Southwind Shorin-ryu Organization and has transmitted the traditional art of Matsubayashi-ryu (Shorin-ryu) Karate-do to hundreds of Kansans over the decades. Traditionally, a martial arts style is named for the family who practiced it or for the geographical place where it developed. The patch at right refers to the Kansa (“konsay”) people for whom the State of Kansas was named. The word konsay is often rendered in English as “People of the South Wind.” The two characters in the center of the patch are miname “south” and kaze “wind”. The Japanese pronunciation would be “Miname-no-kaze”, but, since the middle character (no) is omitted on this patch, the pronunciation is rendered in the Chinese: “Nam-fuu”. Southwind members practice a subsystem of Shorin-ryu named “Ritajimo.” This name originates from selected syllables of the names Morita, Kajitani, and Moore.