◾ History of Shorinryu Karate 

In Okinawan legend, Karate began in India with a Buddhist monk named Daruma who travelled across the Himalayan Mountains to the Shaolin Temple in the Honan Province of China. There he began teaching other monks his philosophies of physical and mental conditioning, including exercises to develop physical strength and self defence. This monk was known as "Bodhidharma" in India and "Ta Mo" in China, and founded the school of Buddhism known as "Ch´an" in China and "Zen" in Japan.

It is believed that Karate is at least 1,000 years old. Much of the original martial art techniques practiced in Okinawa originated in China. The Okinawans believe that Daruma's teachings were passed on to an Okinawan man, Chatan Yara from Shuri, who visited the Shaolin Temple in China. The art became known as "Kara-tii", meaning "Chinese Hand" or "To-de", meaning "Okinawan Hand".



Development of To-de later continued in three Okinawan villages - Shuri, Naha, and Tomari. Each village had a master who developed their own unique style. Legend says that Sakugawa began training in 1750 and went to China where he trained for many years and introduced the concept of Dojo training to Okinawa. He lived in the Royal village of Shuri, and his style became known as Shuri-te.

Shuri-te likely derives from Shaolin Temple boxing, while Naha-te incorporates more of the soft, Taoist techniques involving breathing and the control or "Ki", the "Life-Force", called "Chi" in Chinese. Tomari-te developed from both these hard and soft traditions. A primary teacher of Tomari-te was Matsumora (1829~ 1898).



Itosu, Ankoh (Yosutsune) (1830-1915) was the most famous student of Matsumura. He introduced Karate into the Okinawan public school system in 1903. Prior to this, To-de had been private, taught in the homes of masters, largely in secret. He promoted Karate as  "a way of life, a means to achieve complete security and fearlessness." To him, To-de was a method of character development and not a way of attaining fame.

Itosu also created the "Chanan" Kata also known as "Pinan" Kata (Okinawa) and Heian Kata (Japan). Itosu's strong emphasis was on kata as the best method of achieving this type of mind control. According to him, mobilization of the body, control of the breath, stilling the mind, and concentration are made possible through practice of Kata. Itosu believed that through To-de man can control aggression.



Japan conquered the RyuKyu Kingdom in 1609 and it became Japanese territory. They banned the use of weapons, only Japanese samurai were allowed to carry swords. Forced to practice in secret, the Okinawan masters perfected their kata. Resembling traditional dances; anyone caught practicing the martial art could claim to be practicing Okinawan folk dance. Kata became the primary secret method of transmitting the style of each master from one generation to another.

By the end or the nineteenth century the arts of Shuri and Tomari were combined into one name, Shorin-Ryu, meaning the "flexible pine school" while Naha-te became known as Goju-Ryu, the "hard and soft school."



During the time that To-de was developing in Okinawa, the Japanese did not have a similar martial art. They practiced Judo, Jiu Jitsu, Kendo and other sword arts but not an "empty hand" martial art. The Japanese martial arts only involved grappling or weapons, so when a Japanese Royal Crown Prince saw a demonstration of To-de in Okinawa, he was greatly impressed and extended an invitation for an Okinawan master to visit Japan to give a demonstration.

Funakoshi, Gichin, a student of Master Itosu gave the famous demonstration in Tokyo in 1922 and was so well received that he never returned to his homeland of Okinawa. Instead, he remained until his death in Japan and established the "Shotokan" style of "Karate". So that the Japanese could claim this as their own style, the original character for "Kari" meaning "China", was changed to "Kara" meaning "Empty". In modern Japanese, "Karate" now means "Empty Hand" rather than "Chinese Hand". Soon after Japan's Shotokan Karate was developed, the Korean masters also standardised Taekwondo (c 1940) as combination of Okinawan Karate, Chinese Martial arts, and the ancient Korean traditions Taekkyeon and Gwonbeop. Thus, To-de (karate), the art that had secretly begun in Okinawan villages recently spread to Japan and Korea where it would grow into international arts, practiced today in many countries all over the world. There are an estimated 100 Million practitioners of Karate worldwide.

Information taken from trusted sources on the web, collated in chronological order and rewritten by Pete Tinsley.

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