Gichin FunakoshiThe History of Karate

According to legend, the evolution of Karate began over a thousand years ago, possibly as early as the 5th century B.C. when Bodhidharma, a Buddhist Monk arrived in Shaolin-si, China from India and taught Zen Buddhism. He also introduced a set of exercises designed to strengthen the mind and body. Bodhidharma's teachings later became the basis for the majority of Chinese martial arts. In truth, the origins of Karate appear to be somewhat obscure and little is known about the early development of Karate until it appeared in Okinawa. Sometime between the years 1784 and 1903, the term karate replaced that of Te. This new name reflected the synthesis of the native Okinawan martial arts of Te with the influence of the Chinese Martial Arts the Okinawans had been exposed to.


Karate-do was modified and transformed into a way of life by Master Gichin Funakoshi in 1905. Before this, it was just a group of techniques that permitted self-defense without weapons. Weapons bans, imposed on the Okinawans at various points thoughout their history, encouraged the refinement of empty-hand techniques and, for this reason, was trained in secret until modern times. Further refinement came with the influence of other martial arts brought by nobles and trade merchants to the island. Born in 1868, Funakoshi began to study karate at the age of 11, and was a student of the two greatest masters of the time, Yasutsune Itosu and Yasutsune Azato.

The first public demonstration of karate in Japan was in 1917 by Funakoshi, at the Butoku-den in Kyoto. This, and subsequent demonstrations, greatly impressed many Japanese, including the Crown-Prince Hirohito, who was very enthusiastic about the Okinawan art. In 1922, having mastered two major styles of Karate, Funakoshi, then President of the Okinawa association of the Spirit of Martial Arts, was chosen to demonstrate Karate at the first National Athletic Exhibition in Tokyo. This led to the introduction of the ancient martial art to the rest of Japan. Karate

Other masters then helped spread Karate throughout the country and the rest of the world. A general Federation of Karate Organizations was established in 1964 after Karate achieved a following abroad. This federation's main concern has been to establish unified forms, rankings, and rules of competition, and to keep contact with overseas Karate associations. Over the years, numerous schools and styles have emerged, some emphasizing the strengthening of the body, while others focused on quick movement.

The History of Shorin-Ryu Karate

As martial arts instructor and advisor to the last King of the Ryukyuan Dynasty, Master Sokun Matsumura, often called "Matsumura the Warrior" was the preeminent martial artist of his era. Matsumura Sensei developed and trained many disciples, one of whom was Anko Itosu.

Anko Itosu (1830 - 1915) incorporated the closed, hidden arts of karate into the physical education given at schools, and worked for broader, further dissemination of the arts. His disciples, Gichin Funakoshi, Kenwa Mabuni, and Kanken Toyama carried the arts to mainland Japan while Kentsu Yabu, Chomo Hanashiro, Chotoku Kyan, Choki Motobu, Mouden Yabiku, Choshin Chibana, Anbun Tokuda, Choujyo Oshiro and Shinpan Shiroma disseminated Itosu's teachings throughout Okinawa.

Choshin Chibana, to better distinguish the style from other forms of karate, and to preserve the tenets that had been passed down from his teacher, Anko Itosu, renamed the form Okinawa Shorin Ryu. While the basic kata of Okinawa Shorin Ryu is Naihanchi, Anko Itosu modified the traditional kata and incorporated them into the First Dan, devised new Second and Third Dan, and amalgamated five new patterns of kata collectively known as Pinan into the Fukyu kata.

Shorin Ryu is a natural flow, devoid of unbalanced stances or unnatural breathing patterns. It has unique patterns of coiling and of relaxing power, allowing easier concentration of force and the attainment of speedy actions. To best develop the skills involved in the art of the single, deadly blow, training is targeted at tightly bound bales of straw. Nor is the art limited to passive modes of defense: the ability to release an effective counterattack in defense is a crucial element, summarized as "Offense is an effective form of Defense."

The All Japan Karate Federation seeks to spread Karate as a sport form. Simply put, this divergence is vast and serious. Winners in combative sports such as boxing may be seen wildly rejoicing with the announcement of a win, but this is not acceptable in martial arts such as sumo, judo or karate. A victor restrains his joy out of consideration for the vanquished. Such is the difference between sport and a martial art.
Shorin Ryu history by Katsuya Miyahira Chairman, Okinawa Shorin Ryu Karate Association

Contact Maryland Shido-kan Shorin Ryu Karate at:
Maryland Shido-Kan Shorin Ryu Karate
16010 Annapolis Rd
Bowie, MD 20715
Phone: 410-721-4400