Shorin-ryu Shorinkan History

Those who are members of Shorinkan, a private organization that was created by the late Hanshi Shugoro Nakazato and is now headed by his son Hanshi Minoru Nakazato teaches Kobayashi-Te branch of Shorin-ryu. There are three other branches of Shorin-ryu they are Shobyashi, Matsubyashi and Matsumura Seito. In 2000, Sensei Shugoro Nakazato was designated as an “intagible Cultural Asset Holder” by Okinawa Prefecture. 

Karate as it is practiced by traditionalist those who can trace their training to Okinawa, orginated on the Ryukyu Islands between China and Japan.  It is here on these islands that Karate was born

The Patch worn by all Shorinkan dojo members is the one designed by Sensei Shugoro Nakazato himself as illustrated here.

Shorinkan shorin-ryu united states

  • Circular Shape - The circular shape does not end, representing the unending study of karate. 
  • Gates - The gate shown is the second of six located at the Shuri Castle in Naha, Okinawa. 
  • Yellow Coloring - Yellow is a royal color in China and Okinawa.  Yellow also signifies light, as in the following the path of the Shorin-ryu style
  • Sho - Translates to "small"
  • Rin - Translates to "Grove of trees" or "Forest"
  • Ryu - Short for ryuha, it translates to "system", "style", or "school"
  • Sho - Translates to "small"
  • Rin - Translates to "Grove of trees" or "Forest"
  • kan - Translates to public building.  Thought of as a place of understanding and academics
  • Shorin-ryu (in Kanji) - "Small forest" or  "young forest" system of karate. Also known as Kobayashi-Ryu.  The name refers to the fact that Itosu-Sensei's original karate style is being taught.

SHORIN-RYU Okinawan History and Lineage

Our style of Karate is called Okinawan Kobayashi North American Shorinkan Shorin-Ryu and dates back more than 370 years with its origins in Okinawan Tode. This simplified chart below shows the direct linage from "Toko" to Sensie Noel Smith. During the years, Okinwans and Chinese shared their Martial arts with each other, refining it to create what is now called Kobayashi Shorin-Ryu. Becuase of the history and mixing of the Chinese and Okinawan arts, we are an original "Mixed Martial Art".

Traditional Okinawan Kata is the heart of Karate, it is said that Karate is Kata.  To quote Chibana Sensei, "Karate is Teaching Kata we have taken from forefathers without changing it at all."


  1. Sakugawa Kanga "Tode Sakugawa" ( 1733 - 1815)
    1. Studied under Kusanku and Takahara Peichin
    2. Style:  Tode
  2. Matsumura Sokon (Refered to as the Miyamoto Musashi of Okinawa)
  3. Anko Itosu ( 1831-1915)
  4. Named the style  Shuri-te
    1. Noted students 
      1. Chosin Chibana
      2. Shimpa Shiroma
        1. Noted student: Seiichi Lju

Chosin Chibana  (1885 - 1969) 

  1. Renamed Shuri-Te to Shorin-Ryu to distinguish it from other styles. 
    Shorin-Ryu also means Shaolin 
  2. Noted student
    1. Shugoro Nakazato

Shugoro Nakazato (born August 14, 1919 to present)

  1. Also studied under Seiichi Lju

Noel Smith (1st Generation under Shugoro Nakazato )

About Okinawan Karate ( Shorin-ryu)

Okinawan karate dates back to about the sixth century when Bodhidharma's travels took him to China where he settled at a Shaolin monastery, in Japanese Shaolin is pronounced as "Shorin".  Over 300 years ago Chinese fighting arts began to be mixed in with the indigenous Okinawan fighting arts called Te.  Te was taught in all three major Okinawan cities Shuri, Naha and Tomari and their systems where called Shuri-te, Naha-te and Tomari-te.

Takahara Peichin ( 1683 - 1760 ) He was the first teacher of Sakugawa "Tode", and is considered the fater of Okinawan Karate

Kusanku ( 1720 - 1790) was sent to Okinawa as an ambassador of the Qing Dynasty. He resided in the village of Kanemura, near Naha city and instructed Takahara Sakugawa after the death of his first instructor, Takahara Peichin. Kusanku's name is associated with several kata in the Shorin-Ryu styles.


Tode Sakagawa ( 1733 - 1815)

 Sakagawa studied under Kusanku for six years. When Kusanku died Sakagawa developed the first version of the Kusanku kata to honor his teacher's memory.



imageSoken “Bushi” Matsumura (1796 – 1893)

While serving as a bodyguard and martial arts instructor to the last three Ryukyuan kings, Matsumura made a number of official visits to China and Japan where he studied Chinese boxing and Japanese swordsmanship. Following retirement from service to the royal family, Matsumura taught Karate in Shuri. Among his many noteworthy students were Itosu Yatsutsune, Kentsu Yabu, Chomo Hanashiro, Gichin Funakoshi, Chotoku Kyan and Nabe Matsumura. Sokon Matsumura is credited with having originated or having developed important variations of many Shorinkan katas including Gojushiho, Kusankudai, Pasai Dai (Matsumura No Pasai), Chinto, Naihanchi Shodan and Naihanchi Nidan.

Itosu Shorinka Shorin-ryu KarateYasutsune Itosu (1830 – 1915)

Perhaps the greatest teacher in the history of Karate, Yasutsune "Anko" Itosu simplified many of the ancient katas, created several new ones of his own and pioneered teaching methods that would revolutionize the art by making its study easier and less dangerous for future generations. For this, he is recognized as the “Father of Modern Karate.”

Born in Shuri, Itosu began his Karate training at an early age under Sokon Matsumura and subsequently trained under several other teachers, possibly including Kosaku Matsumora of Tomari. Well-educated in Chinese and Japanese literature, Itosu served as a translator to Sho Tai, the last of the Ryukyuan kings, until Sho Tai's fall from power in 1879.

In 1901, Itosu first introduced Karate into the physical education curriculum of the Okinawa public school system. This was a crucial step in transforming the public perception of Karate as a feudalistic killing art to one in which the emphasis was in health and spiritual well-being. Itosu created the original Pinan (peaceful mind) katas, Shodan through Godan, practiced today in various forms by virtually all Shorin-ryu styles. He is also credited with developing the Shorinkan Naihanchi Sandan, Pasai Sho and Kusankusho.

A list of Itosu's students reads like a who's-who of famous Karate masters and includes Gichin Funakoshi, Chomo Hanashiro, Chotoku Kyan, Chosin Chibana, Kentsu Yabu, Choki Motobu, Kenwa Mabuni and Shigeru Nakamura.

Chosin Chibana Shorin-ryu ShorinkanChosin Chibana (1885 – 1969)

Choshin Chibana was born on June 5, 1885, at Tottori-cho in Shuri City, Okinawa. He began his karate training with Yasutsune "Anku" Itosu in 1900 with whom he studied until Itosu's death. In 1920 Chibana opened his first dojo in Tottori-bori and later a second in Kumo-cho Naha where he instructed until he suspended his teaching during WWII.

After the war Chibana resumed formal teaching in Giho-cho, a section of Shuri City. During the 1950's he maintained his dojo as well as a position as the Chief Karate Instructor for the Shuri City Police Department, and in May 1956 his accomplishments were recognized by his appointment as the first president of the Okinawa Karate-Do Association. Chibana's reputation as a Karate master continued to spread, not only in Okinawa but also in mainland Japan. Prior to his death in Ohama Hospital on February 26, 1969 from cancer, Sensei Chibana was recognized with honors such as:

  • 1957 - Title of Hanshi (High Master) from the Dai Nippon Butokukai (The Greater Japan Martial Virtue Association)

  • 1960 - received the First Sports Award from the Okinawa Times Newspaper for his accomplishments in the study and practice of traditional Okinawan Karate-do

  • 1968 - awarded the 4th Order of the Sacred Treasure (Kunyonto) by the Emperor of Japan in recognition of his devotion to the study and practice of Okinawan Karate-do

Chibana sensei is credited with creating the three kihon kata that we practice in the Shorinkan.


Shugoro NakazatoShugoro Nakazato

Hanshi Judan Nakazato has spent most of his life in the martial arts and in 1967, after nearly twenty years of training, was awarded Ninth Dan by his eminent instructor Chibana Choshin. Upon Chibana Sensei's death in 1969, Nakazato Sensei became the president of the Okinawa Shorin-Ryu Shorinkan Karatedo Kyokai, and was promoted to Tenth Dan in 1980.

Nakazato Sensei is one of the most influential living Karate Grand Masters in Okinawa and travels many times a year to promote the traditional Okinawa Shorin-Ryu Shorinkan Karate (Kobayashi-ryu) system. Hanshi Jundan headed the Okinawa Karate delegation and was asked to give a special performance at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. In May 1999, he led an Okinawan seminar delegation of Grand Masters to the United States promoting the first Okinawa Traditional Karatedo & Kobudo World Tournament.

In addition, Hanshi Judan Nakazato is credited for the introduction of the Gorin kata. In August 2000, the Okinawan Prefecture Board of Education bestowed upon Hanshi Nakazato the title of "Kenmukei Bunkazi" Intangible Cultural Asset. Hanshi Judan Nakazato's recognized current influential first generation students in the United States include Kyoshis:Noel Smith, Eddie Bethea, Nabil Noujaim, Patrick Haley, Eberhard Welch,  C.D. Williamson, Chris Estes, Sean Riley, Kevin Roberts, Cheech Luzzi and Hanshi Doug Perry, to name a few.

shorinkan history, noel smith kyoshi

 Sensei Noel Smith began training under Shugoro Nakazato Sensei while stationed on the Island of Okinawa.  After his enlistment he continued his study of Shorin-ryu for many more years living on the Island.  After obtaining his teachers certificate from Sensei Nakazato, he returned to the United States and opend his dojo called OBI Karate school of Virginia. 
Sensei Smith is an 8th degree black belt and is one of a few Seniors in the United States in the Shorinkan association.  He was also part of the 'Orginal Seven' black belts who training directly under Sensei Nakazato and returned to the United States to spread Shorin-ryu.  In the early 70's his dojo also became the first member dojo of the Shorinkan association. 

The Shorinkan ( North American ) Lineage chart from Shugoro Nakazato Sensei and the Original 7 Black Belts that came to North America.  The lineage chart show the 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation of kyohshis




United states Shorin-ryu Shorinkan Dojos

Sean Schroeder

I have been studying under Under Kyoshi Noel Smith since 2009, I started with him in 1974. In fact Shorin-ryu is the only system I have studied. Full time real estate agent, technology enthusiast