The history of Karate most say begins with the teachings of Bodhidharma, however there is an added story to the introduction of linear karate that begins with Chi-Niang Fang. Chi Niang was from the Yongchun village in Fukien Provence, China. The story goes Chi Niang attempted to fight off a stork that was eating her grain, the stork however used its strong wings and sharp beak to fight back giving Chi Niang a beating. Through this experience, Chi Niang decided to base a fighting style known as Shaolin White Crane a branch of Chuan Fa. White Crane became known as a style of quick hand movements using fingers or knuckles to “peck” sharply at the vital points of an opponent. Shotokan’s ippon ken and nukite techniques come from white crane. White Crane kata emphasize punches, blocks, and joint locks and are frequently designed as two person forms to develop skill and technique. The second half of the kata contains the countermoves to the first half so practice can be done in pairs or solo. Okinawa unarmed fighting consisted mainly of white crane chuan fa imported and re-imported from mainland China. The geography of Okinawa made importing kata easy for students and teachers to learn different kata and styles of karate. Located to the north of Okinawa is Japan and China is situated to the south. Okinawa has three main cities, which contributed to the development of karate, Shuri, Tomari and Naha (the capital), the development of Shorei-Ryu roots from the communication and travels of karate instructors such as Kanryo Higaonna, Chojun Miyagi, Sokon Matsumura, Kenwa Mabuni, and Yatsune Itosu. The growth of linear karate occurred mainly in Shuri (the former capital of Okinawa), however the exchange of forms came through the harbor at Naha; essentially hard style karate comes from Shuri where as the soft style karate comes from Naha. The vicinity of Shuri, Tomari, and Naha is no greater than the size of the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, traveling between the cities made it easy for students to gain new kata or techniques for application. Our first look into Shorei-Ryu begins with Kanryo Higaonna; born in 1853, Higaonna went to China to study Hsing-I boxing under Wan-Shin Zan, where he learned open hand kata: SEIUNCHIN, SHISOUNCHIN, SANSEIRU, SESAN, KARURUNFUA, AND SUPARINPEI. Higaonna as he taught decided to call his new style, Shorei-Ryu which translates into Enlightened Spirit Style, Shorei-Ryu is also known as the soft-style, circular karate. Shorei-Ryu became known as Naha-te to differentiate the difference between Shuri-te, and Tomari-te. Higaonna’s Shorei was purely white crane chuan fa, whereas Shuri-te focused on direct attack as the opponent attacked. Higaonna taught for many years, the first three or four years of a karateka’s instruction consisted of Sanchin kata, the students who stayed beyond their initial kata were taught more waza an kata. Although Higaonna encountered many students his most notable students whom Higaonna passed the style to were only three; Juhatsu Kyoda, Koki Shiorma and Chojun Miyagi.
The next step towards the development of Shorei in Los Angeles, we encounter Chojun Miyagi who inherited Shorei-Ryu from Higaonna prior to his death in 1917. In 1915, Miyagi and his friend Gokenki traveled to Fuchou Province in search of Higaonna’s teacher but were unsuccessful; however, Miyagi did learn TENSHO from Rokkishu of White Crane. As Miyagi taught students, he introduced SAIFA, GEKISAI for teaching young students. Miyagi eventually taught twelve kata, of which seven, students practice in Los Angeles, SANCHIN, TENSHO, SEPAI, SUPARINPE, SAIFA, AND GEKISAI∗. During a demonstration at the Dai Nippon Butokukai in 1937, when asked about the name of his style, Miyagi’s response was Goju Ryu; this is the transition from Shorei-Ryu to Goju Ryu. It would not be until 1946 “Shorei-Ryu” resurfaced when O’sensei Trias opened his first karate school in Phoenix, Arizona. Miyagi passed on Shorei-Ryu (known at this point as Naha Te / Goju Ryu) to Eiichi Miyazato prior to his death at the age of 65 in 1953, at this point the departure from Shorei-Ryu to Goju Ryu was complete. Now a close look at the Matsumura side brings the circle almost full to the LA Shorei side. Sokon Matsumura is responsible for many kata, training methods, and instruction to other early contributors of Shorei-Ryu. Through his name, Sokon Matsumura is an important contributor to Shorei-Ryu; “Matsu” translates to “pine tree”, and “Mura” translates to “village” leading to our society name, “The Pine Tree Society”, as seen in our KONDO NO SHO KAI patch. Sokon Matsumura lived from c.1809 to 1901, and is responsible for the karate knowledge of Ginchin Funakoshi, Kenwa Mabuni, and Shinpan Shiroma each had influence from Higashionna. Each of the previous instructors developed a martial art that contributed to Shorei-Ryu, Ginchin Funakoshi founded SHOTOKAN, and Kenwa Mabuni & Shinpan Shiroma both developed SHITO RYU. The final component which brings Shorei-Ryu to Los Angeles involves the cross training between other instructors from 1925 to 1942. In 1927 – 28, Kenwa Mabuni trained with Yasuhiro Konishi for ten months, Yasuhiro Konishi and Choki Motobu trained together as well where Motobu focused on Konishi’s footwork, and the third interaction between teachers involved Tung Gee Hsing and Choki Motobu who trained Kume Mura Village, Japan. The link now occurs in 1942 when O’sensei Robert A. Trias and Tung Gee Hsing exchanged boxing lessons from O’sensei Trias for martial art lessons from Tung Gee Hsing in the Solomon Islands. O’sensei Trias continued to train with other instructors from judo, Goju-Ryu, Shotokan and Shito Ryu. In 1961, Master Trias conferred the rank of Shodan to Charlie P Contreras, followed by Phillip Perales in 1964. Shorei-Ryu through Hanshi Perales comes to California where Sensei Wiseman and Sensei Soltis establish the Los Angeles Shorei-Ryu Family tree.
The various kata, waza, and techniques in Shorei-Ryu are a result of the direct and indirect teacher, student and mentor relationship, training and cross training from decades of teachers traversing between Okinawa, China and Japan. Shorei-Ryu has developed through kata from China, Japan and Okinawa; Omoto Kata and Ippon Kumite Kata, Kihon kata and extensive list for strikes, hits, kicks and blocks are the foundation for Shorei students to be considered as candidates for shodan. The founding father of Shorei-Ryu, Kanryo Higashionna through his teaching and traveling developed a kata lineage that students use today as the curriculum in LA Shorei. Other kata that learned from O’sensei Trias supplemented the list from Higashionna, cross training between students and teachers lead to additional kata as part of the kata list for LA Shorei students.
This section will examine the origin of kata along with interpretation and application. Kata is divided into three divisions, Shuri, Naha and Tomari, where each has specific characteristics that help to identify its geographic origin. Kata from China, should be introduced as forms, however restructured for Okinawa karate. This section is not an attempt to interpret kata for all styles along the Shorei-Ryu tree, it should be noted that not all Shorei-Ryu stylist perform the same kata, however for the students of the three dojo in Los Angeles this is a good reference to understand the kata. The current list of kata required for Shodan candidacy is:
1)12 STEP – JU NI PO
11)DAN ENN SHO
12)GO PEI SHO
represents the kata will be taught at the instructor’s discretion based on the student’s ability.
Tomari kata learned from Hanshi Charlie P Contreras, adapted to the LA Shorei curriculum with the permission of Shihan John S Soltis.
Pinan 1 – 5 are optional