Grandmaster Phillip M. Skornia, 10th Dan

Where spirituality,
self-awareness and philosophy 
come together  in
martial arts

History 4
    For this format right now, I want to cover the lineage of the system and the great masters of Shimabuku and those masters' teachers from China, 1372, to Okinawa, to present day.  There are many more details and offshoots, bringing the Shaolin Temple style (Shorinji-ryu) to many great masters to Shimabuku and how he and others passed it on to me.
    A major breakthrough occurred in 1372, when Emperor Satto, of the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa is the main island), made a trading alliance with the Ming Dynasty leader of China.  Chinese officials were sent on a mission, which included the introduction of the Shaolin martial arts of Ch'uan-fa (jp. kempo).  Okinawans had their own fighting techniques of simple blows called Okinawa "te," (hands or techniques).  China did not easily give up its martial arts secrets, and there was no formal training.  The general martial arts techniques were always of interest to the common man.  Many Chinese, over hundreds of years, extracted the physical moves, without the benefit of the disciplined practice of the Chan and Taoism of the monks.  These fighting skills seeped into Okinawan practice, little by little.  Eventually the art became known in Okinawa as Tode, China hand (fist) or technique.

    In 1761, the military attache, Kusanku,  was send to Ryukyu.  By now, the martial arts had gradually become less secretive.  Kusanku gave demonstrations of punching, kicking, blocks, and some high jumps from Northern Chinese styles.  Originally, Southern Chinese Chuan-fa Kung-fu was mostly hand techniques and they did have some low kicks.   The Okinawans ,as farmers on a rocky island, developed   arms and legs that were very strong.  Working barefoot, their feet were very tough and calloused,  making them almost impervious to pain.  These demonstrations excited the young men of Okinawa and motivated them to learn all these new techniques.  
    Years later, Tode Sakagawa came to train under Kusanku.  When training under Kusanku was no longer available, Sakagawa sought out Peichin Takahara.  Takahara was a well-respected warrior of the then common Ryukyu art of Tode (China hand).  Tode was the pronunciation of the Chinese name at that time of T'ang for the T'ang Dynasty.  The Shaolin martial arts reached their halcyon during the T'ang dynasty, 618-906 A.D.   Hence, known as T'ang hand, later in Japanese, the T'ang character could also be pronounced as kara, i.e. kara te.

   Sakagawa's mastery of this art was so revered and respected, he was renamed "Karate" Sakagawa.  He was also allowed to train under a Chinese adherent, Kung Syang, in Chuan-fa Kung-fu.  These teachers were both very old, so the eager and capable young practitioners created many different techniques out of his foundations.  Martial arts masters and practioners have always used their training and imagination to develop new and creative moves.  Each one would jealously protect "his" ideas, and this is how different ryu (schools or styles) would start to come about.  Sakagawa traveled to China several times to study the various branches of the Shaolin style.  (In Japanese, it would translate to Shorin-ryu).  By now, much of the philosophical nature the original Shaolin spirit of Bodhidharma's Chan (Zen) and Taoism (DO) had been lost, or at least , not completely understood.
Special Note:  The Zen philosophy had been taken to Japan separately in the 1200's by a Zen Master named Doshin.    Later, the Do, the Way of Zen, would be added to martial arts and adopted by the samurai as the Code of Bushido. Bushido means the Way (Zen influence) of the Bushi (warrior). 

    Sakagawa was friends with a  political leader, Matsumura.  Matsumura became ill and was dying.  He asked the master to raise his three year-old son and make him a great warrior.  Sokon Matsumora did grow strong and powerful with his Shorin-ryu Karate.  He also was very creative and inventive.  He created many of the katas that are still used in various off-shoot tyles of Shorin-ryu,  Funakoshi also took these same katas to Japan, and they became the staple of Shotokan.  Funakoshi, also creative and politically-versed, changed the names and some of the moves in these katas.  He did maintain the essence of the original Okinawan (from China) art in his techniques.  He believed, as stated in his book,  Fundamentals of Karate. that all karate should be one universal art.  He also tried to bring back some of the original philosophy by adding the Bushido concept to karate, as did many martial arts now developing in Japan.  Hence, the addition of "do' to several new martial arts of the 1930's and 1940's, e.g. judo, aikido, kendo, and, of course, karate being called, karatedo.

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