Grandmaster Phillip M. Skornia, 10th Dan

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

History 5
    Sokon Matsmura taught many noteworthy students.  One of the most famous, in the direct Shaolin (Shorin) school was Yasutsune "Ankoh" Itosu (1830-1915.)  He was known for his kicking and jumping techniques that still appear in our present-day Shorinji Zendo-ryu Karate system.  He is credited for forming the Pinan katas,1 through 5.  It's said he learned some Shaolin forms and, with his knowledge and experience, added to and changed many techniques to create one long kata.  Later, to make it easier for people to pick it up, he broke it up into five more digestible forms.  You can see all through history, masters were always being open-minded to add or develop different and better techniques, as long as they were effective.  More in the future on kata development throughout history.  
Other students of Itosu who became legends were Gichen Funakoshi, Chotoku Kyan, Choshin Chibana, Kentsu Yabu, Chomo Hanashiro, Anbun Yokuda,  Kenwa Mabuni, Moden Yabiku, and Shinpan Gusukuma. 

As you may know, Chotoku Kyan had many famous students who added techniques and katas to create their own slightly different styles such as Shoshin Nagamine and Tsuyoshi Chitose.   I have trained personally under their direct disciples.  Chotoko Kyan named his school (ryu) Shobayashi Shorin-ryu Karate.  This referred to the small pine trees that grew around the Shaolin temple.  
The most famous student, who went on to inherit the direct Shaolin system (Shorin-ryu) was Eizo Shimabuku, who was my first Grandmaster. From the beginning of his promotion to 10th dan, I credited him as my master for the next 30 years.  

 Kyan passed down the traditional katas of the Pinans, Naihanchis, Passai (Bassai), Chinto and Kusanku.  (I learned all these original katas in Okinawa under his best and most famous student, Eizo Shimabuku).  Special Note:  Another well-known adherent was Kentsu Yabu, who was also a student of Itosu.  He taught Kanken Toyama, founder of the All Japan Karate Association, who then promoted and appointed Eizo Shimabuku. 

The circle of lineage just keeps coming around.  There are dozens of other masters who trained  future masters in the book, The Weaponless Warrior, by Richard Kim.  The tradition of the Zendo-ryu philosopy of being open-minded to good techniques of the developing and changing styles, was constantly being reinforced.  Because many masters went back to China to study Shaolin styles (jp. Shorin-ryu) for lengths of time from one year to as long as twenty years, new techniques and katas were being brought to Okinawa.  Many techniques were changed or refined for the modern needs, since they had been developed for the Okinawan stature.  Many new katas were formed to reflect new knowledge from different Shaolin versions that were being introduced from teachers' foreign travels.

I did much of the same thing over 60 years - traveling to the Orient to discover great techniques and ideas from great martial arts masters.  I also trained in many other martial arts and received black belts or equivalents.  These martial arts include, but are not limited to: judo, jujitsu, aikido, aikijujitsu (see American Aikijujitsu, kendo, sumo, ch'uan-fa kung-fu (many styles related to the original Shaolin).  There are many great stories about masters and adventures, as I traveled and trained  in different countries on the following websites.   It seems my destiny was to study philosophy with an open-minded attitude, to become a Zen priest, and to affect karate history forever. 

Read about my lifelong work of bringing both Zen and the martial arts together, as they originally began at

FINAL NOTE:  Sensei's spirit departed his body Fall 2013.  If you are interested in training or learning more about  Shorinji Zendo-ryu Karate, write us at

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