Karate Thoughts Blog

Contents   /   Email  /   Atom  /   RSS  /  

1700+ Posts... and Counting

Goju-Ryu and Shorin-Ryu Connection: Part 2

I have practiced Shorin-Ryu since 1975 (as best I can remember), under Sensei Rodney Shimabukuro (student of Tommy Morita, who learned from Masaichi Oshiro, Tsuyoshi Chitose, and Shosin Nagamine). I practiced the Matsubayashi-Ryu form of Shorin-Ryu until 2002, when I began to practice the Kishaba Juku form of Shorin-Ryu under Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato of Yonabaru, Okinawa. I am a student of both Shinzato Sensei and Shimabukuro Sensei.

I have never studied Goju-Ryu. However, I have had Goju-Ryu visitors who have instructed in my dojo. They include, Mitsugi Kobayashi (student of Seko Higa), Morio Higaonna (student of Anichi Miyagi), and Rodney Hu and Solomon Kupahu (students of Masaichi Oshiro, who learned Goju-Ryu from Gogen Yamaguchi). I also have had the opportunity to observe Alan Lee (student of Tomu Arakawa) during our Hawaii Karate Kodanshakai trainings. Arakawa Sensei taught the Kanki Izumigawa form of Goju-Ryu. Izumigawa Sensei learned Goju-Ryu from Seko Higa, who had learned from Kanryo Higashionna and Chojun Miyagi.

In my dojo, we have adopted the Tensho kata in our curriculum. We practice the kata as taught to us by Mitsugi Kobayashi (the Seko Higa version, which starts like Sanchin). We try to do the kata in a Goju-Ryu manner, not in a modified Shorin-Ryu manner. Kobayashi Sensei told us that Tensho used to be called Rokkishu, which meant "six energy hand". It appears that Miyagi Sensei learned this kata in China and taught it under the name Tensho.

On a side note, when I met Paul Yamaguchi on Kauai, he said that he still practiced Tensho each day. Yamaguchi Sensei was one of the original Kenpo black belts under James Mitose. He learned the Tensho and Sanchin kata from Mitsugi Kobayashi.

I am presenting all of the above to give you my training exposure to Goju-Ryu. While I have practiced Shorin-Ryu for over 30 years, I have also observed and in a limited way, learned some Goju-Ryu. But I certainly am not a Goju-Ryu student or instructor -- not at all (I am just an admirer of Goju-Ryu).

A few weeks ago, I attended a training in which I demonstrated our Pinan Nidan kata. There were two Goju-Ryu instructors in attendance, along with instructors of Kobayashi-Ryu, Ryukyu Kempo, Kyokushin, and Shotokan. Now, the Pinan kata are pretty strictly Shorin-Ryu kata, as they were developed by Anko Itosu based probably on the Kusanku and Passai kata, and possibly an earlier kata that has since disappeared (Channan?). Pinan Nidan is about as basic as you can get, except for the initial tetsui ate (hammerfist) strikes, which are very difficult to do in a dymanic manner unless you use your koshi properly.

In any event, when I demonstrated the kata, I "opened" my koshi, so that it could be seen. In other words, I used an exaggerated motion so that the way I generated power was obvious.

Later, the two Goju-Ryu instructors said to me: "You move like us."

A few years ago, I would have dismissed this. But the issue of the relationship between Goju-Ryu and the Kishaba Juku form of Shorin-Ryu had been gnawing at me. Was there a connection? Was it possible that Goju-Ryu instructors could see something in the way that I move that reminded them, perhaps just a little, of their own style -- even when I performed a strictly Shorin-Ryu kata? If so, how did this happen? How could the Goju-Ryu way of moving get into my Shorin-Ryu?


Charles C. Goodin