Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Seiyo Kai Karate and Kobudo - A Powerful Martial Art

Seiyo no Shorin-Ryu Karate Kobudo Kai(TM)
In the 1984 movie "The Karate Kid", two types of karate schools were depicted: (1) Sport Karate represented by Cobra Kai and (2) Traditional Karate represented by Miyagi-Ryu Karate. At the Arizona School of Traditional Karate (Arizona Hombu) we teach traditional karate.

Hopefully, you caught the subtleties as explained by Mr. Miyagi. Sport karate is about winning trophies at any cost, while traditional karate is about fighting for one's life - in other words, karate for self-defense and as a weapon - both empty handed (kara-te) and weapons (kobu-do).

So, where did karate come from? According to legend, a Buddhist monk named Bodhidharma introduced martial arts from India. In the legend, Bodhidharma traveled from India through the Himalayan Mountains to the Henan Province of China in order to introduce Zen Buddhism to the Shaolin Temple. This event is thought to have occurred around 525 AD. When Bodhidharma arrived at the Shaolin-si (small forest) temple he began teaching meditation but found the Shaolin monks to be unfit, lazy and periodically fell asleep during meditation. To remedy the situation, he added a group of physical combat exercises known as 'Shi Pa Lohan Sho' also known as the '18 hands of Lohan'. The blending of combat with philosophy - the blending of the body with the mind, resulted in the first martial 'art'.

To be an art, there must be intrinsic value for the mind and spirit - this is what differentiates martial art from street fighting, and karate from MMA. Thus, the combining of combat with meditation resulted in an esoteric art - the first of its kind in the world. Today, there are many things that are called martial arts that have no esoteric value that cannot be a martial art such as MMA and many sport martial arts

Pencil sketch of Okinawan Shorin-Ryu Karate
Master Gichin Funakoshi by Soke Hausel.
The father of modern karate - master Gichin Funakoshi, a Shorin-Ryu practitioner from Okinawa stated, "the Purpose of Karate lies not in Victory or Defeat, but in the Perfection of its Participants"This supports karate is a martial art as it is all about perfection of character. It has little to do with victory or defeat. 

Furthermore, Shoshin Naginame, a grandmaster of Okinawan Shorin-Ryu Karate wrote, "If there is no kata, there is no karate, just kicking and punching" . This relates to the fact that kata, which has considerable esoteric value as well as extraordinary combat techniques, is what makes karate and important martial art. He also concluded that "Karate begins and ends with the study of kata".

It is clear that kata is a living encyclopedia of martial arts techniques containing all the necessary elements for blocking, striking, kicking, restraining, body hardening (shitai kori), meditation, self-defense, weapons techniques and much more. What could be more esoteric and more combat oriented?

I'm intrigued by an Indian martial art known as Kalarippayattu taught in southern India. It is a primitive combat form possibly descended from 'Shi Po Lohan Sho' with its circular blocks, open hand techniques and acrobatic movements similar to Kung Fu. Possibly, this or a similar combat exercise was introduced to the Shaolin Temple. Whatever was introduced became a major martial art all through China and was introduced to Okinawa sometime in the past. Kung Fu may have been introduced to Okinawa with the 36 Chinese artisan families that moved to Okinawa in 1392. It is thought these people introduced a book entitled 'Bubishi' - a book about White Crane Kung Fu.

Ever watch a white crane in a pond? One female kung fu 
martial artist watch cranes for many years and learned how to 
add their movements to her martial arts and included many 
beak strikes, thrusts, one legged stances, and even crane 
wing blocks as seen here at a University of Wyoming 
white crane Shorin-Ryu karate clinic.
The White Crane martial art from China was tweaked by Okinawan martial artists. 


Nearly a century after the 36 Chinese families made their home on Okinawa, King Sho Shin proclaimed a weapons ban on Okinawa. In 1480 AD, King Sho Shin was fearful of a revolution an banned the possession of bladed weapons on Okinawa.

Some Okinawan's began to develop  kobudo. It is suggested the development of kobudo was left up to the warrior class (Pechin), which is unlikely as they were still able to carry swords. But no matter who developed this ancient art - whether Pechin or peasants, the tools of the Okinawa farmer, fisherman and merchant were practiced as weapons - thus kata were developed along with many waza (techniques).

Karate was associated with three different villages known as ShuriNaha and TomariMaster Gichin Funakoshi suggested that two primary karate styles were based on different physical requirements. Shorin-Ryu was quick and linear with natural breathing and Shorei-Ryu (later Goju-Ryu) had steady, rooted movements with synchronous breathing with each movement.

At some time, do was added to kara-te, making it karate doDo was used to imply that there was a path to take with the practice of karate. The 'do' was used early on as it implied a philosophy to the study of karate. Okinawan scholar Teijunsoku (circa 1600s) stated, "No matter how you excel in the art of te and in your scholastic endeavors, nothing is more important than your behavior and your humanity as observed in your daily life". Here he mentions te and implies there was a path to follow with its training!

It is reported that the first public demonstrations of the secret art of karate were performed by the Grandfather of modern karate - Anko Itosu and the father of modern karate - Gichin Funakoshi. Funakoshi's demonstration occurred on mainland Japan in 1917 at the Butokuden in Kyoto.

In 1922, Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, invited Funakoshi to demonstrate karate at his Kodokan dojo. It is thought that this sponsorship by Dr. Kano allowed for the spread of karate though out Japan. Without the sponsorship, karate would likely be uncommon on Japan because it was viewed as a peasant art. As such, some styles of karate were developed with Japanese roots that included Shotokan, Goju-Ryu, Wado-Ryu, Shito-Ryu, Kyokushinkai.

The original Shorin-Ryu remained predominately Okinawan. Some of the more prominent branches of Shorin-Ryu include Kobayashi Shorin-Ryu, Shobayashi Shorin-Ryu, Matsubayashi Shorin-Ryu, Matsumura Seito Shorin-Ryu.

Many Matsumura's students started their own branches that included Sukunaihyashi Shorin-Ryu, Ryukyu Hon Kempo, Kodokai Shorin-Ryu, Seidokan Shorin-Ryu, Chubu Shorin-Ryu, and Ryukyu Shorin-Ryu. Others that have recently evolved include Yamashita Shorin-Ryu and Seiyo Shorin-Ryu.

Seiyo Shorin-Ryu (Seiyo No Shorin-Ryu Karate Kobudo Kai) was created in 1999 after Dai Soke Sacharnoski certified Sensei Hausel as the sokeshodai (first generation grandmaster). Soke Hausel had trained under a number of martial artists over the years beginning in 1964, and each art influenced the development of Seiyo Shorin-Ryu, but by far the greatest influences were from the martial arts taught by Dai-Soke Sacharnoski. Soke Hausel took techniques from KyokushinkaiWado-Ryu, Shotokan, Dai Yoshin-Ryu Kempojutsu, Seidokan Shorin-Ryu, Yamashita Shorin-Ryu, Juko Ryu, and Yamanni Ryu Kobudo to create Seiyo-Shorin Ryu. Seiyo-Shorin Ryu is distinguished by having nearly 70 karate, kobudo and samurai arts kata, bunkai for all kata, and applied focus and power in every punch, block and kick in the system. It is the philosophy of Seiyo Shorin-Ryu (as it is in some other traditional martial arts) that one should be able to end any attack with a single block and strike. Seiyo translates as Western as opposed to Eastern indicating a strong western cultural influence. The system is referred to as Seiyo no Shorin-Ryu Karate Kobudo Kai, Seiyo Shorin-Ryu, Shorin-Ryu Seiyo Kai, Seiyo no Shorin-Ryu Budo Bugei Renmei, and Seiyo No Shorin-Ryu Karate Renmei.

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