What’s in Shotokan?

image002The Grandfather of Karate, ‘Bushi’ Matsumura’s Shorin-Ryu was a composite of Kobujutsu (Bushi learned the Kon/Bo from Satunushi Sakagawa), Tomari-Te, Shuri-Te and Jigen-ryu (Samurai Sword techniques). Thus it seems that our karate was founded in a comprehensive mix of Chinese Gongfu, Monk Fist Boxing, White Crane, Japanese Sword Fighting, Indigenous Okinawan combat techniques and other weaponry from Fujian (China) and Satsuma (Japan).

Shorin is said to be the Okinawan pronunciation of Shaolin, and through Patrick McCarthy’s translation of the Bubishi, we know that Matsumura visited the Shaolin Temple to train on at least two occasions where he was further versed in weapons combat.

So, how important is it for us to look at this history in order to know what we have and where it came from? After all, in whatever we are about to partake of in our everyday lives we always ask the questions ‘What’s it made of? ‘ or ‘What’s in this?’

Matsumura taught Yasatsune (Anko) Itosu, who in turn taught the father of Shotokan, Gichin Funakoshi. Hidetaka Nishiyama trained under Funakoshi Sensei, and my Sensei, Bruce Lee, trained under Nishiyama Sensei.

Now that is a lineage that is made of the right stuff…

A study of history isn’t only intriguing, but it provides us with a point to where we can draw ourselves back. Understanding our history provides us with a mechanism to get our karate back on track if we see it diverging from what has been built and preserved for generations.

After all, if it works there is no need to change it…