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Matsubayashi Ryu/Shorin Ryu (Little Forest Style)

Matsubayashi Ryu
(Pine Forest Style)

The Matsubayashi Ryu style of karate was founded by Grand Master Shoshin Nagamine when in 1947 he opened his first dojo. The style derives from the Shuri Te schools of karate developed and handed down by karate legends such as Tode Sakugawa, Sokon “Bushi” Matsumura, Kosaku Matsumura, Itosu Yasutsune, and others. Distinctly Okinawan, Shuri Te was adapted and influenced by the Shaolin Kung Fu system created by Bodhi Darma (Taishi Daruma), and branched off to multiple school of Okinawan karate like Shuri Te, Naha Te, and Tomari Te.

At a young age, O-Sensei Nagamine trained with Shuri Te masters Choki Motubu, Chotoku Kyan, and Ankichi Arakaki, and eventually created his own style of Okinawan karate called Matsubayashi Ryu (pine forest style), with “Matsu” meaning pine tree and “bayashi” being the Okinawan pronunciation of hayashi for forest.

Shihan Todd Keane with Osensei Shoshin Nagamine in his Okinawa Dojo
Kyoshi Todd Keane with
Osensei Shoshin Nagamine
in his Okinawa Dojo
Shidoshi Kristen Keane with Osensei Shoshin Nagamine in his Okinawa Dojo
Shidoshi Kristen Keane with
Osensei Shoshin Nagamine
in his Okinawa Dojo

Ryu is taken to mean system, but to Nagamine, it meant river and reflected his philosophy that karate is like a flowing river.

The name for Matsubayashi Ryu was greatly inspired by the legendary karate masters Bushi Matsumura, and Kosaku Matsumura who taught Shoshin Nagamine’s teachers Choki Motubu and Chotoku Kyan. Also, as a young man, Shoshin Nagamine was known as the Tenacious Pine Tree or (Chippai Matsu). The kanji, or written characters, for the Okinawan name of Shorin Ryu are very close to the Chinese name of Shaolin, and both mean the same – Young Pine Forest.

The pine tree in nature is a tenacious tree that can grow in the most difficult places such as cliffs, yet it remains flexible and flowing with the wind. As opposed to styles that are very rigid in their low stances, half-moon steps, and stiff upper body dynamics, Matsubayashi Ryu keeps more natural stances that are grounded yet mobile, and uses natural body mechanics for stance transitions and kata movements. The body is relaxed for energy to flow, and for speed, but at the point of striking becomes very focused and strong.

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