Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Legend tells of a Buddhist monk named Bodhidharma who traveled from India to the northern Henan province of China to teach Zen at the Shaolin Temple centuries ago. The time of this event is not known, but some suggest 525 AD.

The development of Kung Fu (and later karate) is thought to be related to this event. When Bodhidharma arrived at Shaolin-si (small forest temple), he began his lectures. But he found the monks to be unfit and lazy and periodically fell asleep during mediation, thus Bodhidharma began teaching a set of physical exercises along with meditation that were called 'Shi Po Lohan Sho' (18 hands of Lohan) that is reputed to have been a fighting form. The blending of the Lohan techniques with Zen led to the development of the first martial art.

To be a martial 'art' there must be intrinsic value for the person's spirit. Combining a fighting method with Zen provided the means to develop an art. Without philosophy to improve a person's spirit and ethical being, it can not be an art. Today, we see many street-fighting forms that profess being a martial art, but lack any method to produce positive, ethical individuals. Thus these so-called arts are nothing more than street fighting.

Hanshi Andy Finley (7th dan) from Casper, Wyoming, attacks Sensei Kyle Linton (3rd dan) from Wellington Colorado with tanto (knife) during knife defense clinic taught by Soke Hausel at the University of Wyoming in 2010.
There are many examples of philosophy that is shun by such systems. The dojo kun of Gichin Funakoshi, 'Kara te ni sente nashi' translates as 'there is no first attack in karate'. This is a very important precept as it strongly hints at a moral philosophy that one should never attack an opponent and only defend oneself when all else has failed. Funakoshi also stated, 'the ultimate aim in karate lies not in victory and defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants', a philosophy that is overlooked by mixed martial arts and other forms of street fighting.

Another great Okinawan martial artist, Shoshin Nagamine, wrote in his book, Tales of Okinawa's Great Masters, "if there is no kata, there is no karate, just kicking & punching". He further writes that if "…kata is karate, one must then embrace 'do mu gen' proverb which asserts: There can be no end to learning". He concludes his comments with his philosophy that karate begins and ends with the study of kata.

Street fighting has no kata. Karate has kata. But few people understand kata. Kata is the heart and soul of traditional martial arts. Kata serves as a living encyclopedia of philosophy, training methods and self-defense techniques, although few people grasp what kata are. Kata were created by past masters and grandmasters who embodied their favorite self-defense applications and philosophy into forms. Thus if we unlock these secrets, we have a beautiful method for building self-confidence, self-esteem as well as learning devastating self-defense applications. Hidden in kata are blocks, strikes, kicks, throws, restraints, chokes, pressure point strikes, stomps, defenses against grabs, punches, kicks, knifes, guns, spears, swords and much more. But also there is concern for the attacker.

It surprises me that more instructors don't pay attention to the importance of kata. In my opinion, one of the reasons for developing kata was not only to improve ourselves, but also to hide valuable self-defense applications from Japanese invaders. It worked so well, that it continues to disguise techniques from Japanese instructors as well and more than 95% of the martial art instructors around the world.

Sensei Paula Borea (originally from Japan) trains with Sensei Bill Borea at the Hombu
dojo in Mesa Arizona using the Kuwa (garden hoe).
I was recently intrigued by a martial art known as Kalarippayattu taught in southern India. This art is suggested to be several hundred years old, and similar to Shi Po Lohan Sho. There is no way of dating this art, but it is a fascinating concept and the art does show circular open hand strikes, blocks and kicks along with acrobatic maneuvers similar to Kung Fu.

Bodhidharma's teachings later became the basis for the majority of Chinese martial arts. One or more of these arts were later introduced to Okinawa. One that tends to stand out is Hakutsuru (white crane) taught at the Shaolin Temple in southeastern China. White Crane was developed by a female martial artist who developed its techniques by watching the movements of the crane. This form was introduced to some Okinawans and was the basis for karate.

Little is known about karate's early development. Okinawa was located at the crossroads of major trading routes in southeastern Asia, and its significance as a port was discovered by the Japanese. It became a trade center for southeastern Asia.

In its earliest stages, karate was an indigenous form of fighting developed in Okinawa called Te, or 'hand'. Weapons bans imposed in Okinawa encouraged refinement of empty-hand techniques and the development of kobudo (peasant weapons). Farming and fishing implements were developed into weapons of self-defense.

Karate developed in three Okinawan cities: Shuri, Naha & Tomari. Each was a center for a different sect of society: kings and nobles, merchants, farmers and fishermen, respectively. For this reason, different forms of te developed in each city and subsequently became known as Shuri-te, Naha-te and Tomari-te. Collectively they were called Okinawa-Te, Tode (Chinese hand) or kara-te.

Gradually, karate was divided into two main groups: Shorin-Ryu from Shuri and Tomari & Shorei-Ryu in Naha. Even so, the towns of Shuri, Tomari, and Naha are only a few miles apart and the three styles are thought to have had one ‘father’. Thus the differences between these were primarily on emphasis.

Gichin Funakoshi suggested that the two styles were developed based on different physical requirements. Shorin-Ryu was quick and linear with natural breathing while Shorei-Ryu emphasized steady, rooted movements with breathing in synchrony with each movement. The Chinese character used to write Tode could be pronounced 'kara' thus the name Te was replaced with kara te or 'Chinese hand art' by the Okinawan Masters. This was later changed to karate-do to adopt an alternate meaning for the Chinese character for kara, 'empty'. From this point on the term karate came to mean 'empty hand'. The Do in karate-do means 'way' or 'path', and is indicative of the discipline and philosophy with moral and spiritual connotations, something that is not considered in many fighting disciplines today, such as the so-called mixed martial arts, which has no moral or spiritual value. The concept of Do has been prevalent since at least the days of the Okinawan Scholar Teijunsoku (circa, 1600s), who wrote: ‘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 daily life’.

The first public demonstration of karate in Japan was in 1917 by Gichin Funakoshi, at the Butoku-den in Kyoto. This, and subsequent demonstrations, greatly impressed many Japanese, including the Crown-Prince Hirohito, who was very enthusiastic about the Okinawan art. In 1922, Dr. Jigiro Kano, founder of the Japanese art of Judo, invited Funakoshi to demonstrate at the famous Kodokan Dojo and remain in Japan to teach karate. This sponsorship was instrumental in establishing a base for karate in Japan. As an Okinawan ‘peasant art,’ karate would have been scorned by the Japanese without the backing of so formidable a martial arts master. Today there are four major styles of karate-do in Japan: Goju-Ryu, Shorin-Ryu, Shotokan, and Wado-Ryu.

Training the sai at the Arizona Hombu on the border of Gilbert and Mesa Arizona
Shorin-Ryu Karate evolved from Okinawa-Te. It is a combination of a native Okinawan fighting art and Chinese martial arts, predominantly hard style or "external" Chinese martial arts. Other influential karate ka of note included Soken Matsumura (1797-1889). Almost all branches of Shorin-Ryu that exist today can be traced back to him. Soken Matsumura, sometimes called "Bushi" Matsumura, studied Okinawa-Te under Tode Sakugawa (1733-1815). It was in the late 1800's that Shuri-Te began to be called Shorin-Ryu. It is not known for certain who began this practice, but most of the leading practitioners of the time accepted the new name which was a reference to the roots at the Shaolin temple in China (Shorin is the Japanese pronunciation of Shaolin), and soon the name Shorin-Ryu became the standard term for the art that had been known as Shuri-Te.

Of Yasutsune Itosu’s students, some were instrumental in the further popularization of karate in Okinawa, and the introduction of karate to mainland Japan. His students carried on his teachings, using the name of Shorin-Ryu, and today Shorin-Ryu is still a major force in Okinawan karate. In fact, since Itosu's death in 1915, Shorin-Ryu has produced countless karate greats, has branched into several variations along with the original art, and is practiced by hundreds of thousands all over the world. It is unfortunate, but some people make attempts to categorize Shorin-Ryu into branches. This is difficult to do, as there are many styles that were developed by various Okinawan masters. In the literature, we sometimes see the following:
Shobayashi Shorin-Ryu (‘small forest style’), Koybayashi Shorin-Ryu (‘young forest style’), Matsubayashi Shorin-Ryu (‘pine forest style’), and Matsumura Seito Shorin-Ryu (‘orthodox’ style).

In summary, many dojos use Shorin-Ryu to describe their art. Each of Matsumura's Deshis (students) changed the name of their system when they took over, so many branches began: Sukunaihayashi (Shōrin-ryū Seibukan), Ryukyu Hon Kenpo (Okinawan Kempo), Kodokai Shorin-ryu, Matsumura Orthodox Shorin-ryu, Seidokan, Kobayashi Shorin-Ryu (Shidokan, Shorinkan, Kyudokan), Chubu Shorin-Ryu, Shorin-Ryu (Shaolin), Ryukyu Shorin-Ryu, Matsubayashi-Ryu, and Shobayashi-Ryu. And there are others, most with long and distinguished histories that trace back to Matsumura and his students.

So where does Seiyo Shorin-Ryu fit into this scheme? Over 45 years, Soke Hausel trained in a variety of martial arts that included Kokusinkai karate (a derivative of Gojo-Ryu), American Kempo, Chinese Kempo, Okinawan Kempo, Seidokan, Shotokan, Wado-Ryu, Juko-Ryu and others. All of these influence Seiyo Shorin-Ryu. But the core style was Shotokan. When Soke Hausel began training under Dr. R. Sacharnoski, Dai-Soke, he greatly influenced all technique and introduced Soke Hausel to many other martial arts. Soke Hausel took the best of all of these arts (when we say best, he took the best that worked for him) and with Dai-Soke Sacharnoski's permission, created a new Ryu of Shorin. Our Shorin-Ryu practices many kata and an understanding of the bunkai (applications) of the individual techniques in the kata. We have more than 70 kata.

Dr. Florence Teule, biochemist, trains in white crane Shorin-Ryu karate with Lenny Martin under the guidance of Soke Hausel at the University of Wyoming.

Seiyo translates as ‘Western’ as opposed to ‘Eastern’. Shorin-Ryu was initially influence by Eastern culture, and Seiyo also has a strong influence by the Western culture. Today, it is difficult to place this under any of the so-called major Shorin-branches as we practice kata from several of them. We have kata that have been created only for our style and we also focus on the understanding of all kata as well as include bunkai for all techniques. Something that is uncommon in most styles of karate. As the Sokeshodai (1st generation grandmaster) of Seiyo Shorin-Ryu, Soke Hausel continues to develop our style. Eric Hausel, Soke-Dai, will inherit the Seiyo Shorin-Ryu system as the Sokenidai.

Dr. Neal Adam (6th dan) demonstrates use of bo.
So anyone can train in this powerful karate style. In Arizona, visit the Hombu. If you are elsewhere in the world, we have several martial arts associations and dojos that affiliate with Seiyo Shorin-Ryu.

Our training center is open to the public - we focus on Adults and Families. Come learn the traditions of Okinawan Karate & Kobudo. Much of the class is conducted in both Japanese and English to help students learn Japanese. We also teach meditation, philosophy and martial arts history interjected in karate classes. See our fee and training schedule at ARIZONA KARATE.


Typical of all traditional Okinawan Karate schools, we have the lowest rates in the East Valley. No sign up fees - no contract. Start as soon as you pay for your first lesson or first month. You can pay either month by month or day by day - its up to you.


International Shorin-Ryu Karate Association
by Seiyo Kai International

Training in kobudo with kama and bo.
Training with the hanbo (half bo).

Kobudo (tonfa) Training at the Seiyo Hombu in Arizona.