It is estimated that probably 90% of American Karateka know little, if anything, about their art other than the physical aspects. Most of those Karateka seem content merely to practice karate and have little interest in studying the origins of their art. Those of us in JCMA are of a different understanding mentality. While we enjoy the physical aspects of Shorin-Ryu, we also have a burning desire to learn the history and the origins of our art. Generations of secrecy have shed a veil of mystery around the history and origin of Okinawan karate. To a certain degree this veil of secrecy still exists. This, coupled with a general lack of written records, has created a void of information on the early years of Ryukyu martial arts. What little information we have has come to us through scattered bits and pieces that somehow have come into the possession of modern karate historians or from an Okinawan Shihan. Nevertheless, any attempt to write on karate history will leave "many stones unturned," and the following attempt is no exception; a lot of questions are left unanswered. The history below is how it has been passed to me.
Early History of Okinawan Karate
Early Okinawan karate or Tode (Tuidi) as it was called owes it's origin to a mixture of indigenous Okinawan fighting arts and various "foot-fighting" systems and empty hand systems of Southeastern Asia and China. The Okinawans, being a seafaring people, were in almost constant contact with mainland Asia. It is quite likely that Okinawan seaman visiting foreign ports of call may have been impressed with local fighting techniques and incorporated these into their own fighting methods. Interest in unarmed fighting arts greatly increased during the 14th century when King Sho Hashi of Chuzan established his rule over Okinawan and banned all weapons.
More rapid development of Tode followed in 1609 when the Satsuma Clan of Kyushu, Japan occupied Okinawa and again banned the possession of weapons. Thus, Tode or Okinawan-Te, as the Satsuma Clan soon called it, became the only means of protection left to the Okinawan. Thus it was this atmosphere that honed the early karate-like arts of Okinawa into such a weapon that they enabled the island people to carry on a guerrilla type war with the Japanese Samurai that lasted unto the late 1800's.
So, Tode or Okinawan-Te developed secretly to keep the Japanese from killing the practitioners and the teachers of the deadly art. Tode remained underground until early 1900 when it was brought into the Okinawan school systems to be incorporated into physical education methods.
Development of Styles and Systems of Karate-Do
Chatan Yara was one of the early Okinawan Masters of who some information exists. Some authorities place his birth in about 1670 in the village of Chatan, Okinawa; others place his birth at a much later date. In any case, he contributed much to Okinawan karate. He is said to have studied in China for 20 years. His techniques with the Bo and Sai greatly influenced Okinawan Kobudo. His kata, "Chatan Yara no Sai", "Yara Sho no Tonfa", and "Chatan Yara no Kon" are widely practiced today.
Most modern styles of karate can be traced back to the famous Satunuku Sakugawa (1733-1815) called "Tode Sakugawa". Sakugawa first studied under Peichin Takahara of Shun. Later Sakugawa went to China to train under the famous KuSanku. KuSanku has been a military attaché in Okinawa. Upon Master KuSanku's return to China, Sakugawa followed him and remained in China for 6 years. In 1762 he returned to Okinawa and introduced his Kempo; this resulted in the karate we know today. Sakugawa became a famous Samurai; he was given the title of Satunuku or Satonushi; these were titles given to Samurai for service to the King. Sakugawa has many famous students; among them were:
1. Chikatosinunjo Sokon Matsumura
2. Satunuku Nakabe (nickname: Mabai Changwa)
3. Satunuku Ukuda (Bushi Ukuda)
4. Chikuntonoshinunjo Matsumoto (Bushi Matsumoto)
5. Kojo of Kumemura (Kugushiku of Kuninda)
6. Yamaguchi of the East (Bushi Sakumoto)
7. Usume (aged man) of Andaya (Iimundum)
Sakugawa contributed greatly to Okinawan karate; we honor him today by continuing many of the concepts he introduced. Sakugawa' S greatest contribution was in teaching the great Sokon "Bushi" Matsumura. Bushi Matsumura (1797-1889) studied under Sakugawa for 4 years. He rapidly developed into a Samurai. He was recruited into the service of the Sho family and was given the title Satunuku, later rising to Chikutoshi. At some time during his career Bushi Matsumura was sent to China to train in the famous Shorinji (Shaolin Temple). He is alleged to have remained in China for many years. Upon his return to Okinawa, Matsumura established the Shurite or Suidi that later became known as Shorin-Ryu.
Shorin-Ryu is the Okinawan-Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese writing characters called Shaolin in China. In both languages Shorin or Shaolin means "pine forest". Ryu simply means "methods handed down" or methods of learning such as those of a school.
Bushi Matsumura lived a long and colorful life. He fought many lethal contests; he was never defeated. He was the last Okinawan warrior to be given the title "Bushi". He contributed greatly to Okinawan Karate. He brought the "White Crane" (Hakutsuru) concept to Okinawa from the Shorinji in China. He passed on his menkyo kaiden (certificate of full proficiency) to his grandson, Nabe Matsumura.
Nabe Matsumura brought the Old Shorin Ryu secretes into the Modern Age. His name does not appear in many karate lineage charts. He was alleged to be very strict and preferred to teach mainly family members. Not much information on him is available; his date of birth and death are unknown. He must have been born in the 1850's and died in the 1930's. He was called "Old Man Nabe" and is said to have been one of the top karate practitioners of this time. He passed on his menkyo kaiden to his nephew Hohan Soken.
Hohan Soken was born in 1889; this was a time of great social changes in both Okinawa and Japan. The feudal system was giving way to modernization. This aristocracy was forced to work beside the peasants. Hohan Soken was born into a Samurai family; at an early age he chose to study his ancestors' art of Shorin-Ryu under his uncle, Nabe Matsumura. At the age of 13 young Soken began his training. For 10 years Hohan Soken practiced the basics. At the age of 23, Soken began learning the secrets of Hakutsuru. So proficient did Hohan Soken become in the art that his uncle, Nabe, passed on the style of Shorin-Ryu Matsumura Seito Karate-do to him.
In the 1920's to 1945 Hohan Soken lived in Argentina. Upon his return to Okinawa the Matsumura Seito Karate-do style returned also. Soken saw that karate had greatly changed; sport karate had all but replaced the ancient methods. Soken did not change; he valued himself as the last of the old masters. He refused to join some of the more fashionable karate associations. He stayed with the old ways and did much to cause a rebirth of interest in Kobudo and the old Shorin ways. Master Soken retired from karate in 1978. For many years he was the oldest living and active karate master.
Kaicho Sandoval studied under Hohan Soken as well as many of Okinawa’s best and most noted Teachers including Chosin Chibana, Shugero Nakamura, Arakaki and many others. Kaiacho Sandoval is an accredited and licensed Master Instructor in Martial Arts. Kaicho Sandoval holds Master Certifications from many of Okinawas greatest Martial Arts Masters.
Kaicho Sandoval formed the America's Hakutsuru System in 1989 and is President of the "Sandoval Karate Kobudo (Weapons) Federation" an organization of Martial Artists from around the world.
He has been featured in "Black Belt Magazine" and "Asian World Martial Arts" magazine and a member of many various Martial Arts Hall of Fame organizations.
Kaicho Sandoval is considered the "Father of American Hakutsuru". He was an active tournament competitor in Kata (Forms), Weapons, and Kumite (fighting), winning many National and International Championships of which the most prestigious are his winning of the World Silver Cup tournament in 1980 in Culver City, California, and winning the World Asian Arts Championships in 1972, in Tokyo, Japan.
Kaicho Sandoval brings over two decades of research in Martial Arts while living and studying in Okinawa, China and Japan.
Kaicho Sandoval retired from the US Marine Corps in 1990 after 30 years of service. While on active duty he held various Law Enforcement and Leadership roles.
He specialized as a Seal Team Instructor (GYSGT) at the Coronado Training Center (CA) Conducting courses in "Hand to Hand" combat training and Water (Zodiac) Operations. We thank him for his service and sacrifices to our country.
Thus we have Shorin-Ryu Karate-Do, a karate system that evolved from the ancient teachings of Sakugawa and Bushi Matsumura and handed down thru a succession of the teachers named above to what is taught today at John Cox Martial Arts.
Our system is led by Hanshi Sandoval, one of the very few Karateka to have been taught the Hakutsuru (the White Crane). Some of you may ask why this is so special. The answer is in its unique history. First of all, the system is a direct descendant of Shorin-Ryu Matsumura Seito. This system escaped the changes made in Okinawan karate in the 1930's (by the Japanese who prefer sport karate) because Grandmaster Soken was living in Argentina. Secondly, the unique techniques of the White Crane have provided the influence to the style that gives us the "body change" concept and other concepts that make a very efficient system of self-defense. These teachings were taught to only a very few people – Kaicho Sandoval is one of those very few people. He, in turn, over a time span of 27 years has passed the teachings onto Hanshi Cox. Therefore, we have a unique system and I am honored to carry on his teachings..