Karate or the "art of the open hand" originated on the small group of Ryukyu islands that today we call Okinawa. Since the 1300's a form a martial arts called "Te" was practiced in Okinawa. Merchants goods, cultural ways, and martial arts were traded between Okinawa and China for generations. The incorporation of techniques and kata from Chinese Kempo become the essence of traditional karate.
In the late 1400's the Sho Dynasty disarmed the people, banned all weapons, and the practice of martial arts. This ban continued after the Shimizu Clan invaded Okinawa in the 1600's that resulted in the islands becoming a territory of Japan. The "Te" system of self-defense was practiced in secret for generations and helped fuel the development and level of sophistication of the art of open-handed combat.
Master Higashionna started training martial arts as a young boy (by then "Te" was no longer outlawed). As a teenager he worked as a sailor for a tea merchant that traded with China. At the age of 16 he went to China to better his martial arts skills. He studied Shaolin Kempo as well as other Chinese styles for about 13 years. He returned to Okinawa and combined the Chinese styles with the native "Te" and created a system called KARATE. Kara meaning "open" and "Te" meaning hand.
Higashionna was a quiet and humble man known for his gracefulness and powerful kicks. Higshionna's students Kenwa Mabuni, Kyoda Shigehatsu, Koki Shiroma, Higa Seiko, Tsuyoshi Chitose, Shiroma Shinpan, and Chojun Miyagi were the forefathers of modern karate.
Master Miyagi trained under Higashionna for nearly 13 years. After Higashionna's death in 1916 he went to China to further his studies of the martial arts. Miyagi learned many styles including Chinese boxing, Pa Kua Chang, and made a detailed study of acupuncture and the anatomy of the human body. He blended the softer Chinese styles with the harder "Te" style. A new systemized martial art emerged, Goju Ryu. This is the traditional style of karate that we teach at our dojo today.
Miyagi was known as the "gentleman warrior Miyagi" and was respected as one of the world's leading authorities in the martial arts. Goju Ryu was handed down from Miyagi to a handful of students. His top students included Gogen Yamaguchi, Seiko Higa, Seikichi Toguchi, Ei'ichi Miyazato, and Meitoku Yagi. Our association founding master, Masanobu Shinjo trained under the tutelage of Seikichi Toguchi and Meitoku Yagi.
Master Shinjo was born on the island of Micronesia and emigrated to Okinawa as a child. He started training martial arts in 1953, the year Miyagi died. He dedicated more than 40 years to the meticulous study of the ways of karate. Shinjo is still regarded as one of the world's most powerful karate practitioners and a person that could perform the techniques and kata closest to that of Miyagi.
Shinjo was awarded the title of President of All Okinawan Karate-Do Federation. This federation encompasses all styles of traditional karate. Our dojo is a member of the Shobukan federation that Shinjo established.
Following the Vietnam War a decorated marine, Frank Van Lenten (1935 - 2010), was stationed on the island during the United States military occupation of Okinawa. He trained under Shinjo for several years and was known as "Okinawa's Incredible Hulk". Van Lenten returned to America as the United States Director of Shobukan. He was one of the original practitioners to introduce the United States to this true traditional form of karate.
One of Van Lenten's students, Thomas Ravesi, opened his own dojo. It was at this dojo that our master instructor, Ray Peet, started his martial arts training over 30 years ago. Sensei Ray and sensei Richard Mustafa have devoted their lives to the Way of karate and established the SHOBUKAN MARTIAL ARTS ACADEMY in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.
Matayoshi Kobudo or the weapons system developed by the Matayoshi family has been practiced as a martial arts form for more than nine generations. Shinko Matayoshi, born in 1888, is credited for progressing the art of weapons training to a very complex and sophisticated level. In his teens, Shinko began training in Kobujutsu under Master Agena Chokuho. He studied the art of the Bo, Sai, Kama, Ueku, Tonfa, and Nunchaku. During a stay in Manchuria, he traveled with a nomadic tribe and learned rope throwing and how to use a bow and arrow while on horseback. He also studied Chinese Boxing and Shorinji Kempo during his stay in China. In 1915, he was asked to demonstrate his Okinawan Kobudo weapons system to the Emperor of Japan. The emperor was greatly impressed and awarded the Matayoshi family the Royal Emblem (yellow kiku flower) to use as a logo. This symbol is still used today to represent Matayoshi Kobudo.
Shinpo Matayoshi, born in Okinawa in 1921, carried on his father's legacy. In addition to Kobudo, his training of the martial arts included Kingai Ryu (White Crane), Hakaku Kempo, Gojy Ryu, as well as other open-handed systems. Shinpo started his weapons system in Seiko Higa's Gojy Ryu dojos. Shinpo went on to establish his own school, Kodokan or "hall of the enlightened way", in memory of his father.
Shinpo concentrated on bringing the various Kobudo instructors together to help consolidate the art of weapons training and to facilitate passing this tradition on to future generations of karate-ka. Shinpo established the Ryukyu Kobudo Association in 1960. The association that Shinpo founded is active and thriving to this day, and under the leadership of Koki Miyagi is now called the Zen Okinawa Kobudo Renmei / All Okinawa Kobudo Federation.