Hall County Karate
Traditional Japanese Karate
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A Basic
History of Karate

Karate traces its origins to several different martial arts.  There was a traditional Okinawan system of fighting that focused on grappling, but very few written records still exist to describe it.  The modern art of Karate really begins with the introduction of Chinese fighting styles after 1500.
In 1429, the Okinawan king, Shō Shin banned the use of weapons, and in 1629, Japan conquered Okinawa and continued to enforce this ban.  This caused many of the elite to turn to the secret study of unarmed combat.  Many of the great masters began training in China, and brought their knowledge of Chinese martial arts back to their home.  The art that developed became known simply as “Te,” which translates as “hand.”
As the art continued to develop, different styles also began to develop.  These were regional, and three different styles sprang up around the three major cities of Okinawa:  Shuri, Naha, and Tomari.  Until very recently, no formal styles existed, but the differences in the approach taken in these three cities led to this early art being known in those cities as either “Shuri-Te,” “Naha-Te,” or “Tomari-Te.” 
By the late 1800’s the martial arts of Okinawa became known as “Kara-Te,” which meant “Chinese hand” at the time.  Also at this time, efforts to bring the practice of Karate into the open began, with Ankoh Itosu’s efforts to introduce it into the schools being the most famous of these attempts.  Several of his students continued his efforts, and were key in introducing Karate to Japan, and later the world.
Two of his most influential students included Kenwa Mabuni and Gichin Funakoshi.  Mabuni created the modern system of Karate known as Shito-ryu, which is our system (and he will be discussed more later).  Funakoshi founded the style now known as Shotokan, and was the first to teach Karate in Japan.  Just as important, though was that he made an alteration to the name Karate.
As the art evolved, “Te” eventually evolved in to “Kara-te,” which translates as “Chinese hand.”  Funakoshi took the first character (“Kara”) and changed the symbol.  Kara translated into “Chinese” in Japanese, but the pronunciation was the same as the Japanese word that meant “empty.”  Funakoshi began using the symbol for “empty,” and the change has since become universal. 
Origins of the Shito-ryu System
Hall County Karate's System
Matsumura, Sokan or Bushi (1797-1889) was responsible for organizing the SHURI-TE system and carrying on its teachings. He was followed by Itosu, Anko (1830-1915). Itosu is generally credited with the founding of Shorin-Ryu (“ryu” means school.). 
One of Itosu’s students was Mabuni, Kenwa (1889-1957). Mabuni is the founder of Shito-ryu, the style, or system Hall County Karate teaches.
Higashionna (Higaonna), Kanryo (1845-1915) became the leading master of the NAHA-TE system. Mabuni also studied under Higashionna, and when he developed his Shito-Ryu system, he used elements of both NAHA-TE and SHURI-TE. The name Shito-Ryu comes from the first syllable of Itosu (ITO=SHI) and of Higashionna (HIGA=TO). Hence Shito-ryu, a blending of Itosu's and Higashionna's styles and names.
Many other masters contributed to Karate along the way. Each student should research the lineage or genealogy of the system that they are studying. Physical study is not enough it is the responsibility of each student to learn and then to pass along the information of their style.
The modern day masters of the Shito-ryu system (early 1900’s) begin with Kosei Kuniba, his son Shogo Kuniba, and then Richard Baillargeon (NKJU), Joseph Ruiz (Founded Koto-Su ha Shito-ryu), and Kozo Kuniba (Kuniba kai). Since Mabuni Sensei’s death, several different branches of Shito-ryu have appeared (too numerous to list all of them here).  Shogo Kuniba founded the system practiced at Hall County Karate, known as Motobu-ha Shito-ryu.
In the beginning, Motobu ha Shito-ryu Karate, a system comprising the fighting principles of Motobu and the kata and training principles of Mabuni’s system of Shito-ryu was the style that was taught in the Seishinkai dojo.

Motobu-Ha Shito-Ryu
Hall County Karate's School
Master Choki Motobu was born the third son to the Motobu family in Okinawa. The Motobu family was of Samurai class, which meant that the first son of the family was taught the family fighting methods. The story is told that Choki Motobu, being disappointed and frustrated by this, would sneak in and watch his older brother's training. The story goes on to say that Choki Motobu soon found that this was too slow and frustrating for him, so he began to lift heavy rocks and punch the punching post or Makiwara.
After a while, he became so strong that he earned the name "Monkey King" because of his tremendous leaping ability and general agility.
In his youth, Master Motobu became earned a reputation as brawler and a trouble maker, and stories say that many Karate masters refused to have him as a student because of this.   Master Itosu, however, did accept him as a student and he eventually became one of the most famous Karate masters of his day.
Master Motobu, after moving to Japan, in or about 1922, challenged many men. However, the defeat of a Russian boxer may have garnered him the most fame after the Russian boxer died as a result of injuries received in the ring, fighting with Motobu. In 1922, Master Motobu helped Master Funakoshi start the teaching of Karate to the Japanese. Having evolved beyond his violent tendencies, Master Motobu returned to Okinawa in 1936 and began training with Master Kentsu Yabu. Master Yabu was the only man to have ever defeated Master Motobu.
Master Motobu became a great instructor in his own right.  Many noted modern day masters, such as Shoshin Nagamine, Tatsuo Shimabuku, and Kosei Kuniba all trained with him at some time.  All of these students became highly regarded Karate masters and teachers, and several founded their own styles of Karate.  
Motobu-Ha Shito-ryu literally means Shito-ryu of Motobu. Master Choki Motobu lived from 1871 to 1944 and trained many Karate people, among those people was Master Kosei Kuniba. His Seishinkai Karate dojo originally taught Motobu ryu (the original style taught by Choki Motobu). However, people such as Mabuni, and Sakagami, also taught at the Seishinkai. They were Shito-ryu masters, however in those days there was a free exchange of information and ideas between the various karate factions. Shogo Kuniba, Kosei Kuniba’s son trained diligently with these famous teachers. The result was a combination of Mabuni kata and Motobu fighting techniques that came to be known as Motobu Ha Shito-ryu. Shogo Kuniba, was named Soke dai of Motobu ryu after his father’s passing and Soke of Motobu ha Shito-ryu which he probably founded in the mid-fifties, although written records alone do not confirm this. The Dai Nippon Budo Kan Kai accepted Motobu ha Shito-ryu as a legitimate style at about the same time.
Motobu ha Shito-ryu was born out of the combination of Mabuni kata, Motobu fighting techniques all brought about by a lineage that started with Itosu. Master Itosu (1813-1915) taught the following people in Okinawa: Gichin Funakoshi (considered the father of modern karate; Chosin Chiban a (Founder of Kobayashi Shorin-Ryu); Shinpan Gusukuma; Kentsu Yabu defeated Motobu in a match and eventually became Motobu's third instructor); Kenwa Mabuni (Mabuni trained under Itosu and Higaonna, and from that training formulated the Mabuni system of Seito Shito-ryu); (Mabuni also taught at the Seishinkai) and Kanken Toyama. Master Motobu studied under Anko Itosu; Kosaku Matsumora; and Kentsu Yabu. All of these people directly or indirectly influenced the karate style developed by Shogo Kuniba, Motobu-ha Shito-ryu.
After moving to Japan in 1926 Master Motobu began teaching in Osaka, at the Seishinkai, and, from time to time, in Tokyo. Master Motobu, acknowledged as one of the greatest fighters of his time, had a very limited knowledge of Karate Kata and he believed mainly in Makiwara training and Kumite. At the same time, Kuniba Soke also trained with many Shito-ryu practitioners, including Kenwa Mabuni, who was acknowledged as the greatest expert on Karate kata during his lifetime. 
Motobu-ha Shitō ryu was designed to be an effective fighting system.  People considered Motobu as one of the greatest fighters of his day, and Kenwa Mabuni developed Shito-ryu after a long career as a policeman, where he quickly discovered what worked and what did not in a real confrontation.  After training in the schools of both of these masters, Soke Kuniba incorporated several key ideas into Motobu-ha.
Continue to Motobu-Ha
Shito Ryu
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