Sensei Yamashita

Okinawa, Japan has been considered the birthplace of modern Karate and Kobudo. We are a traditional Yamashita Karate dojo and follow the same principles of discipline and honor, as would a dojo in Okinawa.

Our history is important to us, and will give the student of Yamashita Karate a basis from which to draw an understanding of Kobayashi Shorin Ryu and Okinawan Kobudo.

Historians have documented that Okinawa Te, originated independently of any other combat system. As such, it is believed that this system on unarmed combat can be traced back over 1000 years. Because the islanders were of not of wealthy status, weapons were scares. Also the islands own un-unification gave rise to many aggressive warlords, each battling for supremacy of the island. As a result these circumstances rendered a strong incentive for the evolvement of unarmed combat.

By the mid 1340′s, Okinawa entered into a trade relationship with China. This trade and political friendship allowed the Okinawan people to observe the different aspects of China, and were thus exposed to Chinese boxing systems. Furthermore, by the late 1300′s, in a tributary relationship, 36 Chinese families and businessmen settled on Okinawa. These families brought with them a variety of skills, including Chinese martial arts.

   Through the 1400′s, the island experienced much turmoil. At first the island was unified by King Sho Hashi, in 1429. At this time the Okinawan’s were still able to posses weapons. However in 1470, King Sho Hashi destroyed the former dynasty and implemented his own. Soon all arms were banned on the island, in fear that the reign might be over thrown. As a result, the emphasis on the fighting arts further progressed. The main villages of Okinawa are credited with the main styles that emerged from Okinawa Te. From the village of Shuri, came Shuri Te. From the village of Naha, came Naha Te. Finally from the village of Tomari, came Tomari Te.

Beside empty hand combat, the Okinawan’s also began the practice of Kobudo (weapons). Because of King Sho Hashi’s ban on the traditional weapons (such as the samurai sword), the Okinawan’s began using their everyday farming implements as weapons. From this practice the most commonly thought of weapons became known as the: Bo (six foot staff), the Eku (six foot oar), the Kama (grass or cain sickle), the Tonfa (utility handle), and the Nunchaku (horse bit, and even rice flail). However, because the Okinawan’s never restrained the practice of survival- the Okinawan’s were capable of using nearly every tool as a weapon; in fact the Zen Okinawan Kobudo Renmei (Matayoshi Kobudo), makes use of the Kuwa (Japanese Hoe), the Timbei and Rochin (Shield and dagger), as well as the Nunti (Japanese like spear).

These styles of unarmed and armed combat were practiced in secrecy for years. Differences between Te styles suggest the different influences of various Chinese styles. Shuri-Te seem to utilize the external system of Shaolin boxing. While Naha-Te incorporates the use of internal Taoist techniques. Tomari-Te appears to be a mix of both internal and external fighting systems. These variances alone, are responsible for the evolvement the different systems into the distinct martial art styles they are today.

In 1609, Okinawa was seized by the Japanese Satsuma Samurai clan, for refusing to recognize Japan’s newest Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu. As a result, the Shogunate banned the Okinawa people from carrying weapons. This only further fueled the importance of further developing the martial arts as a means of survival.

Although at this time the Japanese had banned all trade relationships with other countries. The Japanese still, however, allowed Okinawa to trade with China.

As a result, around the mid to late 1700′s a Chinese diplomat, Kusanku, moved to Okinawa for 6 years. During his stay he began teaching the Chinese system of Ch’uan-Fa. As these influences became infused with the different local martial arts, they gradually became known as Tode (or Chinese Hand). By the 1800′s these styles were again re-named. Shuri and Tomari-Te formed the basis for Okinawan Sho Rin Ryu, while Naha-Te formed Goju Ryu and Uechi Ryu.

Although Kusanku is often believed to be a culmination of different Chinese officers, he is often referred to as one person. As is recorded, Tode Sakugawa began studying under Kusanku-sensei. The teachings of Kusanku enabled Sakugawa to combine the essence of both Te and Chinese Boxing principles. These principles form the basis of modern day Shorin Ryu.

The following is a record of the lineage of Shorin Ryu Karatedo. Each master featured was the direct instructor of the next. Listed art the names of the kata’s each instructor was either known for or introduced to the system.

Satunuku Sakugawa

Sokon Matsumura
Ankoh Itosu

Chosin Chibana
Instructed Shuguro Nakazato and promoted Tadashi Yamashita to 7th degree Black Belt.

Shuguro Nakazato
Head of Shorin-Kan System

Tadashi Yamashita
The founder of Suikendo and Head of the Shorin-Ryu Suibu Kan Association. Nakazatos senseis most senior student

It is important to credit the evolution of Okinawan Karate, as it made important steps to become the Karate of today.
Ankoh Yasutsune Itosu as a sensei was a noted instructor. His influence and ability to teach the ways of Karate enabled him to introduce karate-do into the public schools of Okinawa. He was the first to do this and his students include Sensei Gichin Funakoshi. In the late 1800′s, Sensei Funakoshi termed the essence of Te as “Karate-Do” meaning, “The Way of the Empty Hand.” Funakoshi-sensei later founded ShotoKan Karate.

As Shorin Ryu began to branch further and grow, other styles evolved from Itosu-sensei’s karate. An attempt was made by one of Itosu-sensei’s students to preserve his instructors original teachings. Itosu-sensei’s most diligent and dedicated student, Chosin Chibana-sensei, renamed the style Kobayshi-Ryu (Shorin Ryu – “Young Forest Style”) to indicate that he taught Itosu-sensei’s original Karate style.

Perhaps the most noted student of Sensei Chibana, Sensei Shuguro Nakazato, rose to became the head of Shorin Ryu-Shorin Kan branch of Kobayashi. Sensei Chibana’s other second most noted student was Sensei Katsuya Miyahira. Sensei Katsuya Miyahira became the head of Shorin Ryu-Shido Kan branch of Kobayashi

Below is a list of some major historical events:

  • Sensei Nakazato began training in Shito Ryu Karate-do under Sensei Seiichi Iju (1935-40).
  • While training in Shito Ryu, Sensei Nakazato began training in Kobudo, under Sensei Seiro Tonaki ( 1936-40).
  • Sensei Nakazato entered the Japanese Army, it was during this time that he taught bayonet techniques.
  • At the end of World War II, Sensei Nakazato returned to Okinawa, becoming a disciple of Sensei Chibana.
  • In 1951 Sensei Nakazato opened a dojo together with Chibana-sensei, naming it Chibana Dai Ichi Dojo.
  • In 1955, Sensei Nakazato opened the Sho Rin Kan dojo, in operation to this day.
  • By 1958, Sensei Nakazato was training in bojitsu under Sensei Masami Chineni, learning the Yamani-Chinen Ryu Bojitsu style.
  • Sensei Nakazato altered Sensei Itosu’s style to include the Kihon and Fukyu kata, enhancing the kumite of the style.

Sensei Tadashi Yamashita

The style of Karate taught by Yamashita Karate Studios, Inc., is that of Sensei Tadashi Yamashita. Sensei Yamashita is a world renowned and respected master of martial arts. Sensei Yamashita is a ninth degree black belt in both Karatedo and Kobudo. (Sensei Yamashita is also the President and Director of the United States Shorin-Ryu Karate Association, and U.S.A. President of the Zen Okinawan Kobudo Association.)

Sensei Yamashita is one of the few that has trained under notable high ranking masters such as the late:

  • Chosin Chibana of Shorin Ryu,
  • Shuguro Nakazato, founder of the Shorin Ryu Shorin Kan.
  • Shinpo Matayoshi, founder of the Zen Okinawan Kobudo Renmei.

His training and his life long dedication of over fifty years, Sensei Yamashita is a world renowned expert and practitioner of martial arts, specifically he is known for his explosive open hand techniques., Sensei Yamashita combines many progressive fighting tactics with traditional aspects of Karatedo, which today has resulted in this, devastating fighting system, known as Yamashita Karate. Sensei’s dynamic fighting system known as “Suikendo,” translates to, “fist flowing like water.” This is a non stopping, flowing system of fighting, allowing the Karateka to simultaneously block and strike his opponent with blinding speed and accuracy.

Master Yamashita keeps close tabs on what his instructors are teaching, so the style doesn’t get “watered down”. Many believe him to be one of the fastest humans on the face of the earth. He holds records for throwing punches, 13 in two seconds. He did this on an old TV show called “Thrillseekers” hosted by Chuck, “The Rifleman”, Connors. You can see him with Chuck Norris in “The Octagon”, and with Sean Connery, and Wesley Snipes in “Rising Sun”. He plays the “Black Star Ninja” in American Ninja, one of his bigger parts, and himself in American Ninja 5, and also the movie Gym-Kata with Kurt Thomas.

In addition to his mastery of open hand combat, Sensei Yamashita is a world renowned weapons master. During the 1973 Pro-Am Karate Tournament, Sensei illustrated to a standing audience of over 7,000 spectators, his mastery and skill of ancient Kobudo weaponry.

It is this discipline and dedication that we teach to this day, to all of our students, regardless of rank.