History of the Matsubayashi-Ryu School and It's Divisions

Grand Master Shoshin Nagamine

Grand Master Shoshin Nagamine is the founder of Okinawan Shorin-Ryu, Matsubayashi-Ryu karate.

While Matsubayashi-Ryu karate did not exist before Nagamine Sensei founded it, it's beginnings had existed for hundreds of years before. According to Patrick McCarthy of the International Ryukyu Karate Research Society, Matsubayashi-Ryu karate can trace it's lineage from Chinese Gung-Fu to the original Okinawan karate; Koryu Uchinadi-Ryu karate & Yamaneryu Kobudo. This "original" Okinawan karate then developed into Te. Te grew and divided into Naha-Te, Shuri-Te and Tomari-Te. Shuri-Te (Also generically known as shorin-ryu) then divided into Kobayashi-Ryu (Chosin Chibana), Matsubayashi-Ryu (Shoshin Nagamine), Shobayashi-Ryu (Chotoku Kyan) and Matsumura orthodox Hohan Soken). It was not until 1936 that the Okinawan masters met and adopted the term "karate" or "open-hand" to replace the earlier term of Tote (abbreviated to Te) which meant "Chinese Hand". They felt the new term, karate, better reflected the art's unique Okinawan development.

Following World War II Nagamine Sensei encountered a book by Ginchin Funakoshi, entitled "Introduction to Karate". He later stated it was this book that helped him make up his mind to pursue karate as a life's ambition. Although there is no documentation of it, one cannot help but wonder if Nagamine Sensei's service as an infantryman in China in 1928 may not also have influenced his subsequent development of the Matsubayashi-Ryu style.

1947 was the first time the public world heard of Matsubayashi-Ryu karate, this occurring when Nagamine Sensei opened his first dojo and named it the "Matsubayashi-Ryu Kododan Karate and Ancient Martial Arts Studies". Matsubayashi is the Okinawan pronunciation of the characters for "Pine Forest." "Matsu" means "pine" and "Hayashi" means "forest." When the two are placed together, the "H" of Hayashi is pronounced as "B," making it Matsubayashi. "Shorin" is the Chinese pronunciation of the same characters. The origin of the name "Shorin-Ryu" is the Shaolin Buddhist Temple in China. "Ryu", roughly translated, means style or system. More literally, it can mean "river," which Nagamine Sensei said reflected his thoughts that the art of karate, and specifically Matsubayashi-Ryu, is a living, flowing thing.

Nagamine Sensei created the name "Matsubayashi" out of respect for two great Karate-ka's who taught two of his most influential teachers (Chotoku Kyan and Choki Motobu). These two masters were Bushi Matsumura and Kosaku Matsumora. As a side note, the World Matsubayashi-Ryu Karate Association website reports Nagamine Sensei's nickname growing up was "Gaajuu Maachuu" sometimes pronounced "Chippai Matsu", which means "tenacious pine tree."

In the years that followed it's opening, his dojo grew in both fame and size. Soon selected nearby American servicemen began to train at his school.

In 1960 the United States was introduced to Matsubayashi-Ryu karate when James Wax, an ex-American serviceman, became the first westerner to open a Matsubayashi-Ryu dojo in Dayton, Ohio. Later, in 1962, Nagamine Sensei dispatched a senior student, Ansei Ueshiro to the United States with the intent of firmly establishing Shorin-Ryu, Matsubayashi-Ryu karate in North America.

In the 1980's Ueshiro Sensei branched off from Nagamine and formed the Shorin-Ryu Karate USA (Matsubayashi-Ryu) branch.

With the untimely death of Ueshiro Sensei in May of 2002, Shorin-Ryu karate USA broke off into two divisions; that headed by Scaglione Sensei (Shorin-Ryu Karate USA) and a new organization headed by Sensei Maccarrone - Karate USA - Terry Maccarrone. After some time Scaglione Sensei has appeared to emerge as the heir "de-facto" of the Ueshiro Organization

Nagamine Sensei, in addition to being the founder of Matsubayashi-Ryu karate, was the unifying figure that kept it together, at least until his death in 1997. Following Nagamine Shoshin's death numerous factions and a number of senior karate-ka (western and Okinawan), unhappy (for whatever reasons) with the WMKA being led by Nagamine Takayoshi left the mother organization and formed their own schools. Many keep the traditions of Matsubayashi-Ryu while some single dojo schools have deviated from the original intent of Matsubayashi-Ryu. At the present time there are number of schools which teach Matsubayashi-Ryu Karate-Do in one form or another. Many of these schools remain independent and unaffiliated with the major American branches of Matsubayashi-Ryu. The prospective karate student must be aware of this and choose the school that best meets their needs.

After the death of Nagamine Soke in April 2012, Sensei Yoshitaka Taira (10th Dan) was selected to serve as the WMKA President. A tremendous responsibility rests heavily on his shoulders as the reunification of Matsubayashi-Ryu continues to move forward.

With the death of Nagamine (father & son), Matsubayashi-Ryu separated into the many separate organizations seen today. Master Nagamine's original school remains open today in Naha, Okinawa. As a matter of courtesy, any Matsubayashi-Ryu stylist or school wishing to train in Okinawa at Nagamine Hanshi's original dojo would be best served to first contact the dojo and request permission.

Yoshitaka Taira Hanshi
Kodokan Nagamine Karate Dojo
3-14-1 Kumoji
Naha City, Okinawa, Japan

tel: 011 81 98 867-3413

The major branches of Matsubayashi-Ryu Karate-Do which appear to best adhere to the teachings of Grandmaster Nagamine are;
The World Matsubayashi-Ryu Karate-Do Association
Head of Organization: Yoshitaka Taira, 10th Dan

Taira Hanshi
The North American Matsubayashi Ryu Karate-Do Association
Head of Organization: Don Caponigro, 8th Dan

Kyoshi Caponigro
Karate USA - Terry Maccarrone

Shorin-Ryu Karate USA
Head of Organization: Robert Scaglione, 9th Dan

Scaglione Sensei
The Shorin-Ryu Karate and Kobu-Do Association
Head of Organization: Eihachi Ota, 9th Dan

Ota Sensei
The World Shorin-Ryu Karate-Do Federation
Head of Organization: Frank Grant, 10th Dan

Grant Sensei
American Karate Federation
Head of Organization: Gary Titkin, 9th Dan

Titkin Sensei
American Shorin-Ryu Karate Federation
Head of Organization: Governed by Board

Governing Board
The heads of all organizations are listed with the salutation "Sensei" vs. other Japanese Titles. This should not be construed to be an insult rather an administrative simplification.
The exclusion of any other federation, association or organization likewise should not be construed as a political comments about that organization - it's merely these are the organizations i (i.e the webmaster) am most aware of.

As a general rule, all of the major Matsubayashi-Ryu associations teach the same 18 katas, although minor stylistic changes me be apparent from school to school. These katas; Fukyugata I-II, Pinan I - V, Naihanchi I-III, Ananku, Wankan, Rohai, Wanshu, Passai, Gojushiho, Chinto, and Kusanku are all presented in Nagamine Sensei's book. The USA Shorin-Ryu Karate association additionally teaches Fukyugata San-Dan, developed by Ueshiro Sensei and some schools incorporate additional Okinawan Katas such as Sanchin.

It is up to each of us, regardless of rank, to ensure the future of Matsubayashi-Ryu karate. We must continue to train, each in his own way to the best of our ability regardless of our school affiliation. We should each try to emulate Master Nagamine and continue to strive to meet the exalted standards of physical, moral and spiritual excellence he has challenged us to achieve.

By Michael Cox, Ph.D
Matsubayashi-Ryu Karate-Do


Goodin, C. (1999). The 1940 Karate-do Special Committee: The Fukyugata Promotional Kata, Dragon Times, Volume 15: 14-16

McCarthy, P. (1999). International Ryukyu Karate Research Society, (Available on-line )

Nagamine, S. (1976). The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do, Charles E. Tuttle Co, Rutland, VT

Nagamine, S. (1999). Encounter With "Ti" Or "Karate", (Available on-line at: http://www.matsubayashi-ryu.com/

Nagamine, T. (1999), World Matsubayshi-Ryu Karate Association, (Available on-line at: http://www.matsubayashi-ryu.com/

Ota, E. (1999). Shorin-Ryu Karate-do and Kobu-do Association, (Available on-line at: http://www.shorin-ryu.com/

Scaglione, R. (1999). USA Shorin-Ryu Karate Homepage, (Available on-line at:> http://www.shorinryu.com/

Various. (1999). The Okinawan Shorin-Ryu, Matsubayashi-Ryu Homepage, (Available on-line at: http://www.okinawan-shorinryu.com/

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