Shorin-ryu master Shinpan Gusukuma instructs a group of students in the main courtyard of Shuri Castle in Okinawa, circa 1938.

The “Matsubayashi” branch of Shorin-ryu ( 松林流 ) – was founded in 1947 by Shoshin Nagamine (1907-1997).

Nagamine, born in 1907 in the Tomari district of Naha, Okinawa, began his practice of karate at the age of seventeen as an alternative method of overcoming a gastroentric disorder for which he found medications lacking. His first teacher was a neighborhood friend, Chojin Kuba, who held practices in his backyard.

Finding his ailment waning through hard training and the strengthening of body and spirit, Nagamine joined his high school karate team and came under the tutelage of Kodatsu Iha. Developing what Nagamine would describe as an “appetite for karate that surpassed that of eating,” over the subsequent decades he would take additional instruction under Taro Shimabukuro, Ankichi Arakaki, Chotoku Kyan, and Choki Motobu.

In 1928, Nagamine was conscripted into the 47th Infantry Division of the Imperial Japanese Army and deployed to Shantung, China, where he participated in various skirmishes. Upon honorable discharge from military service and returning to Okinawa, in 1931 Nagamine joined the Okinawa Prefectural Police Department where, in a twenty-one year career he would rise to the rank of superintendent and chief of police at Motobu District Police Station. During his tenure as a police officer, Nagamine would organize the Motobu Police Station Judo Team and become a member of the Okinawa Police Kendo Team.


Excerpt from the 1935 edition of Karatedo Kyohan by Gichin Funakoshi.

Serving as chief of an emergency rations section of Naha Police Station during WWII’s Battle of Okinawa – where reportedly one-third of Okinawa’s population was killed – Nagamine was among those who surrendered to U.S. Armed Forces in 1945. While transporting casualties as a POW, he picked up a randomly discarded book along the roadside. It happened to be Karatedo Kyohan by Gichin Funakoshi, a 1935 publication of the Kobundo Book Company in Tokyo. Funakoshi, nearly forty years Nagamine’s senior, was a former Okinawan schoolteacher who relocated to Tokyo in 1922 to introduce karate to the Japanese mainland; his mainland students’ interpretation of the karate Funakoshi taught would later come to be known as Shotokan.

Taking this discovery to heart as serendipitous inspiration to overcome adversity through Okinawan physical and martial culture, Nagamine made a mission of distilling his knowledge into a system he formally coined Matsubayashi-ryu (alternately pronounced Shorin-ryu). The impetus for such formalization, Nagamine explains as follows:

“After the war, the young people were driven to despair; their sense of morality vanished and juvenile delinquency soared. To instill an undying faith in the hearts and minds of promising youth seemed imperative, and I felt there was a real need for a karate dojo in which young people could train their bodies and build indomitable spirits.” – The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do

In naming his style, Nagamine chose to honor the progenitors of the two streams of martial study from whom his own teachers had learned, Sokon Matsumura (1809-1901) of Shuri-te and Kosaku Matsumora (1829-1898) of Tomari-te, and upon whose curriculum his own teachings were based. Nagamine founded a temporary dojo in 1947 and upon retirement from the prefectural police force, in 1953 he established a permanent location in Naha.


Kodokan Nagamine Karate Dojo in Naha, Okinawa.

Matsubayashi-ryu is known for relaxed and natural movements, breathing, and postures. Our curriculum consists of kihon (basic techniques), kata (forms), bunkai (applications), yakusoku kumite (pre-arranged sparring), jiyu kumite (free sparring), and goshinjutsu (self defense techniques). Okinawan kobudo, or classical Okinawan weaponry, is studied as an adjunct to our empty-handed training.

The legacy of the late Shoshin Nagamine and his forebears is today guarded in large part through the efforts of the World Matsubayashi-ryu (Shorin-ryu) Karatedo Association, headquartered in Urasoe City, Okinawa, led by Kaicho Yoshitaka Taira. Taira Sensei is a direct student of Shoshin Nagamine, and longtime supporter of both Matsubayashi-ryu and the Nagamine family.