In 2012, Nakazato Shugoro Kaicho relinquished the reigns of the Shorin Ryu Shorin Kan Karate Kyokai to his son, Nakazato Minoru sensei. The association was established by Nakazato Shugoro and enjoys a large global following. The association has been instrumental in preserving and spreading Okinawa Karatedo to countless people across the globe. Rightfully, and consistent with Okinawan tradition, Minoru sensei as the eldest son will carry on the Chibana legacy as his father so dutifully did. Indeed, Nakazato Minoru sensei has already established himself as a leader who is ready, willing and able to reach out to his deshi. A dedication demonstrated by multiple trips with some of his most senior ranking yudansha to the U.S. and India.
With the passing of the torch from father to son, Nakazato sensei also opened a door that would send many of Minoru’s peers in Karate and elders in years to preserve Nakazato’s martial traditions under the auspices of their own organizations. These men were dedicated and loyal students of the elder Nakazato but in accordance with cultural norms would not be expected to remain directly under Minoru after the change of command. Thus there is a trend in Okinawa of Nakazato’s senior students moving on and establishing their own organizations. These senior students include Gibo sensei, who established the Shobukan and Nakaza Seiei sensei, who established the Kiyobukan. As Hanshi in their own right, these gentlemen and others have established organizations, which continue to promulgate and expand the body of knowledge of Okinawan Karate and Kobudo.
Following suit, Perry sensei organized the Shorin Ryu Karate Kobudo Kensankai (小林流空手古武道研鑽会) in 2013. I would like to take a minute to explain what the meaning of organization’s name is and offer some insights to the philosophy behind the name.
If you are reading this you most likely know that Shorin (小林) means small forest and is a reference to the Chinese (Shaolin) origins of Okinawan Karate. We often translate the term ryu (流) into English to mean something like style or system. The Japanese pronunciation of the character for ryu is nagareru, which means to flow. It is a very common word especially now that the rainy season is upon us here in Japan where I am writing. To me understanding the Japanese changes our image of the origins and diversions of our art. A river collects and becomes large as water flows from multiple sources and diverts and converges as necessary to continue to feed the larger body of water to which if flows. Indeed a flowing river is inclusive by nature; it collects many small streams as it moves along until it becomes a powerful river.
This phenomena can be seen in the sum total of Perry sensei’s martial lineage which started at the Police Athletic Club Boxing Team in Charlotte, North Carolina to Judo training in the Marine Corps close combat program of the 1950s and 60s. It flows from his introduction to Karate at Parris Island, South Carolina and subsequently training in Okinawan Isshinryu under Shimabukuro Tastuo sensei. His karate flows from training in Cherry Point, North Carolina with Sensei Bill Hayes, a student of Tatsuo’s brother Eizo, who helped point Perry sensei toward Shorin ryu. It flows from direct combat as a Marine in Vietnam. It flows from tough training in Okinawa with Jiro Shiroma where sensei first began his association with Nakazato sensei’s Shorin Kan Kyokai. As the North America Director of the Shorin Ryu Shorin Kan Kyokai under Nakazato sensei, he traveled to Okinawa regularly to continue training and build relationships with Nakazato’s senior students. He tirelessly brought like-minded and good-hearted martial artists from across the world of traditional Okinawan karate together to share their “stream” of knowledge with Shorin Kan students.
The word Kensan (研鑽) is not common in the Japanese language. The word is composed of two characters. Below I will try to break each character down separately.
The character 研 is very common in the Japanese language and is often used in the context of the research, science, medical research or learning. A quick Google search will reveal many similar words associated with martial arts organizations such as Kenkyu (研究), which means research, or Kenshuu (研修), which means to train. These, when combined with the character au (会), to meet, become translated to research association or training association. Each shares the same first character, 研. The character 研 as a verb is pronounced togu or migaku and it means to sharpen, grind, polish, hone or even to wash (polish) rice. It is commonly found in words like giken (technical research), tsuuken (laboratory), kengaku (studies) or togiishi (grinding stone).
The second character 鑽is much less common. The verb form of the character is pronounced kiru and it means to polish, study or strike a fire by rubbing sticks together. It is much more difficult to find words containing this character to illustrate the nuanced meaning of the character but it implies diligent effort and devotion in learning. It also implies action in learning verses the more academic or rote learning and experimentation suggested by the term kenkyu. The character is made up of three separate components: 金 (gold), 先 (ahead, before) and 貝 (shell). While the following analysis is my own, I find it compelling that the character is made up of, 1) something that is valuable and that shines, 2) that it suggests leadership or previous experience and has the same character as sensei and 3) that it suggests a hardening over time and consistency by the accumulation of layer upon layer of armor.
The verb associated with the character 会 means to meet. It is used in such words as association (kyoukai / 協会)、church (kyoukai / 教会)、and conference (kaigi /会議). The character suggests a group of people who have a shared purpose coming together.
In the dictionary the word kensan means to study or to devote oneself to one’s studies. Shorin Ryu Karate Kobudo Kensan Kai, therefore, may be described simply as a group of people devoted to the study of Shorin Ryu Karate and Okinawan Kobudo.
In establishing the Kensan Kai, Perry sensei is creating a forum whereby a few devotees to the study of karate can come together and share their knowledge and experience in a way that benefits others who seek the same goal – bettering themselves through the study of karate. He is not creating a new system of karate or departing from the traditions he advocated tirelessly as the director of Nakazato sensei’s organization in North America. What he is doing is bringing together the different “streams” that make up his collective martial experience and offering that body of knowledge to anyone who desires to dedicate themselves to that pursuit. I also think the reader will notice that the Kensan Kai will seek to introduce the experience, knowledge and philosophies of other traditions of Okinawan life protection arts and will welcome other “streams” of thinking to the association’s collective identity. It is my belief the Kensankai embraces and seeks to preserve the principals that attracted Perry Sensei to Karate in the beginning.
I hope this explanation helps the reader better understand the philosophy behind the Shorin Ryu Karate Kobudo KensanKai.
Yours in Karatedo,
Jason S.D. Perry