The most widely accepted starting point for the modern system of Karate is the in the Shaolin Temple of China. A series of exercises based upon the natural movement of animals were used to teach Zen Buddhism to the Shaolin priests. Over time these exercises were developed into the first real martial arts system known as Shorinji Kempo (Shorinji being another name for Shaolin and Shorinji Kempo meaning Shaolin Temple). The Shaolin Priests carried the exercise and martial art of Shorinji Kempo to the extents of the territories of China. These teachings reached Okinawa and became part of the Japanese Chinese cultures of the island.
Okinawa is one of many islands that make up the Ryukyu Islands. Situated in the shipping routes between mainland Japan and Mainland China, Okinawa became rich both financially and in terms of martial arts history and development. Much feuding took place between the Chinese and Japanese people over the possession of the Ryukyu Islands. The Okinawan people were caught in the middle and had to learn to defend themselves from these invaders. In 1609 the Japanese invaded Okinawa and took control of the island. During the ensuing Japanese occupation of the islands the Warlord Shimazu banned all martial arts so as to prevent the Okinawans from being able to overthrow the Japanese military. This caused the practitioners to be forced into secret training for fear of reprisals from the Japanese government. In 1875 Okinawa officially became part of the Japanese Empire and the restrictions on training in the martial arts were lifted. A style of martial art emerged from the underground martial arts schools under the name of Okinawa-te later becoming known as Karate.
The true meaning and spirit of karate are imbedded in the kata and only by the practice of kata can we come to understand them. For this reason, if we change or simplify the kata either to accommodate the beginner or for tournament purposes, then we also will have lost the true meaning and spirit of karate.
The techniques in the kata have evolved from and have been tested in actual combat. In this way each kata has been improved and refined, and has evolved into the kata we practice today. The kata's complex evolution it is hard to trace, but it is known that they are based on combative techniques and movements in the fighting between animal and animal, animal and man, and man-to-man. The study of physiology of the human body and its relationship to its environment during combat are incorporated into the kata.
Kata builds on the Target, Timing and Technique (the 3 T's taught in basics) and the Dead Time Principle (taught in combinations) by teaching us Direction and stances or (Dachi). The majority of katas require changes in direction. These direction changes can be made in a variety of ways. Sometimes we step, sometimes we twist and sometimes we use Suri Ashi or gliding movements. Kata teaches us all of these methods. In order to change direction we must usually turn the hips. The use of different stances allows us to alter the direction of our hips smoothly, quickly and while still maintaining balance. To perform a kata accurately and with poise involves the correct application of stances and direction changes.
After many years of practicing karate and kata, kata can take on a new meaning. Whilst it still teaches us and moulds us into a karateka, the act of performing a kata can be used as a method of meditation. This type of meditation is often referred to as the "Path of Action" or "Moving Zen". When practicing the kata in this way the kata become part of your being and the application of a kata become as natural to you as walking or breathing.
The Houston Budokan teaches a style of Japanese Karate-Do that blends Karate kata with kata of Jujitsu and Aikido to create a curriculum that is comprehensive and builds mental and physical properties of the student.
Founder of Shindo Jinen Ryu
Japan Karate-Do Ryobu-Kai teaches a style of karate called Shindo Jinen Ryu, founded by Yasubiro Konishi. Modern training in this style incorporates elements of karate, aikido, and kendo in the formal curriculum, with an emphasis on philosophy and education. The curriculum also emphasizes Zanshin (the ability of an exponent to gain dominance over an opponent through an alert state of mind) and maintenance of proper physical posture.
The purpose of training in Shindo Jinen Ryu is to develop the whole human being, mentally and physically. Through long-term dedicated training, the student of Shindo Jinen Ryu learns to develop and unite Shin (mind), Gi (technique), and Tai (body) in proper proportions. The end result is awareness of the moral obligations and usefulness to society.
With this curriculum, the Japan Karate-Do Ryobu-Kai has spread worldwide, to encompass numerous schools in over 20 countries outside Japan. The organizational headquarters, called the RyobuKan, is located in Tokyo, Japan.
Yasuhiro Konishi, the founder of Shindo Jinen Ryu, was born in 1893 in Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan. Konishi Sensei began his martial arts training at age 6 in Muso Ryu Jujitsu. When he entered the equivalent of a western high school, he began training in Takeuchi Ryu jujitsu. This particular jujitsu style is known for its strong kicks and punches, very similar to karate. At age 13, while,practicing jujitsu, Konishi Sensei began studying kendo as well. In 1915, he commenced studies at Keio University in Tokyo. He was Keio University's kendo team captain, and continued coaching the university's kendo club after his graduation.
Konishi Sensel's first exposure to "Te," (which later developed into karate) was through a fellow classmate at Keio University, Tsuneshige Arakaki of Okinawa. Konishi Sensei found the techniques of "Te" (as referred to by Arakaki) very similar to those of Takeuchi Ryu' jujitsu. Though Arakaki was in no way a master of "Te", Konishi Sensei found the system to be very intriguing.
After graduating from the University, he worked for a short time. However, he was not completely satisfied with his occupation. With encouragement from his wife, he quit his job and opened his own martial arts center in 1923 and called it the RyobuKan ("The House of Martial Arts Excellence"), teaching mainly kendo and jujitsu.
In September, 1924, Hironishi Ohtsuka, the founder of the Wado-Ryu style of karate, and Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan karate, came to the kendo training hall at Keio University. They approached Konishi Sensei with a letter of introduction from Professor Kasuya of Keio University. They wished to practice Ryukyu Kempo To-te jutsu in his Dojo. Together the three Sensei developed a new style jujitsu that had elements jujitsu and boxing. Karate-jutsu was born of this union. Each of the Sensei eventually developed their own style of Karate.
Yasuhiro Konishi Sensei continued to refine the Karate teachings with an emphasis mental and spirtiual benefits of the Style. He named his style Shindo Jinen Ryu Karate-Jutsu ("godly, natural, empty handed, style") or Shindo Jinen Ryu Karate-Do ("godly, natural, empty handed, way"). The Houston Budokan is proud to be among the Dojos teaching this unique style of Japan karate-Do.