Styles and schools

Introduction of styles and schools

Although Okinawa karate traces back to the 16 century, it was a martial art transmitted in secret and never demonstrated in public until the Meiji era (1868-1912). It only started to become popularized to the masses with the fall of the samurai class in the middle of Meiji Period. After 1912, start of the Taisho era, karate was introduced outside of Okinawa Prefecture and this led to the creation and naming of schools in mainland Japan and in Okinawa. Today in Okinawa, the four main ryuha (styles) are Goju-ryu, Shorin-ryu, Uechi-ryu and Matsubayashi-ryu. These four ryuha were named during the Showa era (1926-1989).

After WWII and the Pacific War, the control over ryuha loosened up and many kaiha (branches) were formed. Some dojo, not forming a particular kaiha, even appeared. Nowadays, there are more than 100 ryukaiha (styles and branches) and 431 dojo in Okinawa.

(Translated from the  “Okinawa Prefecture sponsored ‘2004 Okinawa Karate Exchange Promotion Project’ report”)

From Shurite, Nahate and Tomarite of prior Meiji era, here are the major styles inherited in Okinawa today.



  1. Shurite system: Shorin-ryu (Kobayashi-ryu), Shorin-ryu (Sukunai-hayashi-ryu), Shorinji-ryu
  2. Nahate system: Goju-ryu
  3. Tomarite system: Matsubayashi-ryu
  4. Uechi-ryu
  5. Ryuei-ryu
  6. Motobu-ryu (Motobu Udundi)
  7. Shorin-ryu Matsumura Seito
  8. Isshin-ryu



  1. Taira Shinken System
  2. Kinga-ryu Karate Kobujutsu (Matayoshi Kobudo)
  3. Motobu-ryu (Motobu Udundi)