The empty hand system
of self-defense known, as Karate, is one of the oldest and most traditional
forms of martial arts taught throughout the world. “Shorin”
is the Japanese pronunciation for “Shaolin.” This name identified
Shorin-ryu with the Shaolin Temple in China, renowned for it’s
fighters. “Shorin” means “young forest” and
can be pronounced “Shobayashi,” “Kobayashi,”
or “Matsumura.” Ryu means method/style. This form of karate
is rich in technique and tradition and was created out of the need for
With the implementation of the United States/Japan post World War II
peace treaty in Japan on April 28, 1952, Okinawa was separated from
the Japanese administration and put under United States administration,
which made Okinawa a U.S. military base. It wasn’t until 1972
when Okinawa was returned to Japanese administration authority.
MAP of OKINAWA
At or around 1960, during
the Vietnam era, an airman named Heinz while assigned to the United
States Air Force, stationed at Kadena Air Force Base, located on the
island of Okinawa, sought knowledge of the art of Karate. Airman Heinz
traveled to local surrounding villages near Chatan & Yomitan prefectures
and discovered that something similar to Karate was taught instead.
He discovered that Chatan & Yomitan prefectures studied the predecessor
of Karate, an art called Okinawa-te. In fact, the well-known father
of Karate, the late great Gichen Funakoshi, learned and taught Okinawa-te
for many years prior to contributing to the development of Karate. Actually
many martial artists from around the world wrongly interpret Karate
and Okinawa-te as synonymous. Regarding the use of the name karate:
In China, there was a province by the name of Kara, which was responsible
for unifying the old country. It is believed that during the period
of the Kara Kingdom, Chinese martial art leaked out to many satellite
countries (Japan, Okinawa, Korea, etc.). There are two ways of writing
in kanji, one of the three alphabets in Japan, the characters for the
word karate. When written one way, it reads "Chinese hands",
and when written the other way, it reads "empty hands". In
Okinawa martial artists borrowed fighting techniques, not only from
China, but also from the Phillipines, Taiwan, Sumatra, Maylasia, Indoneshia,
and various other loctions and developed an indigenous martial arts
system and called it Okinawa-te (Okinawa hands). The Japanese changed
"Chinese hands and Okinawa hands" to one descriptive system
of martial arts to the kanji that reads "empty hands". Okinawa
and Japanese regional martial arts systems such as Shorin-ryu, Goju-ryu,
Shito-ryu, Shotokan were now epitomized subsystems under the umbrella
Okinawa-te and Chinese Kenpo were blended together and developed into
a system called Shorin-ryu. Okinawa dialect Shorin-ryu (an Okinawa martial
arts system) translates to “Young Forrest Method” which
is synonymous to Chinese Mandarin dialect - Shaolin Tzu, where the famous
Shaolin Temple was located and practiced the art. Villages Chatan &
Yomitan consisted of many different “internal and external”
martial arts style practitioners. These villages had various indigenous
Okinawa Shorin-ryu systems, such as Shuri-te and Tomari-te, along with
diverse Naha-te Okinawa systems taught. In addition, Jujitsu instruction
was popular. The famous “Peichin Yara, born as early as 1816 in
Shuri and later moved to Yara Chatan Village, combined Okinawan Te and
Chinese martial arts systems handed down from ancient times to become
unique and indigenous to Okinawa martial arts. He learned from all these
systems and became very knowledgeable in these diverse arts. Since then
several Shorin-ryu systems politicized evolving sub-systems such as
Matsubayashi, Kobayashi, Shobayashi, etc., to represent formal systems,
which dictated the separation of Okinawa styles that disallowed cross
style system training. This practice of separating and sub-setting Okinawa
martial arts training is still prevalent today.
Airman Heinz never became enthralled at training in any “one separate
Shorin-ryu subsystem”; instead he diligently sought after the
erudition of Okinawa-te in its entirety. Shorin-ryu was his major martial
arts influence but also received exposure to other systems such as Jujitsu,
Naha-te, etc. Because of this wholeness approach to learning Okinawa-te,
KSDA Shorin-ryu kata’s exhibit techniques from all major and minor
Shorin-ryu, in addition to minor Nah-te, subsystems.
After attaining Blackbelt in Okinawa and upon returning from the Vietnam
conflict, airman Heinz attended Morgan State College (later in 1975
was renamed Morgan State University) in Baltimore, Maryland. There he
and a close friend named Bob McPherson, who was a master in Shotokan
Karate & Jujitsu, instructed one of the toughest martial arts training
programs one can imagine. Kumite consisted of “bare knuckles”
resulting in many student injuries. Often kata training consisted of
hours of repetitious drills which caused several Karate-ka’s to
pass out from exhaustion.
Hawkins (now known as HANSHI Hawkins) was a young talented & tough
karate student of now, SENSEI Heinz and SENSEI McPherson. SENSEI Heinz
awarded the Blackbelt to Riley Hawkins because of his diligence in training
and his vehemence of spirit while learning the art and science of Shorin
ryu. After completing and receiving a language arts degree in 1964,
while graduating from Morgan State College, SENSEI Heinz ceded the college
Shorin-ryu instruction and granted Riley Hawkins the privilege of instructing
Shorin-ryu at the Sharp Street Community House, adjoined to a famous
church, which is now a national historic site, on Etting and Dolphin
Streets in the heart of Baltimore.
It was 1965, and now a SENSEI,
Riley Hawkins had to create a name for his Karate School. Simply, he
asked the neighborhood kids who joined his school to suggest a name.
It was unanimous – THE AVENGERS KARATE CLUB would be the name
of his school. The neighborhood kids got the name from a famous comic
book “Super Hero Team” called the “Avengers”.
Meanwhile, SENSEI Heinz was
hired to teach French language instruction at Garrison Junior High School,
located in northwest Baltimore. Interestingly, Michael Mobley (now known
as RENSHI Mobley) who resided in northwest Baltimore attended Garrison
Junior High School in the fall 1966, not aware that his French teacher,
Mr. Heinz was a martial arts instructor. Later that fall, Karate-ka
Mobley joined the Avengers Karate Club. Only after about 2 weeks since
joining the Avenger Karate Club, Karate-ka Mobley was surprised to see
his French teacher enter the Avengers DOJO. SENSEI Hawkins called everyone
to attention and directed everyone in the DOJO to bow to SENSEI Heinz.
Karate-ka Mobley was astonished to discover Mr. Heinz was a Martial
Arts Instructor. From that day on Karate-ka Mobley addressed his French
Teacher was SENSEI.
SENSEI Heinz encouraged and mentored SENSEI Hawkins to instruct Shorin-ryu
the way he learned the art while stationed in Okinawa. SENSEIHeinz gave
firm guidance to SENSEI Hawkins to always be open-minded concerning
learning and teaching martial arts instruction. He persuaded him to
not limit his martial arts knowledge and experience by only associating
with martial arts alliances that have a political and financial agenda
as their chief interest. SENSEI Heinz teaching philosophy was the embodiment
of native Okinawa martial artists from the prefectures of Chatan and
Yomitan Okinawa; “teach martial arts as a way of life.”
And did he teach! Citizens from Baltimore abroad would travel by bus,
cab, foot, and car to witness the exciting bare knuckle sparring sessions.
This DOJO was like a mini Madison Square Garden. SENSEI Hawkins taught
while setting an exalted example as a national competitor. He fought
the best tournament competitors from throughout the country, was nationally
rated and made the cover of the infamous “Blackbelt Magazine”.
The Avengers Karate Club grew and grew. The Sharp Street community house
Dojo location could not handle the rapid increase of student’s;
therefore in 1968 SENSEI Hawkins decided to move the location to another
historical site – The Druid Hill YMCA. It wasn’t long before
the Druid Hill YMCA couldn’t handle the sudden student increase.
Very shortly the Avengers Karate Club swollen membership cause the club
expand to 6 locations. Avengers were respected and feared by many. Many
times competitors from other schools would arrive at tournaments to
discover the Avengers were competing thereby changing their mind to
not compete for that day.
Hawkins promoted Karate-ka Mobley to Blackbelt during the summer of
1971. In 1973 Blackbelt Mobley attained SENSEI status and opened 2 Karate
schools – Webster Kendrick’s and Woodmoor Recreation Centers.
In 1974 instructed a college curriculum based karate program at the
Community College of Baltimore. In 1976 he joined the US Army serving
his country throughout locations in the United States and Europe. During
1980-1983 he instructed and promoted martial arts throughout Europe.
From 1982-1987 he served as President of the European American Martial
Arts Association (TEAMAA).
After serving a military
career SENSEI Mobley decided to choose Atlanta, Georgia as a new home.
That same year he was promoted to 6th Dan and attained the status of
RENSHI. In 1998 started teaching Shorin ryu throughout Atlanta metropolitan
area. The following year, 1999, RENSHI, along with all the members of
the Avengers Karate Club, is shocked to hearof the passing of SENSEI
Entering the 21st century
RENSHI has taught and continues to instruct Shorin-ryu at Georgia Tech
and Agnes Scott College and is the founder and President of the Kids’
Self Defense Academy. The KSDA is an after school care structured program
that puts keen emphasis on respect, discipline, and having fun for lower/elementary
students. Students are taught that Martial Arts are only used as a last
resort. Our most popular axiom is, “The greatest battle ever won
is the battle that’s never fought”. Key emphasis is put
on conflict prevention & resolution (proactive self-defense), obesity
prevention, safety awareness, and just having plain fun! Currently the
Kids’ Self Defense Academy consists of 6 different private schools
with more planned to come.