From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Shuri-ryū Karate
FocusStriking & Eclectic
HardnessHard and soft
Country of originUnited States United States
CreatorRobert Trias
Famous practitionersPat Miletich, Sage Northcutt
ParenthoodKarate (Goju-ryu, Shito-ryu, Shotokan), Xingyiquan, Judo

Shuri-ryū (首里流) karate, is an eclectic martial arts system developed by Robert Trias (1923–1989), reportedly the first Hispanic to teach a form of karate in the mainland United States, who opened his public first dojo in 1946 in Phoenix, Arizona.[1][2]


Shuri-ryū is a style that has a lineage coming from a variety of sources, including karate. Other influences include Xing Yi Quan (Hsing-Yi) Kung Fu.[citation needed]

Trias was first introduced to karate while in the Navy during World War II, when he was stationed in the Solomon Islands. In 1944 Robert Trias met Tung Gee Hsing and began training with him. Hsing practiced the Chinese system of Xingyiquan and had reportedly cross-trained with Motobu Chōki in the Okinawan village of Kume Mura several years previously. Later Trias reportedly studied with Hoy Yuan Ping in Singapore in 1944. In addition to these teachers, Trias learned from other martial art teachers, such as Yajui Yamada (judo), Gogen Yamaguchi (Gōjū-ryū), Roy Oshiro (Gōjū-ryū), Yasuhiro Konishi, Makoto Gima (Shotokan, Shitō-ryū), and many others. Both Konishi and Gima served as mentors to Trias instead of in a formal teacher-student relationship.[citation needed]

Konishi, a prominent student of Gichin Funakoshi, Choki Motobu, and Kenwa Mabuni, recognized and countersigned Trias's promotion certificate to 9th Dan by the USKA in the 1960s.[citation needed] Gima was a prominent student of Funakoshi and he recognized Trias as 10th Dan in 1983, reaffirming Trias as style head for Shuri-ryū.[citation needed]


In addition to the punches, blocks, and kicks of karate, Shuri-ryū also incorporates joint locks, take-downs and throws, and kobudō (traditional weapons). Several senior sensei also hold high ranks in jujitsu and judo.

Shuri Ryu follows a system of teachings called the Haryu which are identifiers of the system.

Shuri-ryū also has several short combinations. These include: 26 ippon (ippon kumite kata), which are performed to develop form and power; 10 taezu (taezu naru waza) which are performed to develop speed and fluidity; 30 kihon which are performed to develop fighting technique; eight sen-te motions; and seven kogeki-ho ho to develop attacking and retreating.

In addition, there are training exercises including form sparring (kata kumite), focus stance sparring (kime dachi kumite), free exercise (jiyū undō), and free sparring (jiyū kumite).


Shuri-ryū has three form exercises called Taikyoku Ichi, Ni, and San to prepare the student to learn the 15 core forms (kata):[citation needed]

Besides these forms, there exist numerous variations of Sanchin and Tenshō. Also, the senior sensei of Shuri-ryū also teach several other forms such as Shudoso and another related art which teaches Hakutsuru Shodan, Nidan, Sandan, and Yondan.[citation needed]

Many of the above kata emphasize the use of various animal forms, and the definitions are often reflective of this. For example, Wunsu (Strong Arm Dumping Form or Dragon Boy Dumping Form) uses the tiger form, Anaku refers to a swallow pivoting on a beach, Empisho (First Elbow Form) refers to the flying swallow, and Gopei Sho refers to a tearing peacock. Some kata will emphasize multiple animal forms, such as Danenn Sho, where ten animals are emulated. Also, there are 15 animal body and 20 fist form exercises.[citation needed]


The Shuri-ryū style, like most systems of the martial arts, uses a belt system to designate rank. The appropriate rank is awarded when the student demonstrates a certain level of proficiency when performing the required techniques, kata, and exercises. The ranking system as spelled out in The Pinnacle of Karate by Trias called for 8 ranks below black belt (Kyu), and 10 above (Dan).[citation needed] Because of the time and difficulty of receiving Yellow belt, some schools award various informal ranks in the interim.[citation needed]

  • White (8th Kyu - hachikyu, unless additional informal ranks are included)
  • Interim Ranks (Informal ranks of Orange, Gold, "Black Dot", and/or various stripes are awarded at some schools)
  • Yellow (7th Kyu - shichikyu, student officially becomes a member of the Shuri-Ryu Style)
  • Blue (6th Kyu - rokukyu)
  • Green (5th Kyu - gokyu)
  • Purple (4th Kyu yonkyu)
  • Brown (3rd Kyu - sankyu, 2nd Kyu - nikyu, 1st Kyu ikkyu)
  • Black (1st Dan - shodan through 10th Dan - judan)

At each rank, the student must also pass a rigorous physical requirement before performing the technical requirements.[citation needed] Running one or two miles (up to blue = 1 mile, purple and beyond = 2 miles), lifting 10 or 15 lb weights 75 times over the head (depending on gender), performing 500–1000 front kicks, and various hand technique exercises are commonly used.[citation needed]

Upon receiving the rank of Yellow Belt, the student officially becomes a member of the Shuri-Ryu Style. At this point, the student may wear a white & green patch showing the emblem of the system.[citation needed] At the rank of Black Belt, the student may wear a black & green system patch. If awarded the position of Assistant Chief Instructor, a red circle (and sometimes a half-sun) is added. Once receiving the position of Chief Instructor, the full style emblem is worn, consisting of a red circle, red sun, black pine tree, on a green background.[citation needed]

Identifying features[edit]

One characteristic feature of Shuri-ryū is the use of the Shuri fist, in lieu of a standard fist. Instead of curling the index finger when making the fist, the upper half of the index finger is laid flat against the palm, with the thumb curled around the index finger and pushing down between the first and second joints, resulting in a tighter fist and better alignment of the ulna and radius bones with the first two knuckles of the fist.[citation needed]

Another feature of Shuri-ryū is the position of the thumb of the knife hand strike or block. The thumb and forefinger form a "j" so that the hand may be used in a variety of techniques (ridgehand, spearhand, open-hand throat strikes, etc.) without changing the thumb position.[citation needed]

Chief instructors and senior sensei[edit]

Prior to 1989, Trias had designated 8 Chief Instructors and 3 assistant Chief Instructors of the Shuri-ryū system to perpetuate Shuri-ryū after his death; Roberta Trias-Kelley, John Pachivas, Robert Bowles, the late Ridgely Abele,[3] Pete Rabino, Michael Awad, Dale Benson, and Dirk Mosig,

Other individuals who were designated Chief Instructors at one time but left Trias are Victor Moore, Phillip Koeppel, James McLain, John Hutchcroft, and Randy Holman. A former Assistant Chief Instructor appointed by Trias is Wendi Dragonfire but was removed from this position.

Traditionally, a karate system was owned by the family of the founder. Thus, upon Trias' death in 1989, his daughter, Roberta Trias-Kelley, inherited the Shuri-ryū system as style head. While Dirk Mosig followed her leadership, the majority of members did not.

In 1995 John Pachivas appointed Robert Bowles as style head of Shuri-ryū. Bowles founded the International Shuri-ryū Association (ISA) with the following Chief Instructors as Executive Directors: John Pachivas, Ridgely Abele, Pete Rabino, Michael Awad, and Dale Benson. Since then, the International Shuri-ryū Association, under Robert Bowles, has become the largest organization of Shuri-ryū stylists in the world, and has appointed additional Chief Instructors and Assistant Chief Instructors. Additionally prior to his death in 2000, John Pachivas passed on his American Shuri Karate lineage to Jerry Piddington.

A number of Shuri-ryu stylists can also be found in the United States Karate-Do Kai (USKK), an organization founded by former Chief Instructor and Trias' senior most student, Phillip Koeppel. Unlike the ISA, the USKK has not appointed new Chief Instructors. Instead, Koeppel appointed a Style Head which serves a similar function. The current USKK Style Head for Shuri-ryu is David Hamann, other senior instructors in this group include James McLain and Michael Awad. Former Chief Instructors Phillip Koeppel and John Hutchcroft are also USKK members, though they now practice Matsumura Seito Shorin-Ryu. Another USKK member and Trias student, Glenn R. Keeney also teaches Shuri-Ryu. Though not an organizational promotion, Michael Awad has personally awarded several members from this group to the position of Chief Instructor and Assistant Chief Instructor.

Currently, there appears to be four strains of Shuri-ryū each, respectively, centering on Roberta Trias-Kelley, Robert Bowles' ISA, Victor Moore's TWKA, and the USKK group under McLain/Awad/Hamann. Membership in the various organizations is not mutually exclusive, and many Shuri-ryu practitioners are active in multiple groups.

The instructors below are either spelled out to be Chief Instructors in "The Pinnacle of Karate" or affiliated with the ISA, USKK, and TWKA.

Trias Appointed Chief Instructors[edit]

  • Roberta Trias-Kelley, 10th Dan, Arizona
  • * Robert Bowles, 10th Dan, Indiana
  • John Pachivas (deceased),10th Dan, Florida
  • Ridgely Abele (deceased), 9th Dan, South Carolina
  • Pete Rabino, 9th Dan, California
  • Dale Benson, 9th Dan, Arizona
  • Michael Awad, 9th Dan, Ohio
  • Dirk Mosig PhD, 8th Dan, Nebraska

Trias Appointed Assistant Chief Instructors[edit]

  • Tony Bisanz, 8th Dan, Arizona
  • Johnny Linebarger, 8th Dan, Arizona
  • Joseph Walker, 9th Dan, Illinois/Texas

Trias Dojo Chief Staff Instructors[edit]

  • Robert Bowles, 10th Dan, Indiana
  • Pete Rabino, 9th Dan, California
  • Michael Awad, 9th Dan, Ohio
  • Milt Calander, 8th Dan, Arizona
  • Dale Benson, 9th Dan, Arizona

ISA Chief Instructors[edit]

  • Robert Bowles, 10th Dan, Indiana
  • Dale Benson, 9th Dan, Arizona
  • Joseph W. Walker, 9th Dan, Texas
  • Sandra Bowles, 9th Dan, Michigan
  • George Sheridan Jr., 8th Dan, Indiana
  • Tony Bisanz, 8th Dan, Arizona
  • Glenn Wallace, 7th Dan, Indiana
  • Lon Bradfield, 7th Dan, Colorado
  • Niels Larsen, 7th Dan, Denmark
  • Luis Lugo, 7th Dan, Florida
  • Gus Lugo, 7th Dan, Florida
  • Todd Sullivan, 6th Dan, Indiana
  • Joseph Johnston, 6th Dan, Illinois

current as of 9/2017

ISA Assistant Chief Instructors[edit]

  • Rick Scoppe, 7th Dan North Carolina
  • John Venson, 9th Dan, Chicago, IL
  • Donna Judge 8th dan Florida
  • Amanda Kaufman 5th Dan, Ohio
  • Reggie Venson 7th Dan, Illinois
  • Jon Wong 5th Dan Florida
  • Brenda Armentrout 7th Dan, Indiana
  • Anna Gorman 5th Dan, New Mexico

International Shuri-ryū Association Council members[edit]

  • Tony Bisanz, 8th Dan, Arizona
  • Sandra Bowles, 8th Dan, Indiana
  • Milt Calander, 8th Dan, Arizona
  • John Linebarger, 7th Dan, Arizona
  • Joseph W. Walker, 9th Dan, Texas
  • Rodolfo Rodriguez, 7th Dan, Venezuela, Caracas

TWKA Chief Instructors[edit]

  • Victor Moore, 10th Dan, From Ohio lives in North Carolina
  • Woodrow Fairbanks, 10th Dan, Ohio
  • John Jelks (deceased),10th Dan, Ohio
  • William Friend, 7th Dan, Kentucky
  • Thomas Boyajian Jr, 6th Dan, Ohio

USKK Style Heads[edit]

  • James McLain (deceased), 9th Dan, Tennessee
  • Michael Awad, 9th Dan, Ohio (previous)
  • David Hamann, 8th Dan, Ohio (current)

Awad Appointed Chief Instructors[edit]

  • David Hamann, 8th Dan, Ohio
  • Richard Awad, 6th Dan, Ohio (R. Awad previously received a "Batsugan" or "Battlefield Promotion" to Asst. Chief Instructor from Trias)

Awad Appointed Assistant Chief Instructors[edit]

  • Nathan England, 5th Dan, Ohio

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Bruce A. Haines, Karate's History and Traditions: Revised Edition (Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1995), pg.154.
  2. ^ Jones, C. Michial (August 21, 2011). Entering Through the Gateway of Gojuryu (1st ed.). Lulu Press. ISBN 9781257979387.
  3. ^ The Columbia School of Karatedo celebrates 29th anniversary