Article by Emanuel Giordano

An interesting fact has emerged from the previous two articles relating to this topic. Although there is a tendency to consider Shorin-ryu and Shorei-ryu as two distinct styles according to current canons, this is a mistake. It is in fact necessary to contextualize this topic historically, and evaluate it according to the canons of the time. Today we are used to having very distinct and orderly schools, styles, associations, federations and organizations, but it is obvious that this does not correspond to what happened in those times. Therefore, by examining the matter, stripping it of the rigidity of contemporary thought, and basing ourselves only on what was written by the masters of the time, it immediately becomes clear that they are more than anything else about two different training and fighting methods, one based more on the development of technique, while the other on the development of the body. Obviously it is conceivable that therefore there were also different training exercises, aimed at achieving the primary goal. Yabu sensei himself wrote that those who felt comfortable with one of the two styles should have practiced that in place of the other, also specifying how one was based more on technique and the other on strengthening the body, respectively reported as Yo / use and Tai / body (Itosu no buyuden, 1915). 
In 1922 Funakoshi sensei published Ryukyu Kenpo Tode, in which he presented some kata as Shorin-ryu forms, and others as Shorei-ryu forms. Often this division has caused confusion and misinformation due to the fact that it was neither understood nor properly explained. The key to understanding the dilemma, however, is found in Okinawa no bugi, an article written by Funakoshi sensei in 1914. I state that this subdivision was made by Funakoshi on the basis of his own thought, but taking into account the characteristics of the two "styles".
In Okinawa no bugi Funakoshi, speaking of Karate kata, he specifies that some kata are suitable for "forging" the body, while others favor the development of certain techniques. Among the kata recommended to train the body, he cited Naihanchi and Sesan, two kata that in his books he classified as Shorei-ryu, while among those suitable for the development of certain techniques he cited Passai, Kusanku and Jitte, three kata that in the books he classified as Shorin-ryu. It is therefore possible that his division into kata Shorin-ryu and kata Shorei-ryu was made on the basis of the organization of his Karate, i.e. dividing the kata he considered more technical and based on explosive power (Shorin-ryu) from the more suitable for training the body and physical resistance (Shorei-ryu), thus reflecting the main peculiarities of the two “styles”. At the moment it is not known whether this was Funakoshi's idea, or if he based (as for other things) on the model of school karate taught in Okinawan schools. However, it is interesting to know that some kata in Okinawa are still considered suitable for forging the body. In addition to Sanchin, whose purpose is evident, Naihanchi is also considered a "tanren kata", that is a form suitable for forging / tempering the practitioner's body, although it is also a kata considered practical and rich in applications. To cite an example, my teacher, Maeshiro Morinobu sensei, considers it a "tanren kata", although he teaches many practical applications deriving from it.
The classification made by Funakoshi, therefore, would not be universal and valid for all styles / schools, on the contrary, it is my opinion that mainly karateka belonging to styles derived from the teachings of Funakoshi sensei should pay more attention to it, as the Karate they practice derives from the choices made by this well-known master, obviously excluding the kata whose purpose is clearly recognized to all (eg Naihanchi = forging of the body; Kusanku = development of technique and agility).
  • "Shorin-ryu Karate: kata 2" (here)
  • "Shorin-ryu Karate: kata" (here)
  • "Shorin-ryu Karate: The legacy of the bodyguards of the king of Okinawa" (here)
  • "The legend of the masters of Okinawan Karate: Biographies, curiosities and mysteries"  (here)