Okinawa Kenpo Karate is the core style of the Sanrin Dojo Curriculum. It is a traditional varient of karate that comes from the island of Okinawa, off the southern coast of Japan. It focuses heavily on the usage of kata (pre-arranged forms) to transmit the ideas and techniques of the art. However, those kata are supplemented by technique practice, basic drills, and sparring.

A Sample of Okinawa Kenpo Kata by Odo Seikichi Sensei

An Example of Kata Application by Matthew Apsokardu

Brief History of Okinawa Kenpo

Nakamura Shigeru: Founder of Okinawa Kenpo

Nakamura Sensei was born in 1894 in the northern city of Nago. His father was a successful merchant and his uncle was a practiced karateka, who helped introduce Shigeru to the art at an early age. Throughout his life, Shigeru would be exposed to some of the great practitioners of the previous era, including Motobu Choki, Hanashiro Chomo, Yabu Kentsu, and Kuniyoshi Shinkichi.

In his adult life, Nakamura Sensei attempted to organize Okinawan karate under one banner and call the collective art “Okinawa Kenpo”. However, that organizational push did not last and the name “Okinawa Kenpo” became synonymous only with Nakamura Sensei’s personal art.

Nakamura Shigeru

Odo Seikichi

Nakamura Shigeru had a number of accomplished students, including his son Taketo. However, the mantle of Okinawa Kenpo ultimately fell to Odo Seikichi, who was instrumental in the operation of Nakamura Sensei’s dojo and organization.

Odo Sensei was a man of exceptional talent and power, despite his slight frame. His most notable skill was an uncanny ability to memorize and synthesize kata, seemingly adding forms to his style at will. Over time he became most well-known for his unique and wide-ranging repertoire in weapons (kobudo). In addition to Nakamura Sensei, Odo Sensei was influenced by Matayoshi Shinpo, Kakazu Mitsuo, and more.

Image Courtesy of John Jackson

Oyata Seiyu

One of the most accomplished disciples of Namakura Shigeru was Oyata Seiyu. Oyata Sensei had a variety of influences but began training with Nakamura Sensei in the late 1950s. It was under Nakamura that Oyata developed his core kata curriculum and began participating in bogu kumite (full contact, padded sparring). Oyata Sensei quickly became renowned for his fighting prowess.

Oyata Sensei began visiting the United States in the late 1960s and permanently emigrated in 1977 to Kansas City. His influence grew as he began teaching Americans full-time and offering a number of seminars. He eventually became famous for his skills in tuidi (joint/body manipulation) and kyusho (vital point striking).


Image courtesy of Lee Richards. Please visit his website for a more complete history of Oyata Sensei.

Matthew Apsokardu

Matthew’s experience pulls from Bruce Heilman of the Odo Seikichi lineage as well as Jimmy Teller of the Oyata Seiyu lineage. Matthew continues to expand his understanding by studying multiple times a year with Bill Hayes of Shobayashi Ryu. He has also studied Japanese swordsmanship with Rick Zondlo, Monica Iwakabe, and Hideki Iwakabe.