Before the 1800s, a form of martial art known as "Te" was practiced by the nobility of the islands as a means of self-defense and self-development. This lead to Okinawans developing their own forms of martial arts evolved from Te, with influences from Chinese boxing and other fighting forms. Early Karate was known as Tode (Tang Hand) in recognition of the Chinese influence, and was first systemized by Tode Sakugawa.
Sokon Matsumura worked in Shuri, the former capitol of Okinawa, as a bodyguard to the last three successive Ryukyuan Kings. This put him in a powerful and unique position to learn the fighting arts and further develop what Sakugawa had taught him.
Sokon Matsumura became one of Sakugawa's most famous students. There are many legends concerning his prowess, and he is said to have died undefeated. Matsumura named his system "Shorin Ryu" after the legendary Chinese (Shaolin) temple. The Shorin styles were also known as Shuri-Te or "Shuri Hand."