Many students become confused about the differences between Kobayashi-Ryu, Shobayashi-Ryu, Sukunaihashi-Ryu, Matsubayashi-Ryu, Shorinji-Ryu and Matsumura-Seito, especially since they are all classified as Shorin-Ryu. Besides the lineage of teachers, the variation of emphasis is usually the distinguishing characteristic to the observer but the curriculum has branched down from one or two main sources. Through this network of information, we see variation within the footwork, rhythm, bio-mechanics, speed, and angular movements. Movements themselves that exist in one Shorin kata may not be found in another kaiha or the techniques may be different. Certain groups can be recognized by their instructor just by watching their version of a shuri-based form.
Kata have remained the same but have also changed equally over time and many variations or movement alterations can be seen over a system's history. Some would argue that to change the form dilutes the original intent of the technique or bunkai. There is the preservation issue that Uchinadi is historic and so culturally important that to change it is to destroy or desecrate historical treasures. The other thought is that application should be different to the individual and that learning one person's combative preferences isolates battle effectiveness. If every enemy is different and requires a different "reaction to action" then the alteration of kata is more supported and it should be tailored to include movements that are more efficiently performed by the individual.
In Shorin-Ryu Shorinkan kata, Pinan Shodan, developed by the karate legend and educator Itosu Yatsunuku , varies from some other shuri-based systems with a mae geri instead of side kick in movement eight. Shiroma Jiro, hachidan/shorin-ryu, described that Chibana began to alter some of the movements in the Matsumura/Itosu kata syllabus, which caused a stir with some of the older senior students. Higa Yuchoku and Miyahira Katsuya were worried about the effects of not preserving the true kata as it had been passed on. Shiroma remarked that Chibana altered the kata slightly from the original versions for example; he changed the kick within the kata Pinan Shodan and Yondan from yoko geri to mae geri. However, Nakazato Shugoro, Hanshi, remarked that Chibana began teaching Itosu's shuri-te as it was passed on to him and Chibana spoke of the importance of preserving kata exactly as it was learned from forefathers of karate.
These slight changes could have been a teaching characteristic of Chibana Sensei in his latter years he specialized in teaching only Naihanchi Sandan and Pinan Godan (out of respect for his teacher Itosu and considering their content most important) while having senior students teach the other kata in his syllabus. This may have been an example of personalizing the kata and passing on the emphasis of his technique. Miyahira Katsuya remarked that Chibana said that the karateka should mold the kata to their own body type which would explain some of the gradual changes that took place. Another theory is that Chibana also suffered for many years with cancer and although he was said to have possessed the body of a teenager in his last years, he may have began to alter the kata to conform with changes in his body.
A similar systemic characteristic can be seen when observing the powerful kata of Kyan-Ha/Chubu Shorin-Ryu of Shimabukuru Zenryo. In that system's Chatan Yara Kusanku, there is the variation of a mae geri in the kata wherein others again we see yoko-geri. These related stylistic similarities could have been due to the friendship between Shimabukuro, Chibana and the latter's senior student, Nakama Choza. Nakama and Shimabukuro shared information on training and Nakama taught Itosu/Chibana kata to his friend's son, Shimabukuru Zenpo. Kyan Chotoku was also a senior to Chibana Chosin and there is the possibility of some of his influence, although no research has shown that Chibana actually studied with Kyan or received personal instruction.