SHINKICHI TATSUO SHIMABUKU
Grandmaster of Isshin-Ryu Karate
Shinkichi Shimabuku was born in Chan, Okinawa
on September 19, 1908 and died May 30, 1975. He began his study
of karate at a young age as the pupil of his uncle.
Several years later, feeling that he had taught
Shinkichi as much as he could, his uncle sent him to study with
Chotoku Kyan. Sensei Kyan was already famous throughout Okinawa
as an instructor of Shorin-ryu Karate. Being a poor farmer, Shinkichi
would walk the long distance to study with Sensei Kyan for several
hours each day, then return home to complete his chores. He did
this for approximately four years.
He later studied karate with Chojun Miyagi of
the Goju style of karate, learning at least two kata that he later
incorporated into Isshin-Ryu: Seiuchin and Sanchin. He trained
with Choki Motobu, who was one of the greatest fighters in the
history of Okinawa, learning Naihanchin kata. He also took up the
study of the bo and sai, as well as the tuifa forms from Taira
Shinken, one of Okinawa's leading kobu-jutsu instructors.
During and after WWII, he and his family lived
in Japan. He returned to Okinawa in 1947 and began teaching karate.
It was also at this time, at the age of 39, that he took the name Tatsuo, "Dragon
Man". The taking of a karate name is an Okinawan custom.
During the next nine years, Tatsuo experimented
with karate techniques. He was an innovator, not being satisfied
with following the crowd. On January 15, 1956, he held a meeting
to discuss his new style of karate, which he decides to call Isshin-Ryu.
Many of the senior instructors of karate on Okinawa
at the time did not agree with Master Shimabuku's decision or his
new style. Although he was sometimes shunned, and Isshin-Ryu was
not officially recognized for many years, he persevered. It did
not help the cause either when Master Shimabuku's students would
win local matches and fights.
During the 1950's and 60's, Master Shimabuku was
hired to train the US servicemen stationed there.
Master Shimabuku continued to experiment and challenge
the traditional concepts of karate until he retired from active
teaching in 1971. Those fortunate Americans who were able to travel
to Okinawa and train with Master Shimabuku will tell you of a man
who enjoyed sake and cigarettes, and loved to joke. They will also
tell you of a phenomenal martial artist, who struck awe in his