The History of Isshin-Ryu Karate-Do Isshin-Ryu
was founded by one of the great karate masters,Tatsuo
Shimabuku, and is derived from several of the other, older
Master Tatsuo Shimabuku, began learning karate
at the age of 14 and devoted the rest of his life to its study
and teaching. For 26 years he studied the other styles, Shuri-Te,
Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu, each one under the master of its style.
Master Shimabuku took the best of each style,
improved it and founded Isshin-Ryu. From Master Motobu, Master
of Shuri-Te, he took the kumite; from Master Kiyan, Master of Shorin,
he took the Kata and added improvements; from Master Miyagi, Master
of Goju, he took Sanchin, the basis of all Okinawan karate.
Isshin-Ryu, with roots going back 500 years, is
a postwar development, modernized to meet the needs of today's
world. It was founded in the 50's and has been taught ever since
to American Marines stationed in Okinawa.
Shimabuku's reputation throughout Okinawa had
reached its peak when WorldWar II struck the island. A business
man as well as a karate teacher, the sensei's small manufacturing
plant was completely demolished and he was bankrupt almost from
the war's outset. He did his best to avoid conscription to the
Japanese Army by escaping to the countryside where he worked as
a farmer. As the situation grew more and more desperate for the
Japanese and as the need to press the Okinawans into service became
urgent, he was forced to flee.
As his reputation in karate spread among the Japanese,
many soldiers began a thorough search as they wanted to study karate
under him. The officers who finally caught up with him agreed to
keep the secret of his whereabouts if he would teach them karate;
it was in this manner that Master Shimabuku survived the war.
After the war, his business ruined and little
chance of earning a living by teaching karate on the war-ravaged
island, Master Shimabuku returned to farming and practiced karate
privately for his own spiritual repose and physical exercise. Throughout
Okinawa, he was recognized as the island's leading practitioner
of both Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu Karate.
In the early nineteen fifties, the sensei began
to consider the idea of combining the various styles into one standard
system. He could forsee the problems that were developing out of
the differences among styles; he sagely concluded that a unification
or synthesis of styles would enhance the growth of karate.
He consulted with the aged masters on the island,
and with the heads of the leading schools. At first there was general
agreement, but later his idea met resistance as the leaders of
the various schools began to fear loss of identity and position.
Sensei Shimabuku decided to go ahead on his own; thus Isshin-Ryu
Karate was born. On May 30,1975, Master Shimabuku passed away,
leaving a legacy to the world of karate, and to all the future
Isshin-Ryu symbol represents a vision that Master Shimabuku had
while formulating Isshin-Ryu.
day after working very hard creating Isshin-Ryu, Master Shimabuku
fell asleep. He dreamed that a man came into his dojo and challenged
him. He declined the challenge saying he was a gentleman and
did not fight unless necessary. Then a figure appeared over the
man, that of a dragon. The dragon spit fire all around the Master.
As the ring of fire drew closer, a figure appeared over Master
Shimabuku, and put out the fire. The figure was that of Mizu-Gami
Shimabuku felt this "vision" depicted the "mold" that
he wanted to fashion Isshin-Ryu after. There is some symbolism
in the visual representation of Mizu-Gami.
three stars are his three instructors, Masters Kiyan, Motobu
and Miyagi. The dragon is the dragon that spit the fire at Master
Shimabuku. (It is interesting to note that Master Shimabuku's
first name "Tatsuo" means "Dragon"). One
of the hands on the figure is raised in the universal sign of
peace, and the other is held clenched in readiness. The visible
half is a woman to symbolize peace and kindness, while the hidden
portion is that of a sea serpent. This tells us that although
we are strong enough to prevail when necessary, we should keep
our strength hidden and show a soft, kindly face to the world.