About Isshinryu

History of Isshinryu Karate

Master Shinkichi (Tatsuo) Shimabuku was born on September 19,1908, and began his study of karate (Shuri-te) as a boy with his uncle, Irshu Matsumora. Master Shimabuku would eventually train under three great Okinawan masters: Chotoku Kyan, Chojun Miyagi and Choki Motobu, ultimately becoming an acknowledged expert in both the Goju-Ryu and Shorin-Ryu systems. Over time, he refined techniques and concepts from both systems to form Isshin Ryu (One Heart Way) on January 15th, 1954.

Chotoku Kyan was a student of Master Yasutune Itosu, who taught Shuri-te, and of, Master Matsumora, who taught Tomari-te. These two styles were combined to form Shorin-Ryu. He was famous for his powerful kicks, and for his outstanding teaching ability. Kyan was a stern perfectionist, and young Tatsuo Shimabuku achieved the honor of being his best student. 

Chojun Miyagi was the number one student of the Naha-te grandmaster, Kanryo Higashionna. Miyagi was known as an exacting sensei whose grueling workouts greatly strengthened the body and built up endurance. Miyagi placed great emphasis on breathing and tension, low kicks, and the development of mind, body and spirit. 

Choki Motobu was a less formal instructor, but an accomplished master in Shorin-Ryu, and an indomitable fighter. Coming from an ancient line of Okinawan nobles, he had an eccentric personality and an enormous physique. He is remembered as a brawler as well as a master, teaching both street and classic techniques. 

Under these three sensei's, Tatsuo Shimabuku developed abilities that mutually complemented one another in making him a quintessential karate-ka. With additional training from Okinawan weapon experts, Tiara Shinken and Yabu Moden, Tatsuo Shimabuku became one of the most accomplished karate-ka of his day.

From the late 1920's to the 1940's, Master Shimabuku's prestige and authority in karate increased. Like most of the Okinawan population, Master Shimabuku was a poor farmer, who also worked in his village as a tax collector. With the advent of World War II, and the forced conscription of thousands of Okinawan men, Master Shimabuku and his family sought refuge on another island. 

After the Japanese were defeated, the Americans occupied Okinawa and began a massive effort of reconstruction. Having returned to Okinawa, Master Shimabuku resumed farming, until American servicemen began to seek him out for instruction in karate. In the early 1950's, Master Shimabuku decided to establish a formal dojo at his home in Chun Village, and later moving the dojo to Agena.

Master Shimabuku was both innovative and visionary in his approach to karate. He spent years synthesizing the techniques and concepts of Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu into Isshin Ryu, including the innovative use of the vertical fist punch, low kicks, natural stances/movements, snap techniques and hard/soft applications. Master Shimabuku often stated that there was "no birthday" for Isshin Ryu, because it was a dynamic/work-in-progress.

Four former U.S. Marines are credited with bringing Isshin Ryu to the United States: Harold Mitchum, Harold Long, Don Nagle and Steve Armstrong. Master Tatsuo Shimabuku died May 30, 1975 in Okinawa.

The Karate Creed

The Creed is a code of ethics authored by Grandmaster Ed Parker. A creed is a system of beliefs, principles, or opinions. These are our beliefs.

I come to you with only KARATE, my empty hands. I have no weapons. 

But should I be forced to defend myself, my principles or my honor; 

should it be a matter of life or death, right or wrong, 

then here are my weapons, KARATE, my empty hands.

Explanation of the karate creed

“I come to you with only karate, my empty hands. I have no weapons.”

I come with empty hands offering peace. I have no weapons. My heart is pure and my wish is not to fight.

“but should I be forced to defend myself”

If attacked or threatened and having no other option, I will use my weapons, my empty hands.

“my principles or my honor, should it be a matter of life or death, right or wrong,”

Those beliefs I hold precious; such as my family, the sick and poor, and children . I will defend with all of my ability, regardless of the odds or how hopeless the cause.

“then here are my weapons, karate, my empty hands.”

I will use only my karate in defense of life. I will use my karate for only the right reasons, not for wrong ones.

"War and Killing are wrong, but so it is wrong not to be prepared to defend one's self. They have taken our weapons, but we still have our bodies. We have no knives; so make every fist into a mace. Without spears every arm must be a spear and every open hand a sword." Daruma 28th Buddha

Codes of Isshinryu

(kenpo Gokui)

1. A person's heart is the same as heaven and earth.

This code refers directly to harmony. In the martial arts, your body needs to know the techniques applicable to maintain harmony in your life. This means being able to defend yourself if necessary in order to restore peace. Most of the time if you feel confident in your abilities, the tranquility that you exhibit in difficult situations comes through and alleviates the need for escalation in physical conflict.

2. The blood circulating is similar to the moon and sun.

Just as the moon and the sun are in constant motion so should we as martial artists be in motion. We should not settle for the knowledge or abilities that we have but should always strive to continue to learn and progress. Perfection is a goal that we all try to attain but it takes continuous work and it is always just out of reach.

3. The manner of drinking and spitting is either hard or soft.

Situations that arise can be handled in a variety of ways. Conflicts can be taken care of through negotiations or with a physical response. Negotiations come in two varieties. The first is one where all parties walk away feeling like each has won. The second way is to give an ultimatum with a threat attached if something is not settled in a timely manner or with the desired results.

Even with physical responses, there are two possible scenarios. One in which the force used is only the amount necessary to convey to your opponent that it is wiser to submit because you have superior skills that could lead to their physical discomfort or worst.  The other is to strike with so much force that the end result leaves little to the imagination.

4. A person's unbalance is the same as a weight.

Preparedness is essential in everything that we do in life. A martial artist needs to have the skill sets necessary to handle a variety of situations. Balance refers not only to the physical but also to the mental state. The skill sets required to be a good martial artist include being mentally prepared to handle situations that arise. The body and the mind need to act in unison to overcome any and all opponents.

5. The body should be able to change directions at any time.

Having a set or standard defense or offense is normal. However, life is not just black and white. Change is inevitable and you should be able to change whenever the situation warrants it. A defensive fighter prefers to let their opponent come to them just like an offensive fighter prefers to initiate the confrontation. Depending on the circumstances or the opponent, you should be able to adapt to the situation at hand. This means being able to change your tactics from defensive to offensive, linear to angular or soft to hard.

6. The time to strike is when the opportunity presents itself

Opportunities come up daily. Sometimes, they are veiled in a negative manner as in problems. Problems are things that come up and test our abilities to cope. Each problem as it is worked through gives us a new perspective on how to react, endure or solve a certain situation. We should take the good things that occur in our lives in stride and be grateful. Enjoy these times and take advantage of them. When life hits a sour note, work through the difficulty and don’t dwell on the negative. View everyday as a new opportunity to develop into a better person and martial artist.

7. The eye must see all sides

We live in a very visual world. Our reactions, whether positive or negative, are outcomes of what we see or to put it better what we think that we see. Most of our outlooks are based on the obvious. We need to look at things from all perspectives. This means not just through our own eyes but through the eyes of your opponent or adversary and through the eyes of someone outside the boundaries of the conflict. It is truly at that point that we see the whole picture and the solutions become clear.

8. The ear must listen in all directions

Hearing is a valuable sense that is on automatically but is seldom used to its fullest capacity. Most problems or situations occur when we don’t pay enough attention to what we hear. In a confrontation we need to listen to what is being said, how it is being said and the tone of the voice. In a physical confrontation we need to listen to the breathing pattern, whether it is hard or soft. We need to listen to their movements whether they are stepping or sliding their feet. The more senses that we use in a conflict the better the decision making process becomes.