Photo of Sensei and student bowing


Hope Yama Dojo


Hope, British Columbia, Canada

"All things begin with one." - Tatsuo Shimabuku


Losier's Isshin Ryu Karate School patch

Home
About Us
Our Dojo
Isshin Ryu
Lineage
Links
Site Map
Contact Us


  home > isshin ryu > background

ISSHIN RYU


ISSHIN RYU BACKGROUND


Contents:

Origin of Isshin Ryu

Third Anniversary of Isshin Ryu Karate

Isshin Ryu Definition

Isshin Ryu's Distinctive Features

Footnotes



Origin of Isshin Ryu

Consider for a moment the humble craftsman sitting at his potter's wheel. He places soft, pliable clay on his work surface. The potter adds water, and with his skilled hands, works and forms the clay. Time passes. The clay takes shape, until at last, it is no longer simply a blend of clay and water, but a creation. A thing of beauty.

Master Tatsuo Shimabuku can be compared to the potter in this story. And his creation, Isshin Ryu Karate, can be compared to his clay.

Like clay and water, Isshin Ryu Karate was formed from two pre-existing karate mediums: Shorin Ryu and Goju Ryu karate.1 Master Shimabuku took the best features2 from these established, but different styles of martial arts, and to this blend or fusion, incorporated a third element - Kobudo, another style of martial arts.3 And just as clay needs time before it is transformed into a finished product, Isshin Ryu necessitated a certain amount of time before it came into being. In a 1969 interview with Sensei A.J. Advincula, Master Shimabuku explained Isshin Ryu's lengthy creative process: "I did not just create Isshin-ryu in a day. I've been adding and subtracting and experimenting throughout the years."4

Master Shimabuku was much more than just an imitator or a processor of other masters' styles, however. He was also an innovator*. For this new style of karate, Master Shimabuku created a kata, Sunsu, which is not found in any other style of karate.5 He also added his own techniques and philosophies.

* According to a first-generation student, the late Sensei Sherman Harrill, Master Shimabuku "was a very innovative person he was ahead of his time. I don't think he looked for the short comings of a style, but he took the strengths of all the styles he studied and created a system that works and is easy to teach. He went right to the technique, and took out all of the fancy stuff."6

On 15 January 1956, Master Shimabuku named his new style of karate "Isshin Ryu".7 When asked why such a 'funny name', the Master replied: "Because all things begin with one."8


Photo of first gathering of Isshin Ryu karate, 1956
First gathering of Isshin Ryu Karate, May 27, 19569
(Click on thumbnail to view photo in full-size.)


(Note: Master Shimabuku is seated second from the right.)


Master Shimabuku was a progressive teacher. He did not believe, nor expect, perfection from his students. By his actions and words, he showed that he did not consider Isshin Ryu a rigid or unchanging style of karate. According to Sensei Advincula, one of Master Shimabuku's first generation students, he "rarely did his kata exactly the same way each time".10 Further, he allowed Isshin Ryu room for purposeful growth, improvement and interpretation. As Master Shimabuku once said, "All things in the universe will change, and you must accept and go with change."11

Back to Top



Third Anniversary of Isshin Ryu Karate

In February 1959, Master Tatsuo Shimabuku issued an invitation to "all the United States military personne [sic] to come and enjoy our exhibition" at the Eiraku Theater in Agena, Okinawa on March 7, 1959. The occasion: the third anniversary of Isshin Ryu karate.

In the invitation, Master Shimabuku gave credit to his instructors for the development of what became 'his' style of karate: Chotoku Kiyan (Shorin), Choju Miyagi (Goju), and Choki Motobu (Shorin). He qualified these men as "all the top level people on Okinawan Karate". Master Shimabuku also stated in the invitation that the "birthdate of the Karate modes [Isshin Ryu] was January 15th, 1956".

An interesting item in the invitation was the mention that the exhibition would be televised live on RBC (Ryukyu Broadcasting Corporation). RBC "first broadcast the match all over Okinawa as the first experience on Okinawa". (Like Isshin Ryu, RBC was in its infancy, having been established in 1954.)12

The American, typed version of the "Invitation":13

3rd Anniversary Invitation of Isshin Ryu 
3rd Anniversary Invitation of Isshin Ryu


Click here for a larger, readable image of the "Invitation".

Back to Top



Isshin Ryu Definition

It has been said that Isshin Ryu is "a martial art as well as a science of self-defense, and self-development".14 But, what do the words "Isshin Ryu" mean?

Isshin Ryu can be defined in the following terms:15

  "Is" means one

  "Shin" means heart

"Ryu" means way

Together, "Isshin Ryu" means one heart way or whole heart way.

Back to Top



Isshin Ryu's Distinctive Features

Isshin Ryu's distinctive features set it apart from other styles of karate.

First, Isshin Ryu is based on three fundamental principles: simplicity, subtleness, and effectiveness.16

Second, Isshin Ryu has three characteristics that define its style:

the vertical punch (the primary punch in Isshin Ryu)

thumb placement on top of the fist

natural blocks with two bones

Back to Top



Footnotes

1. "The Dragon Man of Isshin Ryu", by A.J. Advincula. Southern Kicks Newsletter, Volume 4, Number 5, page 5.

2. From Shorin Ryu, Master Shimabuku took five kata (Seisan, Naihanchi, Wansu, Chinto, and Kusanku), and from Goju Ryu, he took two kata (Seiunchin, and Sanchin). Rosenbaum, Michael. Okinawa's Complete Karate System - Isshin Ryu. Boston: YMAA Publication Center, 2001, p. 86, and, "Brief History of Isshin-ryu". Retrieved 23 January 2003 from the Academy of Okinawan Martial Arts on the World Wide Web: http://acadoma.com/history.htm

3. "The Dragon Man of Isshin Ryu", by A.J. Advincula. Southern Kicks Newsletter, Volume 4, Number 5, page 5.

4. "The Dragon Man of Isshin Ryu", by A.J. Advincula. Southern Kicks Newsletter, Volume 4, Number 5, page 5.

5. Rosenbaum, Okinawa's Complete Karate System, p. 86.

6. Loveday, Roy. Isshin-Ryu Karate: Information, Promotion, & Training Manual. Revised Edition, privately printed, page 44.

7. "The Dragon Man of Isshin Ryu", by A.J. Advincula. Southern Kicks Newsletter, Volume 4, Number 5, page 4.

8. "The Dragon Man of Isshin Ryu", by A.J. Advincula. Southern Kicks Newsletter, Volume 4, Number 5, page 4.

9. Private source.

10. "The Dragon Man of Isshin Ryu", by A.J. Advincula. Southern Kicks Newsletter, Volume 4, Number 5, page 5.

11. "The Dragon Man of Isshin Ryu", by A.J. Advincula. Southern Kicks Newsletter, Volume 4, Number 5, page 5.

12. "Unifying the Okinawan Communications Administration". Retrieved 3 May 2003 from OKICOMM on the World Wide Web: http://www.cosmos.ne.jp/~okicomm/HistoryE/4/

13. Private source.

14. Rosenbaum, Okinawa's Complete Karate System, p. 72.

15. "Isshin-Ryu -- One Heart Way". Retrieved 23 January 2003 from Isshin-Ryu on the World Wide Web: http://www.tsunamikarate.com/isshin-ryu.htm

16. Rosenbaum, Okinawa's Complete Karate System, p. 50.

Back to Top

 


Home | About Us | Our Dojo | Isshin Ryu | Lineage | Links | Site Map | Contact Us

2003 - 2006 Hope Yama Dojo