History of Isshinryu

Karate (meaning "empty hand") is a martial art form of self-defense which was developed on the islands of Okinawa. It was derived from the martial arts of India and China including the practices developed at the Shaolin Temple, which grew into the forms known as Kung Fu or Wushu. In the 15th Century, Okinawa came under Chinese control and in the 17th Century, under Japanese control. Weapons were banned. Okinawans thus developed empty-hand combat and self-defense techniques in secret, which eventually developed into three regional styles: Shuri-te, Naha-te, and Tomari-te. Shuri-te became known as Shorin-Ryu, meaning "Shaolin Style". Naha-te divided into Goju-Ryu, meaning hard - soft style, and Uechi- Ryu, based on a Chinese system. Tomari-te became less practiced. By 1900, the weapons ban was lifted and karate could be openly practiced. Chotoku Kyan founded a branch of Shorin-Ryu. Chojun Miyagi formed the Goju-Ryu style.

Tatsuo Shimabuku

Tatsuo Shimabuku (who was given the Okinawan name, Kana, and the Japanese name, Shinkichi) was born in 1908. His first martial arts instructor was an uncle, Kamasu Chan. In 1920, Tatsuo Shimabuku began training with Kyan in the Shorin-Ryu style. He later studied Goju-Ryu under Miyagi beginning in 1936, and then under Choki Motubu, a fighting master of his own eclectic style. Finally, Tatsuo Shimabuku studied weapons (kobudo) under Taira Shinkin.

After the war, Tatsuo Shimabuku began teaching karate and developed his own style, incorporating elements of Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu as well as his own innovations, including the use of the vertical fist, rather than the twist punch. On January 15, 1956, he named his own style Isshinryu, which means "One heart way." The following katas, or forms, became part of the system which we study today.

Weapons (Kobudo) Katas

Tokumine No Kun
Urashi Bo
Shi Shi No Kun
Kusanku Sai
Chatan Yara
Hamahiga No Tuifa

Empty Hand Katas

  1. Seisan - derived from Shorin-Ryu
  2. Seiuchin - derived from Goju-Ryu
  3. Naihanchi - derived from Shorin-Ryu
  4. Wansu - derived from Shorin-Ryu
  5. Chinto - derived from Shorin-Ryu
  6. Kusanku - derived from Shorin-Ryu
  7. Sunsu - created by Tatsuo Shimabuku
  8. Sanchin - derived from Goju-Ryu

During the 1950's and 1960's, Tatsuo Shimabuku began teaching United States Marines stationed at military bases in Okinawa. Studies generally involved kata, kumite (in full body armor) and self-defense. Many of the marines returned to the United States where they formed schools of Isshinryu studies. Tatsuo Shimabuku died on May 30, 1975.

Origin of the Megami Patch

The Isshinryu patch was designed by Arcenio Advincula with Tatsuo Shimabuku's permission in 1961. It was based on Tatsuo Shimabuku's picture of Megami, a goddess. The goddess was half woman and half dragon, with the forward hand open, symbolizing peace, and the back hand closed, symbolizing force only if necessary. In Okinawan culture, the dragon is a symbol of good fortune. Advincula, and another marine, William Blond, brought the picture to a patchmaker in Okinawa and asked that the patch be made in the shape of a vertical fist with Megami's image in the center. The border was to made in gold, symbolizing purity. Three stars were to be symbolic of among other things, Tatsuo Shimabuku's teachers, as well as three stars in the heart of the constellation Scorpio (the "dragon" constellation in Japan). The three stars also mean "one" as in Isshinryu or "one-heart way".

Later, another of Tatsuo Shimabuku's students changed the fist shape to an oval and the gold border to orange. Advincula is now striving to reintroduce the original form of the patch. That original fist-shaped patch has been adopted by Peaceful Valley Martial Arts.

The Original Patch Patch Variant Patch Variant
Article I. The dojo is where the individual's physical and mental condition is trained.
A. Believe that there is a God and human beings are his children. (Believe in your own faith, but respect the rights of others to believe in their's.)
B. Military art (budo) begins with a salute and ends with the same.
C. Students and teachers bow to the protecting God (kamisama) of Isshinryu and be nice to each other.
Article II. Devote one's mental concentration and practice sincerely during the course of training.
Article III. Smoking and drinking are prohibited while training.
Article IV. Take good care of equipment used in training.
Article V. Students be respectful to their teachers and teachers be courteous to their students and guide them properly. Juniors/Seniors (Kohai/ Sempai).
Article VI. Violators of the above codes will be dismissed from the dojo.
Mr. Tatsuo Shimabuku
Master of all Isshinryu Karate
10 Dan
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  1. A person's heart is the same as heaven and earth.
  2. The blood circulating is similar to the sun and moon.
  3. The manner of drinking and spitting is either hard or soft.
  4. A person's unbalance is the same as a weight.
  5. The body should be able to change directions at any time.
  6. The time to strike is when the opportunity presents itself.
  7. The eyes must see all sides.
  8. The ears must listen in all directions.