History of Isshinryu Karate

  Master Shimabuku always said that there was “no birthday” for Isshin-ryu. He had been adding to, and subtracting from the style for years before 1959. His aim has been to develop a system that would apply sudden, direct, powerful force, while eliminating unnecessary movement. His ideas and innovations in karate are preserved in, and handed down through, the eight empty-hand kata of Isshin-ryu: Seisan, Seiuchin, Naihanchi, Wansu, Chinto, Kusan Ku, Sunsu and Sanchin. Most of these katas were adapted from their ancient forms, while Sunsu (or Sunusu, “son of Su (the ancestral house of Shimabuku)” was created by Master Shimabuku and, therefore, embodies Isshin-ryu in its essence. These katas were chosen, and refined laboriously and assiduously so that they might exemplify Isshin-ryu, and aid in the instruction of students in Isshin-ryu. They are a legacy from Master Shimabuku that continues to be handed down from sensei to student. For almost twenty years, Master Shimabuku taught Isshin-ryu to many Americans, as well as Okinawans. But his style was not readily accepted by the traditionalist karate-ka. Unfortunately, there is no completely reliable publication in print on the history of Isshin-ryu. Master Tatsuo Shimabuku died May 30, 1975. Before his death, he was filmed performing the Isshin-ryu kata on at least two occasions. While Isshin-ryu has suffered a decline in Okinawa, in America the style is thriving, owing largely to the dedication of Master Shimabuku’s students, who have established their own dojo’s all over the nation, and have endeavored to pass on Isshin-ryu in its prescribed form. We have seen what a unique and phenomenal creation Isshin-ryu karate is. Master Shimabuku never dwelt on the past, but lived squarely in the present. The future of Isshin-ryu is in the hands of the present. Today’s Isshin-ryu karate-ka should strive to preserve such a singular creation in its original form, through cooperation, careful study, and a new area of tradition. * Reference the American Okinawan Karate Association