Tatsuo Shimabuku was born on September 19, 1908 in Chan Village, Okinawa. This was Meiji 41 (the 41st year under the Japanese Emperor Mutsuhito). It was also the year of the Monkey. Master Shimabuku spent many years studying the Shorin-Ryu system under Master Kyan Chotoku and the Goju-Ryu system under Master Miyagi Chojun. Shimabuku also studied Shorin-Ryu and kumite under Motobu Choki and kobudo (Okinawan weapons) under Shinken Taira.
On January 15, 1956, Tatsuo Shimabuku called his students together to announce the naming of Isshinryu Karate. One of his senior students, Kaneshi Eiko, asked him, "Why such a funny name" and Tatsuo replied, " Because all things begin with one." The word Isshin-Ryu means ”one heart way” (Is = One, Shin = Heart, Ryu = Way).
Shimabuku developed his powerful, lightning-fast system by combining what he considered to be the best attributes of Shorin-ryu and Goju-ryu. Shimabuku made three major changes from traditional Okinawa styles. The first is the use of a vertical fist as opposed to the traditional twist punch. The second is placing the thumb on top as opposed to on the side of the fist. The third is the execution of blocks using the muscular part of the forearm as opposed to the bone.
Tatsuo Shimabuku taught Isshinryu to United Stated Marines that were stationed in Okinawa in the late 1950's and 1960's. Tatsuo Shimabuku wanted Americans not only to learn the physical aspects of Isshinryu but wanted them to understand Okinawan culture, customs, history and traditions. Shimabuku was quoted in the March 30, 1960 edition of the OKINAWAN TIMES as saying "Even if we cannot promote friendship between Okinawa and America through karate, my true hope is that if karate becomes popular in the United States and Hawaii, then Okinawa would also become more well understood." Isshin-Ryu was brought back to the United States by these U.S. Marines.
Tatsuo Shimabuku’s Code of Conduct
Article 1. The dojo is where the individual's physical and mental condition is trained.
- Believe that there is a God and human beings are his children. (Believe in your own faith, but respect others).
- Military art (budo) begins with a salute and ends with the same.
- Teachers and students bow to the protecting Goddess of Isshin-ryu (Megami) and be nice to each other.
Article 2. Devote one's mental concentration and practice sincerely during the course of training.
Article 3. Smoking and drinking are prohibited while training.
Article 4. Take good care of equipment used in training.
Article 5. Students be respectful to their teachers and teachers be courteous to the students and guide them properly.
Article 6. Violators of the above codes will be dismissed from the dojo.
Tatsuo Shimabuku’s Code of Isshinryu Karate
Kata of Isshinryu Karate
Our curriculum includes the study of the following empty hand katas and thier bunkai (application or analysis), most of which were passed down from the Shorin-ryu and Goju-ryu systems.
After students have reached a level of proficiency in empty hand practice traditional Okinawan kobudo (weapons) kata are then introduced. The first seven of these weapons kata were taught by Tatsuo Shimabuku to his students. The last (Kusanku Kama) was developed by Sensei A.J. Advincula to pay tribute to Tatsuo Shimabuku.
Tokumine no Kun
Kyan no Sai
Chatan Yara no Sai
Shishi no Kun
Hamahiga no Tuifa
Kusanku Kama (Advincula Sensei Kata)
Kusanku Kama (Advincula Sensei Kata)
Isshinryu no Megami
Most Isshinryu students know that the Megami is the symbol of Isshinryu karate; however many do not fully understand the history and meaning of this protecting goddess of Isshinryu. The word “Megami” means Goddess (“Me” meaning woman and “Gami” meaning God). The proper reference to this protecting goddess is “Isshinryu no Megami” or “Goddess of Isshinryu.”
The Isshinryu no Megami is based on a daydream that Master Tatsuo Shimabuku had in the 1950’s while creating his Isshinryu system. In this dream, a goddess riding a dragon came to Shimabuku and told him that he had enough knowledge and experience to create his own style of karate. It is believed that the goddess was Ryuzu Kannon, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy and Compassion. In his dream, Ryuzu Kannon told Shimabuku to create an image of her incorporating his vision for the new style.
The original Isshinryu patch was developed by Arcenio J. Advincula in 1961. At the time Advincula was a young American Marine and student of Tatsuo Shimabuku. Advincula asked Shimabuku for permission to use the picture of Megami to design the Isshinryu patch. Some of the symbols found within the patch are as follows:
Shape of the Patch The shape of the patch represents a vertical fist, a distinguishing characteristic of Isshinryu karate.
3 Stars The three stars have multiple meanings and are in the position of the Okinawan kanji (symbol) for one ( — ). Isshinryu means “One-heart way” and Shimabuku believed that “All things begin with one.” The three stars also represent the triads of Mind/Body/Spirit or Shorin-ryu (mother), Goju-ryu (father) and Isshin-ryu (baby). The three stars symbolize all of Tatsuo’s teachers who light the way.
Dragon in the Sky The dragon in the sky is Tatsuo, the Dragon Man (Tatsu meaning dragon and o meaning man).
The Dragon & Tiger The tiger (in Megami’s headress) represents earth and the body. The dragon represents heaven and the mind/spirit. The dragon and tiger therefore represent heaven and earth, yin and yang or the spiritual and physical sides of Isshinryu karate.
Dark Background Symbolizes the night and the unknown. The three stars in the night sky represent Shimabuku’s teachers who light the way.
Gold Border Represents the purity of karate and is a reminder that karate should never be misused.
The Hands of Megami The left hand is open indicating that a karateka (student of karate) always prefers a peaceful solution. The clenched right fist represents the strength to defend if necessary and only as a last resort.
Half-Woman / Half-Dragon The upper body (woman) illustrates that karate can be as gentle or soft as a woman. The lower body (dragon) shows that, if needed, karate can be as fierce or hard as a dragon. The turbulent water symbolizes the possibility of danger, which is always present. The calm face of the Megami helps one remember to remain calm especially in times of crisis.