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Isshinryu may be the youngest karate to come from Okinawa,
but it is as rich with spirit as the earlier forms.
I. Background on Isshinryu founder.
A. Birth date and location.
B. Teachers and influence
II. Description of Emblem and patch.
B. Explanation and meaning
A. Brief overview
IV. Ranking sytem
A. Kyu ranks
B. Dan ranks
C. Promotion requirements
Isshinryu Karate was developed and introduced in 1954 by Tatsuo Shimabuku on the island of
Okinawa. His karate was the offspring of two different systems, Goju-Ryu and Shorin-Ryu. Goju-Ryu
being the ìHardî method, and Shorin-Ryu being the ìSoftî method. He introduced katas from other forms
into his own form, and developed features unique to his newly created style. The ranking system, also
unique to his style, was made up of 7 kyu ranks and 10 degrees of black belts. A vision Shimabuku had in
a dream also played a major role in the development of his style. The vision that helped him ìmoldî his
karate into one form is represented on a patch presently worn on the giís of his followers and their students.
Isshinryu may be the youngest karate to come from Okinawa, but it is as rich with spirit as the earlier
Shinkichi Shimabuku, founder of Isshinryu, was born on the island of Okinawa on September 19,
1908 (Armstrong 7). Upon reaching the age of six, Shimabuku would travel on foot, six miles down an old
farm road to reach his uncleís house. His uncle, Chioyu, a Shorin-ryu Master, was reluctant to teach young
Shimibuku. Instead, Chioyu made him perform menial chores around the dojo. After two years of chores
and six mile walks, Shimabuku developed the patients and physical condition to begin karate training. His
uncle taught Shimabuku his system and started him off on his martial career. During his years of
adolescence Shimabuku changes his name from Shinkichi to Tatsuo meaning ìDragon Boyî. It was
common during the 1920ís for a young boy to change his name during his adolescence years. With the
motivation from his uncle, Shimabuku sought out the famous Chotoku Kyan, another Shorin-ryu master.
After developing an excellent kicking ability, his next sensei was Chojin Miyagi!
, known for his vigorous training habits. Miyagi teaches Shimabuku Naha-te, known today as the Goju-ryu
style. His fourth teacher was a man by the name of Motobu, a famous brawler in Okinawa. Motobu
furthers Shimabukuís in Shorin-ryu and grants him the title of Master (8). Lastly, Yabiku Moden, helps
polish Shimabukuís training by teaching him the art of the Bo, Sai, and Tee-fa (9). With the teachings of
some of Okinawaís legendary teachers, Tatsuo Shimabuku sets of to begin a life in the martial arts.
Late one evening at his home in Chun Village, Shimabuku was awakened by his dream of the
ìMizu-gamiî, the sea goddess. With this symbol, Tatsuo realizes the unification of his training that the
Mizu-gami represents. It was on that evening that Isshinryu was born (Armstrong 27). Later, his vision
was produced on a patch worn by all students of Isshinryu Karate. The emblem of Isshinryu karate
symbolizes the Mizu-gami. Its oval shape was originally designed to represent the unique vertical fist in
Isshinryu karate. The symbol depicts a woman whose lower half appears to take the form of a sea dragon.
Her left hand is held open in the universal sign of peace while her right hand forms an Isshinryu fist. In
Oriental mythology, the dragon in the sky is a sign of good luck while the gray background and churning
seas is a sign of unknown dangers. Three stars are located at the top of the emblem representing three
virtues. These virtues consist of mind, body, and spirit whic!
h all must be developed to reach total harmony (Tyurin). With this vision and senseiís knowledge of the
martial arts, he sets off to create the Isshinryu system.
What would a martial arts system be without Kata? According to the Martial Arts Dictionary, by
Louis Frederic, the word ëkataí is defined as ìëFormí, ëSequenceíî, but there is much more to kata than
form and sequence (104). To really grasp the meaning of kata, the true essence of karate, one
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