Mississippi Isshinryu Karate
Backgrounds, biographies, pictures and insights of Shimabuku's Isshin-Ryu

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A. J. Advincula comments on the article
"The Isshin-ryu system, The story of Tatsuo Shimabuku."
By Barry Steinburgh, Bob Ozman and Steve Armstrong.
Published in: ACTION KARATE Magazine Vol 2 Number 3 - 1969

This article was one of the first on Isshin-ryu and had many mistakes that are still written in the history of many of the different Isshin-ryu associations and they all started from this article. I will give my own comments on some of these mistakes. This article was written in 1969 by three authors. Some of the mistakes originated from me through Steve Armstrong. In one of my other articles I have already explained that I taught Armstrong at Tacoma, Washington in 1965. I knew Armstrong on Okinawa and was there when he first arrived in July 1959 (yes I know he claims to have started on Okinawa in 1955 ) but so do many others.

     After reading this article I went to Tatsuo Shimabuku and asked him questions about it. One of the main reasons was in this article I read for the first time the term "Mizugami." I always heard Tatsuo call the Isshin-ryu goddess Megami (goddess) or Kamisama (god).
     Some mistakes are very obvious, for example where it says "Shorin-Ryu features the Goju-Ryu system..."

Where I contributed to the mistake (Armstrong via me) I will take the blame and put an (*) to show it was contributed to me. I have no qualms admitting my mistakes only in not correcting my mistakes.

     Direct quotations from the article will be written and mistakes lined through. I will also explain and give the correct answer and underline correct dates, numbers or years.

     The following are some of the Known mistakes and corrections

"Master Shimabuku was born in Okinawa in 1906 1908 ."
     "He began his study of karate at the age of 8 13 when he walked some 12 miles to the neighboring village of Shuri to learn karate from his uncle." Tatsuo began training with his uncle at around age 13 in Chan Village where they both lived so he did not have to walk to Shuri.
     "His uncle sent him home..." His uncle taught him to be a fortune teller and a little karate. This is tradition so he never sent him home. His uncle later sent him to study with Chotoku Kyan to further
study karate because he thought Tatsuo's training was incomplete. His uncle only had a little knowledge of karate. His main concern was to pass on his knowledge of the ancient Chinese books teaching Tatsuo to be a sumuchi or fortune teller.
     Tatsuo did not study Kobayashi-ryu, it was Shorin-ryu.* Armstrong got this information from me.  I made the mistake because in 1961 when Harold Mitchum was studying Shorin-ryu from one of Tatsuo's senior students, Chinsaku Kinjo, the writing on Kinjo's dojo had Kobayashi-ryu written with kanji or Chinese characters. Genyu
Shigema another one of Tatsuo's senior students also used the name kobayashi so I made the mistake of thinking that Tatsuo had used this term. The same is with Choki Motobu who did not teach kobayashi-ryu.
     Tatsuo did not study with Moden Yabiku.* Again Armstrong got this information from me and I was wrong.
     Tatsuo studied from Hirara Shinken Shinken Taira and did not study with Yaby Ku Me Den or Moden Yabiku. From Shinken Taira he learned the bo katas urashi kun, shishi no kun and the sai kata chatan yara no sai and the tuifa kata hamahiga no tuifa.
     From Chotoku Kyan, Tatsuo learned the sai kata "Kyan no sai " and the bo kata" tokumine no kun."

     "Shimabuku's reputation throughout Okinawa had reached its peak when World War II struck the island. " This statement is false because Tatsuo did not start to teach karate until 1947. Tatsuo's reputation on Okinawa peaked around 1959-1963.

     The information on Tatsuo escaping to the countryside to escape conscription into the Japanese Army and teaching Japanese soldiers karate in exchange for them to keep his whereabouts secret is so ridiculous. Just for thought, do you think that fanatical soldiers and especially officers of the Japanese Army would have protected a draft dodger! Come on. Tell this to the Marines and if they say it is so then it is so but this Marine says it ain't so. Tatsuo did not teach any of the Japanese soldiers or Japanese Marines at anytime before or during the war. This totally incorrect information will be covered in another article.

     "Throughout Okinawa, he was recognized as the island's leading practitioner of both Shorin-ryu and Goju-ryu karate. " Sounds good but think about this statement. Think about all the living great Okinawan karateka who were teaching and practicing karate at that time. How about Chojun Miyagi ( 1888-1953 ) for one and Chosin Chibana (1885-1968 ) for another!

     The article also states Tatsuo had knowledge in Gung-fu. I asked Tatsuo about this and he said no.

     "Most of the hand and foot katas are named after great Chinese karate masters. "Wrong. The only empty hand katas to be known to have been named for Chinese Masters are Wansu ( Wanshu ) and Kusanku. This is one of the reasons many of the books on Isshin-ryu pass on this misinformation.

     "Sunsu, one of the most difficult in all karate to perform..." Sunsu kata should be the easiest to perform. All the techniques except a palm heel thrust is new so how can it be the most difficult!

    Sunsu does not mean " strong man " it means " son of old man."

     "...the sais (sai ) are used to defend oneself against an imaginary samurai swordsman." Tatsuo said that most of the techniques are against a bo.

     "...Shimabuku broke tradition and brought the right side into play." How can he break tradition when all he is doing is use the bo the way he was taught. Remember, he didn't make any of the bo kata we use in Isshin-ryu.

     "Another bo kata of the system is Tokumine no kun dai named after Tokumine Kun ... "  The name is Tokumine no kun. If we had more than one bo kata named Tokumine than we can call one sho (small) or dai (big) . This kata was named after Mr. Tokumine. The kun means bo and is not part of Mr. Tokumine's name.

     "...Kempo goki means "Kenpo secrets" Ken means" fist".  Po means law/method. Gokui means "the secret or "the secret
principles." So kenpo gokui means "The secrets principles of kenpo (karate).

     "...Master Shimabuku's first name means "Dragon Boy." Tatsuo means "Dragon man."

     "Sensei Shimabuku has just named the goddess in the emblem in deference to pressure brought about from disciples of Isshin-ryu karate. He named her Mizu-Gami.  I asked about this and Tatsuo said that he never called the goddess MizugamiMizu means "water" and Gami means "god." If it is a water goddess than it is protecting the water from where the goddess is. For exampe; a river goddess protects its river, a lake goddess protects its lake, and an ocean goddess protects its ocean. The Isshin-ryu Goddess is not protecting any body of water. This goddess is the goddess of Isshin-ryu and or Isshin-ryu no megami. Me means "woman' and gami is means "god." How can this be wrong. When I asked Tatsuo about mizugami he replied "No,no; no mizugami, megami" he said."  This later was confirmed by Eiko Kaneshi , Tatsuo's senior student and right hand man and Shinsho Shimabuku , Tatsuo's second son.   Eiko Kaneshi was also a Shinto priest and it was Eiko's brother who painted the first megami for Tatsuo after he had his vision.

     "From 1966 through 1968, Angi Uezu was in the United States." Angi Uezu first came to the states in 1967 because Tatsuo wouldn't.

     Tatsuo was asked to come back to the states in 1967 but refused because he was mistreated in his two visits to the states in 1964 and 1966. In 1967, Kichiro Shimabuku, Tatsuo's first son was busy running the administration of the AOKA on Okinawa, forging his fathers signature on documents such as memberships or ranking certificates to Tatsuo's organization without his fathers knowledge and did not want to leave Okinawa to come in his fathers place.

    Angi Uezu volunteered and came to the states. Tatsuo said Angi went in his place because he didn't want to go. According to Tatsuo , when Angi Uezu return to Okinawa, Uezu stated that many of the senior Americans in the states did not want to follow or listen to him because they were senior to him but one of the main reasons that many of the Americans did not listen to Angi Uezu was that he was not teaching the way they had learned from Tatsuo.

     Movies, taken with 8mm film during that time of Angi Uezu demonstrating and doing Isshin-ryu show this difference. Tatsuo's movements were fast, fluid and natural while Angi's are stiff and over exaggerated.  Angi Uezu's teaching of Isshin-ryu was  very different from Tatsuo. Angi's followers would say that Angi was powerful but this is only an illusion of power. As already stated, Tatsuo did feats of strength that few could ever duplicate and that was his strength. According to some of those who were present Angi would say that Tatsuo changed and he was showing the changes and would explain the differences by stating "Tatsuo ,he only teach me" but this was not
the case.

     This is one of the reasons that Angi Uezu first claimed to have studied from Tatsuo in 1955 because many Americans were senior. Angi Uezu later changed the dates to other years such as 1956, 1957 and finally produced a document forged by Kichiro Shimabuku forging Tatsuo's name stating he started in Feb. 17, 1958 (See:"Greed, Lies and Forgery, it began at the top").

     The name mizugami came from Angi Uezu who visited with Bob Ozman in Los Angeles, California before returning back to Okinawa on his first trip. To give credence to the name mizugami, Angi Uezu claimed that Tatsuo gave the name. To give further credence to his information, Ozman said Tatsuo Shimabuku gave the name as if he got it straight from Tatsuo.  In a later article Angi Uezu claims that Tatsuo gave the name Mizugami because Americans weren't smart enough to learn the real name. Yes there will be an up coming article on this subject because many still say mizugami. What did you expect, Angi Uezu named it mizugami.

A following articles will follow showing more myths of Isshin-ryu and how they were passed on.

The following books that still say Tatsuo means "Dragon boy". As you can see, once a myth gets started it is hard to correct.

Zensho by Dr.Jerry L.Aiello, l994
Isshinryu by David D.Evseeff & Milledge Murphey, ph.D.,1995
Isshinryu Karate by Joel Chandler, July 1996
Isshin-ryu Karate The Ultimate Fighting Art by Harold Long and Tim McGhee, 1997

About the photos in the article "The Isshin-ryu System, The story of Tatsuo Shimabuku" and my comments.

Tatsuo photo caption: "Shimabuku in his youth. "This photo was taken at Tairagawa, Village in 1947. Tatsuo was already around 39 years old. Note he was already making a Isshin-ryu fist. Long before Americans ever started learning from him. Some writers such as Byron Coleman in a recent article have stated Tatsuo learned the vertical fist punch from Americans in the late 1950's. Wrong, more misinformation to correct. According to Eiko Kaneshi , Tatsuo's right hand man who was also in this photo, Tatsuo was experimenting with the various punches and fist long before any American studied with him.

Four photos and caption:
"A rare photo of Shimabuku's second Sensei, Cho Jun [Chojun] Miyagi (left), Shimabuku (center), and first Sensei Chotoku [Chotoku] Kyan."

Megami photo caption: "The original painting of the Goddess [Goddess]."

Tatsuo photo at Agena and Tatsuo seat captions are correct.
Tatsuo with tuifa/tonfa: "Shimabuku doing Chiefa Tuifa Kata with the Tonfa (tuifa)." Chiefa is a mistake.  I have answered this subject before.

Tatsuo photo with sai: "This photo was taken by Dave Zaslow in 1963 at a Camp Hansen, Marine N.C.O. Club. Dave Zaslow should be given credit for the photo. In the background is Louis King, Jim Advincula (see the glasses) and Bill Blond.


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