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Commemorating Tatsuo's 96th Birthday
Submitted by: A.J. Advincula


Shimabuku Tatsuo Sensei | September 19, 1908 - May 30, 1975
Shimabuku Tatsuo Sensei

Shimabuku Tatsuo
September 19, 1908-May 30, 1975

by Arcenio J. Advincula

Shimabuku Kana was born, September 19, 1908, the  year of the Monkey in Chan village, Okinawa.

This year 2004, Tatsuo would have been 96 years old. Throughout his life he was known as Kana, Kana-hi, Shinkichi, Sun nu su, Sunsu, and Tatsuo. He would go by the Okinawan family name Shimabuku instead of the longer Shimabukuro.

During different periods of his lifetime, he was a farmer, tax collector, bodyguard, horse and cart teamster, karate instructor and sumuchi  (fortune teller).

Prior to his death on May 30, 1975, Tatsuo was still doing fortune telling. Sumuchi is from the  Uchinaguchi (Okinawan language) or dialect hogen but fortune tellers are also called sanjinso in Japanese.
Sanzinso literally means “three phases of life” or “Three social trends,” which are the past, the present and the future.

Long before Tatsuo studied karate, he was learning to be a sumuchi from his uncle Ganeku Shinko who later would teach the young Shimabuku Shaolin-zi (Shorinji) style of karate that he learned in Fukushu (Foochow) China.

Shimabuku learned to be a sumuchi from his uncle on his mother’s side who lived in Agena village which was near Chan village. Ganeku was a school principle for a school at Isshikawa, a town located in central Okinawa. Years earlier Ganeku had traveled to China and learned to be a fortune teller.
In the main Okinawan  Shuri and Naha dialect, a fortune teller is called sumuchikuya or sumuchi/shimuchi for short. ‘Su” means book and ‘muchi’ means person  so sumuchi is a ‘Book person’ a term used in Okinawa for a fortuneteller.

The reason these fortunetellers are called sumuchi is because they use books such as the I Ching, Chinese Almanac, Chinese books on Astrology and Feng shui.

A sumuchi is well versed these ancient books and the "I Ching" (The Book of Changes), a classic Chinese book  of divination, is used to consult to advise their clients in the proper course of action to take in certain phases of their lives. Okinawan Sumuchi  are held in high esteem and are respected for their knowledge of old customs,  history, traditions and events. This knowledge is passed from Sumuchi  to apprentice and Tatsuo learned from Ganeku.

Sumuchi are also called sanjinso or sanzinso  which  literally means “Three phases of life” or “Three social trends,” which are the past, the present and the future. Sumuchikuya/ sumuchi/shimuchi and Sanjinso are all in reference to fortunetelling. Another subject Sumuchi perform is
Feng shui.

Fungshi (literally "wind" and "water") in Okinawan hogen and Feng Shui in Chinese is the ancient art of placement which addresses environmental energy imbalances of yin and yang. Fungshi which originated in China aims to promote balance and harmony between one’s living and one’s working environments. It can be described as the study of the relationship between humanity and earth and Fungshi is still deeply rooted in Okinawan life. The ancient Shuri Castle layout was based on
Fungshi .

While in China Ganeku also learned Shaolin-zi (Shorinji) kenpo from two Chinese by the name of Kushi and Mushi  (Japanese Koshi and Moshi).

Tatsuo was an erudite who could read, understand and  interpret the ancient writings found in the ancient books of China such as the "I Ching",
and Chinese almanac, Chinese calendar and astrology yet he was a humble, non-pretentious man who liked to joke. Few know that he was doing comedy stints when he was working in the Philippine Islands with a Okinawan work crew prior to WW ll.

Shinsho, he second son, says, "My father was natural. Look at all the pictures of him standing and you will see that he is relaxed and natural. Watch him doing kata and you will see my father doing it in a natural way."

Kaneshi Eiko
, with reverence, in an interview said, "When I close my eyes I can see Shimabuku's body doing kata. I'm proud of Shimabuku." Eiko further states that during the January 15, 1956 meeting that Tatsuo called to change from the twist punch to the vertical punch, Kaneshi explains, "The bushi used the natural way and the natural way is to use a straight punch without a twist. So we all decided to use the vertical punch."

This weekend we will honor our founder who gave us Isshin-ryu karate.
Here are some thoughts about our founder.

Kaneshiro Kenji talking about chinkuchi: “Shimabuku was unexcelled. I still don’t know how Shimabuku could obtain it.”

Major Maekawa: “When I started karate from Tatsuo in 1951, he called it Sun nu su te or his karate. He was a
sanjinso or Sumuchi, gave instruction.
Tatsuo knew many arts. Did you know why Isshin-ryu punches vertically. Its a natural punch, like a piston.”

Tokumura Kensho relates story of Tatsuo when he was in the Philippines. “Tatsuo was by himself in a bunkhouse and someone knocked at the door. Tatsuo thought something was wrong and silently crept up behind the person who was armed with a knife and chopped his arm knocking the knife out of his hand, disarming him. Tatsuo said disarm him so he wouldn’t have to harm him.”

Shimabuku Tatsuo Sensei

Tokumine Sheisho answers when asked “What do you remember about Tatsuo?”: “I remember three things about Tatsuo. He could drive a 16 penny nail through a 2x4 with the edge of his hand by chopping it. I never saw him do it at Chan dojo. He didn't do this until he moved to Agena. I also remember Tatsuo climbing up a telephone pole near main street at the Agena dojo, going up head first then coming down head first. I also remember him chopping a beer bottle and breaking it. This is very dangerous because you could cut the tendons of your hand.”

Ciso taking about his father: “My father always thought of ways to make money. His favorite kobudo weapon was the bo. One Okinawan custom at festivals, weddings, and almost all occasions is to have someone perform using the bo. This is for good luck. My father would perform and get paid 500 yen each time he perform. He loved the bo. It was a way to bring home extra cash. He made money as a Kyan Kucho (Chan Village headman or minor village chief), sumuchi telling fortunes, feng shui , and setting up bets on sure things, using the bo at festivals, farming and teaching karate.”

Nakazato Joen, of Shorinji-ryu: “Tatsuo was a good person. He was not stuck up as others. He always helped when asked.”

Arakaki Seiki (1923-1982) Matsumura Shorin-ryu. In a interview in 1981 when he visited California. “I went to visit Shimabuku Sensei and discuss his muscle blocking method. I stayed half a day discussing his blocking method and agree with him. He was a kind person.”

Uechi Kanei (1911-1991) during a interview on Okinawa 1981. Shimabuku Tatsuo was a great karate man. Very powerful!

While most of his peers thought highly of him, he had one distractor, Nagamine Shoshin. According to Ciso, when Tatsuo went before other sensei to present his new style of karate, Isshin-ryu, Nagamine didn’t want to recognize it. For years I had heard stories that their may have been others, but years later found most of his peers accepted it.
He was at one time a member of
The Okinawan Karate-Do Renmei (Okinawan Karate Federation) which included during the early stages following members:
Shigeru Nakamura Okinawa Kenpo
Shinken Taira Ryukyu Kobudo
Shosei Kina Uhuchiku Kobudo
Seikichi Uehara Motobo-Ryu
Seitoku Higa Bugeikan
Masami Chinen Yamani-Ryu Bojutsu
Tatsuo Shimabuku Isshin-Ryu
Eizo Shimabuku Shorin-Ryu
Taro Shimabuku Shorin-Ryu
Joen Nagazato Shorinji-Ryu
Shugoro Nagazato Shorinji-Ryu
Chozo Nakaima Kobayashi Shorin-Ryu
Zenryo Shimabuku Shorinji-Ryu (Chuba Shorin-Ryu & Sukani Hayashi Shorin-Ryu
Shosin Nagamine Photo

Later he became a member of the The Okinawan Karate Kobudo Rengokai. Other members at different times were Hohan Soken, Seikichi Uehara, Eiko Kaneshi, Shinken Taira, Shihan Toma,  and Seitoku Higa to name a few. So Tatsuo was recognized by all the major okinawa sensei, in both karate and kobudo.

Let us honor Tatsuo and preserve his style as best we can.

      1. Dojo kun

      2. Kenpo Gokui

      3. Upper and lower basics

      4. Seisan

      5. Seiunchin

      6. Naihanchi

      7. Wansu

      8. Chinto

      9. Kusanku

      10. Sunsu

      11. Sanchin

      12. Kyan no sai

      13. Kusanku sai

      14. Chatan Yara no sai

      15. Kusanku sai

      16. Tokumine no kun

      17. Urashi bo

      18. Shishi no kun

      19. Hamahiga no tuifa

      20. Shimabuku Tatsuo no kumite

      21. Bo/Sai kumite

      22. Bo/Bo kumite

      23. Bo/Tuifa kumite

On this September 19, 2004 on the 96th anniversary of his birth, let us remember and honor our founder. Kanpai Sensei! I'll drink to that!


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