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Kenwa Mabuni
1889-1957

Kenwa Mabuni

Kenwa Mabuni

     He was born in Shuri, the 17th generation descendant of one of the bravest warriors of Okinawan nobility. His family members had served Okinawan lords for hundreds of years. As a child, Kenwa Mabuni wanted so very much to be like his great ancestors, but unfortunately he was very sickly and weak. In 1902, at the age of 13, Kenwa Mabuni was taken to the most famous martial artist in Shuri, master Anko Itosu, to improve his health. From that day forward, he never missed a day of training until he was approximately 20 years old. It is said that Itosu developed a strong bond with young Mabuni, passing on his knowledge of 23 kata.

During his teens, in 1909, encouraged by master Itosu to further expand his knowledge of the martial arts, Mabuni also studied under Kanryo Higa(ashi)onna (1853-1915), a teacher of Naha-Te, a particularly Chinese influenced karate style, until the great master's death in 1915. Mabuni was introduced to Higaonna, by his friend, Chojun Miyagi (who went on to become the founder of Goju-Ryu karate). Interestingly, during the 1920s, Mabuni participated with Miyagi in a Karate Club at a dojo known as Ryukyu Tode Kenkyu Kai, the "Okinawan Karate Research Club". This dojo saw many masters from a diversity of backgrounds train together, and whilst there Mabuni learned some Fukien Province White Crane Kung Fu, from the legendary Woo Yin Gue, a Chinese tea merchant living on Okinawa. These teachings have survived through the kata Rohai (Crane on the Rock) and Nipaipo.

During this period, Kenwa Mabuni was also receiving instruction from master Seisho Arakaki of Naha, who taught a similar style to master Higashionna. He was also being influenced by a Fukien, 'White-Crane-Fist' master named WU XIAN GUI (pronounced GO KENKI in Japanese) at the time. As a result of Itosu's death in 1915,Mabuni became the second master of the Itosu school, building a shrine in front of his master's grave where he lived nearby for a year, following the daily ritual of refining his kata performance and to pay respect and honour to the great master.

Completing the required military service after graduating from high school, Kenwa Mabuni eventually became a policeman. By 1918, Kenwa Mabuni had become an important figure in the martial arts community and was respected by his peers. Around this time, he established a research and study group at his home. Various participating members included Chosin Chibana, Gichin Funakoshi, Anbun Tokuda, Shinpan Shiroma, Choju Oshiro, Seicho Tokumura and Hoko Ishikawa.

During 1918, Kenwa Mabuni's first son, Ken-ei, was born. Mabuni trained in Kobudo, with the most important master on the isle, Sensei Sakumoto, and then with Master Aragaki expertise in the use of the Bo and the Sai; accomplishing mastery in the usage of the Bo, Sai, Tonfa, Kama y Nunchaku.

He published lots of articles in specialized magazines and some technical books: "Seipai No Kenkyu", "Yosi-Goshin-Jutsu", and "Kobu-Juzai-Goshin-Jutsu Karate Kempo".

In 1924, Kenwa Mabuni and Chojun Miyagi were asked to take charge of the training sessions, even though they were still fairly young. During these sessions, actual kumite was stressed to increase their physical techniques and strength. It is said that, when a student wanted to learn more from a master, the master would simply invite the student to attack him freely, all the while, blocking and shifting his body while constantly asking the student, " now, do you understand?" and encouraging them to attack, again and again.

Kenwa Mabuni originally named his system 'Hanko Ryu' (Half-Hard style), but later changed it to reflect the deep respect he felt towards his two great masters, Itosu and Higaonna. Using the alternative reading of the Kanji for 'ITO' from master Itosu's name, (which can also be read as 'SHI'), and 'Higa' from master Higaonna's name, (which can be interpreted as 'TO' ), Kenwa Mabuni created the new name, 'Shito' for his style of Karate do. It was during this time 1927-1928, that Kenwa Mabuni moved to Osaka permanently, to teach Shito Ryu Karate do

 

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