In 1908 a great earthquake shook southern Italy and Sicily killing 150,000
but in the same year Tatsuo Shimabukuro, the founder of Isshin-ryu karate/kobudo was born. Why, you ask,
would one start off a sentence with a tragic event such as a deadly
earthquake and end it with a happy event as a birth? Because it is fact and
Sensei Shimabuku, which he liked to be called instead of Shimabukuro, always
said, "There is good and bad in the universe and we should adapt to all
situations". This he got from the
Kenpo gokui or Secrets of Kenpo better
known to those in Isshin-ryu as the Code of karate which came from the Bubishi a book which came from Fujian, China and is associated with Okinawan
Shimabuku was born in Chan
village now called Kinaka in Gushikawa City on September 19,1908. He was
given a girls name as was the custom adopted by the Okinawans from the
Chinese to fool the malevolence spirits lurking about who would try to harm
the new born baby. It was thought that the ill-willed spirits would look for
a girl baby only and not harm the the boy baby.
Only after they fooled the evil
spirits would they have given the baby the Okinawan name Kana and the
Japanese name Shinkichi. Shinkichi is the name found on Shimabuku's koseki
or family register and was also on his passport when he visited the United
States in 1964 and 1966.
Prior to the Japanese making Okinawa
a Japanese prefecture in 1879, and later passing laws abolishing certain
kanji or Chinese characters for names used by Okinawans to name their
children, Okinawan names where given to newborns. The reason the Japanese
did this was to subject the Okinawans into being Japanese and stop them
from using Okinawan customs . The Okinawans were forced to cut their
topknots which they were allowed to wear when they interred manhood and were
also told not to speak Okinawan hogen or dialect but to only speak Japanese.
Still Okinawans gave their children Okinawan names although they couldn't
put them on their koseki.
Kana first studied martial arts from
this uncle on his mother's side Ganiku. Ganiku also taught the young
Shimabuku to be a sanjinsoo, a practitioner who engages in fortunetelling,
divining, and geomancy and deriving their knowledge from books rather than
from the supernatural. The
I Ching and kuyumi or lunar almanac besides other
books on occult lore are some of the books the young Kana would have to
learn. These ancient books would have been written in kanji and he would
have to learn how to read the Chinese characters.
Ganiku thought he did not have
enough martial arts knowledge so he sent Shimabuku to study karate from
Chotoku Kyan who lived in
Kadena. At the time, Shimabuku who was around age
23 or 24, and a poor farmer's son, walked barefooted to study with Kyan. He
would stay for six hours and come back home to do his chores with the farm.
Shuri te with Kyan for four years. Shimabuku would tell of Kyan
Chinto kata on a bridge and said Chinto kata was good for that
Shimabuku studies Naha-te from
Chojun Miyagi around 1936. Again, he walks but this time a much further
distance to Naha. This time he stays with Miyagi for three years. Miyagi was
known for his gripping techniques and Shimabuku put a gripping technique
into his own kata
In 1938, at age 30, he studies with
Choki Motobu again in Naha for one year. Motobu was known for his fighting
ability and Shimabuku always told a story about Motobu peeking through a
fence to learn naifanchi kata. The reason for this was to show it wasn't the
amount of kata one knows but how well one know it.
In 1939, Shimabuku goes to the
Philippines and stays for two years leaving for Osaka before the war begins
in 1941. In Osaka he becomes a bucho or general supervisor and stays until
around 1944 when he returns to Okinawa to take his family to Kyushu, Japan
to protect them from the war. While in Japan, Shimabuku works as a farmer.
One year after the war, he brings
his family back to Okinawa. At age 39, in 1947, Shimabuku begins teaching
karate at different locations. At first he calls his karate Chan migwa
karate after Chotoku Kyan's nickname. He also takes the name Tatsuo meaning
dragon man at this time.
Around 1951 he was calling his
karate Sun nu su karate after his nickname he received from the mayor of
Chan when Shimabuku worked as a tax collector a few years before. The mayor
named him after a dance that Shimabuku's relative had made called Sun nu su.
Sun nu su means son of old man. He later shortens it to Sunsu.