The beginning of Okinawan Karatedo
Okinawa used to be very much flourished by trading with China and other Pacific nations, in particular China brought lots of cultural treasures. One of those is a Chinese martial art, which has a history of 5000 years.
In 1429, a king called Sho Hashi took over three Okinawan Kingdoms and united into one called Ryukyu Kingdom. When he was in power, the possession of actual weapons was forbidden among common Okinawan people in order to prevent a rebellion. When a King named Sho Shino came into power (1477-1526), in the time called „First Golden Age of Trade“, ship crews were often attacked by pirates preyed on the trading ship. The king collected regional lords under the Shuri castle and conducted them to practice martial arts to protect themselves. It is said that due to trustful diplomatic relations between China and the Ryukyu kingdom, the King of China dispatched 36 Chinese experts to teach shipbuilding, navigation, translation and other skills. Beside those skills they brought with them martial arts in Okinawa. It is also supposed that many experts travelling between two countries contributed the development of Okinawan Karate known today. In these backgrounds, Karate was practiced individually depending on a region and class.
With the new knowledge of martial arts, Okinawan people altered the original empty hand art of self-defense called „Dhi“. During the heyday of the Ryukyu Kingdom, three distinct styles emerged, Shuri, Naha and Tomari. Shuri-dhi forms were centered in the residential area of the King and noble families, Naha-dhi in the commercial center of Naha, and Tomari-dhi in the Tomari port area where the commerce with other nations was conducted. Each form had its supreme masters who established the traditions preserved until today.
In 1609 the samurai „Shimizu“ of mainland Japan took over the Ryukyu Kingdom. It was a period of feudalism in which samurai (Bushi) was most influential in Japan. The Satsuma clan of Japan took possession of the island and all the weapons were confiscated by the government for fear of the resistance from the people in Okinawa. In the consequence of that, over the years, Karate was conveyed entirely secretly from master to disciple through oral transmission. The secrecy explains why there are so few written records left.
After the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the feudal system had been perished and all government powers were centralized in Tokyo in Japan. At last, in 1876 Ryukyu kingdom was collapsed after a 500-year-long diplomatic relation with China. With this background, the secrecy of Karate was abolished and publicized throughout Japan as time went on.
Karate started to be recognized as a means of physical education and accepted as a part of physical program in normal schools in 1902. It was the very first time that Karate was introduced to the public in Okinawa. At the beginning of Taisho era (1912-1925), a group of great masters that include Funakoshi, Mabuni, Kyan and other Senseis started a tour of demonstrations and lectured their philosophy here and there in Okinawa in order to popularize it. Sometime later, while performing in mainland Japan, the uniqueness and elegance of Karate impressed Japanese audience so well that great masters were requested to teach in mainland as well. However, since it was a period of time when political matters were very strained between Japan and other Asian countries, Karate was adopted in a Japanese military curriculum in order to nurture soldiers.
Karate used to be written in a Chinese character…
… derived from ancient China.
At the beginning of Showa era (1925-1989), because of a widespread Japanese military use of Karate and the fact that the Okinawan martial arts may now be considered a Japanese martial art, the Chinese character…
…was abandoned to use…
…and replaced with Karate…
…which means an empty hand.
In 1936, in spite of lots of protests, great masters including Miyagi, Hanashiro, Motobu and Kyan signed an official agreement of using
The development of Okinawan Karatedo
Nowadays, as many as 40 millions people, including students practicing Kobudo are performing Karate worldwide. After World War 2, Okinawa Karate has been dominated by three main schools (ryu) : Shorin-ryu (Kobayashi, Sukunaihayashi, Matsubayashi ), Gojyu-ryu, Uechi-ryu, and there exist 64 other schools and factions. Each boasts its distinctiveness and uniqueness.
The founder of Uechi-ryu which has the youngest history of main three schools, is Kambun Uechi (1877- 1948). He trained himself in China for 10 years to acquire Chinese martial arts and set up his Dojo there. His son Kanei Uechi (1911-1991) succeeded to preserve what his father left off. Kanryo Higaonna (1853-1915) of Naha, who learned Chinese martial arts in Fu-Chien in China for ten years gave instructions to his best disciple, Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953), who later founded the style „Gojyu-ryu“.
Two leading figures for Tomari-dhi are Kosaku Matusmora (1829-1898) and Kokan Oyadomari (1829-1905). Chokichi Motobu (1871-1944) born in a noble family was The teacher of the King and envoy of the Ryukyu Kingdom, Sokon Matsumura (1809-1899) of Shuri established Shuri-dhi. His famous disciple was Anko Itosu (1831-1915) who was a secretary of the King and played an active part in promoting Karate in a school education.
Grand Master Chotoku Kyan (1870-1945)
Being born in a very wealthy family in Shuri, Okinawa, he could afford to receive instructions from prestigious teachers at that time. He was taught by six famous masters, Matsumura, Matsumora, Maeda, Oyadomari, Chatan Yara and Tokumine.
As Grand Master Kyan was such a small man, he always said that to master Karate was „physique 30% but efforts 70%“. During World War 2 food was very scarce. Sensei Kyan gave away everything to his children to survive. In 1945 he died from hunger at the age of 75.
Master Zenryu Shimabukuro (1909-1969)
10th Dan Red Belt and the disciple of Grand Master Chotoku Kyan was born in 1909. He trained for 10 years under Sensei Kyan. In 1962 he set up his own Dojo, Seibukan (Holy Bushi School) to bring up young people. Master Zenryo Shimabukuro was such a dedicated man that he received lots of appreciation from city officials for what he had done to develop Karate.
During the American Occupation of Okinawa, he was asked to give instruction to young American service men and Karate started to spread to America and other nations. In 1969 he was invited by All Nippon Karate Renmei as the one of the 20 highest rank masters to perform in Nihon Budo-kan, Tokyo. At this stage he performed „Seisan“. On the way back home, he died at the age of 61.
Hanshi Zenpo Shimabukuro
9th Dan and Supreme instructor of the International Okinawan Shorin-ryu Seibukan Karate-Do Association succeeds what his father, Master Zenryo Shimabukuro left off. Being born in 1943, shortly before World War 2 he had to go through severe experiences. He lost one sister and one brother during the war. Hanshi Zenpo Shimabukuro helped his father by teaching Karate to the US military bases. In 1963 he was requested to teach Karate in the United States and lived there for three and a half years to promote Shorin-ryu (Sukanaihayashi) Seibukan Karate-Do.
In 1975 the International Seibukan Karate-Do Association was formed and today there are a great number of Dojos of Seibukan in 16 countries worldwide. Hanshi Zenpo Shimabukuro visits Senseis abroad regularly to update and standardize their techniques. He devotes himself for preserving traditional Okinawan Karate and spreading its philosophy.
Sensei Hiu Chee Heong
Sensei Hiu, Renshi 6th Dan, the instructor of IOSSKA Switzerland has been giving instructions since 1977 in Rapperswil. Due to his intensive contact with Hanshi Zenpo Shimabukuro over the years, techniques of the old traditional style, Shorin-ryu (Sukunaihayashi) have been correctly taught here in Switzerland, too. In the past years, he brought about a great number of successful results with his students in the different tournaments.