Isshinryu Karate

Table of Contents:

  • Basic Isshinryu Hand Techniques
  • Basic Isshinryu Kicking Techniques
  • Isshinryu Kata
  • Kumite
  • Belt Ranking Requirements
  • Code of Karate
  • Other Isshinryu sites
  • Copyright Information

  • What is Isshinryu Karate?

    [Photo master Shimabuku] Isshinryu (one heart/one mind) introduced in 1954 by Tatsuo Shimabuku. Sensei Shimabuku Studied both the Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu systems; studied Kobayashi-Ryu under Chotoku Kiyan and later under Choki Motobu. Then He studied the Bo, Sai and Tonfa under Okinawa's most noted instructors. Isshinryu is a combination of the best of these styles and weapons techniques and epitomizes the powerful, lightning-fast techniques that enabled the weaponless Okinawans to endure the rein of the Chinese empire and to defeat the sword-wielding Samurai of Japan.

    For more history on Tatsuo Shimabuku and beginnings of Isshinryu Karate - click here.

    Isshinryu's main goal is to perfect of oneself through physical and mental development. As students learn they acquire self-confidence, serenity, and humility. Isshinryu has many advantages over other styles such as:

    • Isshinryu stresses "close-in" techniques that are more practical on the street vs. high flashy kicks for example.
    • Isshinryu techniques are mostly thrown from natural stances, limiting wasted motion, maintaining stability and giving you split-second advantages over other styles;
    • Isshinryu uses a "snap style" that permits you to move quickly, deliver more punches or kicks, and lead naturally into other techniques. e.g. the straight punch has no corkscrew common in other styles. Approximately five Isshinryu punches can be thrown in the time used for one corkscrew punch. The punch also ends in and can be thrown from a middle block. For more information on the Isshinryu vertical fist and punch - click here.
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    [Isshinryu patch]

    Isshinryu Patch

    This patch represents an inspirational dream/vision that Shimabuku had while he was considering the creation of Isshinryu. The patch itself is in the shape of an Isshinryu fist. The female character, is a sea goddess named Magami by Master Shimabuku. She represents the serenity that a Karateka should display. Her left hand is held open in a sign of peace; her right is clenched in a fist, representing strength in case of bad intentions. The dragon ascending toward the three stars represents a sign of good luck and wisdom. Also Master Shimabuku's first name Tatsuo, means "Dragon Man", which may be significant as well. The three stars are interpreted to represent several things, Among them Master Shimabuku's three formal teachers, the mental, physical, and spiritual aspects of Isshinryu and several others.

    Current source for Isshinryu patches
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    General Information about Isshinryu and Dojo Etiquette


    Bows are the traditional way of displaying respect and humility. Za-rei, or Formal bows, are executed by kneeling with hands made into fists, knuckles resting on the floor, and feet crossed.

    Informal bows (Tachi-rei) are executed by standing with heels together, feet pointed at 45 degree angle, hands at the sides with palms turned toward the thighs, bowing from the waist. They are used to begin and end an informal class, and before and after each of the following:

    1. Entering or leaving the Dojo (school);
    2. Addressing another student (especially higher ranking students);
    3. Addressing a Sensei (Black Belt Instructor);
    4. Katas;
    5. Kumite.
    6. Any time you wonder if you need to...

    Example of Etiquette:

    [Okinawan Karate Symbol] When in the Dojo, all students should treat higher ranking students and Black Belts with the respect attributed to their rank. If you want to talk to an instructor or senior student stand silently until you are asked to speak; execute a Tachi-rei, ask your question, addressing him or her as Sensei, sir or use their last name appended with the suffix 'san (honorable). When the Sensei has completed his answer, bow again before walking away.
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    15 Basic Isshinryu Hand Techniques (Te Waza)

    1. Straight punch (Seiken oi tsuki)
    2. Upper cut (Jodan oi tsuki)
    3. Reverse punch (Seiken gyak tsuki)
    4. Reverse upper cut (Jodan gyak tsuki)
    5. Low block/straight punch (Gedan barai/seiken gyak tsuki)
    6. Middle block/straight punch (Chudan uke/seiken gyak tsuki)
    7. Open hand block/fingertip strike (Tegata barai/nukite)
    8. Open hand upper block/upper cut (Jodan tegata uke/jodan gyak tsuke)
    9. Upper block/Straight punch (Jodan uke/seiken gyak tsuki)
    10. Upper block/back fist/straight punch (Ura uchi/seiken gyak tsuki)
    11. Low block/5 straight punches (Gedan barai/go den joku tsuki)
    12. Middle block/5 straight punches (Chudan uke/go den joku tsuki)
    13. Low knife hand strike/knife hand strike (Shuto uchi)
    14. Palm heel deflection/ 2 roundhouse punches (O-uchi)
    15. Step back/elbow strike (Hije no ato tsuki)
    [Drawings of Hand Techniques]

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    9 Basic Isshinryu Kicking Techniques (Geri Waza)

    1. Front snap kick (Mae geri)
    2. Stomp kick (Kake geri)
    3. Front groin kick (Kin geri)
    4. Side Snap kick (Yoko geri)
    5. Side Kick with ball of foot (Shoba geri)
    6. Roundhouse knee kick at a 45 angle to the front (Otoshi geri)
    7. Heel Push Kick (Mae Kon Atei)
    8. Knee kick - Low side kick, at a 45 angle to the front (Shoba Kon Ate)
    9. Knee smash (Hisa geri)
    [Drawings of Kicking Techniques]

    Other Kicks not on the diagram:

    1. Side thrust kick (Yoko Kekomi geri)
    2. Back kick (Ushiro geri)
    3. Roundhouse kick (Mawashi geri)
    4. Spinning back kick (Ushiro geri)
    5. Jumping double kick (Tobi Mae geri)
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    Isshinryu Kata

    Kata are pre-determined defense, attack and counter-attack exercises. Kata develops speed, coordination, technique, and breath control.

    There are eight empty hand kata that teach five stances in Isshinryu Karate. In addition, there are three Bo kata, two Sai kata, and one Tuifa Kata. The kata are named after Chinese Masters or the provinces in which they had taught karate.

      Empty Hand Kata:

    1. Seisan: This kata is of Chinese and Shorin Ryu origin. It is one of the original kata from the ancient Pangia-Noon style. Its name is derived from Master Seshan. The kata teaches the student how to fight several opponents directly in front of him and how to turn and face opponents coming from different directions. The kata teaches a vertical punch with the thumb on top, instead of the twist punch. It emphasizes the "Seisan Stance" (SHO ZENKUTSU DACHI) of fighting.;

    2. Seiuchin: This kata is of Goju Ryu origin. It is a horse stance (as if riding a horse) position in which the feet are about shoulder width with toes pointed out at a 45 degree angle. The back and head are straight and the shoulders in line with the hips. This stance is most effective when the opponent is close and directly to the side of the karate-ka;

    3. Naihanchin: This kata is from the Shorin Ryu origin. It teaches the Naihanchin stance (UCHI HACHIJI DACHI). It is an erect position in which the toes are pointing straight and the legs and hips are locked. Movements in the kata are lateral. This kata trains the karate-ka to tighten the legs and to defend against opponents on both sides.;

    4. Wansu: This kata is of Shorin Ryu origin. It combines moves from the first three kata. The karate-ka is taught to fight opponents forward, backward, and on both sides.;

    5. Chinto: This kata is of Shorin Ryu origin. It emphasizes pivots and fighting on angles. This kata emphasizes techniques to be used against attackers on somewhat of a 45 degree angle. In addition, it introduces the karate-ka to jump kick techniques and the use of the cross block and cross stances. There is a legend tied to this kata.;
    6. Sanchin: This kata is of Goju Ryu origin. It emphasizes strong techniques and breath control. The name means"three battles", and refers to the control of mind, body, and breathing during the performance of the kata. The control of mind, body, and breathing are the sources of chi (vital energy). This energy is generated in the tanden which is an area two to three inches below the navel.;

    7. Kusan-Ku: Of Shorin Ryu origin, this kata comes from Chinese Master Kusanku. This kata is usually referred to as a night kata, silhouetting the enemy against the horizon and then attacking. It emphasizes speed movements for a man surrounded by eight attackers. The techniques in this kata are aimed at improving the karate-ka's speed in blocking high and low, and in maneuvering within the surrounding attacking individuals.;
    8. Sunsu: Sunsu, Master Shimabuku's nickname, means "strong man". This kata is an original. It was totally created by Master Shimabuku. It consists of movements from the first six kata. Sunsu is very difficult to perform with any degree of strength, speed and accuracy;

      Weapons Kata:

      BO kata - The bo is a round staff. It was used as a walking aid and comes from the hoe handle, shovel handle, etc. The people converted the bo into a weapon. The bo is normally as long as the karate-ka is tall. Traditionally, the bo was handled from the left side. Master Shimabuku brought the fight side into focus.
    9. Tokomeni No Kun (Bo #1); This kata is named after Master Tokumeni who virtually created the bo as it is known in modern karate.
    10. Urashi (Bo #2); In this kata, the student is taught to draw the opponent's attention by the front of the bo until he is hit with the rear end of the bo which has been brought around with a vertical butt stroke.
    11. Shishi No Kun (Bo #3); The kata contains 130 movements combined from the first two bo kata. It also brings in the foot movements along with the use of both ends of the bo.

      [Sais] SAl kata - The sai is a three-pronged weapon used for defense and attack (similar to a sword) and for throwing (similar to a spear). The sai is effective against the samurai sword and the bo (both short and long). Karate masters used to carry three sais. Two were held in the hands, the shaft extending the length of the forearm, knob hidden in the hand. The third sai was hooked in the belt and was used only after one of the hand sais was thrown.

    12. Kusan-Ku Sai (Sai #1); The use of the sai is incorporated into the empty hand Kusanku kata. The moves are basically the same in both kata without the kicks. This kata introduces the karate-ka to the sai. In this kata, the sai is fighting the samurai swordsman.

    13. Chantan Yara No Sai (Sai #2); The sais in this kata are used to defend against a bo. Among the techniques, the karate-ka learns to hook the bo with the foil (short prong), and to counter attack with the knob and the shaft.

      Tonfa (Tuifa) Kata[Tonfa] The Tonfa looks much like a police mans night stick. Usually 18 to 21 inches in length with a handle protruding 90 degrees about 3 inches from one end. The Tuifa is thought to have originally been the handle for a grindstone.

    14. Chei fa (also known as Hamahiga No Tuifa); This kata teaches the student to fend off attackers with bos using blocks and strikes with the tonfas.

      Kobudo Kumite Weapons Sparing - There are also two pre-arranged forms in which two karateka spar with weapons. One with bo against bo and one with sai against bo.

    15. Bo Sai/kumite (Bo vs Sai);
    16. Bo Bo/kumite (Bo vs Bo);
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    (sparing) In Ippon Kumite , sometimes called "one step sparing" one student throws one or two techniques while another attempts to block and counter-attack. Jiyu Kumite is the most advanced stage of sparing and is similar to sparring matches in boxing. Jiyu Kumite permits students to try techniques, to be original, and to find what works for them. The main objective is to find an opening in the opponent's defense. All the techniques must be under control without any intent to injure their opponent, but with good technique and minimum contact. Techniques are not allowed to the joints, eyes, spine or throat.

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    Master Shimabuku's Code of Karate

    1. A person's heart is the same as Heaven and Earth.
    2. The blood circulating is similar to the Moon and Sun.
    3. A manner of Drinking and Spitting is either hard or soft.
    4. A person's Unbalance is the same as a Weight.
    5. The body should be able to change Direction at any time.
    6. The time to strike is when opportunity presents itself.
    7. The eye must see all sides.
    8. The ear must listen in all Directions.
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    [*]Much of this information and several of the graphics come directly from two books written by Sensei Joel Chandler, The founder and head of the Tatsuo-Kan society. I can't thank him enough - without his undying dedication very many of us would never have been able to experience this great art!
    His two books are: The Secrets of Isshinryu Karate Copyright 1989. (no longer available) And Isshinryu Karate - History and Kata Copyright 1996.

    Also as always MANY THANKS to my Sensei Rick Plass for his time, patience, and dedication!
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    shawn at mammon dot us