Roots of the Order of Isshinryu

The Order of Isshin-Ryu is a style that has all the characteristics of a tradition and has the elements of the hidden techniques, but we must know the roots.

You must know where you came from to know where you are going.

(Front-from right) Chojun Miyagi, Chomo Hanashiro, Kentsu Yabu,Chotoku Kyan (Back-from right) Genwa Nakasone, Choshin Chibana, Choryo Maeshiro, Shinpan Shiroma

(Front-from right) Chojun Miyagi, Chomo Hanashiro, Kentsu Yabu,Chotoku Kyan (Back-from right) Genwa Nakasone, Choshin Chibana, Choryo Maeshiro, Shinpan Shiroma

Tode Sakugawa was born in 1733 in Shuri and died in 1815 at the age of 82. During much of his life he was a figure in the development of karate. From him, karate inherited the Kusanku kata. His sensei was Peichin Takahara from the village of Akata. He also trained under the Chinese Kusanku learning Chinese Kempo. His most noted student was Sokon “Bushi” Matsumura.

Sokon “Bushi” Matsumura was born in 1796 in Shuri and died in 1893 at the age of 97. As a boy he was a student of Tode expert Sukugawa and also trained under the Chinese Kong Su Kung, also known as Kusanku. He served as chief of the military and court retainer for the king of the Ryukyus. He was the creator of Chinto kata in the memory of a Chinese sailor who was an expert in Kempo. He was also responsible for amalgamating Te and Kempo creating the method known as Shuri-Te or Shorin-Ryu. His more distinguished followers were Yasutsume Itosu, Chotoku Kyan, Choki Motobu and Chosin Chibana.

Yasutsume “Ankoh” Itosu was born in Shuri in 1813 and died in 1915 at the age of 102. He began his martial arts training under Sokon Matsumura, considered with Kanryo Higaionna to be one of the most important figures of karate. He was also the creator of the Pinan (peaceful mind) kata

Chotoku Kyan was born in 1870 in Shuri and died in 1945 at the age of 75. Kyan began training in the martial arts under the direction of Sokon Matsumura at the age of eight. He also trained under two other masters of that time, Itosu and Oyadomari. He quickly grew into one of Okinawa’s most predominate masters. Among his prominent students were Chosin Chibana, Tsuyoshi Chitose, Eizo Shimabuku and Tatsuo Shimabuku.

Choki Motobu was born in Shuri in 1871 and died in 1944 at 73. The third son of a ranking lord, he was not entitled to learn the family style of karate, which by custom was taught only to the first born son of each generation. He decided to train himself using the makiwara to punch and kick, and by using heavy rocks as weights. His nickname was Saru meaning monkey. He found formal instruction under Kosuku Matsumora, Tokumine, and Itosu. During his life, Motobu taught and influenced many individuals including Yasuhiro Konishi, Tatsuo Yamada, H. Ninomiya, S. Uejima, Hironori Ohtsuka, Shoshin Nagamine, and Tatsuo Shimabuku.

Tode Sakugawa

Tode Sakugawa

Sokon "Bushi" Matsumura

Sokon "Bushi" Matsumura

Yasutsume "Ankoh" Itosu

Yasutsume "Ankoh" Itosu

Chotoku Kyan

Chotoku Kyan

Choki Motobu

Choki Motobu

In the analysis of the evolution of Isshin-Ryu karate we have to consider the facts and the history of Gojo-ryu.

Kanryo Higaonna was born in 1853 in Naha and died in 1916 at the age of 63. He is regarded as one of the most influential martial arts instructors in the history of Okinawa. He began training in the art of Chinese Kempo at the age of 16. In 1874 he traveled to Foochow, China, where he lived for 15 years and trained in Shorinji kempo under Ryu Ryuko. Among his disciples were Chojun Miyagi, Kenwa Mabuni and Juhatsu Kiyoda.

Chojun Miyagi was born in Naha in 1888 and died in 1953 at 65. He was the son of a wealthy shop owner. He began training in karate at the age of 11 under Ryuko Aragaki. At the age of 14 he began training under Higaonna and stayed with him for 15 years until the master’s death in 1916. He created the style of Gojo-ryu and the formal exercices Gekisai Ichi, Gekisai Ni, as well as Tensho kata. Among his top disciples were Jinan Shinzato, Meitoku Yagi, Eiichi Miyazato, Sekichi Toguchi, Seiko Higa, and Tatsuo Shimabuku.

Isshin-Ryu karate was created by Tatsuo Shimabuku from Shorin-ryu and Gojo-ryu. Shimabuku was born in the Kiyan Village in 1908 and died in 1974 at the age of 66. At the age of 15 he traveled by foot some 15 miles to Naha to the dojo of his first instructor, Choki Motobu. After one month with Motobu, he studied with Shorin-ryu master Chotoku Kyan for about two years. Then he started learning Gojo-ryu with Chojun Miyagi, who taught Shimabuku two kata (Seunchin & Sanchin). Shimabuku spent two years perfecting these kata. In Kobu-jutsu he studied under Taira Shinken and Yabiku Moden.

From Isshin-Ryu comes the Order Of Isshin-Ryu, founded by Walter “Toby” Cooling on January 15, 1971. Master Cooling began training in martial arts in Judo at the age of 16. He began training in karate at 20 under Tom Lewis. Several years later became a student of Don Nagle and Joel Buchholtz. In December 1969, he traveled to Okinawa to study with the founder of Isshin-Ryu karate, Tatsuo Shimabuku. Before his departure in March 1970, he was promoted to Roku-Dan. This promotion made him the last foreign student to be promoted to a high dan by Master Shimabuku. On August 11, 1971 he was promoted by Master Don Nagle, Master Harold Long, Steve Armstrong, Harold Mitchum and Grandmaster Shimabuku to Shichi-dan (Nana-dan). On October 4, 1986 he was promoted to Hachi-dan and recognized by Master Harold Long. On June 14, 1992 he was promoted to Ku-dan by Masters Don Nagle and Harold Long.

Kanryo Higaonna

Kanryo Higaonna

Chojun Miyagi

Chojun Miyagi

Tatsuo Shimabuku

Tatsuo Shimabuku

Walter "Toby" Cooling

Walter "Toby" Cooling