Isshinryu Karate was developed and introduced in 1954 by Tatsuo Shimabuku on the island of Okinawa. His karate was the offspring of two different systems, Goju-Ryu and Shorin-Ryu. Goju-Ryu being the Hard method, and Shorin-Ryu being the Soft method. He introduced katas from other forms into his own form, and developed features unique to his newly created style. The ranking system, also unique to his style, was made up of 7 kyu ranks and 10 degrees of black belts. A vision Shimabuku had in a dream also played a major role in the development of his style.
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The vision that helped him mold his karate into one form is represented on a patch presently worn on the gis of his followers and their students. Isshinryu may be the youngest karate to come from Okinawa, but it is as rich with spirit as the earlier forms. Shinkichi Shimabuku, founder of Isshinryu, was born on the island of Okinawa on September 19, 1908 (Armstrong 7). Upon reaching the age of six, Shimabuku would travel on foot, six miles down an old farm road to reach his uncles house. His uncle, Chioyu, a Shorin-ryu Master, was reluctant to teach young Shimibuku.
Instead, Chioyu made him perform menial chores around the dojo. After two years of chores and six mile walks, Shimabuku developed the patients and physical condition to begin karate training. His uncle taught Shimabuku his system and started him off on his martial career. During his years of adolescence Shimabuku changes his name from Shinkichi to Tatsuo meaning Dragon Boy. It was common during the 1920s for a young boy to change his name during his adolescence years. With the motivation from his uncle, Shimabuku sought out the famous Chotoku Kyan, another Shorin-ryu master.
After developing an excellent kicking ability, his next sensei was Chojin Miyagi! , known for his vigorous training habits. Miyagi teaches Shimabuku Naha-te, known today as the Goju-ryu style. His fourth teacher was a man by the name of Motobu, a famous brawler in Okinawa. Motobu furthers Shimabukus in Shorin-ryu and grants him the title of Master (8). Lastly, Yabiku Moden, helps polish Shimabukus training by teaching him the art of the Bo, Sai, and Tee-fa (9). With the teachings of some of Okinawas legendary teachers, Tatsuo Shimabuku sets of to begin a life in the martial arts.
Late one evening at his home in Chun Village, Shimabuku was awakened by his dream of the Mizu-gami, the sea goddess. With this symbol, Tatsuo realizes the unification of his training that the Mizu-gami represents. It was on that evening that Isshinryu was born (Armstrong 27). Later, his vision was produced on a patch worn by all students of Isshinryu Karate. The emblem of Isshinryu karate symbolizes the Mizu-gami. Its oval shape was originally designed to represent the unique vertical fist in Isshinryu karate. The symbol depicts a woman whose lower half appears to take the form of a sea dragon.
Her left hand is held open in the universal sign of peace while her right hand forms an Isshinryu fist. In Oriental mythology, the dragon in the sky is a sign of good luck while the gray background and churning seas is a sign of unknown dangers. Three stars are located at the top of the emblem representing three virtues. These virtues consist of mind, body, and spirit whic! h all must be developed to reach total harmony (Tyurin). With this vision and senseis knowledge of the martial arts, he sets off to create the Isshinryu system.