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Tatsuo Shimabuku, originally named Shinkichi, was born on September 19, 1906, in Chan Village, Okinawa. He later changed his name to Tatsuo, meaning "Dragon Man." At the age of 12, he began training with his uncle, Kamasu Chan (also called Ganeku), in Shuri-Te. He initially began karate training in the hopes that he would be able to fend off his brother who would frequently torment him. After a few months of training, his brother no longer posed a threat for young Tatsuo.

Later in his life, he studied Okinawan Kobudo with the famous master Taira Shinken, from whom he learned the techniques of the bo, sai, and tonfa. Taira Shinken, taught Shimabuku the following weapons kata: Chatanyara No Sai, Urashi Bo (Bo #2), Shishi No Kun (Bo #3), and Hamahiga No Tuifa.

Young Tatsuo Shimabuku
Chotoku Kyan Chojun Miyagi Choki Motobu
Master Kyan taught Shimabuku Seisan, Naihanchi, Wansu, Chinto, Kusanku, and Tokumine No Kun (Bo #1) kata. It is also likely that Shimabuku learned the arts of kyusho-jutsu (pressure point fighting) and tuite (joint locking) from Kyan.

Miyagi taught him Seiunchin and Sanchin.

Motobu taught him his version of Naihanchi kata, as well as kumite techniques and how to properly train with the makiwara.

Shimabuku later incorporated two additional kata into his collection: Sunsu and Kusanku Sai. Sunsu Kata contains a combination of the techniques and principles from the other seven Isshin Ryu empty-hand kata, and was Master Shimabuku's personal favorite kata. Sunsu represents the culmination of the Master's understanding of the higher-level principles of the martial arts and is the most complete (and difficult) kata in Isshin Ryu. Kusanku Sai was an adaptation of the empty-hand Kusanku Kata.

On January 15, 1956, he officially announced the formation of a new style of karate, "Isshin Ryu," meaning "One-Heart (or Whole-Heart) Way." He chose this name because, according to Shimabuku, "all things begin with one." Beginning in the mid-50s, Shimabuku began to instruct a number of U.S. Marines in his front yard in Chan Village.

Tatsuo Shimabuku performing
Chatan Yara No Sai
On May 30, 1975, Master Tatsuo Shimabuku passed away at his home in Agena, Okinawa, after suffering a stroke. After Master Shimabuku's death, Isshin Ryu splintered with a number of associations and independent dojos. Kichiro Shimabuku administered the IWKA from Gushikawa City, Okinawa, Steve Armstrong continued the operation of the American-Okinawan Karate Association (AOKA), and Harold Long continued the work of the IIKA in Tennessee. In March 1977, Harold Mitchum, Ed Johnson, Arcenio J. Advincula, and Milledge Murphey formed the United Isshin Ryu Karate Association (UIKA) in Albany, Georgia.

Although Angi Uezu and a number of other Okinawan Isshin Ryu masters remained with Kichiro Shimabuku in the beginning, Angi Uezu left the association in 1989 and formed the Okinawa Isshin Ryu Karate and Kobudo Association (OIKKA). He soon became one of the chief proponents of Isshin Ryu Karate on Okinawa.

The Okinawa Prefecture Government recently recognized Isshin Ryu as an official style with Angi Uezu and the OIKKA as its official representative on Okinawa.
Hanshi Angi Uezu

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