Grandmaster Tatsuo Shimabuku
A BRIEF LOOK AT THE HISTORY OF ISSHIN-RYU KARATE IN AMERICA
Master Tatsuo Shimabuku was born in Chun Village, Okinawa in the early 1900’s. He studied karate under many notable instructors of the time, including Master Chotoku Kyan, the founder of Shobayashi Shorin-Ryu; Master Chojun Myagi, the founder of Goju-Ryu; and Choki Motobu, who was known as one of the most powerful fighters on Okinawa; and Shinken Taira, the developer of many Kobudo Kata. By 1940 he had become the first person to master both of the Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu systems of karate. During World War II Japanese officers in exchange for karate lessons kept him from military conscription. As his reputation grew United States servicemen sought him out as well. By the 1950’s he had become one of the most respected practitioners of Martial Arts on Okinawa.
Isshin-Ryu Comes To America
In 1955 a group of American Marines began studying Isshin-Ryu under Master Shimabuku. Harold Long, Don Nagle, Steve Armstrong, and Harold Mitchum brought Isshin-Ryu to America upon returning. The most notable of these men, Harold Long and Don Nagle were chosen as the representatives of Master Shimabuku and were largely responsible for the growth of Isshin-Ryu in the United States. In 1966 Master Shimabuku made his second of two trips to the United States. During this trip he spent several weeks with his top students, awarding eighth degree black belts to Long, Nagle, and Armstrong. This essentially put them in charge of Isshin-Ryu in the United States. Armstrong would later become ill and unable to continue. In 1974 Harold Long returned to Okinawa and received permission to form what later became the International Isshin-Ryu Karate Association. On May 30, 1975 Master Shimabuku passed away. Master Harold Long would become the patriarch of the Shimabuku/Long lineage of Isshin-Ryu Karate in the United States until his death in 1998.
Isshin-Ryu Leadership In America Today
Over the years several people have been asked to help promote the future of Isshin-Ryu in America. In 1993 Master’s Long and Nagle promoted JC Burris and Toby Cooling to ninth degree black belts. In the years 1997 & 1998 Master Long appointed Phil Little and Jerry Aiello to the designation of Hanshi. Hanshi is the highest certified instructor level in the Martial Arts, reserved exclusively for ninth and tenth degree black belts. Hanshi’s Little and Aiello were also appointed by Master Long to represent Isshin-Ryu on the World Head of Family Sokeship Council. On 28 September 1998, just prior to his death, Hanshi Phil Little and Hanshi Jerry Aiello were promoted to Ju-Dan 10Th degree black belt by Grandmaster Long and given the charge of continuing the Shimabuku - Long ™ legacy of Isshin-Ryu Karate. However, Hanshi Little will keep and preserve this great honor bestowed him until an appropiate time and will hold the present rank of Ku-Dan 9th degree black belt out of respect to Grandmaster Don Nagle 10 th Dan.
Today's Isshin-Ryu Associations in America
The (USIKA) United States Isshin-Ryu Karate Association, (IIKA), International Isshin-Ryu Karate Association, (OI) Order of Isshin-Ryu, (AOKA) American Okinawan Karate Association, (OIKKA) Okinawa Isshin-Ryu Karate and Kobudo Association, (UIKA) United Isshinryu Karate Association, (UIKF) United Isshin-Ryu Karate Federation, (TKS) Tatsuo Kan Society and the(UIC) United Isshin-Ryu Council.
* More detailed information about Grandmaster Tatsuo Shimabuku’s early years, the pioneers of Karate, a description of the Mizu-Gami, and other history, as well as techniques, weapons and information on Isshin-Ryu Karate can be found in the books Isshin-Ryu Karate – The Ultimate Fighting Art By Grandmaster Harold Long and Tim McGhee, and HEIHO- Martial Arts Concepts & Strategy by Dr Jerry Aeillo and Okinawan Weapons by Grandmaster Harold Long and Hanshi Phil Little.