Tatsuo Shimabuku

Tatsuo Shimabuku was born in Chun Village, Okinawa, on September 19, 1906. At the age of eight, he began to study Shorin-Ryu Karate under his uncle. After mastering Shorin-Ryu, he began his study of Goju-Ryu Karate, During the mid 1936’s, Shimabuku entered a special martial arts festival. His performance of both Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu katas so impressed the spectators, that by 1940, he was recognized throughout the Ryukyu Islands as the foremost proponent of Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu Karate. He was the first person ever to master both systems.

During WWII, Master Shimabuku's reputation as an expert in karate was such that Japanese officers stationed on Okinawa kept him from military conscription in exchange for karate lessons. But he only taught them the basics, not the "good stuff”. After the war, he returned to teaching karate and farming.

By the early 1950’s Master Shimabuku was refining his karate teachings combining what he felt was the best of the Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu sty to, and incorporating his own techniques. While his experimentation continued, his adaptation of techniques and kata were not widely publicized. He consulted with several of the masters on Okinawa concerning his wish to develop a new style. Because he was highly respected as a karate master, he received their blessing. [This would later be rescinded due to the many radical changes made in traditional Okinawa Karate].

One night in 1954, Master Shimabuku had a dream of a beautiful sea goddess, half woman, half serpent, named "Mizu-Gami".   The next morning when Master Shimabuku awoke, he felt that his dream had been a divine revelation. This was the basis of the Isshinryu symbol, and the birth of Isshinryu Karate. [Isshinryu means "One Heart Way"]. The date was January 15, 1954.

In 1955, the 3rd U. S. Marine Division was stationed on Okinawa, and the Marine Corps chose Master Shimabuku to provide instruction to marines on the island. As a result of this instruction, Isshinryu was to be spread throughout the United States by marines who returned home. The first two marines to bring Isshinryu Karate to the United States were Don Nagle and Harold Long. Master Tatsuo Shimabuku died on May 30, 1975,

Isshinryu Karate has spread world wide, and is known as one of the foremost combative styles of self-defense in the world!


Mizu Gami Patch

One night in 1954, Master Shimabuku fell asleep and dreamed of a beautiful sea goddess, half woman, half serpent, named 'Mizu-Gami'.  She represented the calmness a martial artist should display in facing turbulent conditions, symbolized by the churning sea, but having the strength of the serpent, if needed.  Her left hand was open as a sign of peace, but her right hand was clenched in a fist indicating her willingness to fight if the need arose.

A dragon appeared in the sky symbolizing the fighting fury displayed by a dragon as does the half-serpent body of Mizu-Gami.  The ascending dragon also represents good luck.  Three stars appeared symbolizing the birth of a new system of karate.  The left star represented Shorin-Ryu (the mother), the right star represented Goju-Ryu (the father), and the middle star represented Isshin-Ryu the child).  The gray evening sky symbolized serenity and implies that karate is to be used only for self-defense.

Master Shimabuku also said that the three stars denoted that is was dark or nightfall.  The dragon in his dream was a good luck symbol in Okinawan folk lore.  It symbolizes the dragon palace that was located at the bottom of the ocean.

The next morning when Master Shimabuku awoke, he felt that his dream had been a divine revelation.  He met with his top student, Eiko Kaneshi, and told him of his dream and his desire to break away from Okinawan tradition and start a new style of karate.  The date was January 15, 1954.  Upon announcing his decision to start a new style, many of his Okinawan students left, including his brother Eizo.

The new system was not initially given a name, and in fact, went through two name modifications before Isshin-Ryu was finally adopted.  However, the official birth of Isshin-Ryu karate is January 15, 1954.  The Mizu-Gami was drawn from Master Shimabuku's description by Shosu Nakimine, Kaneshi's uncle, and was chosen to be the symbol for Isshin-Ryu karate.

The sea goddess in the patch is named Mizu Gami - sometimes the patch itself is referred by that name as well

Mizu Gami Sometimes called Sea Goddess Half Serpent/Half Woman
1. Karate can be hard and fierce like the dragon. 2. Martial Artists should also show compassion.Dragon; 1. Tatsuo means Dragon Man (or Dragon Boy). The symbol in the patch is said to represent

Mizu Gami's Hand Position
1. Left hand open signifies "I come in peace."
2. Right hand closed signifies "strength if evil persists."
3. Very similar in meaning to our signature before katas.

Mizu Gami's hand position left hand down in a Shoti trying to calm the troubled waters. Showing peace. The right hand up in a Tetsui showing an ability and a willingness to fight if necessary.

Tatsuo "Dragon Man"Three Stars
1. Good, Better, Best Karate Student.
2. Grandmaster Shimabuku's three primary instructors.
3. Mind, Body and Spirit or Mental, physical and breathing.

The Oval Shape
Represents the vertical fist we use in Isshinryu. The original patch was shaped in
a fist, but the modern patch is pure oval.

The Gray Background
1. To represent the image that came to Master Shimabuku in his dream.
2. Represents the calm a karateka should display at all times.

Turbulent Water
1. The troubles we encounter in our lives.
2. A storm is brewing yet the Mizu-Gami retains her calm mind.The Kanji (Japanese Writing);
Spells out Isshin-Ryu. Karate

Orange Border
Represents the Ring of Fire in the dream.

Isshinryu Code

  • A person's heart is the same as Heaven and Earth.
    • The earth is limited while heaven knows no limits. Man has characteristics of both as evidenced by the fact that he is both the strongest and weakest being in the universe.
  • The blood circulating is similar to the Moon and Sun.
    • A person should always remain in motion, circulate. As a result, in facing an obstacle he will bend but never break.
  • A manner of Drinking and Spitting is either hard or soft.
    • In reference to combative techniques, if one becomes angry (hard) his balance is destroyed, but if one remains calm (soft) balance is maintained.
  • A person's Unbalance is the same as a Weight.
    • Anytime one is unbalanced, that serves as an additional obstacle that must be overcome.
  • The body should be able to change Direction at any time.
    • The body should merely respond to events instead of allowing the mind to anticipate or attempt to “out guess” events.
  • The time to strike is when opportunity presents itself.
    • Always examine your opponent and attempt to locate his weakness. After finding his weakness, attack that point.
  • The eye must see all sides.
  • The ear must listen in all Directions.



Term Pronunciation Description
Dachi dah-chee Stances
Kiotsuke key-oh-tsue-key Attention
Seisan say-san Front Stance
Seiuchin say-uo-chin Side Stance
Naihanchin na-han-chin Saddle Stance
Neko nee-ko Cat Stance
Sanchin san-chin Hour Glass   Stance


Uke oo-kay Blocks
Chudan chew-dahn Middle Block
Gedan geh-dahn Low Block
Jodan jo-dahn Upper Block
Juji jew-gee X-Block


Uchi oo-chee Strikes
Seiken say-ken Vertical Punch
Shuto shoe-toe Knife Hand
Tettsui tett-soo-ee Hammer Fist
Empi em-pee Elbow
Haishu hi-shoo Back Fist
Nukite noo-key-teh Spear Hand
Shotei show-tay Palm-Heel
Haito hah-ee-toh Ridge Hand


Geri geh-rhee Kicks
Hiza Geri he-zah Knee Kick
Keaage Geri key-ah-geh Snap Kick
Kekomi Geri kay-koh-me Thrust Kick
Mae Geri mah-eh Front Kick
Mawashi Geri mah-wha-she Roundhouse
Tobi Geri toh-bee Flying Kick
Ushirro Geri uo-she-row Back Kick
Yoko Geri yoh-koh Side Kick

General Terms

Budo boo-doh Martial Way
Bunkai bun-kye Study of Kata   Applications and Techniques
Dan dahn Black Belt Rank
Dojo doh-joh Training Gym
Geri geh-rhee Kick
Gi ghee Jacket,   Training Uniform
Hajime haah-zhim-ay Begin
Hiza he-zah Knee
Karate kah-rah-teh Empty-handed   fighting
Karate Ka kah-rah-teh-kah Practitioner of   Karate Forms
Kata kah-tah Forms
Ki key Mind, Spirit,   Energy
Kiai key-aye Focusing shout
Kumite koo-me-tay Sparring
Kyu kyoo White-Brown   Belt Rank
Makiwara mah-key-wha-rha Punching Board
Matte mat-tay Wait
Obi oh-bee Training   Uniform Belt
Rei ray Bow
Sensei sehn-say Teacher
Shiai shee-aye Match
Yame yah-may Stop
Isshin-Ryu Ish-in-ru One Heart Way


Ichi Ih-chee One
Ni nee Two
San sahn Three
Shi she Four
Go go Five
Roku roo-koo Six
Shichi shih-chee Seven
Hachi hah-chee Eight
Ku koo Nine
Ju joo Ten

12 major features of Isshinryu

1.  Elimination of fancy techniques—once used to hid karate’s killing power because it was against the law to practice karate

2.  Combination of the best of Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu to form a basic, realistic system of self defense

3.  Use of low kicks (none above the waist) because low kicks allow one to move quickly with power and balance. Such kicks are hard to see, and hard to block

4.  Use of short, natural stances which eliminates wasted motion and major body shifting, giving a split-second time advantage in a self defense situation. Such stances are more adaptable to American physique and temperament because the stances follow natural body movements.

5.  Hand and foot techniques are about fifty-fifty in the katas, giving the student a well-rounded system of karate

6.  Close-in techniques which are valuable for street fighting.

7.  Snap-punches and snap-kicks (punches and kicks come from a limb only 90% extended and immediately retracted), enabling you to move in and out quickly in a self-defense situation and to immediately correct yourself if you miscalculate. The lack of full extension of the limb prevents excessive wear and tear on the hinge joints.

8.  Elements of hard blocking (meeting force with force) and soft blocking (deflecting) or parrying the blows.

9.  Blocks executed with the muscular part of the forearm rather than the bone part to prevent breakage of the bones.

10.A fist made with the thumb on top of the fist rather than over the first two fingers. This method locks the wrist, helping to prevent the fist from buckling at the wrist on impact. This method also tightens the fist by allowing you to put tension on the top of the fist (thumb side) and the side of the fist (finger side).

11.Vertical punch, which increases the speed and focus of the punch.

12.Multiple-purpose techniques, allowing a block to become a blow, and vice versa, making the shift from offense or defense a matter of split-second timing.