founder of Shitoryu Karate Do
Disipline of Kenwa Mabuni expressing the
joy of dedicated training:
"Forgeting mundate things when striving for the martial isle
padding is joy."
The founder (Ryuso) of karate-do Shito-ryu, Kenwa Mabuni was born
on November 14, 1889 in Shuri, Okinawa. He belonged to the 17th
generation from one of the bravest warriors of Ryukyu kingdom Kenio
Oshiro. Kenwa Mabuni himself was a physically weak child; however,
his family members often told him stories about his famous ancestors
and he dreamed of becoming physically controlling. At the age of
13, Kenwa was accepted as a student at the school of the famous
karate-do master Anko Itosu, who lived in Shuri. Kenwa Mabuni trained
every day, even during typhoons, and within seven years he learned
the art of Shuri-karate or Shuri-te.
When Kenwa was 20 years old, he began to study the art of Naha-karate
or Naha-te with the Grandmaster Kanryo Higaonna. Later both of these
major directions of karate-do of Okinawa formed a basis for Shito-ryu
karate-do style created by Kenwa Mabuni.
After graduating high school and and being discharged from the
army Kenwa Mabuni worked in the police for about 10 years. His job
required him to visit different parts of the country and he had
an opportunity to study other forms of karate-do with little-known
local masters. He also studied the ancient art of Ryokan Budo.
beginning of the 20th century has become a period of a wide spread
of Karate-Do. In 1910 it was included in the school program as a
separate subject, which meant the official recognition of Karate-Do.
But the Karate-Do education still lacked the system. The majority
of masters paid most attention to the physical training of body,
wrists, elbows and fingers, using Makiwara and sandbags. There was
no standard karate-do uniform, as it exists now.
During these years Kenwa Mabuni began his teaching activity. Together
with his master, Mabuni created school of Karate-Do for the study
of this martial art. On February 13, 1918 his senior son Kenei was
born. The same year Kenwa Mabuni started to popularize Karate-Do
and many well-known masters helped him. He organized meetings in
his house which were attended by Gichin Funakoshi, Choju Oshiro,
Choshin Chibana, ?nbun Tokuda, Shimpan Shiroma, Seicho Tokuumura
and Hoko Ishikawa. Besides, in 1918 he had the honor to demonstrate
Karate-Do at the Okinawa Middle School in the presence of Prince
Kuni and Prince Kacho.
In 1924 Kenwa Mabuni became the Karate-Do instructor in two schools
and received the honor to demonstrate the Art for Prince Titibu.
1925 Kenwa Mabuni, with other masters organized "Okinawan Karate-Do
Club", which brought to life his old dream of establishing
a permanent training dojo. Many famous Karate-Do leaders like Juhatsu
Kyoda, Chojun Miyagi, C.Motobu, Chomo Hanashiro, Choju Oshiro, Choshin
Chibana, Wu Xian Gui(Go Kenki) - the master of Chinese-ken trained
in this first dojo. Kenwa Mabuni and Chojun Miyagi became the permanent
instructors of the club as the youngest members.
At this time instructors concentrated on physical training and
kumite practice. When a student asked the teacher to explain something,
the teacher gave him an opportunity to attack him and answered by
demonstrating various defense techniques. The training was just
a continuous practicing of the same techniques. All masters had
varying techniques but the main teaching method was the same - practical
year of 1927 was extremely important for Kenwa Mabuni. He met Jigoro
Kano, the founder of modern Judo, who arrived Okinawa to open a
new judo dojo. Chojun Miyagi and Kenwa Mabuni had an opportunity
to demonstrate and to explain Jigoro Kano the techniques of Karate-Do.
Jigoro Kano was inspired by Karate-Do and considered it the ideal
Budo art for both defense and attack. He talked about the necessity
of wide spread of Karate-Do in Japan. Being touched by these inspiration
words decided to move to Osaka and to devote himself to development
and popularization of karate-do Shito-ryu in Japan.
As Karate-Do was an original Okinawan Art, Kenwa Mabuni faced a
wrong perception of Karate-Do when he moved in Osaka. There were
no public training dojo and Kenwa tried to popularize Karate-Do
in police departments and Buddhist temples. Mass audience had some
difficulty accepting Karate-Do, especially Katas and frequently
called it "fists dance". Kenwa Mabuni worked days and
nights, trying to invent ways of popularizing Karate-Do. He even
practiced Tame shivari - the breaking of bricks and boards, showing
public the force of the new martial art. Karate-Do was sometimes
used during usual fights, which contradicted to its ideology and
reputation. Police also tried to oppose Karate-Do since there were
cases when criminals was wounded during arrest.
all difficulties, Kenwa Mabuni remained on his elected way. His
titanic efforts finally succeeded, and as a result the organization
called Dai-Nihon Karate-Do Kai was created in 1931. Subsequently
this organization was renamed into Nihon Karate-do Kai and became
the predecessor of the modern Shito-kai. Many of the participating
members of the Dai-Nihon Karate-Do Kai were direct students of Kenwa
Mabuni. Today they form the kernel of Shito-kai in Japanese Karate-Do
Federation and continue to transfer the martial art of Kenwa Mabuni
to their students.
After World War II Karate-Do clubs began opening one after another
in schools and universities. They organized tournaments and prepared
the National championship of Japan. During difficult post-war years
Mabuni helped to reconstruct Japan by devoting himself to the development
and wide spread of Shito-ryu Karate-Do. Unfortunately he had no
time to bring his plans to life since he died on May 23, 1952.
The Shito-ryu Karate-Do, created by Kenwa Mabuni, combined the
features of Shuri karate of Master Itosu and Naha karate of Master
Higaonna. The name Shito-ryu is formed from the first hieroglyphs
of names of these Masters ("Ito" - old Chinese hieroglyph
"Shi", "Higa" - old Chinese hieroglyph To).
While teaching his students and explaining the basic differences
between schools Itosu and Higaonna, Kenwa Mabuni paid the most attention
to Katas. He believed that Katas, which combine both attack and
defense techniques, are the most important part of karate-Do, and
that it is necessary to understand the meaning of each movement
in the Kata and to perform the Kata correctly. Kenwa Mabuni was
the first to introduce the concept of Bunkai kumite and Hokei Kumite,
which demonstrated the purpose and showed the correct use for each
Kata The final result of proper Kata and Kumite training is the
ability to apply karate-do techniques in free Kumite. Practice of
Kata also helps to transmit the knowledge encoded in Kata to the
subsequent generation. Karate-Do Shito-ryu, unlike other karate-do
styles, has much more Katas.
According to Kenwa Mabuni the student, ignoring Kata and practicing
only Kumite, will never progress in Karate-Do and will never understand
Center of Nihon Karate-do Kai was Kansai-area. Due to the efforts
of Manzo Iwata (one of the best students of Kenwa Mabuni and future
chairman of Japanese Shito-kai Karate-do Federation) the Eastern
branch, centered in Tokyo, was organized in November 1960. In the
same year the founder's son Kenei Mabuni organized Western branch
centered in Osaka. Both clubs have held independent championships
until 1964, when the first joint Karate-Do Shito-Kai championship
took place. In October of the same year the Japan Karate-do Federation
was formed. In February 1973 the Western and Eastern branches of
Nihon karate-Do merged, leading to the formation of the Japan Karate-do
Federation of Shito-Kai.
Karate-Do Shito-Kai school started international activity. Karate-Do
masters were sent to Asia, Latin America, U.S.A. and Europe. Official
representatives from different countries gathered in Mexico City
in November 1990 to discuss the development of Karate-Do in the
world and the creation of International Karate-Do Shito-ryu federation.
The same issue was simultaneously discussed in Havana during the
first Pan-American karate-do Shito-kai championship. And finally,
on March 19, 1993, the World Shito-ryu Karate-do Federation with
the center in Tokyo was established, with Manzo Iwata as its president.
Official representatives of 28 countries took part in the first
karate-do Shito-Ryu World Championship.
Shitō-ryū is a combination style, which attempts to unite the diverse roots of karate. On one hand, Shitō-ryū has the physical strength and long powerful stances of Shuri-te derived styles, such as Shorin-ryū and Shotokan (松涛館), on the other hand Shitō-ryū has circular and eight-directional movements, breathing power, hard and soft characteristics of Naha-te and Tomari-te (泊手) styles, such as Gōjū-ryū (剛柔流). Shitō-ryū is extremely fast, but still can be artistic and powerful. In addition, Shitō-ryū formalizes and emphasizes the five rules of defense, developed by Kenwa Mabuni, and known as Uke no go gensoku (受けの五原則), Uke no go genri (受けの五原理) or Uke no go ho (受けの五法).
- 落花 (rakka, "falling petals"). The art of blocking with such force and precision as to completely destroy the opponent's attacking motion. Examples of rakka are the most well-known blocks, such as gedan-barai (下段払い) or soto-uke (外受け).
- 流水 (ryūsui, "running water or Flowing Water"). The art of flowing around the attacker's motion, and through it, soft blocking. Examples are nagashi-uke (流し受け) and osae-uke (押さえ受け).
- 屈伸 (kusshin, "elasticity or Darting out and in"). This is the art of bouncing back, storing energy while recoiling from the opponent's attack, changing or lowering stance only to immediately unwind and counterattack. Classic examples are stance transitions zenkutsu (前屈立ち) to kōkutsu (後屈立ち) and moto-dachi (基立ち) to nekoashi-dachi (猫足立ち).
- 転位 (ten'i, "transposition or rolling the body by stepping out"). Ten'i is the utilization of all eight directions of movement, most importantly stepping away from the line of attack.
- 反撃 (hangeki, "counterattack"). A hangeki defense is an attack which at the same time deflects the opponent's attack before it can reach the defender. Examples of this are various kinds of tsuki-uke (突き受け), including yama-tsuki (山突き) or Morote Tsuki or Awase Tsuki.
Modern Shitō-ryū styles also place a strong emphasis on sparring. Shitō-ryū stresses speed, and fighting is generally initiated from a higher, more upright stance than Shotokan employs. On the other hand, because the style has so many kata, a great deal of time is spent perfecting any one of its 50 to 60 forms.