Okinawa is a group of small islands located between Japan, Taiwan and China. Given its strategic location, the islands were influenced by multiple cultures through its international trading. Elements of Chinese, Taiwanese, Thai, Japanese and even Australian culture can be found here.
Isshin-Ryu was formed by Tatsuo Shimabuku through the synthesis of two styles he mastered: Shorin-ryu (literally translated as Shaolin style) and Goju-ryu, the two dominant styles of martial arts on the islands. The United States Marine Corps' presence in Okinawa allowed the style to spread throughout the world.
Sensei Jon Oshita is a Japanese-American descended from Samurai with many relatives still living in Hiroshima. He has practiced Isshin-Ryu for more than a quarter century and offers Karate Lessons in Wilmington, North Carolina.
A short discussion with Oshita Sensei about the History of Isshyn-ryu
Who developed Isshinryu karate?
"Isshin-Ryu was developed by a man named Tatsuo Shimabuku in the 1950s. Master Shimabuku experimented with different styles of karate in the 1940s and earlier."
What do you mean by "different styles of karate?"
"Master Shimabuku was well versed in two main styles of karate on the island of Okinawa Japan. He created Isshin-Ryu from these two styles. The first style was the Shorin ryu. The second was the Goju-Ryu. "
How was Isshinryu created from these two styles?
"The tai sabaki and the snapping, penetrating , and powerful techniques of the Shorin ryu combined with the throwing, grappling , Sanchin and hojo undo of Goju ryu allowed for a strong foundation to build a unique karate style."
So Isshinryu is simply a specific blend of the two ryu?
"No. Tatsuo Shimabuku was a man who liked to tinker and experiment. He was even known for inventing items that benefited the people of his village. For example, he developed a better way to bind the roofing tiles of his village homes instead of using mud. He even started a lucrative horse and cart business which was unheard of at the time. So it was only natural that his personality directed him to go beyond blending the two ryu. For instance, Isshinryu stances are much more shorter than the traditional deep stance of traditional karate. And the fist is chambered vertically at the hip with the thumb on top rather than the rotating twist punch of a traditional karate. And there several other concepts applied that make Isshin-Ryu what it is. "
So then Isshinryu is better than the other traditional karate arts?
"No. Isshin-Ryu simply has a different approach to the same karate. "
How did Isshinryu get to the United States?
"Isshin-Ryu was brought over by the Marine Corps. Shimabuku began teaching karate to the U.S. Marines after World War Two. When they returned to the states they brought back Okinawan Japanese culture and karate. These Marines began teaching in the US. "
How can I do my best in Isshinryu karate?
"Isshin-Ryu trains heavily on kihon (which are "foundation" techniques) and kata (which are all the techniques of the art put in a form). These kihon and kata must be drilled and studied diligently. Also Isshin-Ryu contains kobudo (which is the art of traditional Okinawan weapons). Isshin-Ryu will grow with the practitioner as long as training is maintained.