Isshin-RyuIsshin-ryu Karate: In the first half of the twentieth century, the art called karate (also called tode, kempo, te) moved out of the shadows of secrecy into the public sphere. But, it was presented to the nation as a way to train children in a discipline that would strengthen and harden them for military service. Because the art was taught to children, it was intentionally watered down for safety’s sake. As this was happening in the karate world in general, there were some hard core practitioners who did not want to change. One of these die-hards was Tatsuo Shimabuku. During WWII, he was quietly teaching karate to Japanese troops, teaching them karate as an art for surviving life and death encounters.

After WWII, Shimabuku became the first karate instructor hired by the U.S. military to teach American troops. During the Vietnam War era, he was also tasked with training U.S. black ops forces (Project Phoenix). Even though Shimabuku himself was 5’ 4” and weighed about 135 pounds – and many of his earliest students were well over six feet tall – he was held in high esteem (and more than a little fear) because of his skills.

The idea of a karate “style” (ryu-ha) is really a twentieth century affectation. But, in keeping with the custom of the day, Shimabuku organized his teachings and curriculum and named his method Isshin-ryu. The term Isshin means something like “Singularity of Spirit” and refers to an absolute focus and commitment to every technique.

Isshin-ryu is highly regarded as a powerful and effective style, a treasure among Okinawan karate systems, and an important link to the genuine fighting origins of karate.