Tatsuo Shimabuku

The Heart of Isshin-ryu

Tatsuo Shimabuku (1908-1975) was born September 19, 1908 in Chan village, Okinawa. His Okinawan birth name was "Kana" and his Japanese given name was "Shinkichi". His parents were farmers so at an early age he learned the farming trade. The hard work helped him develop a strong body.

Shinkichi Shimabuku's family was relatively small by the day's standards. He married Uto at the age of 23. Shinkichi and Uto had four children. First born was a daughter named Matsuko. Second was Yukiko, another daughter. The first son, (third child) was Kichiro. The fourth child was Shinsho, the second son. Shinkichi named his sons after himself. He divided his name into two parts, Shin and Kichi. You can see this in the names Kichiro and Shinsho. It was later on when he took the name "Tatsuo". Matsuko Shimabuku later became Matsuko Higa, while the second daughter Yukiko, married Angi Uezu. Kichiro married a girl named Yoshiko and his brother, Shinsho, married a girl named Noriko.

While Tatsuo was working as a tax collector in Chan, the mayor named him "Su nu su". Su nu su in hogen (Okinawan dialect) means "Son of old man". It would be similar to John's son or Johnson. For short, most would call him Sunsu.

When he started teaching karate, he took the professional name of "Tatsuo" which means "Dragon-man".

Arsenio J. Advincula interviewed Tatsuo Shimabuku in 1969 and ask him if there was a birthdate for Isshin-ryu. Shimabuku said," There is no birthday for Isshin-ryu. I did not just create Isshin-ryu in one day, I've been adding and subtracting and experimenting throughout the years. It was only on January 15, 1956 that I called a meeting to tell my students that I was going to call the style Isshin-ryu."

While Shimabuku stated that there is no official birth date for Isshin-ryu, Advincula feels that Shimabuku's birth date is the date we, in Isshin-ryu, should commemorate.

Tatsuo Shimabuku died of a stroke on May 30, 1975; he was sixty-six years old. While he is gone in body, his spirit will always be with us.