Tomo No Kai

Okinawa Prefectural Symbol

The outer red circle of this symbol represents the ocean. The white circle symbolizes a peace-loving Okinawa and the inner red circle symbolizes a globally developing Okinawa. In short, the mark symbolized "Ocean", "Peace" and "Development".



Okinawa Karate Kobudo International Friendship Association
(Okinawa Karate Kobudo Kokusai Tomo No Kai)


It is the purpose of this organization to encourage education and
cultural exchange between the island of Okinawa and members of the
OKINAWA KARATE KOBUDO KOKUSAI TOMO NO KAI. Since becoming a prefecture of Japan, Okinawa has been steadily losing its identity as a distinct and separate culture. Its fusion into Japanese culture has been an area of concern to many Okinawans. To assist in the preservation of distinct Okinawan culture, the common bond of Okinawan Martial Arts will be used by the Association as a vehicle for knowledge, friendship, cooperation, and cultural exchange between its members and the island of Okinawa. The OKINAWA KARATE KOBUDO KOKUSAI TOMO NO KAI will conduct cultural tours, Okinawan Martial Arts seminars and use the various media forums at its disposal, to educate its members concerning true Okinawan Martial Arts and Okinawan culture. Whereas many martial arts organizations direct their energies towards obtaining rank, profit and personal power, the focus of the OKINAWA KARATE KOBUDO KOKUSAI TOMO NO KAI will be on international friendship, and educating its members to the "ways of Okinawa", as the basis for its existence.



"Mensori" pronounced men-soo-ree means Welcome. Welcome to the
"Tomo No Kai".

The philosophy of the Tomo No Kai began long before Kensho Tokumura
named it in 1997. It can be said to have started when I first arrived on
Okinawa in November of 1958 as a young Marine Corps Corporal.

In 1946, At the age of eight, my father began my martial arts training
in the Filipino knife and stick fighting art eskrima (escrima) and what
my instructors called combat judo. Two of my instructors, Tony Navarro
and Pete Rado, who were friends of my father, were "close combat"
instructors in the Philippine Scouts (Army). When I was about 10 years
old I also had some training in gung fu by another friend of my father, a
Chinese cook named Pang Yao. I also tried to study from books on jujitsu
and anything else I could. My father at the time worked for the Army Air
Corps and he started me training with my first instructors. My father brought
returning GI's, who had studied Asian martial arts, over to instruct me
in their art, whatever it was. So, I had a basic understanding of
different Asian martial arts before I arrived on Okinawa.

I began my training in Isshinryu Karate on my first day of liberty which
was about three or four days after arriving on Okinawa. This was not by
design but by chance. As all of those in the military know, when you
first report or arrive at a new duty station, you must "check in" to all
the different places on the base, for example; sick bay (where one goes
for medical treatment), disbursing (where ones pay record is located),
mess hall (now called a dinning facility), chapel, special services
(where one goes for recreation and sports), and other places that are
important to your military functions. At each of these places the
administrators will sign your "check-in- sheet". After you get it signed
at each location, you report back to your unit. If you get all the
signatures, your unit knows you can locate them and now you can go to

After an indoctrination about Okinawa, its people and customs, and what
you can or can not do, you are allowed to go on what the Marines and
Navy call "liberty", or "go-to-the-ville" which is another term we used.

When I first checked in to Special Services at Camp S.D.Butler, which
was located next to Camp McTureous, near the village of Kawasaki, I saw
a large sign on the wall which read; "Sign up for free judo lessons". So,
when I reported to my NCOIC (Noncommissioned Officer In Charge) who
was a Sergeant, he asked if I had any questions about Okinawa, my job, or
anything else. I said, "Yes, how do I sign up for free judo lessons?" He
answered, "Why judo? You can study karate in the ville (village)
from Papasan." I replied, "Karate, they have karate here?" "Yes, this is
where karate originated from. We have one of the top karate instructors
off base", he replied. I asked, "How much will it cost?" The Sergeant
said, "Its free. Special Services pays for it. Why takejudo when you can
study karate. I'll take you. I'm a green belt from Papasan". I don't recall
him mentioning the style or the name of the instructor although, he might
have. At the time, these names would have been strange to me anyhow. I
remember my first liberty or first venture into the village of Agena. The
Sergeant (I forget his name) took me from our base, Camp Smedly Butler,
on a bus located outside the base, to Agena Village where it stopped about a
half a block away from Tatsuo's dojo. We walked to the dojo and I remember
as we got closer, I could hear strange smacking sounds of what I later learned
was someone punching a makiwara. I remember the Sergeant led me through
the entrance door into the dojo. There were several people in white karate gi,
striking or punching makiwara. Some were doing karate moves which I later found
out to be kata. He took me straight to
Shimabuku Sensei and told him he brought a new student. He introduced
Tatsuo as "Papasan". I signed up, filled out a special service card, Sensei
stamped it and sold me a white karate gi. I started my first day of what later
I would learn was Isshinryu Karate.

On my first tour of duty, I worked at the Camp Butler carpenter shop
which at the time was located at Camp Courtney near the Village of
Tengan. I worked with Okinawans and it was from them I learned who
Papasan was. When I told them I was studying karate from Papasan,
they admonished me and said I should call him "Sensei". From that day, I
began calling my instructor, Shimabuku, "Sensei". This was my first
introduction to the culture of Okinawa. I remember that most of the
Americans learning Isshinryu were Marines, with a few Navy medical
personnel who were attached to our sickbay. Most continued to call
Tatsuo Shimabuku Papasan. The senior Americans at the dojo never tried
to correct this fault. Later, when some of us became senior, it was

I remember when I first arrived on the Talagega, a Navy transport ship
to Okinawa. I had my first experience of cultural shock. Many of the
roofs on houses were covered with either red or gray concrete roof tiles
or had thatched roofs. At the time, you could still see some of the
all-grass houses that were made of miscanthus, whose strong, brittle,
hollow stalks resemble small bamboo woven diagonally. This was used for
walls with the thatched roofs. There were very few cars but many
bicycles, three wheeled motor vehicles, taxies and buses. The names I
remember of some of these vehicles were Datsun, Hino, and Mitsubishi.
Most signs on the store fronts were in Japanese but many near the
military bases were in misspelled English. Okinawans dressed in kimonos,
jenbai, and in various American clothes. Many of the Okinawan males wore
parts of U.S. military clothing. Many wore "geta"(wooden clogs), straw
sandals, rubber shower shoe sandals, and some were barefooted. Some of
the older men could be seen riding bicycles while their wives walked
behind them. Women worked at hard labor on the streets doing road
repairs or cleaning the street. Only the main roads were paved and there
were very few of them. There were many open markets with various fruits,
vegetables, and roots being sold in small makeshift stands or booths.
Fish and large slabs of meat were also present in the fish or meat
market. Octopus and squid were also seen and Americans would always
openly joke about what to them was strange and exotic foods. Many of the
older women over sixty years could still be seen with tatoos on the
back of their hands.

Black market American goods could also be seen openly being sold in the
shopping areas. I remember that insect repellents in olive drab cans
were in high demand because of the numerous bugs and mosquitoes on this
semitropical island. Cigarettes were sold in packs or individually. Many
of the Okinawan men could be seen smoking a kiseru, a very small pipe
where only a little amount of tobacco was placed in it and only a few
drags could be puffed from them before it had to be recharged. Some
would just place a regular cigarette in the kiseru like a cigarette
holder. On numerous occasions I saw Sensei Shimabuku using the kiseru.
On base, the Marines had house boys or house girls who washed our
clothes or shined our boots and shoes. They also would starch and press
our utility or work uniforms and blocked our utility covers (hats),
starching and ironing them. As a Corporal pay grade E-3 at the time, I made
about $90 a month. While this amount was small in the U.S., on
Okinawa it was a hefty sum. On mainland Japan the exchange rate was 360
yen to a dollar. By the time I arrived on the rock (Okinawa), dollars
were being used instead of Okinawan yen which was different than the
Japanese yen. Okinawa was under the administration of the U.S Government
and would be until its reversion back to the Japanese Government on May
15, 1972.

I studied with other now well known Americans. Harold Mitchum had
started before me in March the same year. Others who started after me
were Steve Armstrong, Bill Blond, Don Bohan, Jake Eckenrode, Clarence
Ewing, Sherman Harrill, Louis King and Ed Johnson. Some of the Okinawan
were Shinsho Shimabuku the second son of Tatsuo who spoke English and help
his father in teaching Isshinryu. Kensho Tokumura, was an Okinawan high schoolboy
was already studying Isshinryu before me. It is Tokumura who eventuallywill give the "Tomo No Kai" it's name.

After learning that Isshinryu was a combination of Gojuryu and two modes
of Shorinryu karate, I always wondered what Shimabuku Sensei had added
or deleted from his system. On one occasion while relaxing after a
class, Shimabuku Sensei and several others students were sitting around
a table drinking beer and awamori(a Okinawan brandy made from rice)
and pine-juice (pineapple soda) to mix with the potent "awamori". Tatsuo
asked which was the best bottle? On the table were various sizes of
bottles. Some present picked large bottles and others picked the smaller
bottles depending on what they were drinking. Tatsuo replied that all
bottles were good and that size had nothing to do with which was the
better bottle. He explained that all of the bottles served a purpose. At
the time, early 1959, Isshinryu was only three years old and some of the
other Sensei from other styles were knocking this new style. I believe
that this is the reason Tatsuo told the story so that we would
understand that all styles were good.

Tatsuo stated that from Shorinryu he took the kata Naihanchi and from Gojuryu he took the kata Sanchin. Tatsuo explained that Shorinryu had no Sanchin andGoju-ryu had no Naihanchi. He said that Naihanchi, the softer of the two kata, was the Mother and Sanchin, the harder of the two because it is performed using dynamic tension, was the Father. From this union came Isshinryu, the offspring or baby. The Isshin-ryu kata Naihanchi is performed going in the direction left then to right while Sanchin goes forward and back. Between the two bonded in union (+) is Isshin-ryu.

"All bottles (karate) are good and size has nothing to do with which was
the better bottle. All bottles served a purpose."
---Tatsuo Shimabuku

It is from this philosophy that the Tomo No Kai began. We believe that all
Okinawan martial arts, karate or kobudo are good. That we can learn from them all.

The following years, because of this, I have trained in Gojuryu, Shorinryu, Uechiryu, Hindiandi and Kobudo. To this day I will study and learn from other Sensei to get a better understanding of what Shimabuku Tatsuo taught me.

Tatsuo Shimabuku studied from several different Sensei in different styles
and continued to learn kobudo from Shinken Taira even after he was in his fifties. All martialarts are good and this is the reason for the Tomo No Kai, to get a better understanding of all things Okinawan and to learn not only about Ryukuyanmartial arts but also its cultural aspects. I conducted five tours to Okinawa,1994 to 1999, and billed them as "Okinawan Cultural Martial Arts Tours". In 1994, I was told of another group of people from another style of Okinawan karate that was going to do a group tour to Okinawa and were going to stay on one of the military bases. Someone suggested that I do the same and stay on one of the military bases to save money. I replied, "No, if you want to learn about the cultural of Okinawa you must live with the Okinawans as they do." Mr. Jeff Perkins has already explained this in his article about going on his first trip to Okinawa in 1994. Kensho Tokumura, who was an Isshinryu dojo classmate with me in 1958, and Kotaro Iha who I studied Kobudo and Shorinryu from 1975, have helped me in my quest for knowledge as has Horoshi Ikemiya, my brother-in-law, who helps especially in translating writings in Chinese.

Again, I want to welcome you to the Okinawan Karate Kobudo Kokusai Tomo No Kai.

"Mensori" (Men-soo-ree)