Updated: Apr 21
If you are preparing for your brown belt (or above) test this history study guide will be helpful for you to begin opening up your understanding of history beyond the basic Isshinryu knowledge.
As an advanced rank it's important to know about other styles, especially Okinawan and Japanese styles, so that you will be able to communicate and interact with others in styles that are not Isshinryu.
Being a sensei at Ingram's means that we expect you to value knowledge, not just of your own style but of others as well. Use this study guide as a jumping off point to begin broadening your knowledge of the history of Martial Arts.
WHO ARE THE AMERICAN PIONEERS OF ISSHINRYU KARATE?
-Don Nagel, Steve Armstrong, Harold Mitchum, Harold Long
WHY WERE THE MEN LISTED ABOVE IN OKINAWA?
-They were stationed in Okinawa as Marines and began training at Master Shimabuku's dojo
WHO WAS THE FIRST TO TRAIN WITH MASTER SHIMABUKU?
WHO TRAINED THE LONGEST WITH MASTER SHIMABUKU?
-Master Harold Mitchum, he trained with Master Shimabuku for about seven and a half years.
WHO WAS THE FIRST TO BE PROMOTED BY MASTER SHIMABUKU TO 8th DAN?
-Master Harold Mitchum in 1964 (the others received theirs 2 years later)
WHERE WAS THE FIRST ISSHINRYU DOJO LOCATED IN OKINAWA?
-Technically Master Shimabuku had a training area behind his house, but that was not officially a dojo, the first official dojo (Honbu Dojo) was located in Agena, Okinawa
WHAT IS THE NAME OF MASTER SHIMABUKU'S #1 OKINAWAN STUDENT?
-Kinjo Chinsaku (he only studied Shorin-ryu under Master Shimabuku and was considered his best overall Okinawan student)
-Eiko Kaneshi (he was Master Shimabuku's #1 Okinawan Isshinryu student)
WHO OPENED THE FIRST DOJO (not Isshinryu but first dojo ever) IN OKINAWA?
WHO WAS A FAMOUS STUDENT AT MASTER ITOSU'S DOJO?
-Master Gichin Funakoshi
WHY WAS MASTER GICHIN FUNAKOSHI SO IMPOTANT TO MARTIAL ARTS?
-He Created a major style of Karate called Shotokan
-He brought karate to Japan
-He added additional colors to the belt ranking system
-He helped karate be seen and practiced as more of a sport and hobby (In the past it was only seen as a means of self defense and only techniques that were 'lethal' would be practiced. (No kumite, pad work, sport enhancements were integrated until after Funakoshi helped mainstream karate)
WHAT ARE THE NAMES OF MASTER SHIMABUKU'S MAIN KARATE INSTRUCTORS?
-Master Kyan Chotoku
-Master Miyagi Chojun
-Master Motobu Choki
(These names are stated as they are in Okinawa using the Family name "Last name" first, followed by the given name.)
WHO TAUGHT MASTER SHIMABKU SHORIN-RYU AND WAS HIS MAIN INSTRUCTOR DURING MOST OF HIS LIFE?
-Master Kyan Chotoku, One great story of Master Kyan is found in a book called "The Weaponless Warriors" that details a time when Master Kyan saved his village from a gang of thugs using a chicken and his fighting skills.
Master Kyan was a kind man who began his life as a poor boy who had very bad eyesight. Because eyeglasses were expensive, and his family was poor he often squinted a lot. Children made fun of him as a child, calling him Me-gwa (Prounounced May - Gwa) meaning 'Small Eyed" . This didn't deter Kyan from growing up to be a prominant name in Okinawan history and a very well respected Shorin-ryu practitioner and instructor. During the war, when Kyan was an older man it is said that Master Kyan died of malnutrition, as he was often seen giving his food rations away to children.
WHICH OF MASTER SHIMABUKU'S INSTRUCTORS HAD BECOME KNOWN AS A 'COLORFUL CHARACTER' AND WAS KNOWN TO NEVER BACK DOWN FROM A FIGHT.
-Master Motobu Choki, There are great stories in "The Weaponless Warriors" that detail one instance in which Master Motobu volunteered to fight a German boxing world champion in an exhibition match and not only beat him quickly but made quite a comical scene of the event earning him the nickname 'Saru' meaning monkey boy because he jumped on the boxer's back at one point during the fight and to the delight of the crowd, enraged the boxer. It is said that he won the match with a single strike using a hand technique that was so fast it's uncertain if it was a fisted punch or open handed strike.
WHO TAUGHT MASTER SHIMABUKU GOJU-RYU?
-Master Chojun Miyagi, we can read about Master Miyagi's travels all through Japan and Hawaii spreading his style (goju-ryu) around the world in "The Weaponless Warriors" but there is a great story that has become a favorite which talks about his extreme humility and helpfulness, despite being mocked.
I highly encourage you to read about these masters and ALL of the masters in the book. These are short, very easy to read stories that will give you a better understanding of life in Okanawa, and who these important masters were.
WHERE DOES KARATE COME FROM?
-Karate, as it is known today, originated in Okinawa. (Not all martial arts are Karate, more about this later)
WHERE DID MARTIAL ARTS BEGIN?
-The first documented instance of someone teaching a systemized and structured self defense curriculum is during the 5th or 6th century CE when a monk, named Bodhidharma, from India began adding self defense and exercise into his teachings to give his monks a means to defend themselves since it was against their religon to carry weapons. Later, Bodhidharma migrated to China and began teaching in the Temple of Shorin-ji (sometimes known as the Shaolin Temple)
WHO IS MASTER MITCHUM'S #1 STUDENT?
-Master John Ingram
WHAT ISSHINRYU ORGANIZATION WAS FOUNDED BY MASTER HAROLD MITCHUM?
The UIKA (United Isshinryu Karate Association). This was an organization in North America and It's main goal was to teach and spread Isshinryu karate as it was taught to him by Master Shimabuku Tatsuo.
After Master Mitchum's passing, and with the blessing of Master Harold Mitchum, Master John Ingram along with Master Dan Halloway and Master Cindy Ingram began the WUIKA (World United Isshinryu Karate Association). Which unites Isshinryu practitioners across the globe with the shared dream of continuing Master Mitchum's lifelong goal to spread Master Shimabuku's Isshinryu as it was taught to him.
More can be found out here: History (wuikausa.org)
(I highly encourage you to become very familiar with the information on the WUIKA site)
WHAT IS THE THREE PRONGED SYMBOL AND WHY DOES IT SHOW UP OFTEN IN THE KARATE WORLD?
-This three-pronged symbol, often referred to as the 'Hachimen', is the symbol of Okinawan Karate/Kobudo (depending on the directional placement of the prongs). There's a legend of a great Okinawan warrior who was said to be called 'Hachimen', meaning Eight Heads, because of his impressive ability to fight eight attackers as once as if he could see in all eight directions. This legend is a great read and I highly encourage you to find out hachimen's fate and how this symbol became historically intertwined with him.
CAN THE WORD KARATE BE USED TO DESCRIBE ALL MARTIAL ARTS STYLES?
-No, Karate is a Japanese word that is used to describe only martial arts styles that originate in Okinawa, and mainland Japan.
WHAT ARE SOME OTHER PROMINENT MARTIAL ARTS STYLES AND WHERE DID THEY ORIGINATE?
-Styles from other areas of the globe are not considered karate, these are just a few along with their country of origin:
Kung Fu: China
Tae Kwon Do: Korea
Krav Maga: Israel
WHY IS ISSHINRYU UNIQUE IN THE KARATE WORLD?
-Isshinryu is considered quite a unique traditional karate style in that it utilizes a vertical fist with the thumb placed on top as its primary strike. This type of strike is especially useful in close range combat, which Isshinryu was designed for. There are no twist punches or bone blocks used in Isshinryu, as the Isshinryu practitioner uses a vertical punch and muscle blocks for additional stability. The Isshinryu stance is more shallow and can be described as a more natural 'walking stance' to aid in the delivery of Isshinryu's 'speed-snap' techniques without the burden of dropping into long and unnatural positions.
As you continue your training and reach higher Dan ranks we encourage you to continue learning more deeply about the topics discussed above. This study guide is simply meant to help give you a jumping off point in which to determine what is important and where to begin learning about not only Isshinryu, but karate in general. Remember, it's important to understand the roots and history of your style, AND how it relates to other styles of Karate as well.
~Sensei Jen Davenport