Tatsuo Shimabuku was born in Kyan [Chan] village, Okinawa, on September 19, 1908. He was the first of ten children born into a farming family. By the age of 12, he had a strong desire to study martial arts. He walked to the nearby village of Shuri, a distance of 12 miles, to the home of his uncle, Shinko Ganiku, a fortuneteller. Shinkichi primarily learned to be a fortuneteller from his uncle, but also studied the rudiments of the karate that his uncle had learned while in China.

By the time he was 17, he was consistently winning in two of his favorite events, the javelin throw and high jump. Around the age of 23, because of Shimabuku's desire to further his knowledge, he began to study Shuri-te, which later became known as Shorin-ryu (Shao-lin Style) under Chotoku Kyan in the village of Kadena. He began his training with Kyan in 1932. Kyan taught Shimabuku at his home. Kyan also taught at the Okinawa Prefectural Agricultural School. Within a short time, he became one of Kyan's best students and, under Kyan's instruction, learned the kata: Seisan, Naihanchi, Wansu, Chinto and Kusanku along with the weapons kata Tokumine-no-kun and basic Sai. He also began his study of "Ki" (or "Chinkuchi" in Okinawan dialect) for which Kyan was most noted. Shimabuku studied with Kyan until 1936. He always considered Kyan his first formal Sensei and was very loyal to him.

Shimabuku opened his first dojo 1946 in the village of Konbu, near Tengan village.

Creation Year:

It was during the late 1940s that Shimabuku began experimenting with different basic techniques and Kata from the Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu systems as well as Kobudo. ” Chan migwa-te was the style taught until he renamed his style "Isshin-ryu" on January 15, 1956.

By the early 1950s Shimabuku was refining his karate teaching combining what he felt was the best of the Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu styles, the weapons forms he had studied, and incorporating his own techniques. As his experimentation continued, his adaptation of techniques and kata were not widely publicized. He consulted with several of the masters on Okinawa concerning his wish to develop a new style. Because he was highly respected as a karate Master, he received their blessings. (These would later be rescinded due to the many radical changes made in traditional Okinawan karate).

One night in 1955, Mr. Shimabuku fell asleep and dreamed of a goddess; Isshinryu no Megami (Goddess of Isshinryu). Three Stars appeared symbolizing the three styles Isshin-ryu derived from, Goju-Ryu, Shorin-Ryu, and Kobudo. The stars can also represent the Physical, Mental, and Spiritual strength needed for Isshin-ryu. The gray evening sky symbolized serenity and implies that karate is to be used only for self-defense.

he new system was not initially given a name, and in fact, went through 2 name modifications before Isshin-ryu was finally adopted. However, the official start of Isshinryu karate is January 15, 1956. The Isshin-ryu Megami was drawn from Shimabuku’s description by Shosu Nakamine, Eiko Kaneshi’s uncle, and was chosen to be the symbol for Isshin-ryu karate.

During his karate career, Shimabuku changed his name to “Tatsuo,” meaning “Dragon Man.”