Back to the the Dojo

Manual Of Isshin-Ryu Karate II




Masters Donald Bohan and Glen Webb






The Manual of Isshin-Ryu Karate is designed to serve as an introduction to Isshin-Ryu.  It is not a comprehensive work and is not intended as a final authority.  The manual will acquaint the beginning student with a sound, basic knowledge of Isshin-Ryu, and can serve as an instructional aid for beginning students.












    9.   KATA

    10.  KUMITE











By the twentieth century, Okinawan karate consisted of two major styles, Shuri-te and Naha-te.  Techniques in both styles primarily evolve from the original Okinawan art of "te" and from the Chinese martial arts, which had been introduced to the Okinawans.  Shuri-te emphasizes natural movements utilizing linear steps, speed, and naturally controlled breathing Naha-te emphasizes steady-rooted movements utilizing semi-circular steps and rhythmical breathing with respect to body movements (Sanchin).  However both styles share the common factor of advocating movement from natural stances.


Master Shimabuku was the first man to master both Shuri-te and Naha-te.  As a result of this unique accomplishment, he created Isshin-Ryu, which serves as a combination of what he felt were the best aspects of each style.


Tatsuo Shimabuku began studying Shuri-te as a child when he visited one of his relatives who was an instructor of this style.  As a young man Shimabuku began to study under the legendary Shuri-te (Shorin-Ryu) master Chotoku Kyan.  Within a short time, Shimabuku became Master Kyan's best student and, under Kyan's instruction, learned the katas: Seisan, Naihanchi, Wansu, Kusanku, and Tokumine-no-kin-bo (Isshin-Ryu's first bo kata).


Shimabuku was also fascinated by Naha-te (Goju-Ryu) and began studying under the founder of Goju-Ryu, Master Chojun Miyagi.  Shimabuku also became Master Miyagi's best student, and from him learned the Seiuchin kata and the important Sanchin kata.


Shimabuku studied both Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu under two of the most respected masters on Okinawa.  He later studied under yet another famous Shorin-Ryu master, Choki Motobu.  Motobu was widely known for his fighting prowess, and his instruction greatly improved Shimabuku’s combative skills.  


After his apprenticeship under these three masters, Shimabuku entered special martial arts festival on Okinawa.  His performance of both Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu katas impressed the spectators, and by 1940 he was recognized throughout the Ryukyu Islands as the foremost proponent of Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu. 


By the 1950's Shimabuku began to unite the Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu styles.  In 1954, Isshin-Ryu was officially created and the Mizu-Gami was chosen to be its symbol.  The new style combined the best techniques and principles of Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu.  


In 1955 the 3rd U.  S.  Marine Division was stationed on Okinawa, and the Marine Corps chose Shimabuku to provide instruction to marines on the island.  As a result of this instruction, Isshin-Ryu was to be spread throughout the United States by marines who returned home.  Master Shimabuku’s dream of one style encompassing Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu has been attained as evidenced by the large number of students now practicing his style. 






The traditional patch worn by Isshin-Ryu students was created as the result of a dream in which Master Shimabuku envisioned Mizu-Gami, the god of Isshin-Ryu and the person depicted on the patch.  She represents the calmness a martial artist should display in facing turbulent conditions - symbolized by the churning sea.  Her left hand is open as a sign of peace but her right hand is clenched in a fist indicating her willingness to fight if the need arises.  The dragon, which appears in the upper-right portion of the design, symbolizes the fighting fury displayed by a dragon, as does the half-serpent body of Mizu-Gami.  The ascending dragon also represents good luck.  The three stars symbolize the birth of Isshin-Ryu, with the left star representing Shorin-Ryu (the mother), the right star representing Goju-Ryu (the father), and the middle star representing Isshin-Ryu (the child).  The gray background symbol serenity and implies that karate is to be used only in a defensive manner.  The original shape of the was that of a fist emphasizing the two striking knuckles, recent reproductions of the original patch design has been changed to an oval shape.  





"Never forget that the sole, original purpose of Karate was to kill .  .  .  But it is not karate the Killing Art that has survived.  .  .  It is Karate the Philosophy. 


The ultimate goal of Karate lies not in the defeating of others, but in the perfection of one's spirit.  


Separating man from all other creatures is the power to reason.  Failing to use this gift wisely, man has strayed from the true ways of nature.  Consider the instinctive harmony of the animals.  Do they not rest when they are weary, seek companions when they are lonely, feed when they are hungry?


"All creatures - - -

the low and the high

are one with nature:


If we have the wisdom to learn,

all may teach us their virtues.  


Between the fragile beauty of the

praying mantis

and the fire and passion of

the dragon, there is no discord.  


Between the supple silence of the snake

and the eagle's claws, there is

only harmony.  


As now two elements of nature are in

Conflict, So — when we perceive

the ways of nature, we remove

conflict within ourselves and discover

a harmony of body and mind in accord

with the flow of the universe.  "


It may take half a life time .  .  .  


Through the study of God's Creatures, man attained the knowledge and understanding that is today the beautiful, deadly Art and Gentle Philosophy of Karate. 



The Greatest Enemy — One's Self


1.         Emotion - Anger - Hate – Fear


2.         Desire - By nature man always wants what he does not or cannot have and never has enough of what he can have.  "Enough is as good as a feast"


3.         Power to Reason - The power to rebel against and break the laws of nature. 



The Most Destructive Force – Yielding


Force, no matter how powerful, does not exist until it meets resistance.  If there is no resistance, the force is returned to its source.  Without resistance, there can be no force. 

The power of Karate lies not in physical technique but in the philosophy of the technique.  

Example: (Yield and Conquer)

A huge oak tree, tall and rigid in the face of the storm is uprooted .  .  .  destroyed by its own tremendous effort to resist.  How is it that the fragile willow has survived?  Does it not yield to the fierceness of the storm?  Yet in yielding it becomes in destructive.  

The source of strength is wisdom, not physical technique, for the hand is only a tool and can accomplish no more than that which is perceived by the mind. 


Yin and Yang- Soft and Hard


Karate is a Way of Life, a philosophy that cannot be left behind in the Dojo.  It cannot be turned off and on like a switch or put on like a Gi.  It must become a permanent part of one's personality.  In Karate the principle of Yin and Yang represents the two extremes of that personality.  

Yin - a calm, humble benevolence toward all creation

Yang - the fighting fury of a dragon

Cannot the calm sea become a tidal wave?  Is not the gentle touch of a summer breeze the breath of a hurricane?  What is more yielding than water, but can it not destroy all things?





1.              All movements are based on rapid and natural reactions. 

2.          The goal of each technique is to strike with maximum power but using minimum effort. 

3.          Yin and Yang: the body remains relaxed until contact is made.  At that point, it becomes hard. 

4.            Offense and defense is based upon angular movements. 

5.         The use of the vertical punch with the thumb positioned on top of the fist. 

6.         Equal balance and mobility should be maintained in all directions. 

7.         Offensive and defensive techniques should be executed with the naturally hardened or padded portions of the

            body, respectively. 

8.         "Sanchin" should be practiced regularly as it aids one in meditation, breath control, and body tension.  "

9.         All movement centers around a point located three inches below the navel. 

10.       The triggering mechanism for all movements is proper breathing. 

11.       Offensive movements utilize outward gripping stances while defensive movements utilize inward gripping stances.



I.          Closed-hand strikes:

1.         Straight punch                          (Choku-zuki)

2.         Twist punch                             (Seiken)

3.          Roundhouse punch                   (Mawashi-zuki)

4.          Hook punch                             (Kake-zuki)

5.         Back-hand punch                     (Uraken)

6.         Bridge-of-nose punch              (Ura-uchi-kcn)

7.         Uppercut                                 (Age-zuki)

8.            Hammer-smash                        (Tettsui)

9.           Straight punch using single knuckle        (Ippon-ken)

10.       Straight punch using middle knuckle      (Nakadaka-ippon-ken)


II.      Opened-hand strikes:

1.         Knife-hand                               (Shuto)

2.         Ridge-hand                               (Haito-uchi)

3.         Spear-hand                              (Nukite)

4.         Spear-hand using single finger   (Ippon-nukite)

5.         Spear-hand using two fingers    (Nihon-nukite)

6.         Sword-peak                             (Shikyo)

7.         Palm-heel strike                        (Teisho-ate)


III.    Arm strikes:

1.         Forearm strike

2.         Forward elbow strike               (Mawashi-hiji-ate)

3.         Rear elbow strike                     (Ushiro-hiji-ate)

4.         Downward elbow strike            (Otoshi-hiji-ate)

5.         Side elbow strike                      (Yoko-hiji-ate)

6.         Upward elbow strike                (Mae-hiji-ate)


IV.  Blocks:

1.         Side block                                (Yoko-like)

2.         Cross block                              (Uchi-uke)

3.         Open-side block                       (Shuto-uke)

4.         Head block                               (Age-uke)

5.         Palm-heel block                        (Teisho-uke)

6.         X block                                    (Juji-uke)

7.         Leg block                                 (Lower block - Haraiotoshi-uke)

8.         Elbow block                             (Hiji-uke)

9.         Open-arc sweep                       (Kake-uke)

10.       Wrist block                               (Ura-uke)


V.  Kicks:

1.         Straight kick                              (Mae-geri)

2.         Forward-on-angle kick              (Kansetsu-geri)

3.         Roundhouse kick                       (Mawashi-geri)

4.         Cross kick                                 (Kekomi)

5.         Crescent kick                            (Hangetsu-barai-geri)

6.         Heel-push kick                          (Fukubu-geri)

7.         Side kick                                   (Yoko-geri)

8.         Knee kick                                 (Hiza-ate)




"Kata" refers to formal exercises or forms of systematically organized techniques performed in a prearranged sequence.  The techniques used en-compass most of those taught to the karate-ka.  

More than fifty katas have been handed down to the present.  These katas were created by famous karate masters, and involve relatively simple and extremely complex movements.  The movements vary from those emphasizing agility to those emphasizing muscular and breath control.  The general purpose of any kata is twofold: l) it trains the student in combative techniques, and 2) through continuous practice, it aids in developing a better mind-body relationship.  

In Isshin-Ryu karate, fourteen katas are currently taught.  Eight of these are referred to as hand-and-foot katas, and the remaining six: are weapons katas using traditional Okinawan weapons.  Originally there were more katas than the fourteen presently taught, but most of these were Pinan katas (beginning forms), which were replaced with the "charts" by Master Shimabuku.  Thus, the katas currently taught are all "black belt" katas, and as such are among the most difficult to perform.  The following list provides the names of Isshin-Ryu katas followed by general information on each:


I.  Hand-and-foot kata:

1. Seisan

A beginning kata of unknown origin, the Shorin-Ryu Seisan kata teaches excellent basic stances.  Master Shimabuku was one of those few masters who continued to teach Seisan as a beginning form.  


2: Seiuchin

It is slightly more advanced than Seisan, and was developed by Master Chojun Miyagi.  The name means "calmness in the eye of the storm.  " It contains no kicks, and serves as a prime example of Goju-Ryu.  The Seiuchin stance is also referred to as the "horse stance.  "


3. Naihanchi

The major-contribution of this Shorin-Ryu kata lies in the training and building up of the lower body (waist and legs).  The Naihanchi stance is also known as the "iron-horse stance" because the feet are planted to the ground making this one of the most important katas in Isshin-Ryu. 


4. Wansu

According-to legend, this kata was brought to Okinawa in 1683 by Wansu, a Chinese envoy, and later refined by Okinawan karate masters.  This Shorin-Ryu kata is known for its hidden punch, but in Isshin-Ryu it is sometimes known as the "dumping form" because of the throw it contains. 


5. Chinto

Although the history of this kata is vague, legend maintains that Chinto, a shipwrecked Chinese sailor, brought it to Okinawa.  It provides training against opponents on a narrow path, and comes from Shorin-Ryu having been a favorite of Master Kyan Chotoku. 


6. Kusanku – 

A Chinese karate master, Kusanku, brought this kata to Okinawa in 1761.  It trains one to fight at night, and comes from Shorin-Ryu also.  


7. Sunsu –

This kata was created by Master Shimabuku, and is named after him.  Sunsu (meaning strong man) was his nickname.  The kata provides some of the most advanced training received from any kata, and incorporates what Master Shimabuku considered some of the best combative moves known. 


8. Sanchin

Although this kata was taken from Goju-Ryu, its principle is the basis of all martial arts.  It is a meditative exercise designed to train one in muscle and breath control, and thereby enhance the mind-body relationship.  Undoubtedly, it is the most difficult kata to master requiring many years of diligent practice. 


II.  Weapon kata:

1.  Kusanku Sia

2.  Chatan Yara No Saya

3.  Tokumine No Kin

4.  Urasoe Bo

5.  Shue Yoshi No Kun

6.  No chie fa  


The katas mentioned above involve the use of one of three traditional Okinawan weapons.  These katas are taught to "black belts" only, and more information on them will be given at that time.   

In summation, katas are designed to provide combative training and to aid the student in the development of a harmonious mind-body relation-ship (mind and body acting as "one").  In studying katas, the student should progress through three stages: l) learn the moves of each kata with the interpretations of each move, 2) determine the proper breathing in each kata, and 3) include "Sanchin" in the performance of each.  Progression through the three stages requires many hours of training.  The hours of repetitions movement should eventually enhance combative skills and become moving meditation rather than mere exercise. 




Kumite (Sparring) is a method of practicing various techniques, which a student learns against a moving opponent.  The practice of kumite aids in the development of correct form, the sharpening of one's offensive and defensive skills, and the practice of body shifting, distancing, timing, and responding. 

Types of kumite:


Basic kumite – 

This type consists of one, two, and three-step movements.  Two students begin facing each other in a ready position.  The attacker then moves one, two, or three steps forward while throwing offensive techniques; and the defender responds by moving backward the same number of steps while defending against the attacker's blows.  As the attacker's last technique is delivered, the defender responds with a counter-attack.  This type of kumite may involve either pre-arranged movements or free movements.  Although variations of this form of kumite appear, all are based upon the mentioned format.   


Free kumite 

a) Light-free kumite - This type of kumite is normally conducted in a ring, and consists of two fighters moving freely while trying to score the most number of points against his opponent. 

A point is scored when one fighter throws a controlled technique to one of his opponent's target areas.  These areas usually include the head, mask of the face, chest, and sides of the rib cage, spine, kidneys and groin. 

b) Full-contact kumite - This type is essentially the same as light-free kumite except that the participants wear protective equipment on both the feet and hands.  Thus, full contact is permitted through the use of such equipment.  


Both basic and free kumite enhance the karate-ka's training.  Basic kumite allows the student to respond to an assailant, and is unique in that it permits the practice of combative techniques, which are too dangerous to use during free kumite.  Free kumite consists of a free exchange of blows, blocks, and counter-attacks.  By its nature, it involves earnest sparring and thereby contains elements of competition and uncertainty. 






The translation of the word "Karate" is empty or open hand — and, strictly speaking, any use of any weapon other than your empty hand would not be Karate.  


However, any serious student of Karate must know that in the ancient days a Karate-Ka was a warrior, and as a warrior, was well versed in the use of many of the normal weapons of that day: swords, spears, bow and arrow, and many other such weapons. 


As times changed, as they always do, Okinawa, the center of the Karate world, was conquered and subjugated by the warlords of Japan.  In spite of the fact that Okinawa was occupied by superior forces, small bands of patriots continued to fight for their freedom.  


So successful and intense were these continuing strikes against their oppressor, many new and very strict laws were made against anyone that even possessed a weapon.  


All the known weapons, such as swords, spears, etc.  , were outlawed.  Even the owner of a sharp piece of metal.  could be beheaded,

Thus was born the real reason for Karate.  The use of the hands and feet instead of regular weapons was perfected,

A natural addition to this growth was the development and use of a variety of simple, innocent looking weapons.  These weapons were often slightly changed farm tools. 


Even in those days, one would not take a second look at a little old peasant walking along with a simple wooden waking staff.  One would never suspect that this same person could have been, and often was, a highly skilled master of Bo Jitsu, or use of the Bo- - - the fighting staff.  


Such weapons as the Bo, Tonfa and the Nunchaku, were the first to be developed.  Simple to make and extremely inexpensive, these weapons were used with such skill, their users were often able to defeat and kill the more sophisticated warriors with conventional weapons of the day


Master Shimabuku was himself a master of the Bo and Sia, so it is with his blessing that the students of Isshin-Ryu study and practice the use of these ancient weapons.  


All students of Karate will find that the study and practice with these weapons will aid them in their understanding of the history of the Martial Arts, as well as to improve them in their own skills of physical dexterity, muscle-memory, balance, timing and focus.  


Formerly, these weapons were studied and practiced for their historic interest.  But, in recent years they have been much publicized in many movies and TV Series.  


It is our hope that those that do take up the study of these weapons do so with the proper respect that their history deserves, and that if they are used at all, they will be used as they were intended - - - as a means of self-defense. 


















1.  The person's heart is same as heaven and earth. 

     The earth is limited while heaven knows no limits.  Man has characteristics of both as evidenced by the fact he is both the strongest and weakest  being in the universe.


2.  The blood circulating is almost same as the moon and sun. 

    A person should always remain in motion, circulate.  As a result in facing an obstacle he will bend but never break.


3.  The manner of drinking and spitting is either hard or soft.

    In reference to combative techniques, if one becomes angry (hard his balance is destroyed, but if one remains calm (soft) balance is maintained.


4.  A person's unbalance is the sane as a weight.  

    Anytime one is unbalanced, that serves as an additional obstacle, which must be overcome.


5.  The body should be able to change motion at any time. 

    The body should merely respond to events instead of allowing the mind to anticipate or attempt to "out guess" events.


6.  Action to hit is when the opportunity presents itself.

    Always examine your opponent and attempt to locate his weakness.  After finding his weakness, attack that point.


7.  The eye must see every way. 


8.  The ear must listen in all directions. 

    Refer to Kusanku kata. 




One of the beautiful things about the Martial Arts in general, is that in the midst of all the apparent violence there is an air of constraint.  In the midst of all the effort there is an air of peacefulness and control.  It is a condition most unique in the entire sports world.  It is the embodiment of courtesy and respect.


A visitor to a class in the Martial Arts, be it Judo, Karate, or whatever, is always a little surprised at all the bowing and kneeling that he sees.  To us Non-Orientals, to bow to someone else is, at first, something that we just don't want to do.  We soon learn that this is in no way humbling yourself; rather it is a method of salutation much like our western handshake.  The custom of bowing before stepping onto the mat or work out area should become as much a habit as saying "good morning" to a friend. 


Before a practice session between two students, it is a sign of mutual consent, a mutual agreement that they are going to practice hard and vigorously, but with the understanding they will not actually harm one another.  The bow indicates that you respect your partner; you respect his physical being, his efforts and his skill.  What is so odd about that?  Nearly all religions teach that the body is the temple of the soul.


When the class begins, all the students bow to the Sensei in respect for his long years of learning and striving at self-improvement.  The instructor bows indicating his understanding that they come to learn, his knowledge of the long road ahead, and the memory of the many long hours that he too spent as a student.  He respects their desire to learn --- in the Martial Arts no one starts at the top. 


In a proper Dojo, courtesy and respect is always a two-way street.  It is as important for the higher ranks to have respect and consideration for the beginner as it is for the beginners to admire those with more skill than themselves. 

The duties of courtesy weigh more heavily on the higher ranks for they must be ready at all times to explain any technique, or explain any move or kata to the smallest detail. 


Respect from the lower ranks upward is a little more natural because the student knows instantly that the higher ranked students know more than they do.  They will try to copy the style and skills of those more advanced than themselves.  Therefore, it is of great importance that all advanced Karate-Ka set nothing but the finest of examples in and out of the Dojo.

Occasionally, a bully will join a class.  They usually feel that they can bluster their way through and earn in a short time, that which takes much time to obtain.  They soon learn that many of the techniques are almost delicate in execution, sheer power only frustrates them.  These types are dealt with in the proper manner.  By example.  The worst bullies, after a proper enlightenment, most often become terrific Karate-Ka and are the first to correct the next offender that joins a class.  I have never seen a bad character that started in Karate, if he stayed with it, that did not change, as if by a miracle, to a much finer person.


The Formal Bow is used before and after all classes.  It is used before ceremonies, formal tests, etc.  , before and after each match in a contest and at the presentation of the awards.  And when someday you meet a very high-ranking visitor from a foreign land and he bows to you - - - then you’ll know what it is all about. 


15 Basic Exercises

1.  Left foot step - Right hand punch

2.  Left foot step - Left hand chest block

3.  Left foot step- Left hand chest block - Right hand punch

4.  Left foot step - Left hand leg block

5.  Left foot step - Left hand leg block - Right hand punch

6.  Left foot step - Left hand leg block - 5 punches

7.  Left foot step - Left hand chest block - 5 punches

8.  Left foot stop - Left hand chest block - Right hand head chop

9.  Left foot step - Left hand chest block - Right hand upper cut

10.  Left foot step - Left hand open block and grab - "right hand upper cut

11.  Left foot step - Left hand high block - Right foot step - Right punch

12.  Left foot step - Right down block - Right foot step - Left hand chest block - two punches

13.  Left foot back step - T-stance - Left elbow strike - Fight clearing (Bear hug)

14.  Left foot back step - Left hand rising punch - Right hand rising punch

15.  Left foot step - Left hand bridge of the nose - Right hand punch

Alt exercise is done from the basic stance called Seisan. 


Bo                   (long staff

Dachi               (stance

Dan                 (rank of black belt

Dojo                (gym or workout area

Gi                    (karate uniform

Hajime             (begin)  

Ippon               (one point

Jiyu kumite       (kumite - free style

Karate             (empty hand

Karate-ka        (a student of karate

Kata                (formal exercises

Ki or chi          (body energy

Kiai                 (loud yell

Kime               (focus

Kumite            (sparring

Kyu                 (rank below black belt

Makiwari         (punching board

Sia                   (a type of Oriental sword)


 Copyright © 2005 Wayland's Isshin-Ryu Karate-Do, LLC



Back to the Dojo