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Tatsuo Shimabuku was born Shinkichi (KANA) Shimabukuro on September 19, 1908 in Chan Village, Okinawa. At an early age he began his study of Karate with his Mother's brother, Ganeku. Ganeku had studied Shorinji (ShorinRyu) in China under two brothers by the names of "Koshi" and "Moshi". Through Koshi and Moshi Ganeku Shimabuku also learned the art of the Sumuchi (fortune telling).  

Tatsuo Shimabuku's  2nd teacher was the famous Okinawa Karateman, Kyan Chotoku. Shimabuku would walk 3-4 miles to Kadena to study with Kyan. He trained under the watchful eye of Kyan for approximately 7 years, learning the Bo (staff) kata "Tokumine Nu Kun" (Staff of Tokumine). From Kyan, Shimabuku learned and incorporated the majority of the empty hand kata found in his Isshin-Ryu system.  

Chotoku Kyan


      Kyan Chotoku was  born in 1870, the son of Kyan Chofu, a high-ranking official in the Okinawan royal court. Chofu was a royal steward, attending to the Okinawan king, Sho Tai, personally. Though by the time of Chotoku s birth in Gibo Village, Shuri, the Okinawan kingdom was already in transition. Although the Satsuma samurai from Kyushu, Japan, had completely subjugated the Ryukyu archipelago in 1609, its monarchy and internal administrative bureaucracy -- including its civil police and royal garrison -- had been allowed to continue as a puppet state. However, even this pretense was abandoned in 1872, when the monarchy was dissolved by a Japanese Government that had itself moved out of the feudal era under Emperor Meiji's leadership in 1868. The now former king and his family were subsequently taken to Japan, where they continued for some time to live an aristocratic life. Accompanying the king were some of his old retainers, including Kyan Chofu, who brought his twelve-year-old son to be educated in Tokyo. However, Chofu's service to the former king ended when Chotoku was sixteen and the Kyan family moved back to Okinawa to a land where much of the gentry class, the people who developed karate, had fallen on hard times -- their feudal largess having ended when Okinawa was made a prefecture of Japan and the kingdom period ended.  

      At the tender age of five he was taught the empty hand art of self-defense from his father Chofu Kyan and his grandfather. Every morning Kyan was required to perform specific exercises by his grandfather, who had a very discerning eye and required nothing else than perfection. Being born in a rich family he was able to devote all of his  time studying the martial arts and was sent to the best Okinawan Karate teachers available.  

      In those days, a Karate Sensei had only three or four Kata therefore Master Kyan went to many teachers in hope of getting a more rounded view of the art. Kyan's father was an official of the King. Because of this Kyan was able to gain instruction from many of the great Teachers in Okinawa. Sokon Matsumura of Shuri was at that time the Karate Teacher of the King. Matsumura taught Master Kyan the Kata, "Seisan and, Gojushiho". Kyan learned the most from Matsumura (Shorin-Ryu teacher of Tomari) including the kata "Chinto". Another great teacher of Tomari was Pechin Maeda.  Kyan studied quite a while under Maeda Sensei and learned the Kata "Wansu". He learned the Kata, "Passai", under Pechin Oyademare  Kokan of Tomari. Pechin was a title, given to someone in employment of the King. The next teacher Kyan studied with was the small 4ft, 10 inches tall Yara of Chatan, a  power packed dynamite of a man. Chatan Yara Sensei  taught Kyan the longest and most beautiful Kata "Kusanku". Some times known as "Yara no Kusanku".  

      After completing his apprenticeship under the six famous Okinawan Shorin-Ryu masters, Kyan started to teach the art at his home. In the 1920's Kyan traveled to mainland Japan to promote the art. On his way back he visited Taiwan on a martial arts exchange tour for Okinawan and Chinese Martial Arts. Having an all around knowledge of  both arts, Kyan invented his own Kata "Ananku". In the late 1920's Kyan moved to the village of Kadena due to personal and financial problems. There he taught a hand full of devoted students who were introduced by friends  and city officials. Food was scarce during WWII and whatever food Master  Kyan obtained, he gave to the children. He felt it was his duty to take care of those who could not take care of themselves. In 1945 at the age of 75 grandmaster Kyan passed away from hunger.