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"Grandmaster Kichiro Shimabuku ,10th Dan, Isshin-Ryu Karate-Do"
As many of you already know, Grandmaster Kichiro Shimabuku is the eldest son of Isshinryu Karate founder Grandmaster Tatsuo Shimabuku and heads the largest Isshinryu Karate organization in the world, the “Isshinryu World Karate Association” (I.W.K.A.).
I would like to personally thank Sensei Heidi Gauntner and Hanshi Bill Duessell for their assistance in arranging the interview. I would also like to give a special thanks to Mr. Joe Agius for his assistance in translating the responses.
A very special thank you to Grandmaster Kichiro Shimabuku for granting me this exclusive interview for the benefit of all Isshinryu Karate-ka worldwide. He was a gentleman and was very gracious with his time while visiting the U.S. in 2005.
Q3. What are your personal goals for 2005?
A3. "This June 24th in Ohio , I will be having a seminar. This gathering will bring together teachers and Isshinryu members from all around the world to strength relationships while having a wonderful time. Additionally, with the hard work and support of not only Heidi Gauntner sensei but also many other instructors, I hope to make the 2005 IWKA World Championship Tournament a complete success."
(Grandmaster Kichiro Shimabuku - seminar at the 2005 IWKA World Championship Tournament )
Q4. Are you surprised by the growth Isshinryu has seen in the last 10 years?
A4. "Thanks to everyone’s hard work, we have successfully been able to have the World Championship Tournament 6 times. Additionally, each year we’ve seen the karate population grow and individual’s techniques become more advanced. Advanced to the point of my utter surprise and delight. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am for the future of our art. We are most proud of the international growth in Isshinryu worldwide. I can’t thank our teachers and students enough for their dedication and hard work."
Q5. What is your personal philosophy of Isshinryu?
A5. "Since I was a small child learning from my father, Tatsuo, around 60 years have passed. My father possessed great vision, incredible physical strength, deep focus, and the drive to practice often. As a result of his blood, sweat and tears, his effort lead him to form many theories about martial arts that in turn guided him in the development of his own kata and superior techniques. My father took the most practical techniques from Master Chotoku Kyan and Master Chojun Miyagi and added his own unique techniques to create and announce to the world the style of Isshinryu karate. At that point he became the first head of Isshinryu karate. My father also was often considered to be a modernist, warrior and expert in martial arts. His humility, kindness, gentle nature led all that knew him to love him. I pale in comparison to his significance, but always strive to continue his legacy and wish to always do my best to popularize and grow Isshinryu throughout the world. I wish that to be my single devotion."
Q6. How does Isshinryu in the United States differ from say Europe and Okinawa?
A6. "Isshinryu in the US seems to have changed a little when compared with Okinawa. Even considering the slight change, seeing everyone study so hard and learn Okinawan karate gives me such a sense of hope for the future."
Q7. Do you get to see your uncle Eio Shimabuku? If so, how is his health?
A7. "My uncle is doing very well."
Q8. What does your training regimen consist of? How often do you train?
A8. "Since 1969, almost every day except for Saturday and Sunday, I try to strength train and build my endurance. After running or walking, considering my speed and energy level, I practice all the basics, which takes around one hour."
Q9. Do you feel your father’s intent for Isshinryu has been expressed? If not, how would you remedy that?
A9. "My father’s intent for Isshinryu has been and continues to be expressed properly throughout the world for many years. I’m extremely grateful that Isshinryu’s roots are strong and its popularity continues to grow."
Q10. What if anything would you like to see different in Isshinryu worldwide?
A10. "If karate ever fully integrates with the Olympic games my dream would be to train the best in Isshinryu to become the top fighters in the world. I would devote myself and give every spare moment to this endeavor."
Q11. Do you see your brother Shinso? How is he and does he still train?
A11. "He is also doing very well."
Q12. What are your views in regard to the meaning of kata?
A12. "In karate the basics are the most important facet. Sharp basic techniques will lead to strong kata that will in turn lead to strong application in fighting. Without each building and developing on the next a learner will never fight properly."
Q13. What are your recollections of your father’s training?
A13. "There are so many aspects that I remember about my father’s training but let me just touch on a few aspects. When I was in Jr. high School, my father would work on strengthening his hands to be like iron. My father would take a thick 18cm long nail and with his hands, penetrate a 10cm-squared block of wood. This never seen before feat made such a shocking impression on me. Everyday, he would train himself by using his hand in the “shutou” (like making one’s hand into a sword) position and striking down on support beams in the house like a hammer. Training over the years though the blood and torn flesh eventually hardened and darkened his hand to the point where they did not even seem like human hands any longer. The images of watching him push the limits of his physical ability are permanently burned in my brain."
Q14. What was your father’s favorite weapon? What is your favorite weapon?
A14. "My father’s favorite weapons were the Sai and Bo. He frequently performed Sunsu kata in addition to Sai and Bo kata. I really enjoyed watching his performance. I too like my father enjoy Sunsu kata along with both the Sai and Bo kata."
Q15. What was your father’s thought on training larger Americans?
A15. "When my father was in good health he used to say that size didn’t matter in training. What matters more than anything else is good technique."
Q16. What are your thoughts on training larger Americans?
A16. "I too like my father believe that size does not matter in training. The most important thing is to lead by example and use good techniques when teaching."
Q17. How is your mother and how is her health?
A17. "My mother is also doing very well."
Q18. What is your favorite kata? Why?
A18. "I like all of the kata but Sunsu is made up of the most excellent techniques and is rich in variation. Moreover, the varied and difficult techniques of Sunsu intertwine extremely well, which is why I enjoy it as much as I do."
(Grandmaster Kichiro Shimabuku performing Sanchin Kata at the 2005 IWKA World Championship Tournament )
Q19. Do you have any interaction with the other systems of Karate on Okinawa?
A19. "Yes, the varied systems of karate in Okinawa work with each other and strive to learn from one another."
Q20. Do you have any hobbies? If so, what are they?
A20. "I enjoy travel, sports and reading."
Q21. Besides teaching Karate, do you have another occupation?
A21. "I own a small building."
Q22. Which of the Americans have you trained with the most?
A22. "Bill Duessell. In the United States I train and teach with Bill Duessel Sensei and many other teachers and students to cultivate and deepen the bonds that unite us all."
Q23. Many of the American Isshinryu dojo’s are now teaching Hama Higa No Tuifa, and Kyan No Sai. Do you endorse them as Isshinryu Kobudo katas?
A23. "Yes, of course I am teaching tuifa and sai as part of Isshinryu’s Kobudo katas."
Q24. What is your opinion of makiwara training?
A24. "From long ago, the people who were superior at the basics and kata used to train themselves doing makiwara training. I believe it is a great addition to one’s training routine."
Q25. Tell us what to expect from a regular class at your dojo.
A25. "I want my students to always focus on their training goals and to become strong karate practitioners."
(Grandmaster Kichiro Shimabuku teaching class at Sensei Heidi Gauntner dojo 2005)
Q26. Besides the Bo, Sai, and Tuifa, do you train with any other weapons?
A26. "Bo, Sai, and Tuifa are enough for one’s training."
Q27. Do you recollect your father training with any other weapons other than the aforementioned weapons?
A27. "I don’t remember any other weapons."
Q28. Do you use the Internet? If so, are there any websites that you recommend?
A28. "I do use the Internet, but I don’t have any recommendations."
Q29. Are there any other questions or statements that you would like to make or add?
A29. "Nothing especially."
Q30. How old were you when you started learning Isshinryu from your father?
A30. "After the war, in 1945, I started to learn Karate from my father, Tatsuo Shimabuku, at my family’s home at that time, 752 Kiyan, Gushikawa City."
Q31. Did you grow up in the dojo?
A31. "Not only did I grow up in the dojo, but also the dojo itself grew up with me. Before the war the typical student was a young man from our community. After the war, civilians in addition to military stationed in the area flocked into our classes. Due to the enormous demand to learn karate, my father had to move us all to a large facility in Agena Town. We worked mostly with the Navy, Army, and Air Force stationed in the area and taught at a local military gym. After my father’s death in 1975, our headquarters’ president changed the organization from the AOKA (American Okinawa Karate Association) over to the IWKA (Isshinryu World Karate Association). Since the very first IWKA World Championship in New York on April 16, 1976, every two years’ subsequent tournament has grown bigger and better than in previous years. I’m really proud of the journey we have traveled over these past years and cannot wait to be amazed by success of the 30th anniversary tournament in 2007. Today as I continue to grow in the dojo, the IWKA too has grown to more than 700 IWKA branches throughout the world."
Q32. Did your dad teach you alone (private lessons) or did you learn with the US military?
A32. "From a very early age my father, Tatsuo, was very strict when teaching me karate. His interpretation of the meaning of karate was extremely profound. When he was growing up as a martial artist his life was very hard, which made him not only exceptionally strong, but also almost legendary in his ability. To this day, I take my responsibility very seriously and do my best to continue my father’s passion in order to inspire and grow Isshinryu throughout the world."
Q33. How often do you train in karate now? Every day?
A33. "I have been trying to strengthen my body on a regular basis since 1969. I work out every day but Sunday. My regular routine is to jog and power walk for an hour each day in order to increase my stamina. Then, of course, I practice Isshinryu Monday through Friday especially basics, speed, and increased power. My plan is to continue this routine for the rest of my life."
Q34. How many children do you have? How old are they? What are their names?
A34. "There are six people in my family, my mother Uto, who is 98 years of age, my wife, Yoshiko, my eldest daughter Mitsue, my son Tesuji, my younger daughter, Yukimi, and myself."
Q35. Do you have any children that train in Isshinryu with you? If yes, what rank (kyu/dan) are they?
A35. "My son has been training with me since he was little. In the 42nd tournament in Japan, Tesuji performed superbly and was awarded a certificate by the old karate organization. In both his work and in karate Tesuji devotes 110% of his effort to excel at whatever task he puts his mind to. I’m extremely proud of him. "
Q36. Is there something you would like to say to the Isshinryu karate-ka of the world?
A36. "Since 1976 leading up to 2006 we in the IWKA have been creating not only a tradition by meeting every other year but true history together. My dream would be for everyone to gather at the next World Championship and compete to the best of their ability with the goal to become the best in the world. I truly want to convey to all the Isshinryu Sensei throughout the world my deepest gratitude for your dedication, hard work and inspiration to your students. My hope is for each of you to continue your passion and dedication toward the growth of Isshinryu throughout the world. I honestly feel that the IWKA is following in the true and traditional teachings of my father, Tatsuo Shimabuku. Furthermore, I feel that other organizations outside the teachings of the IWKA have become fake and hinder or block the growth of Isshinryu karate. My dream is for us all to come together under one organized federation to grow the art to heights never realized before. "
(Trophy from the 2005 IWKA World Championship Tournament )