Classical Fighting Arts on Isshin-Ryu

Discussion in 'Karate' started by Bill Mattocks, Oct 12, 2012.

  1. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    Anyone happen to read this article? It is entitled "Isshin Ryu Karate: A Riddle Wrapped in An Enigma," Classical Fighting Arts #23. I have read it, but will withhold my comments until/unless someone would like to discuss it.
     
  2. Makalakumu

    Makalakumu Gonzo Karate Apocalypse

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    Is there a link?
     
  3. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    There is a link to the magazine, but the story is not online.

    http://www.dragon-tsunami.org/Cfa/Pages/cfahome.htm

    Basically, the article makes several points, many of which could be seen by some Isshin-Ryu karateka as insulting or downright slanderous.

    1) Tatsuo Shimabuku did not train with the masters he claimed to have trained with, but rather learned a few kata here and there and made up stories about how he learned them.
    2) Isshin-Ryu is essentially dead on Okinawa.
    3) The Isshin-Ryu taught today in the USA is not much like the Isshin-Ryu Tatsuo Shimabuku taught.
    4) The style is effective anyway, even if the founder was a fraud and a liar.

    There are some sub-topics the author addressed, but I think those are the highlights.
     
  4. K-man

    K-man Grandmaster

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    I looked up as much as I could and obviously couldn't find much but if you read the 'history' of Isshin Ryu on different sites then there are a couple of interesting questions that arise. Main one is the claim about Shimabuku: "Throughout Okinawa, he was recognized as the island's leading practitioner of both Shorin-ryu and Goju-ryu Karate." Obviously that is not true of Goju Ryu as he is not mentioned in Goju history at all and the leading Goju practitioners of the time were guys like Miyazato, Yagi, and Higa Senseis. His avoidance of military service is also interesting, and the fact that his business had failed also paints a picture of opportunity to use his martial art skills to provide an income.

    Reading different accounts would indicate that he, like many others, set up his own style and prompted it with flair.

    That doesn't make it any less valid than, for example, the Goju Kai system that Yamaguchi set up, about the same time, with dubious claims and great promotion. History and common sense show many of his claims to be most unlikely yet his system has flourished, and no one would say it was not a true karate system.

    i would like to read the whole article. :asian:
     
  5. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    I have to agree with you there! I had never heard that particular claim being made before you mentioned it, and I Googled it and yep, several sites make the claim. Not in my lineage, though. And honestly, I do not know where they came up with that.

    I'm sure that's true. However, there is a difference between creating one's own style and claiming to have been trained by X in this style and Y in that style if one is lying. That's not promotion, that's lying. The article claims that Shimabuku Soke did not train with the people he claimed as teachers, or that if he did, it was for a very short period of time; months, not years.

    I have never heard of Goju Kai, so I cannot say. And yes, I think you would have to read the article to understand why I created this thread. It's a very serious attack on all of Isshin-Ryu; it basically claims that our founder is a complete fraud and liar. If true, then Isshin-Ryu is a laughingstock. If not, then this is some serious slander we're talking about here. It's not a basic statement about "Well, like all founders, Shimabuku promoted his style through puffery." No, this is more "Shimabuku claimed to train with Master X, Y, and Z. He lied." It's that serious.
     
  6. Makalakumu

    Makalakumu Gonzo Karate Apocalypse

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    This might be a more common story than we'd like to think. Think about all of the people who run martial arts schools now that aren't really qualified. Can we expect anything different back then? Why would humans not behave like they do now?
     
  7. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    I would suppose (although of course I cannot prove) that a person such as Tatsuo Shimabuku, who was attempting to get his style recognized by Okinawan authorities, would have been called out as a liar if he said to them that he had been trained by thus and so, and thus and so were present. Okinawa is a very small place, and at that time, there were very few recognized styles, as I understand it. This was a place and time where your reputation was everything, and it would be very bad for a person who claim he trained with X, and X stands up and say "Oh, no you did not." It would have been so disastrous, personally and professionally, that I seriously doubt any karate master of the time would even consider such a thing.

    I certainly agree that faking credentials is such a common occurrence nowadays that it's rare to find an instructor who has not padded their resume or claimed teachers, degrees, and honors to which they are not entitled.
     
  8. kempodisciple

    kempodisciple Senior Master

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    Well, I have not read the article as well, but I highly doubt Shimabulu is a 'fraud' in that sense. One of my senseis, who spent 25 years studying in okinawan arts, talked very highly of him, and also mentioned that one of the reasons he created isshin ryu was because he was recognized as great, and was asked to by multiple people. Don't know the validity past my own sensei's research (which I trust), but my belief that if the article is as slanderous as you say, it was probably not well researched, and should not have been published.
    2 things why logically it wouldn't make sense as well:1. as you said, Okinawa was a small place, people would call BS if he lied about his credibility, and his system would not go far. 2. If he hadn't trained with those people, how was he able to create such a good system. i don't train in it, but I've been to some isshin ryu classes, and it definitely seems like the people there know what they're talking about. He must have either learned from good people (and no reason to lie about which 'good people' they were) or made up random stuff and it somehow magically all worked out. Which is more likely...hmmm...
     
  9. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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  10. elder999

    elder999 El Oso de Dios!

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  11. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    The piece is unsigned. From what I am hearing, it was written by the publisher of Classical Fighting Arts magazine, and I have never heard that they had an agenda against any style of martial arts at all. The person heavily quoted in the piece is Andy Sloan, a 5th Dan belt holder in Isshin-Ryu, and a student of a 1st-generation Isshin-Ryu student of Tatsuo Shimabuku. He's also the person quoted in the page I just linked to, claiming he was not quoted correctly in the article and that he did not know it was essentially going to be a 'hit piece' on Isshin-Ryu.

    Some of the points made in the article are no doubt true, such as the fact that Isshin-Ryu is fractured, and there are many differences within the styles in the USA (not major ones, but they are there), and I am being told that it is also true that Isshin-Ryu is not being extensively taught on Okinawa at this time. The rest, I have no idea, but it really seems unlikely to me.
     
  12. harlan

    harlan 2nd Black Belt

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    Sometimes, controversy is good. Helps to bring out the things people only whispered about. :)

    I can't weigh in on the facts but would like to add, my teachers studied on Okinawa and found it frustrating that the Okinawans KNEW who was embellishing and didn't talk about it or address it. At one point one of them enquired 'why' and the reply was 'They have to feed their families too.'

    Whatever the 'truth', those people are dead, and what matters is what we do with what we have now.
     
  13. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    That's a fact, thanks!
     
  14. Dirty Dog

    Dirty Dog MT Senior Moderator Staff Member

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    I have no knowledge (and therefore no opinion) on the article. But I will say this:
    Unsigned articles have zero credibility. If you're not willing to sign it (be it a magazine article, a forum post here, or even rep) it's meaningless.
     
  15. kempodisciple

    kempodisciple Senior Master

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    Definitely true! I mainly ignore the article if it's unsigned, most of the time, its just someone instigating things
     
  16. arnisador

    arnisador Sr. Grandmaster

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    CFA has always been very Uechi-focused but I hadn't noticed a bias against Isshin at any point.
     
  17. scottie

    scottie Green Belt

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    I think history and lineage is very important and am very proud of mine. When news of the article hit all 5 of the facebook Isshinryu forums I'm apart of, I was tempted to be angry. The truth is I have seen Mr. Sloan's Performance of kata. (including weapon kata that some lineages refuse as Isshinryu kata). IT IS SOLID AS I HAVE SEEN.
    I love Isshinryu, I love the people I train with and under, I love our association (Mr. Mattox). The truth is that as much as all of that matters. In a self defense situation the only thing that matters is, does the knowledge my lineage past down to me work? Master Long, Armstrong, Nagle, Mitchum, or....... won't be there in person to fight that battle for me. So I can only hope the line to me, prepared me, for what's presently in front of me. In my job I can say that so far for the most part it has. All the charts and lineage trees do nothing more than make me feel good about me, and justify the money I spend to train in that lineage.
    The writer, 1. Would not have the guts to come to a single dojo that I know of and talk that junk. If he did he prob. wouldn't walk out on his own power. 2. It did not change the way I fight or do forms.
    I have heard that Master Shimibuku lost many Okinawan students to Shorin when he announced Isshinryu. Shorin and Goju Masters and students did not see the necessity of the new art. If they tried to debunk it. I am not surprised that an American Writer would do the same to stir something up. He might get a few Isshinryu people to buy his product. We have grown into a culture where everyone wants to disprove the legitimacy of every group but their own. In order to stroke their ego. Heck, We even do it within our own system. It just pushes me harder to not let down the sensei that believes in me.
     
  18. punisher73

    punisher73 Senior Master

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    CFA has only recently begun to feature Isshin-Ryu, and that is probably only due to IR being recognized as one of the official traditional okinawan styles (The others being Shorin-Ryu, Goju-Ryu and Uechi-Ryu). Up until that point, Isshin-Ryu has always been considered a substyle of Isshin-Ryu. I think that the first time CFA even featured an article on IR was issue #16 when they interviewed Uechi Sensei, who was very instrumental in getting IR recognized as a traditional okinawan karate style.

    Advincula Sensei has done alot of research into IR. He has interviewed Nakazato Sensei who was a student of Kyan's who says that Tatsuo Shimabuku was a student of Kyan and remembers seeing him there. For whatever reason, one of the main people who talks about Tatsuo Shimabuku and not being a student is Zenpo Shimabukuro who claims that his father passed on Kyan's style exactly as they learned it. Zenpo has also made comments in CFA that if Tatsuo had learned karate from Kyan, then why would he change it. Nakazato also has stated that he was very poor when he learned from Kyan, so that also puts a hole in the theory that Kyan only taught the upper crust. Advincula Sensei has also interviewed others as to Tatsuo Shimabuku studying with Chojun Miyagi also.

    What is even more of interest is the other article in that issue (Chan Mi: Karate for Milk by C. Goodin), where a long time student of Kyan talks about his training with Kyan. The author, Mr. Goodin, talks about this person's performance of Seisan and says that the closest he has seen performance wise is the '64 films of Tatsuo Shimabuku. He also makes reference to how Kyan used certain katas for night fighting.

    Part of the problem is that, Shimabuku did issue out high rank to the early american students and didn't expect them to use it and that caused issues with the more traditional okinawan students. And I think that due to the language barrier that things got stated as facts due to their impressions and not necessarily due to outright lies. For example, the early students thinking that Shimabuku was the top student of Miyagi and Kyan. Very few of the early students ever came back to continue their studies with Shimabuku to see what changes/refinements that he had made since they were last with him. I have even seen people try and make money teaching Isshin-Ryu's "lost kata" (gojushiho), which wasn't lost at all, it was dropped by Shimabuku because he didn't like it and was never a part of Isshin-Ryu, which only muddies the waters because it casts doubt on what IR is/was.
     
  19. kempodisciple

    kempodisciple Senior Master

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    I agree with every thing you said except this. Wouldn't it be better to convince him he's wrong/being an idiotic jerk than make him 'unable to walk out on his own power'?
     
  20. dancingalone

    dancingalone Grandmaster

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    I have read the article, and I don't have much to say other than it does cast Shimabuku Sensei in a rather poor light. Reading Sloane Sensei's rebuttal from the link given, it sounds like he may have been misquoted or mis-paraphrased and I am sincerely sorry for him if he has received a lot of push back from the Isshinryu community as a result of the CFA article.

    Perhaps one of the senior Isshinryu experts can be motivated to write a rebuttal story for CFA or another MA outlet. I imagine any of them would be steaming mad right now.

    On a related note, why is Isshinryu a dying art on Okinawa? Did it never reach critical mass among the natives, after Shimabuku's students left him for Shorin-ryu proper? Without stirring the pot I hope, is there an element of prejudice there, given the many high ranking exponents of the system in the US?
     

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