Tatsuo Shimabuku was born in 1906, on the island of Okinawa. He began his study of Karate at the age of eight. Desperately wanting his uncle Kamasu Chan to teach him karate, Shimabuku would walk about twelve miles to the town of Shuri, this is where his uncle lived. But his uncle would send him back home. Shimabuku would not discourage easily, for he would return each day. After a while his uncle decided to teach him, but only after he would do some chores around the Dojo. His uncle taught him Shuri-Ti karate.
After reaching a skillful degree from his uncle, Shimabuku went onto train in Shorin-Ryu under Chotuku Kyan. He also studied Goju-Ryu under Chojun Miyagi and became his leading student. Shimabuku went on to become Okinawa’s Grand Master of Shorin-Ryu. Still wanting to have more knowledge, Shimabuku studied the art of the Bo (long wooden staff), the Sai (pronged short sword), and the Tonfa (wooden “L” shaped weapon). He learned this weaponry from Moden Yabiku and Shinken Taira.
Shimabuku’s reputation reached its peak just before the Japanese entered the war (WW II). He avoided the war by escaping into the countryside where he worked as a farmer. As the war went on, he had to flee again, this is to the mountains. Shimabuku’s reputation as a fighter grew stronger. The Japanese soldiers made a thorough search for him. When they found him they said, “If you teach us karate, we will keep your hiding place a secret”. This he did, and that is how Tatsuo Shimabuku survived the war. After the war was over, Shimabuku went back to fighting and continued his karate training for his own physical and spiritual use.
Since Shimabuku was the leading practitioner in Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu, he asked the Okinawan Masters if he could make a new karate system, they told him no. But he was persistent and would not give up. Finally, after years of asking, the Masters gave him permission to make his own style of karate. So on January 15, 1956 Tatsuo Shimabuku had a meeting and announced that he was going to name his style of Karate Isshin-Ryu.
Master Tatsuo Shimabuku died on May 30, 1975. Shimabuku’s son Kichiro Shimabuku, and son-in-law Angi Uezi carry on the same tradition that he did.