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Isshin Ryu is a form of Okinawan karate created by Tatsuo Shimabuku. The method combines Goju-ryu karate, kobudo and Shorin-ryu karate styles. The Japanese phrase “Isshin Ryu” translates into “one heart way”. Shimabuku formalized the name on January 15, 1956.


The Isshin Ryu system can be summarized up by its formal practice techniques or kata. There are particular techniques used to kick (snapping kicks) and punch (vertical fist). Practitioners of Isshin Ryu agree that sixteen kata make up the fighting method. These are eight empty hand, two sai, three bo, one bo sai kumite kata, one bo-bo kumite kata and a single tuifa kata. These katas include both original development from Shimabuku as well as kata passed down from older styles.

Empty Handed Kata:

Seisan: Students of Isshin Ryu learn this kata after they learn the basics of the first and also the second charts. Chotoku Kyan, primary instructor of Tatsuo Shimabuku taught him Seisan.


Seiunchin: This kata was imported into Isshin Ryu after Shimabuku studied under Chojun Miyagi, the founder of Goju-ryu Ryu. It concentrates on the “shiko-dachi” or low horse stance where the knees are folded in obtuse angles and the feet are angled at forty-five degrees away from the body.


Seiunchin is broken into different parts, each part using a particular muscle tensing or breathing technique. This kata has no apparent kicks, but there are hints of a knee strike.


Naihanchi: This empty hand kata is derived from the teachings of both Choki Motobu and Chotoku Kyan. The Isshin Ryu style is heavily influenced by the kumite taught by Motubu. But there are exceptions like the turned-in toes. The move sequences is similar to the practitioner standing against a wall with its opponents to the right or left. This is because the kata is generally taught with straight heels and back positioned firmly on a unbent edge like a wall or a board.


Wansu: The version of Isshin Ryu is unique for its two side kicks. The kata tends to concentrate on the in-close evasion, and lessening of attack. There is an unique movement popularly known as fireman’s carry throw.


Chinto: The difference of Chinto with other kata is that its embusen consists of a line positioned in a forty five degree angle. Footwork is made up of deflecting, whipping, slipping and a relaxed motion of the body. This kata can be learned only after Naihanchi and Wansu are fully in the student’s grasp.


Kusanku: This was taught by Chotoku Kyan. It is often referred to as a katha that takes place at night. But current research disproves this assumption.


Sunsu: This kata is the brainchild of Tatsuo Shimabuku himself. It includes a number of movements derived from other kata. It was utilized as a dojo kata and is exclusive to Isshin Ryu.

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