International Isshin~ryu Karate Association

Overview

It is said that "Time is the great healer of wounds," and that is true. It is also true that time is the "great distorter of facts."

When dealing with the evolution of an unarmed system of self-defense on Okinawa, the development of Isshin-ryu and even our system's founder, Tatsuo Shimabuku, there are multiple, conflicting accounts relating to places, dates, events and people.

At first blush, one might question "how" that is possible, after all, history is history, right? Not necessarily.

Okinawa is an island that has emerged from a diverse social and ethnic history often simultaneously supporting many different cultures due to immigration and trade patterns. As Okinawan life developed through the centuries, a feudalistic society formed to support three main warring factions, whereby each faction maintained its own system of government, laws, record keeping, etc. As a result, record keeping, as it was, was not uniform because it was not based on one culture or a single way of life. With three main systems of keeping records in play, at the same time, it is entirely possible for all three societies to share a single event but to record it differently. Case in point, consider General Custer's Last Stand. It's safe to say that the Sioux Nation would recall the event much differently than the US Army! Sadly, standardized record keeping did not exist on Okinawa, nor did it develop among all civilizations in the same way, at the same time.

We must also remember that, throughout the years, sources of information can become lost, misplaced, destroyed or, in the case of people, even die. As was pointed out earlier, not only can cultures record the same event differently, but so can people. Just recall your campfire days, when sitting around the fire at night, one person would whisper something to the person sitting next to them and then pass the story around the circle until it reached the originator. Remember what would happen? It never ended the same way it began. Times haven't changed!

Lastly, even though the most well intended individuals, with no ulterior motive, facts can easily be recorded or relayed incorrectly due to honest, human mistakes.

Our emphasis, therefore, will simply be to provide a "glimpse" or an "overview" into the tumultuous events surrounding the evolution of a weaponless system of self defense on Okinawa, the development of Isshin-ryu and Tatsuo Shimabuku's place in history, and to outline those events in a concise form to the best of our abilities.

As a member of the Isshin-ryu community, our site is not intended to be either a statement of historical certainty or an attempt to take issue with those who might disagree with our information. We have worked diligently to provide a reasonable overview with as much accuracy as research sources will permit. If we have erred, we do so attempting to reconcile multiple, conflicting historical pieces of information. Our content has been gleaned from martial artists, enthusiasts, web sites and authors worldwide and combined with our own insight, experience and information.

We greatly appreciate the research and study by so many who have worked to bring light to the world of Isshin-ryu.

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