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Who is Shimabukuro Hanshi?
Shimabukuro Masayuki Hanshi is the chairman of the Kokusai Nippon Karate-do/Kobudo Jikishin-Kai, otherwise known as the Jikishin-Kai International or simply JKI. He is also the chairman of the Nippon Karate-do/Kobudo Jikishin-Kai USA. He is one of the senior disciples of both Mabuni Kenzo Nidai-me Soke (second-generation grandmaster) of the Nippon Karate-do Kai and Miura Takeyuki Hidefusa Soshi (founder) of the Nippon Kobudo Jikishin-Kai. Shimabukuro Hanshi holds the rank of hachidan (8th degree black belt) in both Shito-Ryu Karate-do and Muso Jikiden Eishin-Ryu Iaijutsu, Shimabukuro Hanshi is probably the highest ranking iaido-ka living outside Japan, as well as one of the highest-ranking traditional karate-ka outside of Japan.
Shimabukuro Hanshi -- who is affectionately called "Shima" Sensei by his students -- has been active in traditional martial arts since his early teens, and holds dan (black belt) ranking in a number of styles and martial arts. His training in iaijutsu has been directly under Miura Hanshi for more than 20 years. He has studied Shito-Ryu karate-do with several of its pioneers for decades, as is currently a direct disciple of Mabuni Kenzo Nidai-me Soke. In additional to his hachidan ranking, he also holds the coveted title of Hanshi in both of these arts.
Hanshi is the highest of the three major titles that are sometimes awarded to high ranking martial artists (called kodansha) in recognition of significant contributions they have made to the martial arts beyond their own training. These titles are Renshi, Kyoshi, and Hanshi. To earn the title of Renshi, one must be godan (5th degree black belt) for at least three years. The earliest Kyoshi can be earned is seven years after being awarded Renshi. And one must be Kyoshi for at least 20 years to be considered for Hanshi. Therefore, the title of Hanshi holds a level of importance and stature in traditional martial arts that would be the equivalent in English of grandmaster, though Hanshi translates literally into English as "Exemplary Warrior."
In 1995 Shima Sensei collaborated with Leonard Pellman Sensei to write a comprehensive book on Eishin-Ryu iaijutsu and samurai philosophy, called Flashing Steel: Mastering Eishin-Ryu Swordsmanship. Since then, Flashing Steel has been widely recognized as the most complete and authoritative text on the subject of iaijutsu in the English language. The following year, Panther Video -- the world's largest producer of martial arts instructional videos -- invited Shima Sensei and Pellman Sensei to create a series of instructional video tapes on Eishin-Ryu. The result was Samurai Sword: Mastering Eishin-Ryu Iaijutsu, a seven-volume series that is the perfect companion to Flashing Steel.
In 1997, Shima Sensei and Pellman Sensei collaborated on another set of instructional videos for Panther. This was the two-volume set: Shindo Muso-Ryu Jodo, which not only teaches all of the fundamentals and principle techniques of traditional jojutsu, but also includes all 12 of the Seitei Jo Katachi (practice exercises with a partner).
The acceptance and critical acclaim of Flashing Steel and the two video series have enabled Shima Sensei to introduce the relatively unknown arts of iaijutsu and jojutsu to a rapidly growing audience of appreciative martial artists throughout the world. He now travels regularly giving seminars and demonstrations, principally throughout North America, but also to locations in South and Central America, and is generally recognized as the foremost authority on iaijutsu in the Western world.
In 2000, Shima Sensei restructured the iaido competition rules for the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) of the United States, and was named chairman of the rules committee -- a position in which he continues to serve as part of his ceaseless effort to promote the benefits of iajutsu and jojutsu to the martial arts community and the world at large.
Shimabukuro Hanshi is equally accomplished in the world of karate-do, where his status as one of the world's leading authorities on traditional karate-do is underscored by his position as technical advisor to the AAU karate program.
© 2003 Leonard J. Pellman
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