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Founded by Mabuni Kenwa Soke

 

 

Shito-Ryu was created to preserve traditional teachings unchanged and to unify the karate community

 

 

 

 

 

Shito-Ryu means
"Itosu-Higaonna Style"

 

 

 

 

Shito-Ryu is the most complete and comprehensive style of traditional karate-do

 
What is Shito-Ryu?


Shito-Ryu is indisputably Japan's most comprehensive style of karate-do, and is the second most popular of Japan's four major karate styles. It takes its name from two of the 19th centuries most prolific karate masters, Itosu Yasutsune and Higaonna Kanryo, who were the principle karate instructors to the style's founder, Mabuni Kenwa.

It was Mabuni Kenwa who, in 1929, combined the teachings of the greatest 19th century masters of karate-do into a unified, comprehensive system (see History of Karate-do). He first trained under Itosu Yasutsune (often called Itosu Anko) in Shuri-te, the style of karate-do practiced around Okinawa's capitol city of Shuri by palace guards and military officers. Later, he also trained under Higaonna Kanryo, in Naha-te, which is the style of karate-do prevalent around the main Okinawan seaport of Naha. He subsequently learned Tomari-te, the style practiced in the vicinity of the farming village of Tomari, as well as White Crane Kung Fu. After the deaths of Itosu and Higaonna in 1915 and 1916, Mabuni Sensei was dismayed at they way many of their senior students fragmented Shuri-te and Naha-te into a large number of sub-styles. So, Mabuni Sensei combined the principles, kata, and techniques of Shuri-te, Naha-te, and Tomari-te into a single comprehensive style in order to ensure that these systems would continue to be passed down unchanged and with the hope that it would serve to unite -- rather than continue to splinter -- the karate community.  The style he thus created he named in honor of his two main instructors:

Kanji for SHI Shi is an alternate pronunciation of the kanji that is pronounced Ito in the name, Itosu Yasutsune.
Kanji for TO To is an alternate pronunciation of the kanji that forms the Higa in the name, Higaonna Kanryo.
Kanji for RYU Ryu is a Japanese word of many meanings and nuances, but which in martial arts is understood as "style."

Thus, the name Mabuni Kenwa gave to his style, Shito-Ryu, means: "Ito[su]-Higa[onna] Style."

It is this blending of all of the principal styles of karate-do that makes Shito-Ryu both unique and comprehensive. Shito-Ryu contains the complete repertoire of Shuri-te (from which Shotokan, Wado-Ryu, Shorin-Ryu, and many other styles were derived) plus the complete curriculum of Naha-te (the forerunner of Goju-Ryu and others). Thus, to become proficient in Shito-Ryu, students must learn everything that is embodied in all of the other major styles of Japanese karate-do. To get an idea of what this entails, consider that Shotokan has some 25 kata in its system, and Goju-Ryu and Wado-Ryu each have fewer than 20 kata, while Shito-Ryu encompasses more than 40 kata.

In addition to the sheer volume of knowledge and technique contained in Shito-Ryu, remember that it also entails understanding and applying two different theories of movement -- that passed down in the Shuri-te tradition and that which forms the heritage of Naha-te. It is indeed a challenging system to master, but one who masters it is unquestionably a master of karate-do.

 

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2003   Leonard J. Pellman



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