...The founder (Ryuso)
of karate-do Shito-ryu, Kenwa Mabuni was born
on November 14, 1889 in Shuri, Okinawa. He belonged
to the 17th generation from one of the bravest
warriors of Ryukyu kingdom Kenio Oshiro. Kenwa
Mabuni himself was a physically weak child; however,
his family members often told him stories about
his famous ancestors and he dreamed of becoming
physically controlling. At the age of 13, Kenwa
was accepted as a student at the school of the
famous karate-do master Anko Itosu, who lived
in Shuri. Kenwa Mabuni trained every day, even
during typhoons, and within seven years he learned
the art of Shuri-karate or Shuri-te.
When Kenwa was 20 years old, he began to study
the art of Naha-karate or Naha-te with the Grandmaster
Kanryo Higaonna. Later both of these major directions
of karate-do of Okinawa formed a basis for Shito-ryu
karate-do style created by Kenwa Mabuni.
After graduating high school and and being discharged
from the army Kenwa Mabuni worked in the police
for about 10 years. His job required him to visit
different parts of the country and he had an opportunity
to study other forms of karate-do with little-known
local masters. He also studied the ancient art
of Ryokan Budo.
beginning of the 20th century has become a period
of a wide spread of Karate-Do. In 1910 it was
included in the school program as a separate subject,
which meant the official recognition of Karate-Do.
But the Karate-Do education still lacked the system.
The majority of masters paid most attention to
the physical training of body, wrists, elbows
and fingers, using Makiwara and sandbags. There
was no standard karate-do uniform, as it exists
During these years Kenwa Mabuni began his teaching
activity. Together with his master, Mabuni created
school of Karate-Do for the study of this martial
art. On February 13, 1918 his senior son Kenei
was born. The same year Kenwa Mabuni started to
popularize Karate-Do and many well-known masters
helped him. He organized meetings in his house
which were attended by Gichin Funakoshi, Choju
Oshiro, Choshin Chibana, ?nbun Tokuda, Shimpan
Shiroma, Seicho Tokuumura and Hoko Ishikawa. Besides,
in 1918 he had the honor to demonstrate Karate-Do
at the Okinawa Middle School in the presence of
Prince Kuni and Prince Kacho.
at the age of 60.
In 1924 Kenwa Mabuni became the Karate-Do instructor
in two schools and received the honor to demonstrate
the Art for Prince Titibu.
In 1925 Kenwa Mabuni, with other masters organized
"Okinawan Karate-Do Club", which brought
to life his old dream of establishing a permanent
training dojo. Many famous Karate-Do leaders like
Juhatsu Kyoda, Chojun Miyagi,
Choyu Motobu, Chomo
Hanashiro, Choju Oshiro, Choshin Chibana,
Wu Xian Gui(Go Kenki) - the master of Chinese-ken
trained in this first dojo. Kenwa Mabuni and Chojun
Miyagi became the permanent instructors of the
club as the youngest members.
At this time instructors concentrated on physical
training and kumite practice. When a student asked
the teacher to explain something, the teacher
gave him an opportunity to attack him and answered
by demonstrating various defense techniques. The
training was just a continuous practicing of the
same techniques. All masters had varying techniques
but the main teaching method was the same - practical
year of 1927 was extremely important for Kenwa
Mabuni. He met Jigoro Kano, the founder of modern
Judo, who arrived Okinawa to open a new judo dojo.
Chojun Miyagi and Kenwa Mabuni had an opportunity
to demonstrate and to explain Jigoro Kano the
techniques of Karate-Do. Jigoro Kano was inspired
by Karate-Do and considered it the ideal Budo
art for both defense and attack. He talked about
the necessity of wide spread of Karate-Do in Japan.
Being touched by these inspiration words decided
to move to Osaka and to devote himself to development
and popularization of karate-do Shito-ryu in Japan.
As Karate-Do was an original Okinawan Art, Kenwa
Mabuni faced a wrong perception of Karate-Do when
he moved in Osaka. There were no public training
dojo and Kenwa tried to popularize Karate-Do in
police departments and Buddhist temples. Mass
audience had some difficulty accepting Karate-Do,
especially Katas and frequently called it
"fists dance". Kenwa Mabuni worked days
and nights, trying to invent ways of popularizing
Karate-Do. He even practiced Tame shivari - the
breaking of bricks and boards, showing public
the force of the new martial art. Karate-Do was
sometimes used during usual fights, which contradicted
to its ideology and reputation. Police also tried
to oppose Karate-Do since there were cases when
criminals was wounded during arrest.
Despite all difficulties, Kenwa Mabuni remained
on his elected way. His titanic efforts finally
succeeded, and as a result the organization called
Dai-Nihon Karate-Do Kai was created in 1931. Subsequently
this organization was renamed into Nihon Karate-do
Kai and became the predecessor of the modern Shito-kai.
Many of the participating members of the Dai-Nihon
Karate-Do Kai were direct students of Kenwa Mabuni.
Today they form the kernel of Shito-kai in Japanese
Karate-Do Federation and continue to transfer
the martial art of Kenwa Mabuni to their students.
World War II Karate-Do clubs began opening one
after another in schools and universities. They
organized tournaments and prepared the National
championship of Japan. During difficult post-war
years Mabuni helped to reconstruct Japan by devoting
himself to the development and wide spread of
Shito-ryu Karate-Do. Unfortunately he had no time
to bring his plans to life since he died on May
The Shito-ryu Karate-Do, created by Kenwa Mabuni,
combined the features
of Shuri karate of Master Itosu and Naha karate
of Master Higaonna. The name Shito-ryu is formed
from the first hieroglyphs of names of these Masters
("Ito" - old Chinese hieroglyph "Shi",
"Higa" - old Chinese hieroglyph To).
While teaching his students and explaining the
basic differences between schools Itosu and Higaonna,
Kenwa Mabuni paid the most attention to Katas.
He believed that Katas, which combine both attack
and defense techniques, are the most important
part of karate-Do, and that it is necessary to
understand the meaning of each movement in the
Kata and to perform the Kata correctly. Kenwa
Mabuni was the first to introduce the concept
of Bunkai kumite and Hokei Kumite, which demonstrated
the purpose and showed the correct use for each
Kata The final result of proper Kata and Kumite
training is the ability to apply karate-do techniques
in free Kumite. Practice of Kata also helps to
transmit the knowledge encoded in Kata to the
subsequent generation. Karate-Do Shito-ryu, unlike
other karate-do styles, has much more Katas.
According to Kenwa Mabuni the student, ignoring
Kata and practicing only Kumite, will never progress
in Karate-Do and will never understand its meaning.
Center of Nihon Karate-do Kai was Kansai-area.
Due to the efforts of Manzo Iwata (one of the
best students of Kenwa Mabuni and future chairman
of Japanese Shito-kai Karate-do Federation) the
Eastern branch, centered in Tokyo, was organized
in November 1960. In the same year the founder's
son Kenei Mabuni organized Western branch centered
in Osaka. Both clubs have held independent championships
until 1964, when the first joint Karate-Do Shito-Kai
championship took place. In October of the same
year the Japan Karate-do Federation was formed.
In February 1973 the Western and Eastern branches
of Nihon karate-Do merged, leading to the formation
of the Japan Karate-do Federation of Shito-Kai.
Karate-Do Shito-Kai school started international
activity. Karate-Do masters were sent to Asia,
Latin America, U.S.A. and Europe. Official representatives
from different countries gathered in Mexico City
in November 1990 to discuss the development of
Karate-Do in the world and the creation of International
Karate-Do Shito-ryu federation. The same issue
was simultaneously discussed in Havana during
the first Pan-American karate-do Shito-kai championship.
And finally, on March 19, 1993, the World Shito-ryu
Karate-do Federation with the center in Tokyo
was established, with Manzo Iwata as its president.
Official representatives of 28 countries took
part in the first karate-do Shito-Ryu World Championship.