Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Life and Death of Shimabukuro Eizo

Below is an excerpt from an excellent post at Ikigai Way, regarding the life and passing of a true master of Okinawan Karate, Shimabukuro Eizo. The full post may be read here.

The martial arts world has lost one of its greatest luminaries. Shimabukuro Eizo, Hanshi, passed away on October 22, 2017. For most people, living to the age of 92 is considered most fortunate. However, Shimabukuro O’Sensei was so skilled in karate and so educated on the subjects of wellness, nutrition, and energy that many folks are surprised by this early passing. Truly Shimabukuro O’Sensei embodied the long-lived spirit of the Ryukyus, and the island chain burns a little less bright without his candle.

Despite the heavy hearts of his family, friends, and students, we strive to celebrate the impact he has made over multiple decades. O’Sensei was an innovator, dedicated practitioner, and enthusiastic instructor. Many folks in the karate world did not realize the depth of his knowledge, and the value he provided as a pipeline to the old ways of Shorin Ryu.

Shimabukuro (Shimabuku when being less formal) O’Sensei was born in Gushikawa on April 19, 19251. Exposed to karate very early in life courtesy of family members such as Shimabukuro Tatsuo (his elder brother and founder of Isshin Ryu) and Shinko Ganeko (his uncle), Shimabukuro Eizo O’Sensei proved himself an apt student under some of the most influential instructors of the day. Eizo either studied directly under, or was influenced by, the following individuals:
  • Shimabukuro Tatsuo – Isshin Ryu
  • Miyagi Chojun – Goju Ryu
  • Kyan Chotoku – Shobayashi Ryu
  • Motobu Choki – Shuri Di and Tomari Di
  • Taira Shinken – Ryukyu Kobudo
  • Shimabukuro Zenryo2 – Seibukan and senior Kyan Chotoku Student
  • Chibana Choshin – Shorin Ryu
O’Sensei studied diligently throughout the 1930s and 1940s before opening his own dojo in 1948. Even after taking on the role of instructor, he continued to refine his own learning by accessing experts such as Chibana Choshin who could add insight into his Shorin Ryu training. Interestingly, the Shobayashi Ryu mantle was pased to young Eizo upon the untimely death of Kyan Chotoku in 1945.

The “Shimabukuro Brothers” (Tatsuo and Eizo) wove one of the most interesting tales of karate history. Neither were afraid of innovation and experimentation, which led them to friction with other karate exponents and even against one another.

One of the most notable events in O’Sensei’s life was his promotion to 10th Dan by Toyama Kanken. Toyama Sensei was an Okinawan karateka and learned gentleman who found himself in the unique position of representing Okinawan interests in Mainland Japan. Toyama Sensei sent word to Okinawa, looking for representatives of various styles to come together and operate under his organization. Shimabukuro Eizo O’Sensei was the lone individual to heed that call. As a result, Toyama Sensei appointed him as representative and promoted him to Hanshi, 10th Dan. Shimabukuro O’Sensei was 34 at the time, making him the youngest legitimate 10th Dan in karate’s history.

Throughout his long, storied teaching career, Shimabukuro O’Sensei’s largest spheres of impact occurred around Camp Schwab and Camp Hansen on Okinawa. He eventually moved his personal residence to Kin Village, just outside of Camp Hansen, allowing him to teach there with great consistency. These dojo(s) melded native Okinawan students with US Military personnel, most frequently United States Marines.

As the Vietnam War loomed, more and more American military members were funneled through Okinawa on their way to Vietnam. Shimabukuro O’Sensei became an incredibly important touchstone for some of those men seeking to improve their survival and life protection skills. A handful of special students went on to continue their training with Shimabukuro O’Sensei as best they could, returning to him as their duties and rotations allowed. They took the art of Shobayashi Ryu with them back to the United States and helped establish the style there.

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