From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jul 9, 2018
shito ryu kanji

Shitō-ryū (糸東流) is a form of karate that was founded in 1934 by Kenwa Mabuni (摩文仁 賢和 Mabuni Kenwa). A synthesis of various different Okinawan schools of martial arts, the Shitō-ryū is primarily practiced in Osaka. Due to both controversies in Kenwa Mabuni's line of succession and Mabuni's extensive efforts to popularize the martial art form in Japan, there exist many successor karate schools that claim Shitō-ryū as an influence.


Kenwa Mabuni (Mabuni Kenwa 摩文仁 賢和) was born in Shuri, Okinawa in 1889. Mabuni was a 17th generation descendant of the famous warrior Uni Ufugusuku Kenyu. Perhaps because of his weak constitution, he began his instruction in his home town in the art of Shuri-te (首里手) at the age of 13, under the tutelage of the legendary Ankō Itosu (糸州 安恒 Itosu Ankō) (1831–1915). He trained diligently for several years, learning many kata from this great master. It was Itosu who first developed the Pinan kata, which were most probably derived from the "Kusanku" form.

Kenwa Mibune
Kenwa Mabuni, the founder of
Shitō-ryū Karate.

One of his close friends, Chōjun Miyagi (宮城 長順Miyagi Chōjun) (co-founder of Gojū-ryū Karate) introduced Mabuni to another great of that period, Kanryō Higaonna (東恩納 寛量Higaonna Kanryō). Mabuni began to learn Naha-te (那覇手) under him. While both Itosu and Higaonna taught a "hard-soft" style of Okinawan "Te", their methods and emphases were quite distinct: the Itosu syllabus included straight and powerful techniques as exemplified in the Naihanchi and Bassai kata; the Higaonna syllabus stressed circular motion and shorter fighting methods as seen in the kata Seipai and Kururunfa. Shitō-ryū focuses on both hard and soft techniques to this day.

Although he remained true to the teachings of these two great masters, Mabuni sought instruction from a number of other teachers, including Seishō Arakaki, Tawada Shimboku, Sueyoshi Jino and Wu Xianhui (a Chinese master known as Go-Kenki). In fact, Mabuni was legendary for his encyclopaedic knowledge of kata and their bunkai applications. By the 1920s, he was regarded as the foremost authority on Okinawan kata and their history and was much sought after as a teacher by his contemporaries. There is even some evidence that his expertise was sought out in China, as well as Okinawa and mainland Japan. As a police officer, he taught local law enforcement officers and at the behest of his teacher Itosu, began instruction in the various grammar schools in Shuri and Naha.

In an effort to popularize karate in mainland Japan, Mabuni made several trips to Tokyo in 1917 and 1928. Although much that was known as Te (Chinese Fist; lit. simply "hand") or karate had been passed down through many generations with jealous secrecy, it was his view that it should be taught to anyone who sought knowledge with honesty and integrity. In fact, many masters of his generation held similar views on the future of Karate: Gichin Funakoshi (founder of Shotokan), another contemporary, had moved to Tokyo in the 1920s to promote his art on the mainland as well.

By 1929, Mabuni had moved to Osaka on the mainland, to become a full-time karate instructor of a style he originally called Hanko-ryū, or "half-hard style". The name of the style changed to Shitō-ryū, in honor of its main influences. Mabuni derived the name for his new style from the first kanji character from the names of his two primary teachers, Itosu and Higaonna (also called Higashionna). With the support of Ryusho Sakagami (1915–1993), he opened a number of Shitō-ryū dojo in the Osaka area, including one at Kansai University and the Japan Karatedō-kai dojo. To this day, the largest contingent of Shitō-ryū practitioners in Japan is centered in the Osaka area.

Mabuni published a number of books on the subject and continued to systematize his instruction method. In his latter years, he developed a number of formal kata, such as Aoyagi, for example, which was designed specifically for women's self-defense. Perhaps more than any other master in the last century, Mabuni was steeped in the traditions and history of Karate-dō, yet forward thinking enough to realize that it could spread throughout the world. To this day, Shitō-ryū recognizes the influences of Itosu and Higaonna: the kata syllabus of Shitō-ryū is still often listed in such a way as to show the two lineages.


Kenwa Mabuni died on May 23, 1952, and the lineage of the style was disputed between his two sons, Kenzo (1927-2005) and Kenei (1918–2015). Currently, the Shitō-ryū International Karate-dō Kai (also known as Seito Shitō-ryū) lists Kenzō Mabuni as the second Sōke of Shitō-ryū, while the World Shitō-ryū Karate-dō Federation (also known as Shitō-kai Shitō-ryū) lists Kenei Mabuni. According to Japanese tradition, the eldest son is deemed the successor and inheritor of everything his father owned, including the title of Soke.


Shitō-ryū is a combination style, which attempts to unite the diverse roots of karate. On one hand, Shitō-ryū has the physical strength and long powerful stances of Shuri-te derived styles, such as Shorin-ryū and Shotokan (松涛館); on the other hand, Shitō-ryū also has the circular and eight-directional movements, breathing power, and hard and soft characteristics of Naha-te styles such as Uechi-ryū and Gōjū-ryū (剛柔流). Shitō-ryū is extremely fast, but still can be artistic and powerful. In addition, Shitō-ryū formalizes and emphasizes the five rules of defense, developed by Kenwa Mabuni, and known as Uke no go gensoku (受けの五原則), Uke no go genri (受けの五原理), or Uke no go ho (受けの五法):

  • 落花 (rakka, "falling petals"). The art of blocking with such force and precision as to completely destroy the opponent's attacking motion. Examples of rakka are the most well-known blocks, such as gedan-barai (下段払い) or soto-uke (外受け).
  • 流水 (ryūsui, "running water"). The art of flowing around the attacker's motion, and through it, soft blocking. Examples are nagashi-uke (流し受け) and osae-uke (押さえ受け).
  • 屈伸 (kusshin, "elasticity"). This is the art of bouncing back, storing energy while recoiling from the opponent's attack, changing or lowering stance only to immediately unwind and counterattack. Classic examples are stance transitions zenkutsu (前屈立ち) to kōkutsu (後屈立ち) and moto-dachi (基立ち) to nekoashi-dachi (猫足立ち).
  • 転位 (ten'i, "transposition"). Ten'i is the utilization of all eight directions of movement, most importantly stepping away from the line of attack.
  • 反撃 (hangeki, "counterattack"). A hangeki defense is an attack which at the same time deflects the opponent's attack before it can reach the defender. Examples of this are various kinds of tsuki-uke (突き受け), including yama-tsuki (山突き).

Modern Shitō-ryū styles also place a strong emphasis on sparring. Shitō-ryū stresses speed, and fighting is generally initiated from a higher, more upright stance than Shotokan employs. On the other hand, because the style has so many kata, a great deal of time is spent perfecting any one of its 40 to 60 forms.


Other schools of Shitō-ryū developed after the death of Kenwa Mabuni, both because the death of a founder typically results in a dispute as to who will succeed him as the leader of a given school and because many prominent Karate teachers choose to modify the style, thereby creating new branches.

Major existing schools of Shitō-ryū include:

  • Shūkōkai or Tani-Ha Shitō-ryū: founded by Chōjirō Tani, student of Mabuni Kenwa, in 1949. This style represents the Tani-ha version of Shitō-ryū. Tani's most senior student, Shigeru Kimura, left Japan in 1965 to teach Shūkōkai in Africa. Kimura continued to teach after travelling to Europe, before settling in the United States in 1970 at the age of 29, where he taught at Yonezuka's Cranford dojo for two years; creating the first Shukokai World Tournament in 1981. Sensei Kimura died of a heart attack at the age of 54. Tani died on 11 January 1998.
  • Shitō-kai: founded by Manzo Iwata in Tokyo and by Kenei Mabuni in Osaka. These two branches were reunited in 1964, establishing All Japan Karate-dō Federation Shitō-Kai, which, after the death of Manzo Iwata in 1993, became known as World Shitō-ryū Karate-dō Federation. It was led by president Ken Sakio (a student of Chōki Motobu and Kenwa Mabuni) from 1993 to 2004, and is currently led by president Tokio Hisatomi, a student of Kenwa Mabuni. Recently, Kenei Mabuni founded a private organization, International Dento (Traditional) Shitō-ryū, which is separate from the WSKF.
  • Seitō Shitō-ryū: is the style promoted by Shitō-ryū International Karate-dō Kai and is the other of the two branches claiming direct lineage from Kenwa Mabuni. It was founded by his son Kenzo Mabuni and, since his death in 2005, belongs to Kenzo's daughter, Tsukasa Mabuni. In the 1990s, several Shito-ryu masters affiliated themselves with Kenzo Mabuni. It should be noted that Japan Karate Federation does not recognize Seitō Shitō-ryū.
  • Kenshukai Shitō-ryū or Ogasahara-ha Shitō-ryū: founded by the late Eiji Ogasahara, 10th dan (1936 - 2011). Master Ogasahara started karate with Masaioshi Harumoto, a student of Abe and Mabuni. He also trained directly under Kenwa Mabuni, the founder of Shito Ryu. He was the Honorary President of WUKO and obtained the Knight of the Ordre National du Mérite, a high honour conferred by France together with the knighthood of the Ordre de Palmes Academiques conferred by the French-Japanese Society “de Kobe”. The style is now practised under the Japan Kenshukai Karate Association (JKKA 日本空手道拳修会) lead by Yoshio Ietsune (家常義雄 ) and in Europe under Seiken Shudo Kai Shito Ryu (正拳修道会糸東流) lead by Iwasa Sei (岩佐整)
  • Saito-ha Shitō-ryū Karate-Do: Del Saito Soke, founder of Traditional Karate-do Federation International and Saito-ha Shito-ryu Karate-Do began Karate training with Sensei Al Kahalekulu, a student of Sensei Tommy Morita, who studied under Dr. Tsuyoshi Chitose Soke of Kumamoto, Japan. In the early ‘70s he studied with Sensei Chuzo Kotaka, a student of Sensei Genryu Kimura and Shogo Kuniba Soke. After several years serving as Sensei Kotaka’s National Director, Saito began to learn Seito Shito-ryu from Master Kenzo Mabuni, the son of Kenwa Mabuni, founder of Shito-ryu. Saito was presented the Hanshi degree from Kenzo Soke, the highest teaching title of his style. He was also given permission by Kenzo Mabuni to continue his understanding of Shito-ryu while providing him with a direct line to him. For many years Saito served as National Director for the International Karate Federation of Hawaii, and National Executive Director for Karate for the Amateur Athletic Union of the United States. Inducted into the International Karate Hall of Fame in 1994, he has also won numerous awards for his leadership and dedication in martial arts as well as for other sports. Traditional Karate-do Federation International headquarters is located in Grants Pass, Oregon.
  • Hayashi-ha Shitō-ryū-kai: founded by Teruo Hayashi, student of Kōsei Kokuba in 1970. Hayashi led Seishin-kai before founding Hayashi-ha Shitō-ryū-kai. Hayashi-ha Shitō-ryū combines many Ryūei-ryū techniques that Hayashi learned while studying in Okinawa. The European organization is run by Miguel Fernández Vázquez, Barcelona, Spain. In the USA, Hayashi-ha is run by Akio Minakami in Seattle. Teruo Hayashi died in 2004.
  • Itosu-kai: founded by Ryusho Sakagami (1915–1993) on March 1, 1940 as Shito-ryu Karate Sakagami Dojo in Kawanishi City, Hyōgo Prefecture. He succeeded to the position of 3rd soke of Itosu-ha on January 2, 1952, and he officially named the organization Japan Karatedo Itosu-kai and the style "Itosu-ryu" in 1969. The branch is now run by Ryusho's son Sadaaki Sakagami, 4th soke of Itosu-Ryu
  • Suzuki-Ha Shito-Ryu Seiko-Kai: founded by Seiko Suzuki in 1993 upon the death of Ryusho Sakagami, based in Shinkoiwa, Tokyo-Japan. Suzuki a senior student of Sakagami and commenced study in 1954. In 1980 he received 8th dan from Sakagami Sensei and was issued "Menkyo Kaiden".
  • Kurobayashi-ha Shito-ryu Karate-Do: founded by Rudy Crosswell, a student of Shogo Kuniba, Teruo Hayashi and Kenzo Mabuni, in 2012 after 50 years of training in Shito-ryu.
  • Nobukawa-ha Shito-Ryu Karatedo: founded by Soke Kuniaki Nobukawa in 2001. He was student of Chojiro Tani and Teruo Hayashi. Soke Kuniaki Nobukawa currently ranks 8th Dan from All Japan Karate-Do Federation and certified as Hanshi.
  • Seizen Budokai Renmei, Vicente Valverde. Seizen Shitoryu Karate Do. A student of Shogo Kuniba Continue the tradition of Soke Kunio Tatsuno to spread the Motobu-Ha Shitoryu Karate Do.


These are all the katas of Shitō-ryū and a standard grade for each of them:

Basic Katas

  • Hiji-Ate Goho
  • Junino Kata
  • Heian Nitan
  • Daichi Dosa
  • Daini Dosa
  • Daisan Dosa
  • Daiyon Dosa
  • Heian Shodan (pinan sho-dan)
  • Heian Nidan (pinan ni-dan)
  • Heian Sandan (pinan san-dan)
  • Heian Yondan (pinan yon-dan)
  • Heian Godan (pinan go-dan)
  • Myoju
  • Aoyagi/Seiryu
  • Juroku
  • Naifanchi shodan
  • Naifanchi nidan
  • Naifanchi sandan
  • Sanchin
  • Tensho (Rokushu)

1st Dan

  • Bassai sho
  • Bassai dai
  • Niseishi
  • Wanshu

2nd Dan

  • Jiin
  • Jion
  • Jitte
  • Seienchin
  • Seisan
  • Matsukaze/Wankan

3rd Dan

  • Seipai
  • Kosokun sho
  • Kosokun dai
  • Shiho Kosokun
  • Matsumura no Seisan
  • Matsumura no Rohai

4th Dan

  • Chintei
  • Sochin
  • Chinto
  • Sanseiru
  • Tomari no Wanshu
  • Shimpa

5th Dan

  • Annan
  • Shisochin
  • Unsu
  • Kururunfa
  • Tomari no Bassai
  • Paiku

6th Dan

  • Gojushiho
  • Heiku
  • Nipaipo
  • Haffa
  • Hakkaku
  • Papuren
  • Ishime no Pasaï

7th Dan

  • Suparimpei
  • Chatanyara no Kusanku
  • Tomari no Chinto
  • Tomari no Pasaï
  • Shinsei ichi
  • Shinsei ni
  • Soshin
  • Annanko

8th Dan

  • Tomari no wanshu
  • Oya domari basai
  • Kian Chinto
  • Itosu no rohai shodan
  • Itosu no rohai nidan
  • Itosu no rohai sandan
  • Kaishu Naifanshin
  • Kaishu Sanshin
  • Häu~fa

Kunshi no Ken (The Noble Discipline)

Mabuni's motto "Kunshi no Ken" which means to concentrate on cultivating oneself to become a well-rounded, respectful individual. The person who is able to accomplish this as well as to exercise good manners in all situations with self-discipline and respect, who is able to assume accountability for one's actions, and to keep one's integrity as to set an example for others, is considered a Shito-ryu practitioner.

Heijutsu no Sanbyo

The three weaknesses or sicknesses of martial arts by Kenwa Mabuni.

Hitotsu: Giryo (One—Doubt or Skepticism)

Hitotsu: Ketai (One—Negligence)

Hitotsu: Manshin (One—Egotism)


List of techniques, used in Shitō-ryū style of Karate. Blocks, kicks and strikes can be jōdan, chūdan or gedan and related to migi (right) or hidari (left).

Tachi (stances)

  • Heisoku dachi: Toes & heels together, (closed foot stance), at "attention".
  • Musubi dachi: Heels together, & toes apart, (open foot stance) "knot" shape.
  • Heiko dachi: Feet apart, parallel (open, hip width).
  • Hachiji dachi: Feet apart, toes pointing OUT at 45 degrees (open, shoulder width).
  • Uchi-Hachiji dachi (Naifanchi Dachi): Feet apart, toes pointing IN at 45 degrees (open, shoulder width).
  • Shiko dachi: Straddle leg, "Sumo" stance.
  • Moto dachi: Front knee partially bent, forward stance (shorter than Zenkutsu dachi).
  • Zenkutsu dachi: Front knee bent, long forward stance.
  • Nekoashi dachi: "Cat foot" stance.
  • Sanchin dachi: Inward tension stance. ("Hour glass" stance.)
  • Kōkutsu dachi: "Looking back" stance. ("Back stance".)
  • Renoji dachi: Stance resembling the letter "L".
  • "Tee"-ji dachi: Stance resembling the letter "T" upside down.
  • Kosa dachi: "Hooked leg" stance.
  • Sagiashi dachi: "Heron foot" stance (one-legged).
  • Ukiashi dachi: Stance resembling Nekoashi dachi, but more upright in a loose floating leg stance.

Uke-waza (blocking techniques)

  • Gedan barai uke (Hari uke): Low-level, downward block / sweeping block.
  • Yoko uke (Soto uke): Block from inside (centre of body), towards outside.
  • Yoko uchi (Uchi uke): Block from outside, towards inside (centre of body).
  • Age uke: Rising, upper-level block.
  • Yoko Barai uke: Side, sweeping block.
  • Uchi Otoshi uke: Circular, inside drop (downward pushing) block.
  • Tsuki uke: Simultaneous punching (forearm) block.
  • Te Kubi Sasae uke: Augmented (supported) wrist block.
  • Sukui uke: Scoop block.
  • Shuto uke: "Knife-hand" block.
  • Kosa uke: "X" block (wrists crossed).
  • Hijisasae uke: Augmented (inside-middle) elbow block.
  • Osae uke: Pressing down block.
  • Kakewake uke: Reverse-wedge block.
  • Nagashi uke: Cross-body open-hand flowing/sweeping block.
  • Shiuko uke (Haishu Uke): Open-hand, back-hand block.
  • Shotei uke (Teisho): Palm-heel block.

Uchi-waza (striking techniques)

  • Seiken tsuki: Fore fist, straight punch (for basic practice).
  • Oi tsuki: Lunge punch.
  • Gyaku tsuki: Reverse hand punch.
  • Furi tsuki: Circular/swinging (roundhouse) punch.
  • Age tsuki: Rising punch.
  • Kagi tsuki: Hook punch.
  • Mae Te tsuki: Lead-hand (forward hand) jab-punch.
  • Ura tsuki: Inverted (palm up), close punch.
  • Morote tsuki: U-shape punch.
  • Tate tsuki: Vertical fist punch.
  • Nihon tsuki: Double punch.
  • Shuto uchi: "Knife" (chopping) hand strike.
  • Ura uchi: Back fist punch.
  • Kentsui uchi: Bottom fist strike.
  • Shotei (Teisho) uchi: Palm-heel strike.
  • Haito uchi: Ridge-hand strike.
  • Haishu uchi: Open back-hand strike.
  • Hiji ate uchi: Elbow strike.
  • Koken uchi: Bent wrist-hand strike.

Keri-waza (kicking techniques)

  • Mae geri: Front (forward & return) kick.
  • Oi geri: Stepping (lunging forward) kick.
  • Yoko sokuto geri: Side (edge of foot) kick.
  • Mawashi geri: Roundhouse kick (to front).
  • Gyaku (Uchi) Mawashi geri: Reverse direction (inside) roundhouse kick.
  • Ura Mawashi geri: Back leg, hook kick to front (heel/ball of foot).
  • Ushiro geri: Straight-back (backward) kick.
  • Ushiro Mawashi geri: Spinning, back-roundhouse kick to front.
  • Mae-ashi geri: Forward leg, front kick.
  • Fumikomi geri: Stamping/thrusting kick.
  • Hiza geri: Knee cap kick.
  • Ushiro-ura-mawashi geri: Spinning-back, roundhouse kick.
  • Gyaku (Uchi) geri: Reverse (inside) roundhouse kick.
  • Mae-tobi geri: Front (jumping/flying) kick.
  • Yoko-tobi geri: Side (jumping/flying) kick.