A Brief History of Its Masters and Their Techniques

Hayashi Ha Logo

Shitoryu, along with Goju-ryu, Wado-ryu and Shotokan, is one of the four major karate systems of recognized by Japan Karate Federation. Kenwa Mabuni, the founder (1899-1952), who, like most of karate's old masters, was descended from Okinawa's warrior (bushi or keimochi) class or aristocracy. Members of his family served the Okinawan kings/lords for hundreds of years.

Kenwa Mabuni was born and raised in the old castle district of Shuri. He began his study of the indigenous fighting disciplines "Ryuku kenpo Toudijutsu" or "di" meaning "hand" at the age of 13 under Anko Itosu (1830-1915). Itosu was a student of one of Okinawa's most famous karate masters, Sokon Matsumura (1809-1901) who was responsible for handing down from his teacher, Toudi Sakugawa (1762-1843). He also learned under Chomo Hanashiro (1869-1945) while a student at public middle school.

In 1905 Itosu established the five Pinan katas for the Okinawa public schools' physical education department. He reported developed the Pinans for the kata "Channan" he learned from the Chinese in Tomari village. Mabuni became the master of the Pinan katas and in 1919 taught them to Gichin Funakoshi. However, Itosu was not Mabuni's only teacher. As a young man Mabuni of 20 years old, he was introduced to Kanryo Higashionna (1853-1915), a prominent master from Naha, by his friend Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953, founder of Goju-ryu).

From Higashionna, Mabuni learned Naha-te, a Chinese-influenced karate style. However, Mabuni was only able to study from Hihashionna for one year. His training was interrupted because of his two-year military obligation. Mabuni also learned several gongfu quan (kata) from Go Kenki, To Daiki, and Uechi Kambun as well as the Naifuanchin kata from Shinkin Matayoshi.

In 1913 at age 23, Mabuni began a career in law enforcement. Later, as a detective he was able to travel around Okinawa and came in contact with many people who had a profound influence upon him and his eclectic style of martial arts. Mabuni also trained under the reclusive Arakaki Seisho (1840-1918), who taught a style similar to Higashionna's. Aragaki also taught Tsuyoshi Chitose, the founder of chito-ryu, Gichin Funakoshi of Shotokan, and Kanken Toyama of the Shudokan. Aragaki, who was an acknowledged Bo (staff) expert, taught Mabuni the karate katas unshu, sochin, niseishi, aragaki-sai and aragaki-bo forms. Aragaki was the first to teach Kanyro Higashionna.

Because Mabuni was a policeman it should not be any surprise that he specialized in the Sai or saijutsu (an iron truncheon) and bojutsu (6 foot wooden staff). Mabuni was influenced by weapons experts from all over the island, like Chinen Sanda (1842-1928) founder of Yamanni ryu bojutsu. Mabuni also studied with Sanda's his best known disciple, Yabiku Moden. Moden was Shinken Tairas weapons instructor. During the year 1925, Mabuni established his first real dojo while still teaching at the Toudijutsu clubs he started at the police department and local marine college. Mabuni also participated in a karate club operated by Miyagi and Choyu Motobu, with help from Chomo Hanashiro and Juhatsu Kiyoda.

Choyu Motobu was a master of Shurite (the antecedent of shorin-ryu) and gotende, the secret grappling art of the Okinawan royal court. Hanashiro was also a Shuri-te expert, while Kiyoda came from the same Naha-te background as Miyagi. Known as the Ryukyu Toudi Kenkyukai (Okinawa Gonfu Research Society of Okinawa), this dojo was one of history's gems. Experts from diverse backgrounds trained and taught there, and it was there that Mabuni learned some Fukien white crane kung fu from the legendary Woo Yin Gue (GoKen Ki, Okinawan pronounciation), a Chinese tea merchant living on Okinawa.

When Mabuni established a dojo at his home he was required by law to register it with the local police station, and in many ways this was the first step to having Toudi recognized by the Butokukais' judo department.

In 1927 Dr. Jigoro Kano (founder of Judo) made an official visit to the Okinawa Prefecture for judo demonstrations and seminars. Dr. Kano had connections to the Olympic Committee and politics. Okinawa's Board of Education had decided to have Mabuni, Miyagi, Yabu, and Hanashiro give a private demonstration of kata and their applications. Kano later asked Mabuni and Miyagi to visit the mainland to introduce Shuri-te and Nahate there. In 1928 Mabuni took an early retirement from the police department and traveled to Tokyo with his good friend Chojun Miyagi. There they put on demonstrations for Kano and Funakoshi at the Kodokan, Toyo University and the Police Stations.

Funakoshi introduced karate there in 1922. Mabuni spent many of his early traveling years with Yasuhiro Konishi, a friend and sometimes student who later founded shindo-jinen-ryu karate. In 1925 Mabuni and Konishi visited Japan's Wakayama prefecture where Kanbum Uechi, the founder of Uechi-ryu, was teaching. It was after training with Uechi that Mabuni devised a kata called Shimpa (mind wave). Mabuni sought out Kanbun Uechi and others to gain a deeper understanding of Qinna (Chin Na) that represents the principles of seizing and controlling an adversary without injurying him seriously. This practice is referred to as bunkai: a common term describing the applications of the kata techniques. But Mabuni actually spent most of his time in Osaka, where he taught at various dojo, including the Seishinkai, the school of Kosei Kokuba (Kuniba).

Choki Motobu also taught at Kokuba's dojo. It was Kokuba who later formed Motobu-ha (Motobu faction) Shitoryu. In 1929, Mabuni moved permanently to Osaka. Shortly thereafter, the Japanese martial arts sanctioning body, the Butokukai, pressured all karate schools to register by style name. At first, Mabuni called his style Hanko-ryu (half-hard style), but by the early 1930's Shitoryu was the official name. It was coined from alternative renderings of the names of Mabuni's two foremost teachers, Itosu and Higashionna. Mabuni knew that by giving the style a name would not only satisfy the Dai Nippon Butokukai, but would give people something they could identify with and feel a part of. In early articles written by Mabuni he referred to himself as a "Gojuryukenpo shihan teaching Japanese kenpo karatejutsu.

Early students of Mabuni have their own distinct organizations and followings. Ryusho Sakagami, a contemporary of Kanei Mabuni, established the Itosu-kai just after Mabuni's death. In 1948, Chojiro Tani organized the Shukokai, where he taught Tani-ha Shitoryu. Since the 1970s, several other Shitoryu factions have formed. Most prominent is Hayashi-ha Shitoryu under Grand Master Teruo Hayashi.

Mabuni's eminent knowledge of both karate and kobudo combined with his personality helped to create his eclectic Shitoryu karate. Another reason for Mabuni's Shitoryu to become so broad and diverse in kata and techniques is the balanced way in which he used pliability and power. Mabuni's personality was in keeping with his karate. He was able to yield to the winds of adversity in politics. He is remembered as a man everyone liked. Kinjo Hiroshi remembers Mabuni saying: "There are no styles of karate, just varying interpretations of its principles. Karate can enhance the value of life itself."

Mabuni's Shitoryu can be said to be based on his five principles of blocking/self defense. Rakka: Hard blocking. Striking an off-center or indirect attack with sudden maximum power. Ryusui: Soft blocking. Redirecting a strong attack with a circular or deflecting parry. Kushin: Springing. A reflexive, darting "out and in" or "up and down" kind of body shifting from any angle. Teni: Changing positions. Taisabaki (footwork). Shifting or turning quickly out of the opponent's way. Hangeki: Defense as attack. Brief but intelligent responses. Sen no Sen.

Mabuni used the term "goju" (hard and soft) to symbolize the unique features of his self-defense method. Hard (go) characterizes the material force of the human body, while softness (ju) represents the principle of pliability; the potential to yield in the winds of adversity, also a personality trait to aspire for.

Shitoryu Style Description

In it's appearance Shitoryu basically can be seen as a combination of Shotokan-like and Goju-like karate. Shotokan, which came from Shorinryu (from Shuri-te), utilizes long linear stances and physical power and Gojuryu, which came from Shorei-ryu (from Naha-te and Tomari-te) utilizes up and down stances and internal breathing power (hard and soft techniques). Mabuni's Shitoryu is a blend of principles from Shorinryu and Shoreiryu.

Shito-ryu is fast, but still powerful and artistic. It incorporates the powerful Shuri-te kata like Naifanchin and Bassai, the hard and soft Naha-te kata like Sanchin and Kururunfa, and the artistic Chinese white crane kata like Nipaipo and Paipuren. Shitoryu emphasizes considerable training on Kihon (basics) at the beginning, but for a senior Shito-ryu student, quality and quantity run together. Shitoryu contains all the eighteen Shorinryu kata, all the sixteen Shorei-ryu kata, the Chinese white crane kata, plus the kata devised by Master Mabuni himself from his broad knowledge and experiences, a total of more than sixty kata (depending on the organization).

Mabuni was especially interested in the real aspects or bunkai of the kata and his study of the martial arts has been handed down in the form of the practical applications of each technique. Mabuni had a keen interest in the Chinese Qinna or grappling and seizing methods. The blocks, grabs and traps all are associated together. Therefore, a block is a strike and or a seizing technique to control and subdue and adversary. Blocks are performed quickly and close to the body to develop leverage in the arms and the body's center mass.

Although Mabuni practiced goju kata with his friend Chojun Miyagi the Shitoryu method of performing breathing and body tension is not as strong, tight and constrictive. Therefore the sanchin dachi is not performed with a dangerous level of body tension that may cause harm to a persons blood pressure. All techniques are performed with the use of the hips and legs in mind to develop power and thrust. The shiko dachi (stance) is employed in most Shitoryu kata and is quicker and more pliable that the Shotokan version of kiba dachi. Moreover, the special characteristic of Shitoryu that distinguishes it from other schools is that Shitoryu lives together with Kobudo (weapon arts) and sometimes Iaido (sword-drawing-arts). The Kihon, Kumite, Karate, Kata, Kobudo Kata, Iaido Kata and the principles (bunkai) behind them Shitoryu a broad based style.

Shitoryu in comparison to the Japanese Karate-do styles of Shotokan and Gojuryu

Shitoryu blocks and strikes are performed with simplicity and quickness. The hips, feet and ankles twist and recoil quickly with each movement therefore enabling the karateka to follow up with additional techniques with out stopping. No extra movement in the hips and shoulders is employed as you will see in the Shotokan block and counter combinations. Shotokan will block in a Han Mae zenkutsu dachi with an emphasis of power on the side of the body that is closest to the opponent. There will be very little recoil of energy to follow up a second technique. Shotokan stances tend to be more rigid in the hips and knees with an emphasis on developing strength in those parts of the body. Where as Shitoryu and Gojuryu will use shiko dachi and neko ashi dachi that allows the karateka to move with quickness and pliability. Gojuryu's emphasis breath control and internal body tension with semi-circular foot movements may appear slow and methodical but they are used to develop power and strength. The Gojuryu katas are in the Shitoryu syllabus but are practice with less tension to allow the karateka to move more quickly. The Goju blocks are circular in nature where as the Shitoryu blocks are more directed to the target area. Gojuryu will rewind energy in the hips and stomach after each technique but at a slower pace than Shitoryu.

Grand Master Teruo Hayashi

Teruo Hayashi, born in Nara, the old capital of Japan in the island of Honshu, in 1924. T. Hayashi, at age 14 began his martial arts training in judo having earned the rank of San Dan. At age 20 he served as a co-pilot in the Air Force during the war. At the age of 24 and after the war, he discovered Gojuryu karate and studied under Seiko Higa from 1949 to 1951. (Seiko Higa was a disciple of Chojun Miyagi and Kangyo Higaonna.)

Grand Master Teruo Hayashi

Grand Master Teruo Hayashi (Soke) 1923 to 2004
Founder, Hanshi 9th Degree Black Belt, certified by Japan Karate Federation

Teruo Hayashi traveled to Okinawa the cradle of karate learn more about Okinawan martial arts. There he trained in Shorinryu with Choshin Chibana. Later he trained with Shoshin Nagamine of Shorinryu fame. T. Hayashi was able to study under Kenko Nakaima, head of the longtime secret family art of Ryuei-ryu. Ryuei-ryu is derived from the same Chinese teacher who taught Kanryo Higashionna, a man named Liu Liu Kung (RuRuko). In addition to learning Ryuei-ryu karate he was taught bojutsu and saijutsu. In honor of he instructor, Nakaima, he founded and named his kobudo faction, "Kenshinryu." T. Hayashi also learned bojutsu and kamajutsu from Hohan Soken. He became a student under Shinken Taira of kobudo fame.

He later was appointed the general manager of the Kansai district for Taira's "Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai." T. Hayashi was a protégé of Kosei Kokuba and later became interim president of the Seishin-kai sometime after Kokuba's death. For awhile, he co-led that organization along with Motoburyu style-head Shogo Kuniba. In 1970 Teruo Hayashi received permission to establish his own faction of Shitoryu which we know today as Hayashiha Shitoryu Kai.

Soke Teruo Hayashi Credentials

9th Dan certified by the Japan Karate-do Federation 10th Dan and founder of Kenshinryu Kobudo Emeritus Chairman of the Referee Council for the World Karate Federation( formally WUKO). Member of the WKF technical committee. Chairman of the Kinki Area Conference of the Japan Karate-do Federation President of the Osaka Prefectual Karate-do Federation. President of the Higashi Osaka City Karate-do Association.

The legacy of Kenwa Mabuni's eclectic style of martial arts lives on through efforts of Teruo Hayashi. He has maintained the traditions of Shitoryu's artistry in kata as well as it's practical fighting applications. Soke Hayashi combines his various martial arts experience incorporating his judo training to make his brand of Shitoryu graceful, powerful and lethal. As a young man on the streets of Osaka he would test his karate skills fighting multiple opponents. Over the years he has trained world champions in both kata and kumite

Shitoryu Karate-do Kata

  • Itosu-ha
  • Higashionna-ha
  • Ishimine-ha
  • Shuri-te
  • Naha-te
  • Shuri-e
  • Pinan 1 - 5
  • Sanchin
  • Ishimine
  • Bassai
  • Naifuanchin 1 - 3
  • Suparinpei
  • Jitte
  • Seisan
  • Jion
  • Seipai
  • Aragaki-ha
  • Jiin
  • Seienchin
  • Kume
  • Shoalin
  • Bassai sho
  • Saifa
  • Unshu
  • Bassai dai
  • Kururunfa
  • Niseishi
  • Kusanku sho
  • Shisochin
  • Gojushiho
  • Sochin
  • Kosokun dai
  • Sanseiru
  • Seisan
  • Chinto
  • Miyagi-ha
  • Matsumora-ha
  • Shiho-kosokun
  • Naha-te
  • Tomari-te
  • Chinte
  • Tensho
  • Matsumora
  • Passai
  • Rohai 1- 3
  • Ten no
  • Matsumora
  • Rohai
  • Chi no
  • Shinsei
  • Tomari-te
  • Go
  • Kenki-ha
  • Matsukaze
  • Fujian
  • Wanshu
  • Neipaipo
  • White Crane Gongfu
  • Wanduan Hakutsuru Tomari Bassai Paipuren (Happoren)
  • Mabuni-ha Composed by Kenwa Mabuni
  • Shinpa (Kanbum Uechi influence)
  • Myojo Juroku Aoyagi (Seiryu Konishi influence)

Shito Ryu Style

In its appearance Shito-ryu basically can be seen as a combination of Shotokan-like and Goju-like karate. Shotokan, which came from Shorin-ryu (from Shuri-te), utilizes long linear stances and physical power and Goju-ryu, which came from Shorei-ryu (from Naha-te and Tomari-te) utilizes up and down stances and internal breathing power (hard and soft techniques). Shito-ryu adopted both principles from Shorin-ryu and Shorei-ryu. Shito-ryu is fast, but still powerful and artistic. It incorporates the powerful Shuri-te kata like Naifanchin and Bassai, the hard and soft Naha-te kata like Sanchin and Kururunfa, and the artistic Chinese white crane kata like Nipaipo and Paipuren. Shito-ryu is broad, still distinct. It emphasizes very much on Kihon (basics) at the beginning, but for a senior Shito-ryu student, quality and quantity run together. Shito-ryu contains all the eighteen Shorin-ryu kata, all the sixteen Shorei-ryu kata, the Chinese white crane kata, plus the kata devised by Master Mabuni himself from his broad knowledge and experiences, a total of more than sixty kata (depending on the organization). Moreover, the special charateristic of Shito-ryu which distinguish it from other school is that, Shito-ryu lives together with Ko-budo (weapon arts) and sometimes Iaido (sword-drawing-arts). The Kihon, Kumite, Karate kata, Ko-budo Kata, Iaido kata and the principles & messages behind them made the treasury of Shito-ryu so magnetic and demanding that Shito-ryu deserves a life-long dedication to practice and perfect.

Shito Ryu's Five Principals of Self Defense

Teni
Taisabaki (footwork). Shifting or turning quickly out of the opponent's way.
Ryusui
Soft blocking. Redirecting a strong attack with a circular or deflecting parry
Raka
Hard blocking. Striking an off-center or indirect attack with sudden maximum power.
Hangeki
Defense as attack. A good defense is offense.
Kushin
Springing. A reflexive, darting "out and in" kind of body shifting from any angle.