Okinawa, Japan is the birthplace of modern day karate and kobudo (weapons fighting). Historians believe these fighting forms originated over 1,000 years ago and were necessary for the self-defense of the islanders. Over the course of this thousand-year history, unarmed and armed defense techniques were influenced by contact with China and its martial arts systems.
Continual subjugation of the Okinawans by the Japanese and the banning of weapons on the islands furthered the need for the Okinawans to practice martial arts to ensure their safety. Due to the secrecy in which karate and kobudo had to be practiced, the art forms were passed down from master to student for hundreds of years in the form of kata. Sometimes this teaching was in-depth and happened over the course of many years. Other times, teaching a kata may have occurred over a very brief period, such as two people passing in the road.
Seibukan Shorin-Ryu, is one of the many karate styles of Okinawan Shorin-Ryu, which developed in the Shuri region in the 1800s. Seibukan, also known as Sukunaihayashi, is a traditional karate style which was established in 1962 by Master Zenryo Shimabukuro, a student of the great Master Chotoku Kyan. It is neither a hard nor soft style and requires power and precision, as well as speed and agility. Repetition of basic techniques and kata are the foundation of training in Seibukan Shorin-Ryu. Dedicated practice is a path of self-discovery and self-improvement. Under the guidance of Hanshi Zenpo Shimabukuro, Seibukan Shorin-Ryu continues the legacy of its founder Master Zenryo Shimabukuro.
Chotoko Kyan (1870 - 1945)
Master Kyan was born in 1870, to a very wealthy family in Shuri. At the tender age of five he was taught the empty hand art of self-defense from his father Chofu Kyan and his grandfather. Being born into a rich family, he was able to devote all of his time studying the martial arts and was sent to the best Okinawin Karate teachers available. After completing his apprenticeship under six famous Okinawin Shorin-Ryu masters, Kyan started to teach the art at his home. In the 1920's Kyan traveled to mainland Japan to promote the art. In the late 1920's Kyan moved to the village of Kadena where he taught a small number of devoted students. One student, Zenryo Shimabukuro of Chatan was introduced by a school headmaster and accepted as a student. Zenryo Shimabukuro studied 10 years under the tutelage of Master Kyan until Kyan's death. Food was scarce during WWII and whatever food master Kyan obtained, he gave to the children. In 1945 at the age of 75, grandmaster Kyan passed away from hunger.
Master Zenryo Shimabukuro (1906 - 1969)
Master Zenryo Shimabukuro, 10th Dan Red Belt, was the foremost disciple of Sensei Chotoku Kyan. Master Zenryo Shimabukuro, a baker by trade, was only 5 feet, 2 inches tall, but he was a very strong man. After completing 10 years of karate as a private student under Master Kyan, he began teaching. Early in his career as a karate teacher Shimabukuro Sensei had no dojo. All his instruction was conducted outside of his home, with a small group of students, including his son Zenpo and his nephew Zenji. In 1962, he built his own dojo and named it Seibukan, which means "Holy Art School," and came to designate the style of karate itself. Seibukan radiates Sensei Shimabukuro’s philosophy of Karate. He was a highly respected member of his community and received many certificates of appreciation from city officials for his work for the betterment of the Okinawan people. In 1964 he was awarded the highest rank in Karate by the All Okinawin Karate-do Federation, the 10th Dan Red Belt. During the American occupation of Okinawa, he was persuaded to teach karate to American servicemen stationed in Okinawa, thus spreading the art to the United States and other countries. Master Zenyro Shimabukuro died of appendicitis in 1969 at the age of 61. Today his son Hanshi Zenpo Shimabukuro continues the legacy.
Hanshi Zenpo Shimabukuro (1943 - )
Hanshi Zenpo Shimabukuro, 10th Degree Black Belt and Supreme Instructor of the International Seibukan Shorin Ryu Karate Association, was born in Chatan Cho, Okinawa, in 1943. He was the fourth of five children of Master Zenryo Shimabukuro. Hanshi Zenpo Shimabukuro was born during the time Okinawa was preparing for World War II. One of his sisters died as the war was beginning and a younger brother died shortly after the war ended. During the course of the war, the Shimabukuro family lost everything they owned. When the attack on Okinawa began, the family moved to the northern area of the island and did not return to the central part until after the war. Before WW2, Master Zenryo Shimabukuro was a baker and tatami maker by trade. For a short time after the war he worked for the United States military, then resumed his profession as a baker, and also as a city government official. Hanshi Zenpo Shimabukuro assisted his father with the teaching of Seibukan karate on US military bases and helped construct the Seibukan Dojo in Jagaru.
Hanshi Shimabukuro graduated from Futema High School in March of 1962, and in September 1963, upon request of his father, left to go to the United States to teach Sukunaihayashi karate-do to Seibukan students. He lived and taught karate in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is noted in Okinawin karate history as one of the very first Okinawin Sensei to teach karate-do in America. In 1966, Hanshi Shimabukuro returned to Okinawa to help his father with the Seibukan Honbu dojo, and became Supreme Instructor over the Seibukan Karate-do System upon his father's death in October of 1969.
In 1975, the International Seibukan Karate-do Association was formed. Sensei Shimabukuro returned to America that year for a three-month stay in the Mississippi area to meet with prominent United States Seibukan Sensei and begin the formalities of organizing International Seibukan. During this time Seibukan students in America, Japan, Malaysia, Germany, Poland, South America, the Middle East, and India realized the need for his regular visits to update and standardize their karate techniques and katas. Because of his ability to speak and write English, he used his skills to share with English speaking karate-ka around the world, his great knowledge of karate-do.
Hanshi Dan Smith (1943 - )
Hanshi Dan Smith, 9th dan, is one of only two non-Okinawans to ever be promoted to Hanshi. Smith, who lived on Okinawa and has been studying with Zenpo Sensei for over 40 years, can be credited with bringing Seibukan to the United States. He has spent most of his karate life spreading the word of Seibukan worldwide. Sensei Smith has created katas, inlcluding Dorokyu and Kigan, and is the President of Seibukan USA.