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Mabuni, Kenwa (1889-1952)

Kenwa Mabuni was born on the island of Okinawa in 1889. Mabuni was a descendent of the Okinawan warrior class whose ancestors served the Okinawan lords for hundreds of years. At the age of 13, he began his martial arts instruction under Yasutsune Itosu in the village of Shuri. He also began to study Naha-te under Kanryo Higaonna, who was introduced to him by a childhood friend, Miyagi Chogun. These men were the highest authorities of karate at that time, and were the founders of two schools of Okinawan Karate, Shorin-Ryu and Shorei-Ryu. Both of these instructors passed away when Mabuni was in his late 20's.

Mabuni Sensei was the ichiban-deshi of Itosu Sensei, suceeding him as the second master of Itosu-Kai. He continued his studies after the death of these great masters, becoming adept at traditional Okinawan weaponry while also incorporating elements of Chinese Kung Fu into his style. Mabui's thirst for knowledge prompted him to develop an extensive body of karate information. The defining characteristics of Sensei Mabyni's karate was its large number of kata, the versatility of its fighting techniques and the inclusion of Okinawan weapons in its instruction. Mabuni Sensei had an insatiable appetite for kata, studying with masters such as Arakaki Kamadeunchu (1840-1918), from whom he learned the Unshu, Nisheishi, Sochin, Arakaki-sai and Arakaki-bo katas.

In 1929, after compulsory military service and a career as a police officer, Mabuni Sensei left Okinawa for Osaka, Japan to teach Itosu-kai. He blended the teachings of Shuri-te and Naha-te to create Shito-Ryu. He formed this name by taking the first ideogram from the names of his two teaches, Sensei Itosu and Higaonna. In this way, he chose to honor and respect his great teachers.

Because of his contribution to Japanese culture and society, Kenwa Mabuni was bestowed by the emperor with the family crest (mon) of the circle with four bars. This was a great honor, as no other family could claim the use of this symbol. When the Kanji for Shito-Ryu is placed within the mon, the symbol for the historical lineage of Shito-Ryu karate is formed. This symbol represents the pure, unaltered tradition of the Nipon Seito Shito Ryu Kai.

Reproduced with permission of Sam Moledzki, President Karate-do Shito-kai Canada. (Edited for punctuation and clarity)

To find more articles of interest, search on one of these keywords:

Yasutsune Itosu, Miyagi Chogun, Shorin-Ryu, Shorei-Ryu, Itosu-Kai, Shito-Ryu

Read more articles by Sam Moledzki

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