Fred East

Karate: History

The History and development of Shito-ryu Karate and the lineage of Karate in Budokai UK

Shito-ryu Karate was founded and created by Kenwa Mabuni sensei in Okinawa in the year 1931. Mabuni sensei started his study of Okinawan-te (which eventually became known as Karate in Japan) at the age of 13 years old under Itosu Anko sensei.

Under Itosu sensei Mabuni learnt the art of Shurite and through diligent training for several years he learned many kata.

Mabuni was later introduced to Kanryo Higoanna sensei by his close friend Chojun Miyagi (Co-founder of Goju-ryu Karate style), under Higoanna sensei Mabuni learned Naha-te.

This influence of hard linear techniques (in such arts as Shurite, Shorinryu later to be known as Shotokan in Japan), and the soft, circular and close fighting techniques (in arts such as Nahate, Tomarite and some Chinese Gungfu styles) was the foundations of the art Shitoryu.

Shito-ryu Karate is very unique as it combines elements of Shurite, Nahate and Tomarite which no other Karate style does.

As well as learning from Itosu and Higoanna sensei’s Mabuni sought instruction from a number of other teachers such as; Seisho Arakaki, Sueyoshi Jino, Tawada Shimboku and Wu Xianhui (he was a Chinese martial arts master also known as GoKenki).

Mabuni is legendary in the world of Okinawan Karate for his encyclopedic knowledge of kata and there bunkai (applications). 

In the 1920’s Mabuni was regarded as the foremost authority on Okinawan kata and their history, and was much sought after by many of his contemporaries of the time, it is believed that Mabuni helped Gichin Funakoshi sensei (founder of Shotokan Karate) to learn and understand the pinan katas.

Mabuni was a Police officer for many years and he taught local law enforcement officers during his time in the Okinawan Police force.

In the year 1929 Mabuni moved to Osaka, mainland Japan to become a full-time Karate Instructor in the art he originally called Gojuryu (soft-hard style). He changed the name of his style to Shitoryu in honour of his two main influences in his study of Okinawante, therefore the new name of the style is derived of the first kanji of the two names Itosu and Higoanna. With the support of Ryusho Sakagami he opened up a number of Shitoryu dojo in the area of Osaka.

Mabuni is credited for having published a number of books on kata, and is known to have created the kata Aoyogi which was designed specifically for women as a way to develop the skills of self defence.

It is considered that perhaps more than any other master over the last century, Mabuni was steeped in the history and tradition of Okinawan-te (Karate), yet forward thinking enough to realize its potential as an art form that could be learned throughout the world.

Kenwa Mabuni sensei died on the 23rd of May 1952, and it is at this point that the lineage of Shito-ryu broke of into two directions through his two sons, Kenei Mabuni and Kenzo Mabuni. The style also took many development and changes over time, and new styles were developed from the original art.

A few examples include

  • Shitokai
  • Seito Shitoryu
  • Itosukai
  • Shukokai
  • Nanbudo
  • Kimurakai

Budokai UK Shitoryu Karate roots

Shukokai created by Chojiro tani (direct student of Kenwa Mabuni sensei) is very relevant to Budokai UK and its study of Shitoryu Karate.

Fred East sensei (founder of Budokai UK) began his study of Karate by learning Shukokai Karate under Dunlop Paul sensei and Shigeru Kimura soke (head of Shukokai Karate and direct student of Chojiro Tani sensei) in South Africa.

On Fred sensei’s return to England in 1976 he opened a dojo in Catford, London teaching Sankukai and was awarded Shodan by Dunlop Paul sensei in that school.

In the 1970’s he joined Prof. Dr. Roger Mills sensei’s organisation, at the time Mills sensei was in a transition from Wado-ryu Karate (under Prof. Tatsuo Suzuki sensei) to Sankukai Karate under Yoshinao Nanbu sensei (founder of Sankukai Karate and direct student of Chojiro Tani, the founder of Shukokai Karate) and Nanbu sensei’s senior student Ryozo Tsukada sensei.

The BSKA (British Shito-ryu Karate Association, was created by Roger Mills 8th Dan sensei) and Budokai UK can therefore trace its Shito-ryu Karate lineage through the Tani sensei (direct student of Kenwa Mabuni sensei) line.

Kenwa Mabuni (Shito-ryu Karate Kaiso) à Chojiro Tani (direct student of Mabuni sensei and founder of Tani-ha which later became known as Shukokai) à Yoshinao Nanbu sensei (direct student of  Tani sensei and founder of Sankukai Karate) and Ryozo Tsukada sensei à Roger Mills sensei (direct student of Nanbu sensei and Tsukada sensei, and founder of BSKA)

Kenwa Mabuni (Shito-ryu Karate Kaiso) à Chojiro Tani (direct student of Mabuni sensei and founder of Tani-ha which later became known as Shuko-kai) à Shigeru Kimura (direct student of Tani sensei and soke of Shuko-kai till he died in 1995) and Dunlop Paul sensei (student of Kimura sensei) à Fred East sensei (direct student of Kimura sensei and Dunlop Paul sensei, and founder of Budokai UK).

The transition from Sankukai Karate to the original Shito-ryu Karate was, with Mills sensei, under Kenji Kusano sensei and Ryozo Tsukada sensei.

East sensei has recently brought Somerset Budokai to total independence and continues to develop the karate training for real life application as well as the traditional training regime.

Fred East sensei (7th Dan), Head of Budokai UK and Chief instructor and founder of Kenbudo Higashi Ryu Japanese Swordsmanship.

Traditional skills and techniques

Real world applications

Get in touch

Fred East  Chief Instructor and Founder
Higashi Ryu Kenbudo & Karate
(Weston-super-Mare), Karate & Sword

Tony Barber (Yatton), Karate Instructor
Mob: 07762725595

Matt Dancey (Worle), Karate, Sword & Young Samurai Instructor

Tel: 01934 261525
Mob: 07582 698100

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