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Isshin-Ryu (???, Isshin-ryu?) is a style of Okinawan karate founded by Tatsuo Shimabuku (?? ??) and named by him on 15 January 1956. Isshin-Ryu karate is largely a synthesis of Shorin-ryu karate, Goju-ryu karate, and kobudo. The name means, literally, “one heart method.” As of 1989 there are 336 branches of Isshin-ryu throughout the world, most of which are concentrated in the United States. After the death of Shimabuku in 1975, many variations of Isshin-ryu were formed.
The system is summed up in its kata, or formal practice methods, and the specific techniques used to punch (vertical fist) and kick (snapping kicks). In many of the various forms of the system, fourteen kata (eight empty-hand, three bo, two sai and one tuifa kata) are agreed upon as composing Isshin-ryu. These Kata include original developments of the Master, and inherited kata from the parent styles.
Tatsuo Shimabuku learned Seisan from his primary instructor, Chotoku Kyan. Previous to Kyan’s instruction, the Seisan form was a staple of local traditions.
This kata is the first introduced to students after the First and Second Charts of basics have been learned. This is in contrast to other Shorin systems where this kata is learned after other fundamental kata.
The Goju-ryu curriculum includes a related version of Seisan, but Isshin-ryu Seisan was learned from Kyan, not Miyagi.
This kata was brought into Isshinryu from Shimabuku’s studies with the Goju-ryu Ryu founder, Chojun Miyagi. It is theorized by researchers that this kata is an original composed by Miyagi, based on his experiences in Fuzhou, China.
The kata focuses on the stance “shiko-dachi,” a low horse stance. The kata is broken into segments, each utilizing a specific breathing and muscle-tensing method. The kata has no obvious kicks, but one section contains hints of a rising knee strike. This kata is often studied for its grappling bunkai.
Naihanchi comes to Isshin Ryu from studies with both Chotoku Kyan and Motobu Choki (a cousin of Kyan). It is also considered one of the staples of Ryukyu Ti, and is prevalent in most forms of Karate. The Isshin Ryu version is influenced heavily by the kumite of Motobu, with the exception of the turned-in toes (Motobu preferred the horse-riding stance with the toes in a neutral position).
The kata is also noted for its use of the “Nami Gaeshi,” the returning wave kick. The kick has many different potentials for application, including the sweeping or redirecting of a low kick, a kick or knee to the inside of an opponent’s thigh, knee, tibia and ankle. It also has the movement training potential for the basics of the sequential summation of movement.
Also coming from Kyan, Wanshu (also known as Wansu) has several iterations on the island of Ryukyu. Popular history has the kata coming from a Chinese political visitor who, during his duties, taught his fighting method in the open.