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Logo Shito ryu.png
Date founded1934
Country of originJapan
FounderKenwa Mabuni (1889–1952)
Current headMabuni Kenyu
Arts taughtKarate
Ancestor artsShuri-te, Naha-te, and Go-Kenki influence
Descendant artsShitō-kai • ShūkōkaiSeishin-kai • Kuniba-kai • Itosu-kai • Kenwa-Kai • Genbu-kaiShotokan
Ancestor schoolsShuri-te and Naha-te
Kenwa Mabuni, the founder of Shitō-ryū Karate.

Shitō-ryū (糸東流) is a form of karate that was founded in 1934 by Kenwa Mabuni (摩文仁 賢和, Mabuni Kenwa). A synthesis of various different Okinawan schools of martial arts, the Shitō-ryū is primarily practiced in Osaka. Due to both controversies in Kenwa Mabuni's line of succession and Mabuni's extensive efforts to popularize the martial art form in Japan, there exist many successor karate schools that claim Shitō-ryū as an influence.


Kenwa Mabuni (Mabuni Kenwa 摩文仁 賢和) was born in Shuri, Okinawa in 1889. Mabuni was a 17th generation descendant of the famous warrior Uni Ufugusuku Kenyu.[1] Perhaps because of his disillusionment, he began his instruction in his home town in the art of Shuri-te (首里手) at the age of 13, under the tutelage of the legendary Ankō Itosu (糸州 安恒, Itosu Ankō) (1831–1915). He trained diligently for several years, learning many kata from this great master. It was Itosu who first developed the Pinan kata, which were possibly derived from the Kusanku form.

One of his close friends, Chōjun Miyagi (宮城 長順, Miyagi Chōjun) (founder of Gojū-ryū Karate) introduced Mabuni to another great of that period, Kanryō Higaonna (東恩納 寛量, Higaonna Kanryō). Mabuni began to learn Naha-te (那覇手) under him. While both Itosu and Higaonna taught a "hard-soft" style of Okinawan "Te", their methods and emphases were quite distinct: the Itosu syllabus included straight and powerful techniques as exemplified in the Naihanchi and Bassai kata; the Higaonna syllabus stressed circular motion and shorter fighting methods as seen in the kata Seipai and Kururunfa.[citation needed] Shitō-ryū focuses on both hard and soft techniques to this day.[citation needed]

Although he remained true to the teachings of these two great masters, Mabuni sought instruction from a number of other teachers, including Seishō Arakaki, Tawada Shimboku, Sueyoshi Jino and Wu Xiangui (a Chinese whitecrane kungfu master known as Go-Kenki in Japanese). In fact, Mabuni was legendary for his encyclopaedic knowledge of kata and their bunkai applications. By the 1920s, he was regarded as the foremost authority on Okinawan kata and their history and was much sought after as a teacher by his contemporaries. There is even some evidence that his expertise was sought out in China, as well as in Okinawa and mainland Japan. As a police officer, he taught local law enforcement officers and at the behest of his teacher Itosu, began instruction in the various grammar schools in Shuri and Naha.[citation needed]

In an effort to popularize karate in mainland Japan, Mabuni made several trips to Tokyo in 1917 and 1928.[citation needed] Although much that was known as Te (Chinese Fist; lit. simply "hand") or karate had been passed down through many generations with jealous secrecy, it was his view that it should be taught to anyone who sought knowledge with honesty and integrity. In fact, many masters of his generation held similar views on the future of Karate: Gichin Funakoshi (founder of Shotokan), another contemporary, had moved to Tokyo in the 1920s to promote his art on the mainland as well.[citation needed]

By 1929, Mabuni had moved to Osaka on the mainland, to become a full-time karate instructor of a style he originally called Hanko-ryū, or "half-hard style". The name of the style changed to Shitō-ryū, in honor of its main influences. Mabuni derived the name for his new style from the first kanji character from the names of his two primary teachers, Itosu and Higaonna (also called Higashionna). With the support of Ryusho Sakagami (1915–1993), he opened a number of Shitō-ryū dojo in the Osaka area, including one at Kansai University and the Japan Karatedō-kai dojo. To this day, the largest contingent of Shitō-ryū practitioners in Japan is centered in the Osaka area.[citation needed]

Mabuni published a number of books on the subject and continued to systematize his instruction method. In his latter years, he developed a number of formal kata, such as Aoyagi, for example, which was designed specifically for women's self-defense. Perhaps more than any other master in the last century, Mabuni was steeped in the traditions and history of Karate-dō, yet forward thinking enough to realize that it could spread throughout the world. To this day, Shitō-ryū recognizes the influences of Itosu and Higaonna: the kata syllabus of Shitō-ryū is still often listed in such a way as to show the two lineages.


Kenwa Mabuni died on May 23, 1952, and the lineage of the style was disputed between his two sons, Kenzo (1927-2005) and Kenei (1918–2015). Currently, the Shitō-ryū International Karate-dō Kai (also known as Seito Shitō-ryū) lists Kenzō Mabuni as the second Sōke of Shitō-ryū,[2] while the World Shitō-ryū Karate-dō Federation (also known as Shitō-kai Shitō-ryū) lists Kenei Mabuni.[3] According to Japanese tradition, the eldest son is deemed the successor and inheritor of everything his father owned, including the title of Soke.[4] Kenei Mabuni was succeeded by his son, Kenyu Mabuni, as the third Soke of Shito-Ryu. Kenyu was anointed the next Soke (successor) of the system in an inauguration ceremony held on February 28, 2016, in Osaka, continuing his father's and his grandfather's work which is the spread of the original Shito ryu Karate do worldwide.[5][6][7]


Shitō-ryū is a combination style, which attempts to unite the diverse roots of karate. On one hand, Shitō-ryū has the physical strength and long powerful stances of Shuri-te derived styles, such as Shorin-ryū and Shotokan (松涛館); on the other hand, Shitō-ryū also has the circular and eight-directional movements, breathing power, and hard and soft characteristics of Naha-te styles such as Uechi-ryū and Gōjū-ryū (剛柔流). Shitō-ryū is extremely fast, but still can be artistic and powerful. In addition, Shitō-ryū formalizes and emphasizes the five rules of defense, developed by Kenwa Mabuni, and known as Uke no go gensoku (受けの五原則), Uke no go genri (受けの五原理), or Uke no go ho (受けの五法):[8]

  • 落花 (rakka, "falling petals"). The art of blocking with such force and precision as to completely destroy the opponent's attacking motion. Examples of rakka are the most well-known blocks, such as gedan-barai (下段払い) or soto-uke (外受け).
  • 流水 (ryūsui, "running water"). The art of flowing around the attacker's motion, and through it, soft blocking. Examples are nagashi-uke (流し受け) and osae-uke (押さえ受け).
  • 屈伸 (kusshin, "elasticity"). This is the art of bouncing back, storing energy while recoiling from the opponent's attack, changing or lowering stance only to immediately unwind and counterattack. Classic examples are stance transitions zenkutsu (前屈立ち) to kōkutsu (後屈立ち) and moto-dachi (基立ち) to nekoashi-dachi (猫足立ち).
  • 転位 (ten'i, "transposition"). Ten'i is the utilization of all eight directions of movement, most importantly stepping away from the line of attack.
  • 反撃 (hangeki, "counterattack"). A hangeki defense is an attack which at the same time deflects the opponent's attack before it can reach the defender. Examples of this are various kinds of tsuki-uke (突き受け), including yama-tsuki (山突き).

Modern Shitō-ryū styles also place a strong emphasis on sparring. Shitō-ryū stresses speed and economy of movement, and fighting is generally initiated from a higher, more upright stance than Shotokan employs. On the other hand, because the style has so many kata, a great deal of time is spent perfecting any one of its 40 to 60 forms.


Other schools of Shitō-ryū developed after the death of Kenwa Mabuni, both because the death of a founder typically results in a dispute as to who will succeed him as the leader of a given school and because many prominent Karate teachers choose to modify the style, thereby creating new branches.

Major existing schools of Shitō-ryū include:

  • Shitō-kai: founded by Manzo Iwata in Tokyo and by Kenei Mabuni in Osaka. These two branches were reunited in 1964, establishing All Japan Karate-dō Federation Shitō-Kai,[9][non-primary source needed] which, after the death of Manzo Iwata in 1993, became known as World Shitō-ryū Karate-dō Federation.[3][non-primary source needed] It was led by president Ken Sakio (a student of Chōki Motobu and Kenwa Mabuni) from 1993 to 2004, and is currently led by president Tokio Hisatomi, a student of Kenwa Mabuni.[10][non-primary source needed] Recently, Kenei Mabuni founded a private organization, International Dento (Traditional) Shitō-ryū, which is separate from the WSKF.
  • Seitō Shitō-ryū: is the style promoted by Shitō-ryū International Karate-dō Kai and is the other of the two branches claiming direct lineage from Kenwa Mabuni. It was founded by his son Kenzo Mabuni and, since his death in 2005, belongs to Kenzo's daughter, Tsukasa Mabuni. In the 1990s, several Shito-ryu masters affiliated themselves with Kenzo Mabuni.
  • Kenshukai Shitō-ryū or Ogasahara-ha Shitō-ryū: founded by the late Eiji Ogasahara, 10th dan (1936 - 2011). Master Ogasahara started karate with Masaioshi Harumoto, a student of Abe and Mabuni. He also trained directly under Kenwa Mabuni, the founder of Shito Ryu. He was the Honorary President of WUKO and obtained the Knight of the Ordre National du Mérite, a high honour conferred by France together with the knighthood of the Ordre de Palmes Academiques conferred by the French-Japanese Society “de Kobe”.[11] The style is now practised under the Japan Kenshukai Karate Association (JKKA 日本空手道拳修会) lead by Yoshio Ietsune (家常義雄) and in Europe under Seiken Shudo Kai Shito Ryu (正拳修道会糸東流) lead by Iwasa Sei (岩佐整).[12]
  • Saito-ha Shitō-ryū Karate-Do: Del Saito Soke, founder of Traditional Karate-do Federation International and Saito-ha Shito-ryu Karate-Do began Karate training with Sensei Al Kahalekulu, a student of Sensei Tommy Morita, who studied under Dr. Tsuyoshi Chitose Soke of Kumamoto, Japan. In the early ‘70s he studied with Sensei Chuzo Kotaka, a student of Sensei Genryu Kimura and Shogo Kuniba Soke. After several years serving as Sensei Kotaka's National Director, Saito began to learn Seito Shito-ryu from Master Kenzo Mabuni, the son of Kenwa Mabuni, founder of Shito-ryu. Saito was presented the Hanshi degree from Kenzo Soke, the highest teaching title of his style. He was also given permission by Kenzo Mabuni to continue his understanding of Shito-ryu while providing him with a direct line to him. For many years Saito served as National Director for the International Karate Federation of Hawaii, and National Executive Director for Karate for the Amateur Athletic Union of the United States. Inducted into the International Karate Hall of Fame in 1994, he has also won numerous awards for his leadership and dedication in martial arts as well as for other sports. Traditional Karate-do Federation International headquarters is located in Grants Pass, Oregon.[13][14][15][16][17]
  • Shūkōkai or Tani-Ha Shitō-ryū: founded by Chōjirō Tani, student of Mabuni Kenwa, in 1949. This style represents the Tani-ha version of Shitō-ryū. Tani's most senior student, Shigeru Kimura, left Japan in 1965 to teach Shūkōkai in Africa. Kimura continued to teach after travelling to Europe, before settling in the United States in 1970 at the age of 29, where he taught at Yonezuka's Cranford dojo for two years; creating the first Shukokai World Tournament in 1981. Sensei Kimura died of a heart attack at the age of 54. Tani died on 11 January 1998.[18]
  • Mokoken (fierce tiger fist) Shito-Ryu Karate-Do founded by John Gaddy, a student of Yoshisada Yonezuka and Masayuki Kukan Hisataka.
  • Motobu-ha Shito Ryu founded by Shogo Kuniba, who was the son of Kosei Kokuba and practiced with Kenwa Mabuni and after Ryusei Tomoyori. Shogo Kuniba died due to cancer in 1992 and addressed his son Kozo Kuniba as the next soke of Motobu-ha Shito Ryu.
  • Kurokawa-ha Shito-Ryu Kai: founded by Timothy M Brooks. While living in Japan, he was advised by Shogo Kuniba, to study under Teruo Hayashi, which he did for over 30 years. He is responsible for the spread of Hayashi-Ha in the United States. Mr. Brooks still teaches in the United States.
  • Hayashi-ha Shitō-ryū-kai: founded by Teruo Hayashi, student of Kōsei Kokuba in 1970.[19][non-primary source needed] Hayashi led Seishin-kai before founding Hayashi-ha Shitō-ryū-kai. Hayashi-ha Shitō-ryū combines many Ryūei-ryū techniques that Hayashi learned while studying in Okinawa. The European organization is run by Miguel Fernández Vázquez, Barcelona, Spain. In the US, Hayashi-ha is run by Akio Minakami in Seattle.[20][non-primary source needed] Teruo Hayashi died in 2004.
  • Kuniba-ha Shito Ryu is a developed styles by Shogo Kuniba during the time he lived in the USA. Currently William H. Price is the soke of Kuniba-ha Shito Ryu according to Kuniba's testament.
  • Shitoryu Jikishinkai Karatedo International: founded by Masayuki Shimabukuro in 1991. He was a long time student ot Hayashi-ha Shitoryu founder Teruo Hayashi, after the death of Hayashi, he began training in Seito Shitoryu under Mabuni Kenzo, the second son of Mabuni Kenwa.
  • Itosu-kai: founded by Ryusho Sakagami (1915–1993) on March 1, 1940, as Shito-ryu Karate Sakagami Dojo in Kawanishi City, Hyōgo Prefecture.[21][non-primary source needed] He succeeded to the position of 3rd soke of Itosu-ha on January 2, 1952, and he officially named the organization Japan Karatedo Itosu-kai and the style "Itosu-ryu" in 1969. The branch is now run by Ryusho's son Sadaaki Sakagami, 4th soke of Itosu-Ryu
  • Suzuki-Ha Shito-Ryu Seiko-Kai: founded by Seiko Suzuki in 1993 upon the death of Ryusho Sakagami, based in Shinkoiwa, Tokyo-Japan. Suzuki a senior student of Sakagami and commenced study in 1954. In 1980 he received 8th dan from Sakagami Sensei and was issued "Menkyo Kaiden".[citation needed]
  • Kurobayashi-ha Shito-ryu Karate-Do: founded by Rudy Crosswell, a student of Shogo Kuniba, Teruo Hayashi and Kenzo Mabuni, in 2012 after 50 years of training in Shito-ryu.[22]
  • Nobukawa-ha Shito-Ryu Karatedo: founded by Soke Kuniaki Nobukawa in 2001. He was student of Chojiro Tani and Teruo Hayashi. Soke Kuniaki Nobukawa currently ranks 8th Dan from All Japan Karate-Do Federation and certified as Hanshi.[23]
  • Seizen Budokai Renmei, Vicente Valverde. Seizen Motobu-Ha Shitoryu Karate Do, Seizen Ryukyu Kobudo. A student of Shogo Kuniba Continue the tradition of Soke Kunio Tatsuno to spread the Motobu-Ha Shitoryu Karate Do. Hanshi Valverde currently ranks 8th Dan from All Japan Karate-Do Federation and is a 3rd Grade certified License Instructor by Kokusai Budoin, International Martial Arts Federation (IMAF) Tokyo Japan.
  • ′′Shito-Ryu Karatedo Renshikan′′: founded by Kyoshi Naresh Sharma in 1997. He is direct student of Soke. Kuniaki Nobukawa 9th Dan Shitoryu. Kyoshi Naresh Sharmais 6th Dan from Japan and certified as Kyoshi and Shihan.
  • Nihon Shitoryu Karatedo Dentokan: founded by Col.(ret.) Roy J. Hobbs on 1994. He is a direct student of Kuniba Shogo and his son Kuniba Kozo. He holds the grade of Hanshi 8th Dan in Motobu-Ha Shito-ryu.
  • Shitoryu Karatedo Yushikan: founded by C. Michial Jones in 1994. He trained in Shitoryu under Rudy Crosswell, Roy Hobbs, Shimabukuro Masayuki, Yusuke Onaga Soke and Moritoshi Nakaema Soke. He holds the rank of Hanshi 8th Dan.
  • Miyazato-ha Shito-Ryu: (宮里派糸東流) founded by Kazumi Murakami in 1999. Murakami began training at the age of 14 in the Ogikubo Dojo under Fumio Demura. Once Demura left for the United States, Murakami continued to train under Ryusho Sakagami obtaining the Itosu-kai grade of 8th Dan. Murakami made several trips to Okinawa to train under Katsuya Miyahara in Kobayshi Ryu and spent a great deal of time training in Gojuryu under Eiichi Miyazato. Murakami was so influenced by Miyazato that he founded the Japan karate-do Jundokai (日本空手道順道会) and Miyazato-Ha Shito-Ryu.
  • Shito-Ryu Karatedo Bushido founded by Japan Karate-Do Shito-Ryu International Renshikan 1999. The Head Instructor of the organization hold 7th Dan Kyoshi licensed from Japan Karate groups.


List of techniques, used in Shitō-ryū style of karate. Blocks, kicks and strikes can be jōdan, chūdan or gedan and related to migi (right) or hidari (left).

Tachi (stances)[edit]


  • Heisoku dachi: Toes & heels together, (closed foot stance), at "attention".
  • Musubi dachi: Heels together, & toes apart, (open foot stance) "knot" shape.
  • Heiko dachi: Feet apart, parallel (open, hip width).
  • Hachiji dachi: Feet apart, toes pointing OUT at 45 degrees (open, shoulder width).
  • Uchi-Hachiji dachi (Naifanchi Dachi): Feet apart, toes pointing IN at 45 degrees (open, shoulder width).
  • Shiko dachi: Straddle leg, "Sumo" stance.
  • Moto dachi: Front knee partially bent, forward stance (shorter than Zenkutsu dachi).
  • Han-Zenkutsu Dachi : Little Bigger than moto dachi and shorter than Zenkutsu Dachi.
  • Heiko Sanchin Dachi : Little longer than Sanchin Dachi
  • Soei Ashi Dachi : Front Leg bend with back leg heel raise. Reverse of Neko Ashi Dachi
  • Zawan Dachi : Wider than Kosa Dachi
  • Zenkutsu dachi: Front knee bent, long forward stance.
  • Nekoashi dachi: "Cat foot" stance.
  • Sanchin dachi: Inward tension stance. ("Hour glass" stance.)
  • Kōkutsu dachi: "Looking back" stance. ("Back stance".)
  • Renoji dachi: Stance resembling the letter "L".
  • "Tee"-ji dachi: Stance resembling the letter "T" upside down.
  • Kosa dachi: "Hooked leg" stance.
  • Sagiashi dachi: "Heron foot" stance (one-legged).
  • Ukiashi dachi: Stance resembling Nekoashi dachi, but more upright in a loose floating leg stance.

Uke-waza (blocking techniques)[edit]

  • Gedan barai uke (Hari uke): Low-level, downward block / sweeping block.
  • Yoko uke (Soto uke): Block from inside (centre of body), towards outside.
  • Yoko uchi (Uchi uke): Block from outside, towards inside (centre of body).
  • Age uke: Rising, upper-level block.
  • Yoko Barai uke: Side, sweeping block.
  • Uchi Otoshi uke: Circular, inside drop (downward pushing) block.
  • Tsuki uke: Simultaneous punching (forearm) block.
  • Te Kubi Sasae uke: Augmented (supported) wrist block.
  • Sukui uke: Scoop block.
  • Shuto uke: "Knife-hand" block.
  • Kosa uke: "X" block (wrists crossed).
  • Hijisasae uke: Augmented (inside-middle) elbow block.
  • Osae uke: Pressing down block.
  • Kakewake uke: Reverse-wedge block.
  • Nagashi uke: Cross-body open-hand flowing/sweeping block.
  • Shiuko uke (Haishu Uke): Open-hand, back-hand block.
  • Shotei uke (Teisho): Palm-heel block.

Uchi-waza (striking techniques)[edit]

  • Seiken tsuki: Fore fist, straight punch (for basic practice).
  • Oi tsuki: Lunge punch.
  • Gyaku tsuki: Reverse hand punch.
  • Furi tsuki: Circular/swinging (roundhouse) punch.
  • Age tsuki: Rising punch.
  • Kagi tsuki: Hook punch.
  • Mae Te tsuki: Lead-hand (forward hand) jab-punch.
  • Ura tsuki: Inverted (palm up), close punch.
  • Morote tsuki: U-shape punch.
  • Tate tsuki: Vertical fist punch.
  • Nihon tsuki: Double punch.
  • Shuto uchi: "Knife" (chopping) hand strike.
  • Ura uchi: Back fist punch.
  • Kentsui uchi: Bottom fist strike.
  • Shotei (Teisho) uchi: Palm-heel strike.
  • Haito uchi: Ridge-hand strike.
  • Haishu uchi: Open back-hand strike.
  • Hiji ate uchi: Elbow strike.
  • Koken uchi: Bent wrist-hand strike.

Keri-waza (kicking techniques)[edit]

  • Mae geri: Front (forward & return) kick.
  • Oi geri: Stepping (lunging forward) kick.
  • Yoko sokuto geri: Side (edge of foot) kick.
  • Mawashi geri: Roundhouse kick (to front).
  • Gyaku (Uchi) Mawashi geri: Reverse direction (inside) roundhouse kick.[25]
  • Ura Mawashi geri: Back leg, hook kick to front (heel/ball of foot).
  • Ushiro geri: Straight-back (backward) kick.
  • Ushiro Mawashi geri: Spinning, back-roundhouse kick to front.
  • Mae-ashi geri: Forward leg, front kick.
  • Fumikomi geri: Stamping/thrusting kick.
  • Hiza Geri: Knee cap kick.
  • Ushiro-ura-mawashi geri: Spinning-back, roundhouse kick.[25]
  • Gyaku (Uchi) geri: Reverse (inside) roundhouse kick.[25]
  • Mae-tobi geri: Front (jumping/flying) kick.
  • Yoko-tobi geri: Side (jumping/flying) kick.

Notable practitioners[edit]


  1. ^ Hokama, Tetsuhiro (2005). 100 Masters of Okinawan Karate. Okinawa: Ozata Print. p. 39.
  2. ^ Kenzo Mabuni Soke at Archived December 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b History at WSKF
  4. ^ file:///C:/Users/Sensei/Downloads/73-Artikeltext-100-1-10-20150204.pdf
  5. ^ Pelekis, George. "Soke Kenyu Mabuni". Shitokai Greece. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  6. ^ Wong, Shihan. "Soke Kenyu Mabuni". Shitoryu Karate Association. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  7. ^ "Soke Kenyu Mabuni". ISKK. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  8. ^ "Uke No Go Gensoku". Shitoryu Cyber Academy. Retrieved 2016-06-14.
  9. ^ JKF糸東会
  10. ^ Tokyo Hisatomi Archived 2012-07-17 at at
  11. ^ "Kenshukai Shitoryu". Siu Loong Kenshukai Shitoryu Karate-do. 2009-09-09. Retrieved 2018-06-20.
  12. ^ sas, Errebi Informatica. "Maestro Iwasa Sei 8° DAN SHITO RYU". Kenshukai Dolomiti (in Italian). Retrieved 2018-06-20.
  13. ^ Soke Del Saito
  14. ^ Hawaii Karate Seinenkai
  15. ^ Soke Del Saito
  16. ^ Shadow Kai Karate
  17. ^ Traditional Karate-do Federation International • Saito ha Shito ryu • The Mission
  18. ^ "CHOJIRO TANI - TANI-HA SHITO-RYU (SHUKOKAI)". Shuriway. Retrieved 11 May 2010.
  19. ^ 日本空手道 林派糸東流会
  20. ^ Minakami Karate Dojo - Minakami Shihan at
  21. ^ Brief History of Itosu-ryu Karatedo
  22. ^ Arizona Budokan - Home
  23. ^ [1]
  24. ^ "Shitō-ryū Stances". Karate-do Shito-kai Canada. Retrieved 2012-02-12.
  25. ^ a b c Nakahashi H.: Shito-Ryu Karaté-Do, SEDIREP France 1985