Shimabukuro Masayuki Hidenobu Hanshi

Shimabukuro Hanshi

Shimabukuro Masayuki (島袋昌之) was born in Ōsaka, Japan on 27 March 1948.  He was destined to become one of the most influential and highly respected budōka and budō sensei in the world, the founder of the Jikishin-Kai International, and the 21st sōshihan (headmaster) of Musō Jikiden Eishin-Ryū iaijutsu.  His inspiring life exemplified the principles of Bushidō and the character of a true samurai.  He was revered by his students, deeply respected by his peers, yet despite his many awards and honours he always insisted, "Just call me Shima."

His martial arts journey began when he was about 10 years old with the Japanese martial sport of jūdō.  In the ensuing years, his fascination and aptitude in budō led him to train in numerous forms and styles, giving him a unique and profound knowledge and understanding of the principles, techniques, and intracies of both koryū (ancient) and gendai (modern) budō.  His instructional emphasis was always on ōyō, the practical application of the principles and methods he taught, including how budō concepts could improve one's life, health, career, and personal relationships.

In 1963, Shima began training in Shōrinji kempō as a direct student of its founder, Sō Dōshin.  Shōrinji kempō is a Japanese system of budō based upon Shaolin Temple kung fu.  Sō Dōshin (宗道臣) was born Nakano Michiomi (中野道臣) in 1911.  After a turbulent childhood, he enlisted in the Japanese Army in 1928 and was stationed in Manchuria with the Japanese occupation force working in intelligence and covert operations.  When the Russian Army invaded Manchuria near the end of World War II, Nakano returned to Japan and changed his name to Sō Dōshin.  In 1947 So founded Shōrinji kempō, which combines both striking and grappling, working much like a blend of karate, jūdō, and aikidō. So also founded Kongō Zen Buddhism based upon Vajrayana Buddhism, which serves as the core philosophy of Shōrinji kempō.

His Foundation in Okinawa Budō

Posted by Michiko Pellman on 09 June 2015

Shimabukuro HanshiIn 1965, whilst continuing his training in Shōrinji kempō, Shima became a direct student of Hayashi Teruō, who was then serving as the chief instructor of the Seishin-Kai in Ōsaka on behalf of its founder's son, Kuniba Shōgō.  When Kuniba Shōgō assumed leadership of the Seishin-Kai in 1970, Hayashi left that organisation and founded  Hayashi-Ha Shitō-Ryū karate-dō and Kenshin-Ryū Okinawa kobudō.  By that time, Shima had ceased training in Shōrinji kempō to concentrate exclusively on Shitō-Ryū, so he also left the Seishin-Kai and remained a student of Hayashi Teruō until 1996.

Hayashi-Ha Shitō-Ryū is also a blended system.  It combines the style of Shitō-Ryū taught to Hayashi by Kuniba Kōsei, who had been a direct student of Shitō-Ryū founder, Mabuni Kenwa, with Ryūei-Ryū karate, a formerly secret family style of karate taught to Hayashi by Nakaima Kenkō, as well as techniques and principles learned from Nagamine Shōshin of Matsubayashi Shōrin-Ryū.

In the early 1970s Shima was promoted to yondan (4th Degree Black Belt)  in Hayashi-Ha Shitō-Ryū karate-dō and decided it was time he tested the effectiveness of his karate.  So he traveled to Bangkok, Thailand and entered a Muay Thai tournament to see how his knowledge and skill in karate would fare against experienced Thai boxers.    After winning some of his early matches and rising to the middle of the standings, he entered the ring to face one of Thailand's top competitors.  Midway through the match, the Thai boxer landed a shin kick that knocked out all four of Shima's upper front teeth, ending the match.  Whilst medical personnel were attending to Shima's injuries the Thai boxer stood by, apologising profusely.  "Don't be sorry," Shima told him, "That was damn fine kick!"

In many respects, that incident epitomises Shima's approach to budō.  It must be practical and effective; not just technically correct or conforming to the established standards of a particular style.  And there is no cause for apologies for using good technique fairly against an opponent or training partner who is prepared and participating voluntarily, just because that person fails to defend against it.  Such is the inherent risk of budō training.

In 1979, Shima moved to the USA, settling first in Escondido, California about 30 miles north of San Diego, where he began teaching karate-dō and Okinawa kobujutsu at the Escondido Police Department gymnasium.  After performing demonstrations at the San Diego County Fair, Shima's reputation began to spread and he was invited to provide guest instruction at several Southern California dōjō throughout the 1980s.

In 1993 Shima opened a dōjō in the Clairement district of San Diego, California and established the JKI as the Japan Karate Institute.  That same year, he was invited to perform a demonstration of Muso Jikiden at Ozawa Osamu's International Karate Championships in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Also attending the tournament was Mabuni Kenzō, son and successor of Shitō-Ryū founder Mabuni Kenwa, who was making his first-ever public appearance outside of Japan.  Shima arranged for one of his students to attend and critique Mabuni's seminar.  All three returned in to the Las Vegas tournament in 1994 and repeated the process, which led to discussions between Shima and Mabuni in the following months.

In 1996 the JKI, now known as the Jikishin-Kai International, formally affiliated with Mabuni's Nihon Karate-Dō Kai. Shima remained a direct student of Mabuni Kenzō until the latter's death on 26 June 2005.  Shima's association with Mabuni produced a significant change in his approach to teaching karate.  Hayashi's focus had been almost exclusively on tournament competition, while Mabuni insisted vehemently that "Karate is not a sport.  Karate is for killing."  Mabuni was convinced that sport karate placed too much emphasis on techniques that were safe for competition, meaning they were relatively harmless, whereas the actual ōyō (practical application) of the techniques in kata is to incapacitate or kill an opponent in life-or-death combat.

In 1999, Mabuni promoted Shima to the rank of nanadan (7th Degree Black Belt).  After Mabuni's death in 2005, Shima chose not to affiliate with any other karate organisation, but instead remained independent.  In 2008 the Dai Nippon Butoku-Kai awarded him the rank of hachidan (8th Degree Black Belt) and Hanshi ("Exemplary Warrior") in karate-dō.

His Foundation in Nippon Budō

Posted by Michiko Pellman on 09 June 2015
Land of the Rising Sun

In 1975 Shima discovered the art that would later bring him to worldwide attention, when he became a student of Miura Takeyuki, a Shintō priest and 20th sōshihan (headmaster) of Musō Jikiden Eishin-Ryū iaijutsu at the Nippon Kobudō Jikishin-Kai on the grounds of Yasaka Jinja in Ōsaka, Japan.   Although he moved to the USA just four years later, he returned to Japan at least once every year to visit his family and to train with Miura Sōshihan in Musō Jikiden Eishin-Ryū iaijutsu and Shindō Musō-Ryū jōjutsu.  By the late 1980's he had attained the rank of yondan (4th dan) in iaijutsu and sandan (3rd dan) in jōjutsu.

By the early 1990s Shima was traveling frequently to dōjō throughout Sourthern California, teaching iaijutsu and jōjutsu as a guest instructor.  In 1993 he established his own dōjō in the Clairemont district of San Diego, where he taught Shitō-Ryū karate, Kenshin-Ryū Okinawa kobujutsu, Musō Jikiden Eishin-Ryū iaijutsu, and Shindō Musō-Ryū jōjutsu.  In 1994 he and one of his senior students began work on a book about Musō Jikiden Eishin-Ryū iaijutsu that was published the following year as Flashing Steel:  Mastering Eishin-Ryū Swordsmanship.  Earlier in 1995, Miura Sōshihan promoted Shima to nanadan (7th dan) in iaijutsu and awarded him the title of Kyōshi ("Warrior Instructor).  Miura also appointed Shima as the International Director of the Nippon Kobudō Jikishin-Kai, which resulted in Shima changing the JKI from Japan Karate Institute to Jikishin-Kai International.

Following the publication of Flashing Steel and a 7-volume set of instructional videos on Musō Jikiden Eishin-Ryū iaijutsu, the JKI grew quickly, acquiring affiliated dōjō in nearly every US state and more than a dozen foreign countries.   In 1996 Shima filmed a 2-volume set of videos for seitei (standardised) jōdō.  In 1999, Miura Sōshihan promoted Shima to nanadan (7th dan) in SMR and in 2000 to hachidan (8th dan) in MJER, then in 2002 he awarded Shima the title of Hanshi.

Late in his life Miura Sōshihan battled with Parkinson's disease and the resulting inexorable decline in his health and stamina.  In 2007 he privately informed Shima of his failing health and that he planned to appoint Shima to succeed him as 21st sōshihan of Musō Jikiden Eishin-Ryū iaijutsu upon his death.  As a jūdan (10th dan), Miura was the highest ranking member of the Dai Nippon Butoku-Kai (DNBK) and served on its Board of Directors, so Shima began taking a more prominent role in the DNBK in preparation for his eventual duties as sōshihan of and a key figure in the DNBK.  In 2008 the DNBK promoted Shima to hachidan in iaijutsu, awarded him the title of Hanshi, and appointed him as its International Representative for iaijutsu.  These added responsibilities increased the amount of world travel Shima undertook to promote iaijutsu and the DNBK around the globe for the next several years.  Miura officially announced Shima as his successor in 2009.

Unbeknown to most of his students and friends, Shima also began experiencing his own serious health issues around this time, beginning with severe back pain that limited his flexibility and endurance.  In 2011 he was diagnosed with cancer of the gall bladder and underwent radiation and chemotherapy.  At first the treatments seemed effective, but in early 2012 the cancer flared up again.  In March 2012 he underwent surgery for the removal of his gall bladder, during which the surgeons discovered that the cancer had spread through his lymphatic system into his liver.  Although he was told he had only months to live, Shima confidently proclaimed that he would overcome the disease.  As soon as he had recovered sufficiently from the surgery he resumed his travel and teaching schedule, motivated by the desire to accomplish as much teaching and promotion of budō as he could in whatever time remained to him.

On 19 June 2012, Miura Sōshihan passed away at his home in Tsuwano, Japan, and Shima became the 21st sōshihan of Musō Jikiden Eishin-Ryū iaijutsu.   Tragically, Shima was able to serve in that capacity for less than three months, before he passed away on 07 September 2012.  Both men were inducted posthumously into the Dai Nippon Butoku-Kai Hall of Fame in 2013.

The Legacy of Shimabukuro Hanshi

Posted by Michiko Pellman on 09 June 2015
Shima Books & Videos

Shimabukuro Hanshi left an impressive, perhaps unparalleled, body of work as a legacy for his students, family, and future generations of budōka.  He co-wrote the book that probably played the greatest role in spreading interest in, and the popularity of, the art of iaidō outside the borders of Japan, Flashing Steel.  He co-wrote two books on karate that present concepts, technical information, and a philosophy of life found in no other books of their kind:  Katsujinken:  Living Karate & The Way to Self-Mastery and Karate as the Art of Killing.  And he created three sets of videos that remain to this day as some of the best available instruction on the arts of iaijutsu, jōjutsu, and karate-dō.  Beyond these achievements, he developed and disseminated a profound understanding of the physical, mental, and spiritual components of classical budō that made him one of the most prominent and highly respected budōka of his era.  And all that is just the tip of the iceberg.

His greatest impact and contribution is the life-changing influence he had on every student he taught and every person he encounted in his daily life.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson stated:  "The purpose of life is not to be happy.  It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and you have lived well."  Those words are a perfect description of the life and message of Shimabukuro Masayuki Hideonobi Hanshi.

As his co-author said of him:  "... there are those who hold that the samurai no longer exist.  While that may be true in a purely technical sense, I know that samurai can and do live on today.  I know because I walked alongside a samurai for more than twenty years, training with him, dining with him, traveling with him, facing some of life's greatest challenges and difficulties with him, laughing with him, rejoicing with him, and occasionally crying with him.  Such men still do walk the earth, and if you encounter one, it will change your life forever, as it has mine."

In September 2022, just a couple weeks past the tenth annivarsary of Shima's death, seven of his former students committed themselves to reviving and reconstituting the Jikishin-Kai International, so that this and future generations of budōka will have the opportunity to encounter such a man by passing on his teachings and character through the JKI.  Shima once told his co-author, "We will only find out for certain if there is any kind of life after this one when we die, but there is one way I know we can be immortal and that's if our spirit lives on in the people we know and influence."

 The revived JKI will ensure that the spirit of Shimabukuro Hanshi lives on ...  

The Meaning of "Jikishin"

Jikishin Kanji

Words have meaning, and  Japanese words often have particularly deep and complex nuances of meaning.  So the meaning of names can have great significance in classical Japanese budō.

The name Jikishin-Kai was chosen deliberately because of its origins the the ancient Japanese proverb, "Jikishin kore dōjō nari"  ... (more)

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