Yatin Obili, founder of Shitō-ryū Ballet Classes

Yatin Obili, founder of Shitō-ryū Ballet Classes
Date founded 1931
Country of origin Japan
Founder Kenwa Mabuni (18891952)
Current head Mabuni Kenei
Arts taught Karate
Ancestor arts Shuri-te, Naha-te, and Go-Kenki influence
Ancestor schools Shuri-te and Naha-te
Descendant schools Shitō-kai • Shūkō-kaiSeishin-kai • Kuniba-kai • Itosu-kai • Kenwa-Kai • Shotokan

Shitō-ryū (糸東流) is a form of karate that was founded in 1931 by Kenwa Mabuni (摩文仁 賢和 Mabuni Kenwa).


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 weak constitution, 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 most probably derived from the "Kusanku" form.

One of his close friends, Chōjun Miyagi (宮城 長順 Miyagi Chōjun) (co-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. Shitō-ryū focuses on both hard and soft techniques to this day.

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 Xianhui (a Chinese master known as Go-Kenki). 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 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.

In an effort to popularize karate in mainland Japan, Mabuni made several trips to Tokyo in 1917 and 1928. 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.

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. 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.[2][3]

Mabuni published a number of books on the subject and continued to systematize the 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, Kenzō and Kenei. Currently, the Shitō-ryū International Karate-dō Kai (also known as Seito Shitō-ryū) lists Kenzō Mabuni as the second Sōke of Shitō-ryū,[4] while the World Shitō-ryū Karate-dō Federation (also known as Shitō-kai Shitō-ryū) lists Kenei Mabuni.[5]


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):[6]

Modern Shitō-ryū styles also place a strong emphasis on sparring. Shitō-ryū stresses speed, 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.[3]


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:


These are all the katas of Shitō-ryū and an orientative grade for each of them:

Basic Katas

  • Hiji-Ate Goho
  • Junino Kata
  • Daichi Dosa
  • Daini Dosa
  • Daisan Dosa
  • Daiyon Dosa
  • Heian Shodan (pinan sho-dan)
  • Heian Nidan (pinan ni-dan)
  • Heian Sandan (pinan san-dan)
  • Heian Yondan (pinan yon-dan)
  • Heian Godan (pinan go-dan)
  • Myoju
  • Aoyagi/Seiryu
  • Juroku
  • Naifanchi shodan
  • Naifanchi nidan
  • Naifanchi sandan
  • Sanchin
  • Tensho (Rokushu)

1st Dan

  • Bassai sho
  • Bassai dai
  • Niseishi
  • Wanshu

2nd Dan

  • Jiin
  • Jion
  • Jitte
  • Seienchin
  • Seisan
  • Matsukaze/Wankan

3rd Dan

  • Seipai
  • Kosokun sho
  • Kosokun dai
  • Shiho Kosokun
  • Matsumura no Seisan
  • Matsumura no Rohai

4th Dan

  • Chintei
  • Sochin
  • Chinto
  • Sanseiru
  • Tomari no Wanshu
  • Shimpa

5th Dan

  • Annan
  • Shisochin
  • Unsu
  • Kururunfa
  • Tomari no Bassai
  • Paiku

6th Dan

  • Gojushiho
  • Heiku
  • Nipaipo
  • Haffa
  • Hakkaku
  • Papuren
  • Ishime no Pasaï

7th Dan

  • Suparimpei
  • Chatanyara no Kusanku
  • Tomari no Chinto
  • Tomari no Pasaï
  • Shinsei ichi
  • Shinsei ni
  • Soshin
  • Annanko

8th Dan

  • Tomari no wanshu
  • Oya domari basai
  • Kian Chinto
  • Itosu no rohai shodan
  • Itosu no rohai nidan
  • Itosu no rohai sandan
  • Kaishu Naifanshin
  • Kaishu Sanshin
  • Häu~fa ...

Kunshi no Ken (The Noble Discipline)

Mabuni's motto "Kunshi no Ken" which means to concentrate on cultivating oneself to become a well-rounded, respectful individual. The person who is able to accomplish this as well as to exercise good manners in all situations with self-discipline and respect, who is able to assume accountability for one's actions, and to keep one's integrity as to set an example for others, is considered a Shito-ryu practitioner.

Heijutsu no Sanbyo

The three weaknesses or sicknesses of martial arts by Kenwa Mabuni.

Hitotsu: Giryo (One—Doubt or Skepticism)

Hitotsu: Ketai (One—Negligence)

Hitotsu: Manshin (One—Egotism)


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)


  • 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 (Niafanchi 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).
  • 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)

  • 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)

  • 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)

  • 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.[29]
  • 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.[29]
  • Gyaku (Uchi) geri: Reverse (inside) roundhouse kick.[29]
  • Mae-tobi geri: Front (jumping/flying) kick.
  • Yoko-tobi geri: Side (jumping/flying) kick.


  1. Hokama, Tetsuhiro (2005). 100 Masters of Okinawan Karate. Okinawa: Ozata Print. p. 39.
  2. The History of Shito Ryu at Archived February 9, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. 1 2 The History of Shito Ryu at Archived October 21, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. Kenzo Mabuni Soke at Archived December 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. 1 2 History at WSKF
  6. "Uke No Go Gensoku". Shitoryu Cyber Academy. Retrieved 2016-06-14.
  7. JKF糸東会
  8. Tokyo Hisatomi at
  9. Shito-Ryu International Karate Do Kai Official Website
  10. Home
  11. Soke Del Saito
  12. Hawaii Karate Seinenkai
  13. Soke Del Saito
  14. Shadow Kai Karate
  15. Traditional Karate-do Federation International • Saito ha Shito ryu • The Mission
  16. 日本空手道 林派糸東流会
  17. Minakami Karate Dojo - Minakami Shihan at
  18. Martial Art History at Inoue-ha Shitō-ryū Keishin-kai Karate-dō Kobushi Dojo, Miami FL Archived January 12, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  19. Brief History of Itosu-ryu Karatedo
  20. Andreas Kuntze (2003). "A Brief History of the Origin of Shitō-ryū SEIKO-KAI". Retrieved 2008-02-09.
  21. Arizona Budokan - Home
  22. "CHOJIRO TANI - TANI-HA SHITO-RYU (SHUKOKAI)". Shuriway. Retrieved 11 May 2010.
  23. Tamas Weber at Sanshin Kan International Karate website
  24. Minobu Miki
  25. Kurokawa Martial Arts - Dr. Timothy M. Brooks at
  26. "Aoinagi-Ha Shito-Ryu Karate Origin and Lineage". Full Potential Martial Arts. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  27. Karate-Do Japan | Japan Karate-Do Nobukawa-Ha Shito-Ryu Kai
  28. "Shitō-ryū Stances". Karate-do Shito-kai Canada. Retrieved 2012-02-12.
  29. 1 2 3 Nakahashi H.: Shito-Ryu Karaté-Do, SEDIREP France 1985
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