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Choshin Chibana


Choshin Chibana was born June 5, 1885, in the Torihori district of Shuri. At the age of 15, Chibana placed himself under the tutelage of Anko Itosu, the preeminent Karate master of the day. For the next 13 years until Itosu passing at the age of 85, Chibana remained a devoted pupil. He then practiced further austerities alone, until he finally opened his dojo in Torihori district at the age of 34. There and at his second dojo in Kumojo district of Naha City, he worked to teach the tenets of Karate.

After a narrow escape from in the Battle of Okinawa, Chibana returned to Shuri from the Chinen Village and immediately began teaching again, first in the Gibo area. He taught then at 10 different sites in Yamakawa district of Shuri and Naha, eventually relocating his main dojo from Asato, then to Mihara. During this period from February 1954 to December 1958, he served as Karate Advisor and Senior Instructor for the Shuri Police Precinct. In May of 1956, the Okinawa Karate Federation was formed and he assumed office as its first President.

In August, 1964, in memory of the 50th anniversary of the death of his teacher Anko Itosu, Chibana Sensei erected a monument at the Itosu family tomb.

In 1960, the Okinawa Times newspaper awarded Chibana Sensei its first Award for Distinguished Public Service in Physical Education. In the spring of 1968, he was given the Fourth Degree of Merit Zuiho Decoration for survivors of the war. In 1966, he relocated to Tokyo's Cancer Center, where treatment allowed a brief reprieve which he used to train with his grandchildren. At the celebration in honor of his Zuiho Decoration, Chibana Sensei surprised and delighted the audience by dancing. However, he was incapacitated again before the end of the year, and on February 26, 1969, he passed away in Omaha Hospital at 6:40 in the morning.

By Katsuya Miyahira, Chairman, Okinawan Shorin Ryu Karate Association, March 22, 1972

Chibana Chosin - Sensei

Chibana Choshin, the originator of shorin-ryu ("the small forest style") was born on June 5, 1885, at Tottori-cho in Shuri City, Okinawa. He began training with Itosu "Ankoh" in 1900, after dropping out of the Okinawa Kenritsu Dai-Ichi Chu-gakko (high school). He was then 15 years old.

He studied with Itosu until his teacher's demise on January 26, 1915, at the age of 85. Five years after his teacher's death, he began teaching on his own. His first training hall was located at Tottori-bori and as his reputation spread, he was able to open up a second training hall in Kumo-cho, Naha.

Chibana remained on the island of Okinawa during World War II and narrowly escaped death when Shuri was destroyed by the Americans in 1945. After the war, he once again began teaching Shorin-ryu in Giho-cho which is a section of Shuri City. During February, 1954, until December, 1958, he was also the Chief Karate-do Instructor for the Shuri City Police Department. On May 5, 1956, the Okinawa Karate-do Association was formed and he was appointed its first president.

Chibana's reputation as a karate master continued to spread, not only in Okinawa but also in mainland Japan. By 1957, he had received the title of Hanshi (High Master) from the Dai Nippon Butokukai (The Greater Japan Martial Virtue Association) and in 1960, he received the First Sports Award from the Okinawa Times Newspaper for his overall accomplishments in the study and practice of traditional Okinawan Karate-do. On April 29, 1968, Chibana-sensei brought further honor to Okinawan Karate-do by being awarded the 4th Order of Merit by the Emperor of Japan in recognition of his devotion to the study and practice of Okinawan karate-do.

In 1964, Chibana was advised that he had terminal cancer of the throat. But, because of his dedication to the art of Okinawa Shorin-ryu, he continued to teach even though his body began to weaken as the cancer spread. By 1966, he was admitted into Tokyo's Cancer Research Center for radiation treatment in an attempt to arrest the spread. After some improvement, Chibana once again resumed his teaching of Okinawa Shorin-ryu with his grandson, Nakazato Akira (Shorin-ryu 7-Dan).

By the end of 1968, Chibana-sensei's condition became worse and he returned to Ohama Hospital. Despite the doctors' efforts to save his life, he died at 6:40 a.m. on the 26th of February, 1969, at the advanced age of 83.

Chibana Sensei - A Man Of Butoku

With the end of World War II, the island of Okinawa had taken on a new, modern look. The island was filled with American servicemen, American money and American machinery. The Okinawans once again looked towards Japan for their roots. The most prestigious Japanese martial arts organization, the Dai Nippon Butokukai (the Greater Japan Martial Virtue Association), had been out-lawed during the American military occupation of Japan. By the early 1950's, the U.S. Military became "more tolerant" and the Butokukai was again reorganized and open its doors to the new master teachers of the traditional martial arts.

It should be noted that during this period of time, many Okinawan styles still taught and stressed a more "jutsu" style of martial arts. Many of the old pictures in my collection show various dojo signs indicating that they were a school of Shorin-ryu Karate-jutsu or Uechi-ryu Karate-jutsu. In 1956 the Butokukai was advised that the Okinawans had formed their own organization and were in the process of standardizing the various branches of karate. By 1957, the Butokukai felt that the Okinawans were leaning toward BUDO style martial arts and invited a number of individuals to be honored.

On May 5, 1957, Chibana Choshin, who was then president of the Okinawa Karate-do Association, was awarded the title of Hanshi (Grand Master) from the new Dai Nippon Butokukai. This was the first time that the Butokukai has awarded a so prestigious title to an Okinawan. At the time of his award, the senior most martial arts experts of the Butokukai asked Chibana-sensei what he considered the most important quality for a traditional martial artist. Chibana-sensei replied:

Butoku (Martial Virtue; Martial Honor)! We are born with only one sole possession... this is our name. When we die, all material things mean nothing. We die with our only true possession... our name. We strive to bring honor to our name. We, as teachers of the martial arts, have even a deeper responsibility... we mold and guide the young. We must develop a strong martial honor in order to do this. This is the road I follow. This is what shorinryu karatedo is... my martial honor and my responsibility.

(Note: Initially, I never used the "Butoku" part of the essay. I thought is was too simple and had very little meaning for todays practitioner. I have been practicing shorinryu for 40 years now... I have reviewed and studied the vast amounts of quotes and concepts that Chibana Dai Sensei has passed on to his students, followers and practitioners of the Okinawan martial arts. Truly, I must be a slow learner, for only now (after 40 years) , I believe that I understand what he is saying. Hopefully, you will not only read this but study it... it applies not only to the style I practice but to all traditional martial arts.)

Submitted courtesy of Ernest Estrada, Okinawa Shorinryu Kyoshi

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