FKC Logo

Family Karate Center (FKC)

(International Karate Association of WA State)
12011 19th Ave SE, Everett, WA 98208 (map to dojo)
Phone: 425-344-2170 | Email:
FKC Logo

History of Shito-Ryu

Shito-RyuThe style of karate known as Shito-Ryu had its origins on the island of Okinawa. In ancient time, the art of karate could not be practiced openly and so those who chose to practice the art did so secretly, hidden from public view. In those early days there were no styles, names, belts, ranks, etc., which today are a part of karate. Lacking formal names, people sometimes referred to the various schools of karate by putting the names of grand masters and the katas together, thus creating a sort of label for the particular school. Sometimes schools of karate were known by the districts, and the three Meccas, or most famous centers of karate, on Okinawa were Shuri, Naha, and Tomari. In the late 19th century, the most famous grand master in Shuri was Mr. Itosu, and in Naha it was Mr. Higaona. These two men represented the highest karate authorities of the time. There were, however, significant differences between them. Mr. Itosu emphasized speed, whereas Mr. Higaona placed more emphasis on hardness of body.

The originator of Shito-Ryu, Grandmaster Kenwa Mabuni, initially practiced under Mr. Itosu and then went to study under Mr. Higaona. Mr. Mabuni was not only skilled in karate, but also practiced weaponry such as Bo, Sai, and Nunchaku. Mr. Mabuni founded his new style of karate by blending together that which he had learned from his two great teachers. This blending is reflected in the name of the style. The two grand masters, Itosu and Higaona, have two and three Japanese characters respectively representing their names.

The first character representing Itosu is "shi" (pronounced "she") and the first character representing Higaona is "to" (pronounced "toe"). The combination is the name of our style, "Shito-Ryu", (where "ryu" means style).

National tournament karate did not appear in Japan until the middle of the 1950s. Prior to this it was believed that karate tournaments on a large scale weren't feasible as karate techniques allowed were too damaging, and so karate training consisted only of small tournaments, basics and katas and one and three step sparring. However, by limiting the techniques allowed and by introducing a scoring system, large tournaments became a possibility and a new sport was introduced to Japan, and the world.

In closing, it must be emphasized that although Shito-Ryu had its ancestral roots in Okinawa, it is nonetheless a Japanese creation. The same is true of the term "karate" itself. The literal meaning of the two Japanese characters which make up the word "karate" is "empty hands". The term would have no meaning for the ancient Okinawan grand masters as there was no formal name for their art. For them, the art that they practiced was simply "te" ... "hand".