Chibana Chosin Hanshi
1885 – 1969
“In the old days we trained at karate as a martial art, but now they train at karate as a gymnastic sport. I think we must avoid treating karate as a sport – it must be a martial art at all times! Your fingers and the tips of your toes must be like arrows, your arms must be like iron.
You have to think that if you kick, you try to kick the enemy dead. If you punch, you must thrust to kill. If you strike, then you strike to kill the enemy. This is the spirit you need in order to progress in your training”.
Chibana Choshin, the originator of Okinawa style shorin-ryu (“the small forest style”) was born on June 5, 1885, at Tottori-cho in Shuri City, Okinawa. He began training with Yasutsune “Ankoh” Itosu 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 over-all accomplishments in the study and practice of traditional Okinawan Karate-do.
On April 29, 1968, Chibana brought further honor to Okinawan Karate-do by being awarded the 4th Order of the Sacred Treasure (KUNYONTO) 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, Akira Nakazato (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.