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Early Life

Chosin Chibana was born in Torihori village, Shuri on June 5, 1886, into a modest family. As a boy, he worked in the fields to help with his family’s livelihood. He attended Okinawa Prefectural Grammar School. In 1898, Chibana successfully met the requirements necessary to enter Okinawa Prefectural Daiichi Middle School, but left school in mid-course in 1900 to become a student of the widely known authority of Karate, Anko Itosu. While it took three separate requests to Itosu to allow him to train under him, Itosu eventually agreed and took him as his student. Chibana devoted his total life to the study of Karate, including 13 years under Sensei Itosu.

Lessons of Itosu

While a student of Itosu, Chibana was a classmate to men like himself, who were to leave their mark on Karate across the world. Students studying under Sensei Itosu with Chibana were Kenwa Mabuni, Choki Oshiro, and Masashige Shiromo, to name just a few.

At the age of 34, Chibana opened a dojo in Torihori and taught Itosu’s karate without any of his own personal variations. He would then later relocate the dojo to Kumoji village, Naha and then finally to Gibo village Shuri in 1929 at Baron Nakihin’s courtyard. At Gibo, he would call the school The Tode Kenkyu Sho (Karate Research Club).

Chosin Chibana image

Master Chosin Chibana

Around this time, several of Chibana’s classmates, Kenwa Mabuni and Gichin Funakoshi, had introduced Karate to mainland Japan. During this surge of interest in Karate, many Karate men sought ways of making what they knew more appealing, but Chibana Sensei maintained that it would take him a lifetime to understand thoroughly what he had been taught by Itosu Sensei. He devoted his life to this principle. He could often be heard saying, “Karate is teaching Kata we have taken from forefathers without changing it at all.”

Kobayashi Shorin-Ryu

When the many changes were taking place in Karate with the naming of different systems by Ryu names, Chibana Sensei named his system Shorin-Ryu to denote that he was teaching exactly as he had been taught by Sensei Itosu. While training his students, he also coached students at three universities in mainland Japan; Takushoku University, Tyo University, and Nihon University, through explanation of military exercise before the Pacific War.

Post World War II

After the battle of Okinawa, Chibana found himself on the Chinen Peninsula where he taught karate until 1948. He then returned to Shuri and reopened his dojo in Giba village. He would open many schools in Jiku, Asato, Mihara, and Yamagawa to name a few.

With the war over and Okinawa having recovered from the destitution, Chibana Sensei started to teach again to those students who had not been killed in the war. Many of his top students served and died for the Japanese Imperial Army.

From 1954 to 1958, he was employed as the karate instructor at the Shuri police station. Having devoted his total life to teaching Karate and never having another vocation, in 1956 at the age of 71, he organized the Okinawa Karate Federation and took office as its first president. This was a big step for Sensei Chibana because the Okinawa Karate Federation was made up of main Ryus that had developed in Okinawa. This was the beginning of the end of the quarreling between school and system as to whose system was the best.

In 1961, he resigned from the presidency of the Okinawa Karate Federation to devote more time to his disciples. At this time, he organized the Okinawa Shorin-Ryu Karate Association made up of his disciples. Although 76 years old, from this time on, he devoted all his energies to his follower’s training.

Later Years

In 1957, because of his efforts to unite Karate on Okinawa and his total dedication to Karate, he was given the degree of “Hanshi no Sogo” (Doctoral Master) by the Dainippon Butokukai. This was the highest rank ever given to any Karate instructor and no one has received this rank since. In 1960, he was awarded a special athletic prize by the Okinawa Times.

In 1961, he resigned from the presidency of the Okinawa Karate Federation to devote more time to his disciples. At this time, he organized the Okinawa Shorin-Ryu Karate Association made up of his disciples. Although 76 years old, from this time on, he devoted all his energies to his follower’s training.

Awards in Later Years

In 1957, because of his efforts to unite Karate on Okinawa and his total dedication to Karate, he was given the degree of “Hanshi no Sogo” (Doctoral Master) by the Dainippon Butokukai. This was the highest rank ever given to any Karate instructor and no one has received this rank since. In 1960, he was awarded the Physical Culture Distinguished Services Award by the Okinawa Times and in 1968 he received the Kunyonto Order of the Sacred Treasure from Emperor Hirohito.

Last Years

During his lifetime Chibana had performed many demonstrations, and during his last demonstration in 1968, he danced to a delighted audience. It is also at about this time that some of the only known video footage of Chibana was filmed. He was very sick at this time, and yet still remarkably powerful.

In February 1969, at the age of 84, Chibana Sensei passed away from his battle with throat cancer, leaving behind him a life completely devoted to Karate and the almost impossible feat of having trained five of his disciples, Chozo Nakama, Katsuya Miyshira, Kensei Kinjo, Yucho Ku Higa, and Shugoro Nakazato, to the stage of Kyudan (9th Degree) Karate Master.

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