Kori Hisataka The Founder and His Legacy of Shorinjiryu
Shinan Masayoshi Kori Hisataka was born on April 22, 1907 in Shuri, Okinawa and died on August 14, 1988 in Tokyo, Japan. He was born into an aristocratic family, which had adopted the family name of Kudaka (Hisataka in Japanese) after one of his ancestors had been made lord of Kudaka Island for service to the Ryukyu Kingdom.
As a youth, he began his studies of the Kudaka family system (Kudakaryu) with his uncle and later studied weaponry with Sanda Ufuchiku Kanegushiku - a bodyguard to the last Ryukyuan king and first superintendent of police for the Okinawan prefecture following the Japanese takeover of the tiny Kingdom.
Shinan Hisataka’s main instructor, however, was Master Chotoku Kyan (1870–1945), one of the greatest Okinawan masters whose favorite techniques included a side step or forward in movement followed by an immediate counter-attack, all executed with great speed and body shifting. This very basic theory of taisabaki is a cornerstone of all the Shorinjiryu schools of karatedo. Master Kyan was also the originator of the tate ken (vertical fist) that is the trademark of Shorinjiryu Karate to this day.
In 1929, Shinan Hisataka toured Taiwan for almost a year with Master Kyan and Master Ryosei Kuwae (a leading disciple of the legendary master Sokon Bushi Matsumura) where oral history recorded he never lost a match. As Taiwan was occupied by the Japanese at that time, Shinan Hisataka had the opportunity to study a variety of martial arts under both local Chinese masters, Japanese and Okinawan practitioners resident on the island at the time.
Later, he traveled throughout Japan. For one year, he studied judo at the Kodokan (the “mecca” of Judo) under the watchful eye of Master Sanpo Toku (the "devil of the Kodokan), attaining the rank of 4th Dan in a single year. During this period he also studied Kendo and gave numerous demonstrations of karate and Okinawan weaponry.
Wishing to improve his skills, he returned to China where he mastered Shorinjiryu-Kempo and delved into Baji Chuan. His travels are reported to have continued throughout Thailand, Korea, Burma, Afghanistan, Russia, and Mongolia.
Prior to World War II, Shinan Hisataka completed a period of compulsory service in the Japanese military, during which time he trained extensively and demonstrated his skills at various tournaments and exhibitions.
During the war, Shinan Hisataka was stationed in Mongolia as a civilian bureaucrat in the railway system. During this time, he was managing a station in a major city where Master Minoru Mochizuki was the district governor. Mochizuki Sensei had been a direct student of Jigoro Kano (founder of Judo) and Morihei Ueshiba (founder of Aikido), and ultimately founded his own system called Yoseikan Budokan. To this day, the karate part of Yoseikan Budo contains practices Master Mochizuki adopted from Shinan Hisataka, while Shorinjiryu Karatedo contains Aikijutsu techniques adopted from Master Mochizuki.
Following the war, Shinan Hisataka was repatriated to the island of Kyushu in Southern Japan. There he received the news that Master Kyan had passed away. Realizing that budo practice could have positive benefits for the demoralized youth of Japan, Shinan Hisataka founded the Kenkokan School of Shorinjiryu Karatedo on June 10, 1947.
As a result of the knowledge which he gained through years of study and practical application, Shinan Hisataka realized that individualism must be recognized in the dojo. Stress was placed upon the full follow through of techniques, thereby creating greater torque. The use of the heel and vertical fist for added strength, safety, and natural movement was instituted.
Yakusoku kumite (prearranged fighting forms) proved an effective training tool allowing for delivery of techniques, evasive moves and body control while maintaining safety. And, finally, he insisted upon the use of bogu (protective equipment), which proved to be an excellent method of preventing injury while allowing for contact. The anzen bogu or safety armor used today is used by all Shorinjiryu schools.
The Kenkokan Dojo was relocated to Tokyo, and moved to its current location in Waseda in 1955. A special guest of honor at the opening ceremony was Master Shinken Gima, an Okinawan master who, together with Master Gichin Funakoshi, gave the first demonstration of karatedo in Japan.
In 1963, Shinan Hisataka sent the first contingent of his young proteges to the USA to establish Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo in the West. Led by his son, Shihan Masayuki Hisataka, this group was specially invited by the Japanese Government to demonstrate Karatedo at the 1964 New York World’s Fair held in Flushing Meadow Park. Thereafter, the various Japanese instructors opened schools on the East coast.
In 1967, a second contingent was sent to Canada to demonstrate at Expo ’67, again under the leadership of Shihan Masayuki Hisataka. After these demonstrations, he remained in Canada for several years, and many of the original Japanese instructors opened dojos in the United States and Canada.
In 1974, Shinan Hisataka retired from day-to-day teaching duties, recalling his son to Japan to take over as Chief Instructor at the Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo So Hombu (headquarters) Dojo. For a variety of reasons, most of the various Shorinjiryu dojo instructors on the U.S. East Coast separated from the So Hombu Dojo, forming their own associations and federations.
Following his retirement, Shinan Hisataka made only rare appearances in the dojo, occasionally providing special instruction to senior instructors from overseas branches, including a group from Canada lead by Shihan Wayne Donivan, and Shihan Laurie Vanniekirk (founder of Australian Shorinjiryu Karatedo).
Shinan Kori Hisataka passed away on August 14, 1988. His legacy is carried forward by the various members and practitioners of Shorinjiryu Karatedo around the world.