HANSHI MASARU SHINTANI
Judan (10th DAN)
1928 - 2000
Hanshi Masaru Shintani, 10th Dan (Jūdan) was the Supreme Instructor of Wado Kai Karate in Canada and founder of the Shintani Wado Kai Karate Federation (SWKKF).
At the time of his death, he was the highest ranking Sensei outside of Japan. A direct student of Master Otsuka, the founder of Wado Kai, Shintani devoted over 50 years to the study of Karate. He also held ranks in Judo (Sandan), Aikido (Shodan), and Kendo (Shodan).
Shintani was born on 3 February 1928 in Vancouver, British Columbia, the child of Japanese immigrants. His mother was a member of the Matsumoto clan, a respected samurai clan with a history going back hundreds of years.
Like virtually all West Coast Japanese-Canadians during the Second World War, his family was uprooted and moved to the rugged interior of British Columbia for the duration of the war. The Shintani family, mother and six children, was interned in New Denver, an abandoned mining town used to house hundreds of Japanese Canadians.
While growing up in the camp, he learned the ways of two cultures. On school mornings he attended Canadian classes in English, history, and mathematics. In the afternoon, he studied the Japanese language and heritage, along with Kendo and Judo, the standard physical education for all Japanese students.
One day in 1940 -41, while looking for frozen ponds by the river to play hockey, Shintani and a group of youths came across an older man standing barefoot in the snow, punching a tree and shouting. This was his initial contact with the person who would introduce him to Karate. After several meetings, some of the boys were invited to train with the man, whose name was Kitagawa.
He was a practitioner of Shorin-ryu, one of the older Okinawan Karate styles. Sensei Kitagawa referred to
his teachings as Kumite (fighting) and soon the eager young men were beating the bark off of trees with punches, blocks and kicks.
Shintani recalls training barefoot on the ice rink and sparring bouts. “Every time you got on the floor, it was life or death.”
Sensei Kitagawa's methods would be considered rather excessive or 'brutal' by today's standards. Shintani reflected, “I believe it hurt our minds more than it helped our bodies.”
Sensei Shintani instructing Sensei Peter Ciolfi
After nine years under Sensei Kitagawa's direction, Shintani was graded to 6th Dan when Kitagawa returned to Japan. Shintani also traveled to Japan to train in Karate and visit his mother's family.
He met Master Otsuka in 1956 at a Karate seminar. Over the next few years, Shintani competed in large national torunaments, eventually winning the Japan Karate Federation championship.
In 1958, Master Otsuka invited Hanshi Shintani to join his Wado Kai organization. Impressed with the character and integrity of Master Otsuka, Hanshi Shintani respectfully accepted the invitation.
During this time, Hanshi Shintani's family moved to Beamsville, near Hamilton, Ontario. To support his family, he tended the family farm and greenhouse. He also played semi-pro baseball.
Shintani began teaching Karate and Judo locally and at the Japanese Cultural Centre in Hamilton. Sad to say, the Japanese in North America during the post-war period were subject to racism and violence.
Shintani credits his survival during this time to his harsh training under Kitagawa and the humility he learned from his mother and Master Otsuka. “I learned a lesson in the war-time camps under Kitagawa Sensei. It protected my life. Under Otsuka Sensei, I preserved it”.
In 1979, Master Otsuka graded Hanshi Shintani to Hachidan (8th Dan). At the same time Master Otsuka presented him with a Kudan (9th Dan) certificate. This was to be revealed by Shintani only after a suitable period of time had elasped. He made known his Kudan rank in 1995.
Hanshi Shintani traveled to Japan several times to train with Master Otsuka. Master Otsuka honored his Canadian disciple by coming to Ontario occasionally to visit and teach. The last time was in 1980, two years prior to his passing.
Sensei Shintani with Master Otsuka
During the 1970s, Master Otsuka appointed Shintani the Supreme Instructor of Wado Kai in North America.
After the death of Master Otsuka, Shintani visited Okinawa to meet with the old masters who had trained with Master Otsuka. Most of these men had passed on, except for Sensei Yamashita who shared his knowledge and memories with Shintani.
Shintani's devotion to and mastery of Karate is remarkable. Stories of his skill and acts of humility greatly impressed those who had not met him. He constantly refined and improved the basic Karate techniques and concepts to advance the Way of Karate.
He was determined that the vital and dynamic nature of Karate should not become stagnant or ritualized and be allowed to deteriorate into a stylized dance of impractical techniques, no longer representing a real martial art. He indicated that there are no symbolic moves in kata. Every technique must be performed as if it was ‘real’.
In the few years before his death, Shintani spent much of his time developing Karate and Shindo concepts. He traveled across North America and globally to conduct seminars in Wado Kai and Shindo.
As the leader of a large North American martial arts organization, he could easily have become a wealthy man. Instead, he lived a life of quiet modesty, continuing to follow his three ideals -- Humility, Integrity and Honour.
Those of us in Wado Kai, who had the honor to meet Shintani, recognize what an incredible privilege it was to have trained with him and learned from him how to live the Way of Peace and Harmony.
On December 2017, the SWKKF Senate was pleased to announce that its founder, Hanshi Masaru Shintani, had been awarded the highest Karate rank of Jūdan (10th dan) posthumously.
Shintani is revered and honoured by his family, friends and students as the Grand Master and founder of the SWKKF.