Shintani: The Legacy of a Master
Written by James Ryan
Originally published in Black Belt Magazine under the title: Master’s Legacy Lives on in Canada (December 2018/January 2019 issue)
The story of the Shintani Wado Kai Karate Federation (SWKKF) is an interesting one to say the least. Most martial arts organizations seem to fall apart after their chief instructor passes away. Meanwhile, the SWKKF has not only continued to survive, but flourish, despite the passing of its founder in the year 2000 (age 73).
What is the reason for this unprecedented success?
Hanshi Masaru Shintani (Jūdan, 10th degree), who was appointed as the Supreme Instructor of Wado Kai Karate in Canada, as well as the founder of the SWKKF, had enough foresight before his passing to create a Senate Committee comprised of nine senior ranking members, who Shintani hand-picked and personally mentored to carry on with the traditions of his original teachings. These members were all selected with the belief and expectation that they would unselfishly represent the best interests of the entire organization, which now resides at approximately 2500 students with over 400 active black belts, including over 60 volunteers on active committees.
A Brief History
Masaru Shintani was born on February 3, 1928 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. His mother, Tsuruye Shintani (Matsumoto), was a direct descendant of the Matsumoto samurai family. His father, Kanaye Shintani, died when Shintani was only seven years old.
During World War II, Shintani, along with his mother and siblings, were placed into an internment relocation camp in New Denver, B.C., where Shintani met a man by the name of Akira Kitagawa, who was practicing Shōrin-ryū karate, one of the older Okinawan Karate styles. Kitagawa however, simply referred to his teachings as “Kumite” (fighting) and soon, Shintani was literally beating the bark off of trees. He ended up training with Kitagawa for many years before his eventual passing.
From there, Shintani formed his very first karate club in 1952 at the YMCA in Hamilton, Ontario.
In 1956, Shintani met with Master Hironori Ōtsuka at a karate seminar in Japan, where they immediately bonded, and formed a strong and lasting connection. By 1958, Master Ōtsuka approached Shintani with an invitation to join his organization – Wado Kai, which he graciously accepted.
“Kitagawa Sensei taught me how to fight for my life,” said Shintani. “And Ōtsuka Sensei taught me how to preserve it.”
To maintain consistency throughout the organization, SWKKF President, Sensei Denis Labbé (Kudan, 9thdegree) and Chief Instructor, Sensei Ron Mattie (Hachidan, 8th degree) routinely travel from coast-to-coast to oversee various training initiatives, as well as several other comprehensive programs within the organization, including: Instructor clinics, Bunkai (the practical application of kata), Shindo (short staff) and Sparring Strategies.
To ensure the future growth of the SWKKF, there is also a mentorship policy set in place, as well as a constitution, that was put into effect by Hanshi Shintani, which represents the governing rules and laws of the Federation. Additionally, the SWKKF sponsors two annual post-secondary scholarships and a National Competition Team that competes globally.
As the leader of the largest martial arts organization in North America, Hanshi Shintani could have easily been a very wealthy man, but instead, he chose to live a humble life of quiet modesty, continuing to live by his three ideals: Humility, Integrity, and Honor.
Hanshi Shintani has been and always will be the Grand Master and Founder of the Shintani Wado Kai Karate Federation, and thanks to the selfless efforts of the carefully appointed Senate Committee, his legacy will live on for many generations to come.
To learn more, please visit www.shintani.ca