Top Master Masaru Shintani
Masaru Shintani, karate master and supreme
instructor of the Wado Karate Association of Canada, died May 7, 2000,
while doing what he loved best – teaching karate. He was 73.
A 9th Dan, he was the highest-ranking Wado
black belt in North America.
Master Shintani was also founder of the
Shintani Wado-Kai Karate Federation
of North America, one of the largest martial arts organizations in
North America, and of the Shintani Shindo Federation.
Born in Vancouver on Feb. 3, 1927, he was
the eldest son of Japanese immigrants. His mother belonged to the
ancient Samurai family Matsumoto; his father was a salmon fisherman who
drowned before the Second World War.
During the war, the family was part of the
mass internment of Japanese-Canadians in the interior of British
Columbia. As a teenager at the internment camp in New Denver, Master
Shintani was first exposed to judo, aikido and kendo.
He began the study of karate under master
instructor Akira Kitegawa whose roots in karate sprang from Sokun
Matsumura (1792-1887) and Yasutsune (Anko) Itosu (1830-1915).
It was an often brutal and vicious form of
karate, but Master Shintani said he was grateful for his martial arts
training because he would have died in 1948 without it when he and his
brother were attacked by a gang.
In 1947, the family moved east and settled
in Ontario where they worked for a local farmer before setting up their
own market gardening business.
A natural athlete, Master Shintani played
senior hockey in Ontario and minor league baseball in the United States
as a pitcher in the Cleveland Indians' farm system. He also pitched for
the 1947 Japanese All-Star Team in Toronto.
In the early 1950s, he established his
first dojo in an Ontario garage, using mattresses to cover the concrete
Master Shintani remained faithful to
Kitagawa Sensei for 20 years. After Kitagawa died in 1956, he began his
search to learn more about karate, having attained the level of Rokudan
(sixth) in Kitagawa's Shorin Ryu Karate style.
In 1966, Shintani Sensei met Takeshi
Ishiguro, Sandan in Wado-Ryu, who taught Master Shintani the Wado
While competing in and eventually winning
the championship in large All-Japan Karate Federation tournaments in
Tokyo, Master Shintani met and began to train under Grand Master Hironori Otsuka.
In 1968, Grand Master Otsuka awarded
Shintani Sensei his 7th Dan, appointed him head of all Wado Karate-do
in North America, and conferred on him the title of supreme instructor.
Their close relationship was clearly
demonstrated in the 105 letters written to Master Shintani and his
mother by Otsuka Sensei between 1969 and 1981, and by Otsuka’s trips to
Canada to demonstrate and promote Wado Karate-do there.
Shintani Sensei was personally given the
rank of Hachidan (8th Dan) and Kudan (9th Dan) on Nov. 15, 1979 by
Grand Master Otsuka.
Travelling widely to instruct and organize,
Shintani Sensei established Wado in more than 200 centres in Canada and
the U.S. with 27,000 adherents and more than 6,000 black belts.
In 1996, Top Master Shintani named Shihan Greg Reid as his successor in Wado
as well as supreme
instructor; and in 1998 co-authored with Reid Sensei the book Wado-Kai Karate Kata -- the definitive text on
Wado kata as taught by Grand Master Otsuka.
Karate had always been Master Shintani’s passion.
"Karate was his discipline,” says his son
Sharmon. “He practised it to perfection. That's what he did day in and
day out. He was proud of being able to show somebody a different way of
life. He took pride in showing someone a peaceful, harmonious place."
Master Shintani had planned to attend the
1999 Wado invitational competitions in Victoria but was confined to a
wheelchair after a stroke earlier in the year.
By sheer force of will, using canes and a
walker, he continued to teach, and was still teaching when he died.