The Brown Belt Perspective

1) The Isshinryu Karate Klub is an independent karate organization.

2) The Klub teaches traditional Isshinryu Karate as performed by Tatsuo Shimabuku.

3) Teaches weapons as performed by Tatsuo Shimabuku.

4) Supports other Isshinryu Karate organizations, whether American or Okinawan.

5) Recognizes and appreciates the contributions to Isshinryu that were made by:

1) Don Nagle - Don Nagle's Karate Schools (*1955)

2) Harold Long - International Isshinryu Karate Association (*1956)

3) Harold Mitchum - United Isshinryu Karate Association (*1958)

4) Steve Armstrong - American Okinawan Karate Association (*1958)

5) Arsenio Admincsola

(* - Year trained with Shimabuku Sensei in Okinawa)

6) Due to, and out of respect for, Master Tatsuo Shimabuku, the Isshinryu Karate Klub (I.K.K.) maintains relations with Okinawa (I.W.K.A.). All members are asked to have membership in the I.W.K.A.; however, it is not mandatory. The I.K.K. recognizes only its own black belt certificates for membership into its organization. However, to get a black belt certification from Okinawa, you have to be a member of the I.W.K.A. and you have to pay the I.W.K.A. a separate fee for their certificate.



A. History

B. Basics

C. Kata

D. Kumite

E. Heart - Character, Attitude - "Seishin-Shugo" - The most important aspect of the art. Karate, all Budo (Kendo, Judo, Kobudo) is Seishin - Attitude.




A. Seisan Yellow Shuri-te and Naha-te

B. Seiuchin Blue Naha-te

C. Nihanchi Green Shuri-te

D. Wansu Purple Tomari-te

E. Chinto Brown Shuri-te

F. Kasanku Brown Shuri-te

G. Sanchin Brown Naha-te

H. Sunsu Black Isshinryu (Strong Man)

I. Tokumine no Kun Black Sho-Dan




A. Sho-Dan to Ni-Dan

1. 1 1/2 to 2 years in grade

2. Teach class, Kusanku-Sai, Tokumine no Kun, Bo-Bo Kumite, Bo-Sai Kumite.

B. Ni-Dan to San Dan

1. 2 to 3 years in grade

2. Teach class, Shi-Shi No Kun Dai, Chatan Yara No Sai, Urashe Kun, Tui-Fa (Tonfa by Hamahiga)

C. Teaching Certificate

1. Have enough hours of teaching Karate and have the ability to impart his knowledge to others.

2. Have good character

D. San-Dan and Above

1. Above contributions

2. Perpetuation of Isshinryu Karate-Do



I. History of Okinawan Karate

II. Okinawan Karate Styles

III. The Legend of Chinto

IV. The Obi and Karate Titles

V. History of Tatsuo Shimabuku

VI. Development of Isshinryu Karate-Do

VII. Isshinryu Megami and Naming the Style Isshinryu

VIII. Master Shimabuku's Steps to Learning Karate and The Three Purposes of Isshinryu Karate

IX. Master Shimabuku's Code of Karate

X. Time Line




The oldest form of martial arts on Okinawa was called te. It was Okinawa's original art that was influenced by Chinese martial artist. In 1392, thirty-six (36) families immigrated from China to Okinawa. Among these immigrants were experts in Chinese Kempo. The government of Okinawa outlawed the use of weapons, so the people had to practice Te in secret. Three (3) areas on Okinawa were primarily responsible for proliferating the arts of Te. They were: the towns of Shuri (the residence of the King and Nobles); Naha (people of commercial and business interests); and Tomari (the country people, farmers and fisherman). Gradually, each area developed its own unique self-defense techniques associated with each particular town. Hence, Shuri-te, Naha-te, and Tomari-te developed.


Shuri-te - developed into Shorin-ryu. Shorin is a Japanese word for the Chinese term Shaolin. Shorin-ryu is known for its straight, fast, quick lightening strikes, and foot movements.


Naha-te - under more Chinese influence, developed into a harder style of karate with more circular than straight movements with emphasis on strength and breathing techniques. Goju-Ryu Karate developed from this area. Also from Naha developed Urchi-Ryu and some Okinawan Kempo.


Tomari-te - A lower class of people that were scorned by the people of Shuri and Naha. They had their own self-defense that was influenced by Chinese martial artists that came into its ports. Regretfully, few kata remain from Tomari. However, as far as we are concerned in Isshinryu, we have to remember that a great Tomari Karate-Ka, Oyadomari, taught Chotoku Kyan (1870-1948), who later went on to create a branch of Shorin-ryu Karate (Shobayashi Shorin Ryu). (However, Kyan never named it Shorin Ryu. It was called Migwha-te Chan [small eyed Dyan, style].) Wansu is one of only three remaining katas from Tomari-te.


There are Masters of the different styles of Karate that are on Okinawa. Each has its own roots and history. But for our purposes, we have to remember only a few important points of how and of where karate originated on the Island of Okinawa. First, the Okinawan people had their own unique martial art or self-defense system (te). Secondly, Chinese martial artists, through trading with Okinawa, influenced the development of Okinawa-te tremendously. There is no evidence that karate or te existed on the other Ryu-Kyu islands. However, China traded with these other islands. If Okinawan's martial art came directly from china, it would be reasonable that te would be on these other Ryu Kyu islands, also. We also see the Chinese influence because so many Okinawan kata have Chinese names.


No history can be complete without the mentioning of Bohhidharma. He was a missionary from India, who went to the Shaolin Temple in China and developed and improved their physical condition and meditation skills. He had a tremendous influence on the Chinese martial arts.

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1) Kobayashi Shorin-Ryu Founded in 1933 by Choshin Chibana primarily Shuri-te, headed now by Shugro Nakazato.

2) Matsubayashi Shorin Ryu Founded in 1947 by Shoshin Nagamine primarily Shuri-te but influenced by Tomari-te.

3) Shobayashi Shorin Ryu Kyan did not create this style. He taught Master Shimabuku a style called Migwha-te Chan (small eyed Kyan). Kyan learned from Oyadomari, Itoso, and Soken Matsumura. It is now headed by Tatsuo's younger brother, Ezio Shimabuku (youngest ever to be promoted to 10th Dan. He was 34 years old and promoted by Kanken Toyama - a direct student of Itoso.)

4) Matsumura Orthodox Shorin Ryu Founded by Honan Soken, a direct relative of Soken Matsumura. Headed now by Fuse Kise.

5) Goju-Ryu Created by Miyagi and influenced by Naha-te.

6) Uechi-Rye Kanbum Uechi - great Chinese influence and Naha-te influence.

7) Motobu Ryu A family only karate style - Shui-te influence. Only oldest son was taught. He was Choki Motobu, had to learn karate from other people. Choki studied from Kosuku Matsumura of Tomari. Motobu Ryu is now headed by Seikichi Urhara.

8) Okinawa Kempo Started by Nakamura and influenced by Shuite, Tomari-te and Naha-te. Today, it is headed by: 1) seikichi Odo - Okinawan Kenpo; and 2) Seiyu Oyata - Ryu Kyu Kenpo.

9) Shorinji Ryu Headed by Joen Nakazato, 10th Dan. Shorinji-Ryu maintains the original eight (8) katas of Kyan. (Kyan over the years modified his katas but he still taught the original version.)

10) Chubu-Shorin Ryu Central and Southern Shorin Ryu Associates were combined. Original head instructor was Zenryo Shimabuku. After his death, Katsuhide Kochi (8th Dan) was president and also Zenpo (6th Dan). Zenryo's son is next in line.

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Karate first came to Okinawan in the 13th Century when Chinese families, some were experts in Chinese Kempo, immigrated to Okinawa. Years later Chinto, a ship-wrecked Chinese sailor was washed ashore. Naked and penniless, he hid in caves during the day and at night would sneak into the villages to steal food for survival. The villagers complained to the King, who sent his best Samurai, Soken Matsumura (1796-1893), to capture the sailor.

 Matsumura Tracked Chinto to a cave where he was living and confronted Chinto who refused to surrender. Chinto blocked every technique that Matsumura threw and ran and hid in a cemetery. Matsumura returned to the King and said there would be no more trouble from Chinto. He then went back, befriended Chinto, who in turn taught him his system, including the kata known as Chinto, in exchange for food and shelter.

A lesson from this story is that problems can be solved without fighting.

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Oriental philosophy believes that events are cyclic. That is, they begin at one point and go around a full cycle, returning to the original point. The obi is an example of this Eastern concept. In the beginning, the obi is white, symbolizing purity, sholeness and the beginning. As the karate-ka learns more knowledge, the obi turns darker. He advances, the obi goes from white, green, brown, and finally to black. At this stage, the karate-ka has completed the first cycle - white to black. He is now a Sho-Dan - a just beginning karate-ka at a different level. As the years to by, through constant training and tying and untying one's obi, it begins to fray. Under the black obi is white material that shows through. The obi is soon almost all white again - another cycle completed. As the karate-ka trains, sweat and blood stains his obi. Hence, the red and white obi. At this level (6th Dan), a great degree of karate knowledge has been attained. As the years pas and training continues, the amount of red increases on the white obi and it is now solid red (9th and 10th Dan). The final circle has been reached.


Renshi-Go - Polished Expert 4th to 5th Dan (You can be a Dan rank without a Renshi title.)

Kyoshi-Go - Master Karate 6th to 7th Dan (You can be 6th or 7th Dan without

Instructor the Kyoshi-go title.)

Hanshi - Master of Masters 8th to 9th Dan


The above karate titles are given by Karate organizations to show levels of attainment of individual Karate-ka.

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Tatsuo Shimabuku was born on September 19, 1908, in Chan, Village, now Kyan Village. He began his early karate training with his uncle, Kamusu Chan. According to Shinsho Shimabuku, Tatsuo's second son, this was around the age of 8 to 10 years (written records were seldom kept in Okinawa.) Shimabuku would walk approximately 12 miles to learn karate. At first, his uncle, Kamasu Chan, sent him home, but he constantly returned and showed his persistence and his uncle accepted him as his student.

  Shimabuku studied for a while at his uncle's dojo, each day after completing menial domestic chores. Having achieved a certain degree of skill in Shuri-te, he started his formal karate training (this was about at the age of 15 to 20). He started at Kadena Village under the famous Shuri-te and Tomari-te karate-ka, Shotoku Kyan (1871-1944). Here he learned Shorin-Ryu Karate, a style that is known for its graceful, quick, direct, and lightning-type movements. As a farmer's son, he had to walk 8 miles a day to study under Kyan. Kyan (known as Small Eyed Kyan) was known for his speed and skill in technique. He was a complete martial artist. Being small, like Kyan, Shimabuku would rely on his speed to give him an edge over larger opponents. Shimabuku developed a very quick kick, which few, if any, could equal, even when he was in his late 50's. From Kyan, he learned Seisan, Seiunchin, Naihanchi, Wansu (from Tomari-te, and one of only three remaining Tomari-te katas), Chinto (Kyan's favorite kata) and Kusanku. Shimabuku became one of Kyan's best students.

  In his early to mid-twenties, Master Shimabuku traveled to Naha to learn from chojun Miyagi (1888-1955). The founder of Goju-Ryu, a hard karate style with soft Chinese forms, emphasizing dramatic breathing methods. From Miyagi, Shimabuku learned seiuchin and sanchin, the breathing kata. Miyagi was known from his feats of strength. It is said that he could rip bark off of trees and twist bamboo into shreds. Although Shimabuku was small, he developed a grip like Miyagi's by using physical strength taught to him by Miyagi and mental fortitude that he learned from Kyan. He went on to become one of Miyagi's leading students.

  His third karate instructor was Choki Motobu, a Tomari-te Karate-ka. Shimabuku told the story of Motobu (who could not learn karate from his family because only the first son was taught the art to be passed down to the next first son), who would secretly watch Kosuku Matsumura of Tomari perform naihanchi kata. Motobu was known mainly for his fierce fighting ability, rather than his karate technique. He constantly practiced Nihanchin kata, which was a very long kata. (Today, Nihanchin has been broken down to three [3] separate Nihanchin katas because it was easier to teach three separate forms than one long form because the students would tire too easily.) Master Shimabuku would often say, "IT IS NOT THE NUMBER OF KATA A PERSON KNOWS, IT IS HOW WELL YOU KNOW A KATA THAT COUNTS." He got this concept from Motubu. Motobu was also known as Monkey Man, because of his size and strength. He could climb up a pole or tree head first, then come down the pole or tree, head first.

  Having studied under three of the great martial artists of the era, at a large martial arts festival in the town of Fatima, Shimabuku blossomed and won recognition throughout Okinawa through a very fine performance of the katas. He shocked spectators with his ability to drive nails through pieces of wood with his bare hands.

  With his mastery of Shorin-Ryu and Gojo-Ryu complete, Shimabuku sought out the Kobu-Jutsu (weapons techniques) weapons Master Taira Shinken (this was after 1958). At this time, Shinken was the world's greatest expert on the bo and sai. Even today, most weapons kata from Okinawa and Japan can be traced back to Shinken. Tatsuo also studied, at an earlier age, with Moden Yabiku. Moden Yabiku was Taira Shinken's instructor. The times and dates that he studies with Moden are vague, but his studies with Taira Shinken were in the mid-fifties to mid-sixties. Tatsuo Shimabuku believed strongly in weapon training, feeling that a system without weapons was incomplete. He learned the weapons kata and, like the hand and foot katas that he learned from Shorin-Ryu and Go-Ju Ryu, refined and modified the original katas to his Isshinryu System. The weapons katas are:


1) Tokimine-No-Kun (Tokumine was the person's name and No-Kun means of bo. He knew this weapons kata before studying with Shinken.)

2) Urashe Kun (Urashe was the name of the Village where the kata originated.)

3) Shi Shi No Kun-Dai (means instructor of the big, long (dai) bo because it is the longest Isshinryu bo form. Shimabuku first taught this kata in 1966. In most all styles of karate, the bo was handled strictly from the left side until Shimabuku broke tradition and brought the right side into play.

4) Kusanku-Sai (means night fighting with a sai). Shimabuku created before 1958.

5) Chatan-Yara No-Sai (named from Chatan village where it was developed by the Yara family.

6) Bo-Bo Kumite - Two bo fighting in a fixed sequence. (Made up by William Blond and Frank Van Lenten.)

7) Bo-Sai Kumite - Sai fighting a bo attacker. (Also made up by William Blond and Frank Van Lenten.)

8) Tui-Fa-Tonfa Kata - Tui Fa of Hamahiga.


During World War II, Shimabuku's reputation spread throughout Okinawan. His small business was destroyed by the war and he, like most Okinawans, was bankrupted. He did his best to avoid conscription into the Japanese Army (he didn't feel Okinawans had to fight a Japanese war) and escaped to the countryside, working as a farmer. The Japanese were desperate for men and he was forced to flee. As his reputation in karate spread, the Japanese began to search for him, because they wanted to study karate under him. They finally caught him and agreed to keep the secret of his whereabouts, if he would teach them karate. This is how Shimabuku survived the war.

  After the war, he returned to farming and practicing karate. He was recognized throughout Okinawa as the island's leading practitioner of both Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu. We are now up to the 1950's - 1960's. 

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Shimabuku was always an innovator and inventor. He had many questions for his teachers, which they never answered to his satisfaction. Teaching every day at Agena Village, he began to see flaws in the systems that he had learned. The three major areas that needed changing or modification were in blocking, punching, and fist position.

  He noticed that when students practiced hard-blocking techniques with each other, they bruised or broke their wrists because contact was made to the bone with the old traditional blocks. He felt the muscle block was superior because it would eliminate injuries. The most you would get was a welt with a muscle block instead of broken bones. So, the muscle block was incorporated into Isshinryu instead of the bone block.

  Next, was changing the punching technique. With his insight and years of experience, he noticed that turning the punch or twisting it at the end or last moment before contact had its limitations. If the opponent would move in on you, your fist would never fully turn to strike correctly. Twisting also slows the punch and locking it out caused injuries to the elbow. Also, the elbow can be easily broken when locked out in this position. When punching to a target higher than shoulder-level, and twisting the punch, the lower fingers had a tendency to hit first instead of the top two knuckles. Also Shimabuku noticed that when throwing multiple punches, it took a lot of training and effort to do them correctly when twisting. When not twisting, speed was greater and more punches could be thrown in less time, using less energy. His former teachers said that a twist punch was like a bullet, which, when coming out of a barrel of a gun, generates more power. Shimabuku disagreed, however. In his opinion. FASTER WAS BETTER, AS LONG AS THERE WAS POWER . He used, from Shorin-Ryu, the concept that punching from the hip (chamber) and using a rising punch gave him his speed. From Goju, he rotated his hips and used the proper breathing techniques that could bring out even greater energy. Hence, the basic Isshinryu punching method included punching from the hip (not under the arm pit) like Goju-Ryu without a twist, but using a rising punch, utilizing hip rotation and proper breathing.

  Finally, the proper way to hold a fist (the unique vertical fist) was incorporated into Isshinryu. Other karate systems keep the thumb down around the fingers when making a fist. Shimabuku, through constant experimentation, found that the thumb on top raised the cords on the upper wrist, making the wrist stronger and more stable when contacting the makiwara. The Isshinryu fist enables the bones of the hand and wrist to line up perfectly straight when striking and this avoids damage to the hands.

  In the beginning, Shimabuku's innovations were met with mixed feelings on Okinawa. Die-hard traditionists saw him as a rebel upsetting the traditions of ancient ways, and those with insights praised his developments. Master Shimabuku was an innovator who searched for ways of improving karate technique. He did not change just for the sake of changing. All of his changes were for improvement and, to him, improvement of technique was not breaking with tradition.


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From 1953 to 1956, Master Shimabuku was about to formally present his system to the world. According to Eiko Kaneshi, Shimabuku was loyal to Kyan, his first formal teacher. Shimabuku taught a system alled Chanmigwha-te. Kyan's nickname was migwha (small eyed), chan is the Okinawan pronunciation of Kyan, and te means hand. The system was called, "small eyed Dyan's karate." It is known today as Shuri-te or Tomari-te. However, he still taught the katas Seiuchin and Sanchin.

  The following is one of two versions of the creation of the Isshinryu Megami. This is A.J. Advincula's version. He was with Shimabuku in 1960 when the patch was created. Everyone in Isshinryu gives him credit for designing the patch. So, it is likely that since he and Master Shimabuku designed it, he knows more about it than other people.

  One evening while listening to the radio, half asleep, Shimabuku had a vision of a goddess riding a dragon. "You have new ideas to improve techniques, go ahead and teach them." Shimabuku was dramatically affected by this vision. Over and over, he tried to dose off to recapture it. He interpreted it as half woman and half dragon. Immediately after this experience, Shimabuku told Kaneshi of the vision. Kaneshi's uncle, Shosu Nakamine, was an artist and tried to paint the vision. He painted a head of a dragon, breathing fire upon the body of a woman. Shimabuku laughed and said it was wrong. Around this time, Shimabuku had discarded his given name Shinkichi and took the manhood name of Tatsuo (dragon man). While passing a frame shop, he saw a picture of a goddess in the ocean. He asked the shop owner if he could borrow the picture to copy it. Kaneshi's uncle then reproduced the vision on the painting of the woman goddess. The upper body is a woman and the lower body is a dragon. This represents the hard and soft features of his system. Karate can be hard and fierce like a dragon, or soft and gentle like a woman. The goddess' left hand is open (yin) and her right hand was raised in a fist (yang). This signified that one does not want trouble but if need be, force, or a strike will be used. The dragon flying in the sky represents the spirit of Tatsuo, the Dragon Man. Megami is half woman (yin, earth, female, mother calmness and Shorin-ryu karate) and half dragon (yang, male, father, Goju karate). Hence, the female (mother - Shorin Ryu) and the dragon (father - Goju Ryu) make the one, Isshinryu. The three stars represent the six teachers of Master Shimabuku. The night represents the fear of the unknown. The stars light the way at night, so you can go without fear. All of this is inside the Isshinryu vertical fist. This was designed by A. J. Advincula, a Marine who was in Okinawa in 1960 and listened as Shimabuku discussed his thoughts. The border is gold and means that karate is golden and must never be misused. One of the first patches was made with an orange border because the vendor thought that the creators had wanted real gold thread with is obviously very expensive. The original shape of the fist varied due to the different manufacturers of the patches. Karate fists usually had the thumb at the side and not on top of the fist so they were confused. The correct patch has the thumb on top. Also different colors were used by different vendors. Other important aspects of the Isshinryu patch are as follows:

1) Woman is Buddist Goddess - She has five lotus flowers and three rings around her neck. These are Buddist signs.

2) Water - Typhoon (trouble and evil)

3) Stars - Shimabuku's teachers - Kyan, Miyagi, Motobu, uncle, Shinken, and Moden.

4) Stars - Spiritual, mental, physical aspects of karate.

5) Stars - Light the way at night so we do not have to be afraid.


So, we now have a karate style without a name. On January 15, 1956, Master Shimabuku called a meeting of his students and said he was going to name it Isshin-ryu. Kaneshi said, "What a funny name. We have been calling it Chan Migwha-Te, so why change it now?" Master Shimabuku said that he was calling it the one heart way because all things begin with one. The heart and mind created wholeness and the important thing is to train with wholeness. When Isshin-Ryu is written in two words, it means one heart way. When it is written as one word (Isshinryu), it means whole heart way . The goddess on the patch is not a Mizu-Gami. Mizu Gami means water goddess and this is not a water goddess but rather a woman goddess. There is only one Isshin-ryu woman goddess, and her name is Megami.

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Master Shimabuku often related the study of karate with the making of a fine piece of wood. The first step, 

  1. Aakezuri is the cleaning the bark off a rough tree. Here the karate-ka learns the basic moves and stances. 
  2. Nakakezuri - the wood is being shaped, the kata is learned but not perfected, as a lot of time is needed to shape the wood. 
  3. Hosokenzuri - involves the wood being sanded and molded (here the karate-ka learns kime (focus). 
  4. Shiyagi - is the smoothing and forever polishing of the wood, here, if possible the student achieves his ki or inner strength.



  1. 1) Karate-Do - a way of life
  2. 2) Karate-Jutsu - fighting art
  3. 3) Taiso - physical exercise and overall good health 
The Americans added two other purposes of Isshin-ryu
  1. Sport
  2. Show

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1) A person's heart is the same as heaven and earth .

If a man has a good heart, he has no quarrel. He is in harmony, as is the heaven and the earth.


2) The blood circulating is the same as the moon and the sun .

In the universe, just as every day the moon comes out at night and the sun comes out at day, blood must circulate or existence would be impossible.


3) The manner of drinking and spitting is either hard or soft .

Yin and Yang forces in the universe are opposite. You have to decide whether to take a challenge softly or meet it with full force.


4) A person's balance is the same as weight .

If too big a task is undertaken, the balance is upset and it cannot be handled.


5) The body should be able to change motion at any time .

Life is constantly changing. We have to accommodate to change or else we cannot survive.


6) The time to strike is when the opportunity presents itself .

Do not pass up opportunities. People who get ahead in life spot these opportunities and use them to their advantage.


7) The eye must see every way .

Try to consider the other man's view. New meanings result from different viewpoints.


8) The ear must hear in all directions .

It is impossible to see his view unless you hear his reasons.


Prehistory: Settled by migration and invasion, perhaps from Asian mainland and from the Philippines and Taiwan.

A.D. 608: Chinese expedition to the islands.

Until A.D. 1187: Legend speaks of the Tensorhi Dynasty lasting 17,802 years.

1187-1260: Shunten Dynasty

1260-1314: Reign of Eiso.

1314-1349: Reign of Tamaguskuku. Period of three kingdoms begins.

1350-1399: Reign of Sata. During this period, relationships with China begin, and Okinawa becomes a tributary of China (1372)

1393: Surge in the migration of Chinese to Okinawa.

1407: Hasshi's rebellion ends the period of three Kingdoms.

1420: Ties established with Japan.

1432-1570: Okinawa establishes official embassies in Indochina.

1477-1526: Reign of King Sho Shin, height of trade influence.

1605: Sweet potato introduced from China.

1609: Satsuma clan from Japan invades.

1629: Resistance groups band together; results in a new fighting style called te.