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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 floor.

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 curriculum.

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 Karate-do worldwide 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.

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