Sometimes referred to by the Japanese translation of his name, Makoto, Shinkin Gima is often overlooked by the wider Karate world. He was present at the introduction of Karate in Japan. He was also one of the first people promoted to 1st Dan by Gichin Funakoshi.
Shinkin Gima was born on 28 September 1897, in Shuri, Okinawa. His parents were older than normal when they had him. His father was 57 and his mother was 46.
Gima was born into a very poor family. Growing up he was also quite a frail child.
In 1912 Gima entered into the Okinawan school system. By this time Karate had been introduced into the Okinawa school curriculum by Anko Itosu.
The Shihan Gakko (Okinawan Normal School) Gima attended was headed by Anko Itosu, one of Gichin Funakoshi’s Karate teachers. At the school, Gima began learning Karate. Judo and Kendo were also taught at the school.
Gima’s main teacher was Kentsu Yabu, who was nicknamed ‘The Sergeant’ for his exploits in the Japanese Imperial Army. Yabu was one of the few men to have defeated the feared Choki Motobu.
Being a frail child, Gima’s daily Karate practice made him stronger.
On graduating from the Shihan Gakko, Gima attended the Okinawa Teacher College.
After graduating from the Teacher’s College, Gima enrolled at the Tokyo Shoka Diagaku (present-day Hitosubashi University). In Tokyo, he stayed at the Meisei-Juku dormitory for Okinawans. During this time he began practicing Judo.
Gichin Funakoshi, who had previously visited Japan in 1917, arrived in Tokyo in 1922. His aim was to introduce Karate to the Japanese mainland. He established a dojo at the Meisei-Juku dormitory.
Gima resumed his Karate training with Funakoshi. By the time he had been promoted to 1st Dan in Judo.
On 17 May 1922, Jigaro Kano, the founder of Judo, asked Funakoshi to give a Karate demonstration at the Kodokan. The Kodokan was the home of Japanese Judo. Kano was intrigued by Karate and wanted to help Funakoshi to promote the martial art in Japan.
Knowing the importance of this opportunity, Funakoshi asked Gina to assist him with the demo. Wearing white uniforms that Funakoshi had stitched together, the two men performed kihon drills. Funakoshi also performed the kata Kanku Dai, while Gima performed the kata Naihanchi.
At the time of the demo, Funakoshi was 53 and Gima was 26. Knowing the importance of the demo both men felt a little pressure. There were many people in attendance, including newspaper reporters. The demo was well received.
Kano liked what he saw. His acceptance of Karate meant that the wider Japanese martial arts community would also accept it. There were many requests for Funakoshi to demonstrate and teach Karate.
With the increased demand for Karate across Japan, Gima traveled around the country demonstrating and teaching Karate on behalf of Funakoshi.
In 1923 Gima graduated from Hitosubashi University. He began teaching at Kumamoto Commercial School. He eventually held teaching roles at Maebashi Commercial High School, Yamagata Commercial School, and Kofu Commercial High School, where he became the principal.
On 1 September 1923, the great Kanto earthquake struck the Japanese island of Honshu. It was one of the most destructive earthquakes ever recorded and resulted in a tsunami. The cities of Tokyo, and Yokohama, and the prefectures of Chiba, Kanagawa, and Shizuoka were devastated. There were widespread fires that caused considerable property damage and the death of an estimated 140,000 people. Funakoshi’s dojo at Keio University was destroyed.
On 12 April 1924, Gima was one of seven people promoted to 1st Dan by Gichin Funakoshi. His cousin, Ante Tokuda, who had previously trained in Okinawa, was promoted to 2nd Dan.
Through the 1930s and the war years, Gima continued working as a teacher.
After the 2nd World War Gima left his teaching position at Yamagata High School and began working at the Kajima Corporation. He also became the head instructor at the company’s Karate club.
In January 1956 Gima was promoted to 10th Dan. During that year, he established the Gima-Ha Shoto-Ryu Karatedo Association. He became the President of the Association.
On 26 April 1957, Gichin Funakoshi died in Tokyo, Japan.
By 1977 Gima had become an adviser to the Tokyo Karatedo Federation. He was also the Chairman of the Shibuya District Karatedo Federation.
By the 1970s Gima-Ha had become established in Japan. In 1979 the style was established in Canada.
After many years. Gima retired from the Kajima Corporation in 1981.
In 1984 Gima celebrated his 88 birthday. That year he gave his students several principles similar to the Dojo Kun. The principles were to aid his students in their Karate practice.
Shinkin Gima died in 1989, aged 93.
Gima has been largely forgotten by the wider Karate community. His contribution to Karate and his assistance to Gichin Funakoshi during the early years of Karate in Japan should not be forgotten.
Gima’s students, Ikuo Higuchi, Mitsunori Kobayashi, Hidetada Narumi, and Takayuki Sameshima have continued his legacy of teaching Gima-Ha Traditional Shotokan Karate. This was the original style of Karate he had learned from Gichin Funakoshi.