George Shin was born in Kona, Hawaii, on May 22, 1926. Mr. Shin spent the first 18 years of his life split between the Honaunau beach house during the summer, and the coffee farm up on the mountainside in Captain Cook. Life was peaceful and easy, going to school and working on the farm during winter and fishing all summer long – dreaming all the while of becoming a Paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) on the Parker Ranch after high school.
On December 7,1941, at age 15, all that changed. Everyone aged 18 to 26 were drafted. All able-bodied males 15 and above, not eligible for active service were “drafted” into an emergency homeland security-type force, dubbed “Hawaii Rifles”, with a cadre force from the regular army.
Mr. Shin served his time until formally drafted into the regular army in 1945. With 3 years of military experience behind him Mr. Shin rose rapidly through the ranks - promoted to first sergeant in 1950 on the battlefield in Korea, with the 25th Infantry Division from Hawaii.
After leaving the army Mr. Shin wanted to do something to stay fit and maintain discipline in his life. He settled for Isshin-Ryu Karate under Stephen Armstrong, in Tacoma, Washington early in 1968. In 1975, Master Armstrong put Mr. Shin in charge of one of his dojos in the little town of Sumner, Washington, with a student body of less than a dozen students. That dojo grew to a student body of more than 200 students and was later relocated to its present location in Puyallup, Washington.
In 1977 Master Armstrong became ill and over the next few years his health continued to deteriorate. The organization, without his full time leadership began to fall apart, and by 1982 it was pretty much shut down.
Sensei Shin went on his own in 1982 and founded the Washington Isshin-Ryu Society, a non-profit corporation, dedicated to perpetuating the Isshin-Ryu katas as was intended by its founder, Master Tatsuo Shimabuku, and to establish a standard of excellence second to none, for its members.
Sensei Shin travels widely throughout the US and Canada to visit other dojos as well as to participate in and to conduct kata seminars. In 2003, he visited Okinawa, Japan, and trained with Sensei Tsuyoshi Uechi and Marine Major Glen Brown (first generation students of Angi Uezu). While there, he also spent time with Angi Uezu – Isshin-Ryu karate; Zenpo Shimabukuro – Shorinryu Seibukan; Eizo Shimabukuro -Shorinryu; Kotaru Iha – Ryukyu Kobudo-Ryu Konkai, and Hidemi Tamayoshi – Ryukyu Kobudo-Tesshin Kan . They were all very much impressed and grateful for Sensei Shin’s dedication and commitment to the Okinawa martial art and especially to his physical stature at age 77.
Presently, besides being the president of the Society, Master Shin conducts karate classes in his Auburn dojo; an all-women physical fitness (rebounding) class, and a body building class for men and women at a local gym.
Master Shin is a traditionalist and philosopher who practices what some would call the very core of martial arts teachings and perhaps life, leading the way as an example for others as he himself works towards his own perfection through years of hard work and steel discipline. “I enjoy helping others become healthy”, he says modestly. Truly he does much more, by helping people identify and reach their life goals, and has done so for many years.
Why does he continue to train and teach at such an advanced age? Teddy Baker, a long time student says, “he wants to pass on the art. If you want to learn he will teach you. You ask him and he will tell you. He feeds you as much as you can digest. It is obvious that he teaches for the love of it. People don’t believe he is 80 years old. His body, a fixture around his schools, radiates the epitome of fitness and energy”.
When Master Sherman Harrill first met and trained with Sensei Shin, he called him, “The Pineapple from Hell”.