A Brief History of the Evolution of Shito-Ryu



                               (Courtesy of Sam Moledzki, President, Shito-Kai, Canada)






               The origin of today's four major Japanese

               karate-do systems can be traced to a group

               of islands known as the Ryukyu Island chain

               during the 18th century. Located between

               Japan (North-East), mainland China (West),

               and Taiwan (South-West), Okinawa, the

               largest of the islands had an indigenous

               martial art form that was being secretly

               practiced called 'TE' or 'HANDS'. This

               ideal location allowed Okinawa to be heavily

               influenced by an open cultural exchange

               with Asia, especially China. During this era,

               the secret method of 'TE' was combined

               with various Chinese martial arts fighting

               styles that evolved into a system referred to

               simply as 'TO-DE' or 'CHINESE-HAND'.

               Three main areas eventually came into

               prominence on Okinawa as the centres for

               the practice of 'TO-DE'. They were,

               SHURI, the ancient capital city of Okinawa

               where the king and noble families lived,

               NAHA, a port town of business and

               commercial enterprise, and TOMARI, a

               village populated mostly by farmers,

               fisherman, and country people. Each

               location had developed a unique style of














               In Tomari, two great masters became important historical figures in the development

               TOMARI-TE. They were, Kokan Oyadomari (1831-1905) who taught Chotoku Kyan

               (1870-1945) and Kosaku Matsumora (1797-1898), who taught Ankoh Itosu (1830-1915).




                               Naha's most famous master in the development of 'NAHA-TE' was

                               Kanryo Higashionna (Higaonna-1853-1915). He received

                               instruction from master Arakaki (1840-1918). Master Higashionna

                               taught many students including Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953), the

                               founder of 'GOJU-RYU',and Kenwa Mabuni (1889-1915), the

                               founder of 'SHITO-RYU'.




                             Shuri's main teacher in the development of 'SHURI-TE' was master

                             Sakugawa (1733-1815), who was widely known by the nickname of

                             'TO-DE SAKUGAWA'. He is believed to have received his instuction

                             from Peichin Takahara and from a Chinese military attache‚ known as

                             'KU-SAN-KU', who was an expert in the art of 'Chinese-Boxing' and

                             living in Okinawa around 1761. Tode Sakugawa's most prominent

                             student was Sokon Matsumura (1809-1894) who was also Yasutsune

                             'Ankoh' Itosu's teacher.


                             The system of the Tomari region became absorbed into the Shuri and

               Naha systems because of lack of development in Tomari. This gradually left only two

               main systems, Shuri-te and Naha-te. Eventually, they were referred to as 'SHORIN' and

               'SHOREI' respectively






                                Ankoh Itosu was born in Shuri and became one of the most

                                respected martial artists in Okinawa during the 19th century.

                                Master Itosu was the first person to introduce 'TO-DE' into the

                                Okinawa Dai Ichi Jr. High School and the Okinawa Teachers Jr.

                                College school system. One of his great contributions to the art of

                                'TO-DE', was the firm belief of the importance of the development

                                of person's character through the consentration on 'KATA' (form

                                patterns) and 'BUNKAI' application practice.


               Master Itosu also organized and systemized 'TO-DE' into a standard method of practice.

               When he first began teaching in the school system, the introduction of the kata

               Naihanchin was his preferred way to teach. He soon realized that this kata was far too

               advanced for the beginner, which lead to master Itosu creating a group of new kata, the

               PINAN's. The creation of 5 Pinan (alternate reading as HEIAN) kata was based on the

               kata called Kusanku and some other significant techniques. Master Itosu trained a great

               number of eminent karatemen, including Kentsu Yabu (1863-1937), Chomo Hanashiro

               (1869-1945), Gichin Funakoshi (1867-1957), Moden Yabiku (1880-1941), Kanken

               Toyama (1888-1966),Chotoku Kyan (1870-1945), Shinpan Shiroma (1890-1954), Anbun

               Tokuda (1886-1945) and Kenwa Mabuni (1889-1952).

                          Karate was brought to Canada in 1957 by Masami Tsuruoka