Yasutsune “Anko” Itosu

1830 – 1916

A foremost disciple of Sokon Matsumura, Yasutune “Anko” Itosu was educated in the Chinese classics and art of calligraphy and held the position of Secretary for the Administrative Office of the Ryukyu Kingdom. His prominent students (Kentsu Yabu, Gichin Funakoshi, Chomo Hanashiro, Chotoku Kyan, Chosin Chibana, Anbun Tokuda, Choji Oshiro, Kenwa Mabuni, Shinpan Gusukuma) would influence Karate-Do for many years to come.
Within the “Ten Articles of Karate”, (the letter submitted in 1908 by Itosu Sensei, to the Education Department of Okinawa Prefecture, petitioning the introduction of Karate into the regular public school curriculum), essential characteristics of Shorin-Ryu are detailed. In Shorin-Ryu, natural and relaxed stances and breathing methods are taught along with a unique method of taking in power and releasing it. The practitioner takes in power inside outward, making concentration of power easy and which, combined with the quickness of movement, increases the force of an attack.

Ten Articles of Karate

Tode did not develop from the way of Buddhism or Confucianism. In the recent past Shorin-Ryu and Shorei-Ryu were brought over from China. They both have similar strong points, so, before there are too many changes, I should like to write these down.

1. Tode is primarily for the benefit of health. In order to protect one’s parents or one’s master, it is proper to attack a foe regardless of one’s own life. Never attack a lone adversary. If one meets a villain or a ruffian one should not use tode but simply parry and step aside.

2. The purpose of tode is to make the body hard like stones and iron; hands and feet should be used like the points of arrows, hearts should be strong and brave. If children were to practice tode from their elementary-school days, they would be well prepared for military service. When Wellington and Napoleon met they discussed the point that tomorrow’s victory will come from today’s playground’.

3. Tode cannot be learned quickly. Like a slow moving bull, that eventually walks a thousand miles, if one studies seriously every day, in three or four years one will understand what tode is about. The very shape of one’s bones will change.
Those who study as follows will discover the essence of tode:

4. In tode the hands and feet are important so they should be trained thoroughly on the makiwara. In so doing drop your shoulders, open your lungs, take hold of your strength, grip the floor with your feet and sink your intrinsic energy to your lower abdomen. Practice with each arm one or two hundred times.

5. When practicing tode stances make sure your back is straight, drop your shoulders, take your strength and put it in your legs, stand firmly and put the intrinsic energy in your lower abdomen, the top and bottom of which must be held together tightly.

6. The external techniques of tode should be practiced, one by one, many times. Because these techniques are passed on by word of mouth, take the trouble to learn the explanations and decide when and in what context it would be possible to use them. Go in, counter, release; is the rule of torite.

7. You must decide whether tode is for cultivating a healthy body or for enhancing your duty.

8. During practice you should imagine you are on the battle field. When blocking and striking make the eyes glare, drop the shoulders and harden the body. Now block the enemy’s punch and strike! Always practice with this spirit so that, when on the real battlefield, you will naturally be prepared.

9. Do not overexert yourself during practice because the intrinsic energy will rise up, your face and eyes will turn red and your body will be harmed. Be careful.

10. In the past many of those who have mastered tode have lived to an old age. This is because tode aids the development of the bones and sinews, it helps the digestive organs and is good for the circulation of the blood. Therefore, from now on, tode should become the foundation of all sports lessons from elementary schools onward. If this is put into practice there will, I think, be many men who can win against ten aggressors.
The reason for stating all this is that it is my opinion that all students at the Okinawa Prefectural Teachers’ Training College should practice tode, so that when they graduate from here they can teach the children in the schools exactly as I have taught them. Within ten years tode will spread all over Okinawa and to the Japanese mainland. This will be a great asset to our militaristic society. I hope you will carefully study the words I have written here.

Anko Itosu. Meiji 41, Year of the Monkey (October 1908).

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Unveiling ceremony for the monument of Yasutune “Anko” Itosu, beside his gravesite in the forest of Furushima in Mawashi on August 30, 1964.

Inscription on the back of the Monument to Itosu Sensei:

Anko Itosu Sensei was born in the eleventh year of Doko in Gibo, Shuri and died at the age of eighty five. He not only devoted his energies to the spread of Karate among laymen but introduced Karate into physical education at schools. Thus he rendered great services to the popularization and prosperity of Karate.
This monument was erected here to the memory of the Sensei on the fiftieth anniversary of his death by the followers of his school.

August 30, 1964
Erected by: Okinawa Shorin-Ryu Karate Association
Chosin Chibana, president of the association and all the members.
Calligrapher: Choko Iraha
Engraved by: Sanehiko Ishimine

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Itosu Sensei’s Monument in 1997