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47 Ronin

The true story of the famous 47 Ronin (masterless samurai) revenge on the death of their master, Lord Asano.

This is probably the best-known story of the valor and ideals (the Code of Bushido) of Japan’s famous samurai warriors. On the snowy winter night of December 14, 1702 the 47 Ronin attacked the mansion of Kira while he was having a tea party. The 47 Ronin divided into two bands and stormed the mansion from the front and rear gates. In the great battle that followed, the 47 Ronin entered into battle against Kira’s 61 armed guards. At the end of the 1 1/2 hour battle, Asano’s Ronin had either subdued or killed all of Kira’s men without any losses of their own. Kira was found hiding in an outhouse. The Ronin brought Kira to the courtyard and offered him the same chance their Lord Asano was given to honorably commit seppuku. Kira could not commit seppuku, so the Ronin beheaded him. Then, to symbolize the completion of their mission, the 47 returned to Asano’s grave at Sengaku-ji Temple and set Kira’s head before it, thus declaring their Lord’s honor redeemed.

The Shogun ordered the 46 Ronin (the youngest was spared), to execute themselves not as criminals but as honored warriors. On February 4, 1703, the 46 Ronin all committed seppuku simultaneously, dignifying themselves in their valiant sacrifice. Upon their deaths, the 46 Ronin were buried side by side next to their master at Sengaku-ji Temple.

See the movie  47 Ronin (1941)


See the Keanu Reeves movie  47 Ronin (2013)


Itosu, Anko – The Grandfather of Modern Karate

Itosu, Anko – The Grandfather of Modern Karate

by Allen Yuen, Sensei

Funakoshi, Gichin is often attributed as the father of Modern Karate, having introduced it from Okinawa to Japan. However if Funakoshi is the father , then his teacher Itosu, Anko is the Grandfather of modern karate. The following biography is quoted in a number of different sources on the internet, for example http://www.itosu-kai.com .

The original author is undetermined.

Yasutsune “Anko” Itosu  was born in Shuri’s tiny hamlet of Gibo in 1831. Itosu, Sensei was small in stature, shy and introverted as a child. He was raised in a very strict home of the kemochi (a family of position). Itosu, Sensei was educated in the Chinese Classsics and Calligraphy. Itosu, Sensei worked as a high level secretary for the administrative office of the Ryukyu Kingdom in Shuri. A position of great responsibility and achievement.

Itosu, Sensei began his To-te (karate) study under Nagahama Chikudon Peichin. Itosu quickly matured into a powerful Karateka. His study of the art led him to Bushi Matsumura Sokon. Itosu became the “ichiban-deshi” or principal student of Matsumura.

Part of Itosu’s training was his makiwara practice. He is remembered as having broad shoulders, muscular arms and enormous callouses on his fists, products of relentless makiwara training. He once tied a leather sandal to a stone wall in an effort to build a better makiwara. After several strikes, the stone fell out of the wall. After relocating the sandal several times, Itosu had destroyed the wall.

Itosu, Sensei is credited with the development of modern Karatedo. He developed the “Pinan Katas” which are now the foundation Katas of most modern Karate styles stemming from Shuri-te.

Itosu, Sensei is responsible for introducing Karatedo into the Okinawan school system. In 1905 Itosu took a position of part-time teacher of To-te at Okinawa’s First Junior Prefectural High School. It was here that he developed the systematic method of teaching Karate techniques that are still in practice today.

Itosu, Sensei’s greatest accomplishment was that he was a man of peace, dedicating his entire life to the development of modern Karatedo. Itosu Anko died in Yamakawa village at the age of 85, on January 26th, 1915.

The following is additional research I have found about “Anko” Itosu”

Born in Shuri, Okinawa, Itosu trained under karate greats Sokon “Bushi” Matsumura and Kosaku Matsumora. His good friend Yasutsune Anko Azato recommended him to the position of secretary to the king of the Ryukyu Islands.
He was famous for the superior strength of his arms, legs and hands. Itosu was said to have even walked in the horse stance (from which he received his nickname, Anko). Itosu supposedly was easily able to defeat Azato in arm wrestling. Itosu had very strong hands and could crush a thick stalk of bamboo with his vice-like grip. It is said that he walked past the imperial tombs everyday and would practice his punches against the stone walls that lined the road. Itosu believed that the body should be trained to withstand the hardest of blows. In the tradition of Itosu, Shotokan Karateka train intensely to develop a powerful body and spirit. Under Itosu’s direction, Gichin Funakoshi (founder of Shotokan), spent ten years mastering three basic kata.

Anko Itosu created the five Pinan kata and introduced it to the students of the Shuri Jinjo Elementary School. It was 1901, and this would be the first time Tode or what we call Karate would introduced to the public, through the Okinawan school system.

Anko Itosu took a strong liking to his young pupil Kenwa Mabuni who learned some 23 kata before the elder man died. Itosu’s death so grieved Mabuni that he built a shrine in front of the master’s grave and stayed close by for a year, practicing his kata daily.

Describing the art in his own words: “Karate means not only to develop one’s physical strength but to learn how to defend oneself. Be helpful to all people and never fight against one person. Never try to strike if possible. even when taken unawares, as perhaps meeting a robber or a deranged person. Never face others with fists and feet. As you practice karate, try to open your eyes brightly and keep your shoulders down, stiffen your body as if you are on the battleground. Imagine that you are facing the enemy when you practice the punching or blocking techniques. Soon you will find your own striking performance. Always concentrate attention around you. A man of character will avoid any quarrels and loves peace. Thus the more a karateka practices the more modest he should be with others. This is the true karateka .”

Itosu Sensei mat have sought out peace, but there are many stories of his fighting prowess. Even the letter below suggests contradictions. This letter preceded the introduction of karate to Okinawan schools and eventually to the Japanese mainland.

” 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) “.




Asato, Anko … His Life, Teachings and Descendents

Masayoshi Kori Hisataka was an indirect student of  Asato, Anko.  I found this article about this influential Okinawan  Martial Artist.


Sometimes people refer to their way of karate as traditional, or as dento karate. The term den means something like “controlled transmission:’ It should be clear that there have always been a few people in history who control the transmission of karate. Therefore we want to learn as much as possible about these people in order to understand the degree to which today’s practitioners conform to the ways of their ancestors, or, perhaps fail to do so. Here I would like to discuss Asato, Anko, an important figure in the genealogy of several modern karate movements. We will focus on the following questions: Who was Asato? What were his ideas about the Okinawan fighting arts? Is it still possible to detect his influence in modern Karate

The Life of Asato, Anko

It is not easy to ascertain the dates of Asato, Anko’s birth and death. Different witnesses have suggested different years. Sakagami Ryusho gives them as 1827 – 1906. Fujiwara Ryozo claims tehy are 1825 – 1909. His disciple Funakoshi Gichin (1868 – 1957) , wrote that Asato Anko reached the age of 80. So all three possibilities should be considered as potentially correct. However, more research is necessary.

Not only did Asato, Anko live in the old Asato village located between Naha and Shun, he was its chieftain. By right of inheritance, he assumed the rank of tonchi, As tonchi, he belonged to one of the highest social classes in the Ryukyu Kingdom.2 During his school days, he was an outstanding scholar, and he fully engaged himself in the study of the Chinese classics. Later he choose Rinkakusai (Unusual and Pure)3 as a pen name for his compositions and calligraphy. Funakoshi described him as a quite tall individual with broad shoulders. The flaming glint in his eyes reminded Funakoshi of ancient warriors (bushi) (4).

Together with Ishado Seiei, he laid the foundation for the “Assembly for Public Equality” (Kodokai), which was broken up later by officials in Tokyo. Entering the political world, he became Minister of State during the last years of the Ryukyu Kingdom and worked for Sho Tai, who had to reside in Chiyoda-Ku, Tokyo after June 1879. He served there for thirteen more years, frequently travelling back and forth between Okinawa and Tokyo. He was so highly regarded in political circles that he became friends with Ito Hirobumi (1841—1909), Japan’s first Prime Minister.

During his lifetime Asato studied several martial disciplines. From Sekiguchi Genta he learnt Heki—Ryu Bishu Chikurin—Ha archery. One of Asato’s instructors in horsemanship was Megata Masachika. Megata was proficient in the European style of horse riding, which he acquired from French military personal in Yokohama. Moreover, he was the Emperor Meiji’s riding instructor, Most importantly for us, Asato started to learn Jigen-Ryu Ken-Jutsu and karate from Matsumura Sokon (5) at the age of 18. Subsequently he developed his skills in Jigen-Ryu under Master Ijuin, a teacher of Ko Jigen-Ryu. In order to do that, Asato had to go to Kagoshima.

Matsumura Sokon, whose Chinese name was Wu Ch’eng-Ta (He, who has achieved perfection in the martial arts) is still a semi-legendary figure. Through the transmission papers (densho) he handed out to his students (4), we can gain certain insights into his philosophy, but we know little of his style of karate or his teachers. In a 1902 interview, Asato, his student, explained that Matsumura received lessons from the Chinese Iwa (in Chinese Wei-Pe)(5). Other than this information, virtually nothing is known, only the vague tradition that Karate Sakugawa from Akata may have been one of Matsumura’s mentors. Still this is nothing more than tradition. Modern researchers like Fujiwara Ryozo and Iwai Kohaku (6) have discovered that Matsumura travelled with Sakugawa to Peking, China. There, Matsumura went on to study “The Imperial Academy” (Kuo_Tzu Cl where Sakugawa had been educated before him. During his time in Peking, he met Iwa, supposedly the martial arts teacher of the royal palace. According to Motobu Choki, Matsumura’s karate contained the kata Naihanchi (10). Two other kata bearing his name Matsumura no Passai and Matsumura no Seisan. We can presume he practiced and taught them both. It is said that he also studied the kata Kushanku.

Since Matsumura was a Jigen-Ryu adept, he knew very well its four basic guiding principles. Number four reads (7) : “By hiding yourself behind people, devote yourself to practice.” Expanding this rule to his karate instruction he had his disciple Asato come early in the morning (or late at night) at around 1:00 and finish practice at daybreak. Consequently when Asato taught his own students later in his life, he followed the same rule.

Far from being an armchair martial artist, on occasion Asato seemed to have tested his karate skills against weapons or practice weapons. One famous account concerns the figure of Kanna Yoshin from Onaka. (7) Kanna was not only a talented martial artist but also a fine scholar. Majikina Anko (1875~I933) (3) points out, “Yoshin was versed in the Japanese and Chinese teachings. Knowledge enriched his life.” Funakoshi writes (3), “Among his (Kanna’s) strengths he was especially proud of his wooden sabre (bokuto). Still, at that time one counted masters on the fingers (of one hand). Never making a hit against his unarmed opponent Master Asato, it is said that he shouted uninterruptedly, ” Ah! This is infinitely regrettable!” However, because Master Asato knew his heart well, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the martial art of Kanna was particularly inferior when compared to that of Master Asato.”

Hisataka, Masayuki Kukan draws a similar scenario (6). This time, in 1867 Asato faced Kirino Toshiaki (I838~I877) who adopted the name Nakamura Hanjiro after the Meiji Restoration. He was also feared as Hitokiri Hanjiro, or “The Executioner Han Jiro”. Kirino was an adept of Yakumaru Jigen-Ryu swordsmanship and is also said to have learned Ko Jigen-Ryu under Ijuin Kamoi from the age of 15 (7). The last detail provides us with a possible context for their match, Inasmuch as Asato studied Ko Jigen-Ryu as well, it would be imaginable that they met each other at the Ijuin dojo. Seeking to refine his empty handed methods, Asato may have seized the opportunity. Hisataka’s legend has Asato victorious because of his highly developed footwork and evasive manoeuvres.

Asato’s Martial Teachings ( Funakoshi, Gichin )

According to Funakoshi Gichin, Asato planned to write down his thoughts on the martial arts in order to produce a book. Regrettably, he never translated this project into action, Yet, around 1902 his student, Funakoshi Gichin, was fortunate enough to interview his old teacher then 74 years old (8). Although I am sure the interview was intended for subsequent publication it is somewhat of a mystery why there was a time gap of more than a decade between the actual interview and its final publication in 1914. Anyway, using his pseudonym, Shoto (waving pines), Funakoshi put the interview into a three part article series for the Ryukyu Shinpo newspapers of January 17 ~ 18, and 19, 1914. (9) Entitled “The Martial Techniques of Okinawa – Asato, Anko speaks about Karate”, it covers insights into the history of Okinawan fighting arts, philosophy and doctrine of karate.

First, Asato gives an important advice to potential students of karate as well as teachers of this martial art (1): “The student is instructed with regard to his strength and character, If the choice of educational method is neglected and the teacher’s principles are incorrect, it will be laborious, and rather than benefit, we will achieve the opposite. Even the health of the student will be affected.’ From this, we can understand that each student was treated in a very individual way in order to produce the best possible results; quite contrary to modern mass instruction.

Concerning the content of karate practice, he explains (2): “It is said that all karate is gesture. If a person has not learned for long, he will not be able to apply the required gestures easily. Now, how does one manage to employ karate elegantly? Before explaining how to use the hips, make clear the difference between high, middle, and low. Afterwards become acquainted with the application of strength. Making eyes and hands one unity will be favourable in case of need?’

What we call kata (forms) nowadays, has been described by Asato, Anko as “sorts” of karate, Sternly he says: (I), “Adding them all up, certainly there are dozens of sorts. However, one can not learn them all. And there is no need to learn so many. Properly selecting 5 to 6 of them would be enough. It is foolish to have a multitude (of sorts) with superficial knowledge, and it is an extraordinary moral offence to be proud of that.”

For him every karate kata has a special feature: (I), “Naihanchi and Seisan are suited for body strengthening. The catching of a bo’(10) is restricted to Passai. Kunsankun is good in order to produce speed. Jitte clearly distinguishes upper level, middle level, and lower level, For practical use Seisan and Tomari no Passai are extremely effective.” As a marginal note, this is the first known written reference which identifies a kata by its place of origin or practice, e.g. we can certainly say that there was a form of Passai from Tomari village at the turn of the 20th century.

An inherent part of practice was the so called “assembling of hands” (kumite) (I). “In our days it is especially the existence of kumite which confuses people. And this is the case although kumite is, without exception, nothing more than the application of karate…If he only learns the steps without thinking over the meaning, consequently he will have many doubts at times. However, evidence is better than opinion.” So, when Asato spoke about kumite he simply referred to the practical applications of karate movements, This idea is considerably different from today’s interpretation of kumite.

From the pedagogical point of view he declared (l): “After learning a step in karate on the whole, one should certainly try organize and to analyse its nature. When it becomes truly clear one starts to practice next step.”

Yet, the student of karate should be – -at least in Asato’s opinion – -ready to learn from many sources (2): “While studying karate one has in fact to seize an opportunity to learn from all fields like physiology, hygiene, jujitsu, the art of sabre, horse riding, archery, the Chinese classics, military books etc. The strategic writings of Sun-tzu and Wu-tzu, the Liu-t’ao and the San-lueh, local books etc. are recommended works, which should be used for reference.”

Elsewhere Funakoshi pointed out that the Seven Writings (C’h’i-shu), an anthology of the above mentioned Sun-tzu, Wu-tzu, the Liu- t’ao and the San-loch, as well as Wei Liao-tzu, the Szu-ma Fa, and the Tang Li Wen-tui, were Asato’s favourite works. In my opinion, “local works” could possibly refer to the Okinawan Bubishi and others.

From this we can see that Asato’s teachings did not halt at a purely physical level. In fact Asato once told Funakoshi: “No, martial arts are not just strengthening muscles. Refinement and tempering of the mind is the highest priority. If one neglects the practice of the mind, one will not become a magnificent martial artist.” Based on these words we can understand the significance of another idea of this teacher (2): “In the end private fights and the wars of nations are battles of wisdom, separate from the body.”

To explain his tactical ideas, he mentioned (2): “Since ancient times, we received instruction through the doctrine of “Karate ni sente nashi”, (There is no first movement in karate). From the pedalogical point of view these ivords serve to exhort young children. If it were otherwise, it would contradict today’s tactics. However, does not this possess great power in the method of strategy which is called ‘Slumbering Strength’ and ‘Controlling the Ch’i ?”

Asato continues (2): “Nevertheless, a first movement would be allowed if it is a case of survival for the nation, or if parents, wife and children are threatened, or an enemy approaches and compels one.” While some of his teachings survived thanks to printed documents, it is not easy to verify what kind of techniques or kata Asato Anko practiced and transmitted. Since he spoke about characteristic features of some kata above, we can conclude he was familiar with them, These six kata are Naihanchi (Tekki), Seisan (Hangetsu), Passai (Bassai), Jitte, and Asato no Bassai in his Kata Taikan (I I), it seems to be clear that this form was studied by Asato, Fujiwara Ryozo (born in 1925) maintains that it was Asato Anko who taught Funakoshi Gichin the kata Kushanku (Kanku), which means he knew it too. If Funakoshi learned the kata Jitte from Asato as well, the present-day Shotokan version of this form should resemble it to some degree.

Finally Hisataka Masayuki Kukan informs us of a version of Nijushiho kata that Asato had modified to conform to his requirements. One of his favourite techniques appeared to be the one finger fist strike (ippon_ken), where the second joint of the index finger is used as the impact point. We know this because there are some stories about Asato, which feature this technique. Technically he animated his disciples by the words Hito no teashi o tsurugi to omoe (Regard the hands and feet of human beings as sabres). To illustrate what Asato meant, Kosugi Hoan (1881—1964) tells the following little anecdote (JO). “Asato’s fists were really like sabres. Once he thrust his closed fingers against a freshly slaughtered pig. It is said that they sank in over half way.”

We can be sure that Asato’s daily training routine included practice with the makiwara, Funakoshi points out their presence in virtually every room at the Asato home, both the standing and hanging types. He also made use of chishi (lever weights), sasin-ishi (stone weight with two handles), and nigiri—darna (gripping balls). He seemed to be proficient with some Okinawan weapons, too, Funakoshi remembers the following ones in the house of his master (3): roku-shaku ho (six-foot staff), tenbei (or tinbei, a shield often combined with short spear or machete), nunchaku (two sectional stick), and jitte. Actually the jitte is of Japanese origin, so I believe Funakoshi used that term in order to describe the Okinawan sai for easy reference. Unfortunately we can not say if he trained with these weapons in specific kata, As for the bo, Funakoshi mentions a bo-uchiya, perhaps an apparatus to strike against to develop hitting power with the staff. He could have borrowed such an idea from his tategi-uchi routine, where the Jigen-Ryu adept has to strike a post repeatedly with his wooden sabre.

To what extent Asato imparted his knowledge of these training tools and weapons to his few students is uncertain. A final word of advice by Asato Anko is (2): “In karate as martial art there appear no considerable results within a short period. The work of a whole lifetime is indispensable:’

Asato’s Descendants

Asato Anko instructed very few karate disciples; in fact we can make out only two in the literature. Those direct students were Funakoshi Gichin, Oshiro Chojo, and presumably members of his own family, but certainly he influenced others. For example, Hisataka Masayoshi Kori (1907(?) —1988) claims his version of Nijushiho came from Asato. However, as we can see from his date of birth, he could have been an indirect student (mata—deshi) of Asato.


Regarded unemotionally, the best known disciple of Asato Anko is Funakoshi, Gichin. Born in Shuri’s Yamakawa village on 10 November 1868, Funakoshi wanted a career as school teacher, and he began as a supply teacher at the Naha Elementary School (Naha Jinjo Shogaku) in 1887. Previously, young Umikami, as Funakoshi has been called during his childhood, undertook his first steps on the way of karate under the tutelage of Asato Anko at the age of II. Although he emphasized that Asato was his main teacher, Funakoshi learned from other karate experts, too. Strangely he did not mention what he acquired from Asato (11). As we saw above, the possible kata he mastered under Asato may be Kushanku (Kanku), Passai (Bassai), Seisan (Hangetsu), and perhaps Jitte. In 1914 he left his employment as teacher and, dedicated himself fully to karate, became the president of Okinawa’s “Association of the Esteemed Martial Arts” (Okinawa Shobukai) (12).

In 1922, at the age of 51 Funakoshi, Gichin moved to Tokyo intending to spread karate through-out Japan. Immediately he started his promotional actviities by giving demonstrations, lecturing and writing books. In these books we are able to make out some of the teachings Asato, Anko transmitted in the 1902 interview. For example while he increased the number of kata considerably from the 5—6 required by Asato, he still stresses the point that it is useless to learn a lot of forms without mastering them.

Pro-Japanese like his mentor, Asato, Funakoshi decided to replace the Okinawan names of the kata he used, inventing new names for them, He even changed the kanji of his own name to suit Japanese sentiment. Together with his followers he founded the “Pine Wave Association” (Shotokai) in 1935, becoming its first chairman, Following this, his own dojo, the Shotokan (Building of the Pine Wave), was inaugurated in Tokyo’s Toshima-Ku in 1939. In 1945 it burned down, and it was not until 1976 that the Shotokai opened a new Shotokan now in Shibaura. Twenty years before this event Funakoshi, Gichin died at the age of 88 on 26 April 1957. Among his four sons, Giei, Giyu, Gigo and Giketsu, only the third engaged himself in the practice of karate seriously. Gigo (Yoshitaka; 1906—1945) even became the designated successor of his father, who presented him with the seal of the Shotokan dojo as a symbolic act. Regrettably, Funakoshi, Gigo died while still young, and afterwards Funakoshi Gichin never named another heir, Therefore, we must search for traces of his karate in the numerous groups and associations which claim to be in line with Funakoshi’s ideas.


Oshio, Chojo

Asato’s second known disciple is Oshiro, Chojo. Born in 1888, he died at the relatively young age of 48 in 1939. He lived in Shuri’s Onaka district and was, like Funakoshi, a teacher by profession. The Prefectural Technical Senior High School (Kenritsu Kogyo Koko) was his place of employment, where he instructed the students of this institution in karate as well (12). Together with his seniors Funakoshi, Gichin and Chibana, Choshin (1885—1969), Oshiro founded the Karate Research Society (Karate Kenkyu Kai) in 1918.

Oshiro learned karate from other teachers as well, and is probably best remembered for his expertise with the bo, His bo skills from came from Chinen Sanda (1842—1925) (I2). There are no details concerning the techniques and kata he acquired from Asato, nevertheless, we know of an Oshiro no Passai and an Oshiro no Seisan. Kinjo Hiroshi (born in 1918) is one of his best known students.


Yasuzato, Yoriyuki

Karate practice is part of the Asato family tradition even today. One of his grandsons, Asato, Yoriyuki, moved to the City of Sasebo in the northern part of Kyushu. When he arrived in mainland Japan, he adopted the Japanese spelling of the name Asato, i.e. Yasuzato. Described as a meek looking gentleman by one of his American students, James A. Caldwell (13), Yasuzato Yoriyuki established the Shobukan dojo (Building of the Esteemed Martial Art) in his new home town. As a matter of fact, he choose the same expression as Funakoshi did for his 1914 association.

He taught karate at the Shobukan, and at the American military base in Sasebo after World War II. In 1972 Yasuzato received his promotion to 9th Dan. He was also proficient with the Japanese sabre. While it seems to be clear that he died in 1974, one year after Caldwell’s departure from Japan, his birth date is a muddled matter. Yasuzato’s daughter, Yasuzato Yoriko, provided James A. Caldwell with the date, 25 August 1922 during a interview in 1987, but photographs taken in 1972 show a white-haired person who looks much older than a man of 50. We also find 1905 or 1906 given as his year of birth, For now, this problem must be left open.

Students at the Shobukan are instructed in a set of five Kihon-Gata, each one using a different basic uke—waza (receiving technique). Other kata taught at the Shobukan include Pinan Shodan, Nidan, Sandan, Yondan, and Godan, Passai, Kushanku, and Naihanchi. One of Yasuzato Yoriyuki’s karate teachers was probably his father, Asato Anri. The use of the Pinan series and Naihanchi Shodan reveals an influence from the Itosu lineage, while Passai and Kushanku may have been transmitted directly through the Asato family. The sai, an Okinawan weapon, is practiced at Yasuzato’s dojo. Members of the Shobukan participated in karate tournaments in the early 1970s, and still do.

After his death, Yoriko, his only child and her husband Hiroyuki inherited his school of karate, At this time, Yasuzato Yoriko is the leader (shidosha) of the Sasebo Shobukan and Yasuzato Hiroyuki holds the position of head of the dojo (kancho).



It is not possible to compare the technique of Asato Anko with the performance of modern practitioners in his lineage, simply because we possess no photographs of him. Nevertheless, using the words of his 1902 interview, we can still compare Asato’s ideas to those of his descendants. I would like to leave it to the reader to decide if this is necessary or not. While Asato Anko’s work helped to generate modern Shotokan currents to some degree, we can also say that traces of his karate can be found in some of the lesser known styles of karate, In this article, I tried to cast more light on the person of Asato. However, there are still a lot of open questions, which hopefully will be answered in the future.


— Acknowledgements

I would like to sincerely thank James A. Caldwell, former student of Yasuzato, Yoriyuki, for providing me with valuable facts and information as well as with photographs from his private collection for this article.


— Bibliography

In alphabetical order:

1. G. Funakoshi: Okinawa no Buite Asato Anko Kundan, Chu. (Martial Techniques of Okinawa, Asato Anko speaks about Karate, Vol. II) (article), Naha 1914

2. G. Funakoshi: Okinawa no Bu,gi, Karate ni tsuite . Ge. (Martial Techniques of Okinawa. Asato Anko speaks about Karate, Vol. III) (article), Naha 1914

3, G. Funakoshi: Onshi Asato Anko Sensei no Itsuwa (Anecdotes about my Teacher, Master Asato Anko) (article), Tokyo 1934

4. G. Funakoshi: Karatedo Ichiro (Karate-Do. One

5. S. Gima/R. Fujiwara: Kindai Karatedo no Rekishi o kataru (Speaking About the History of Present- day Karate-Do), Tokyo 1986

6. M. Hisataka: Essential Shorinjiryu Karatedo, Tokyo 1994

7. T. Itani: Yakurnaru Jigen-Ryu Bubiroku (Records upon the Military Preparation in Yakumaru Jigen-Ryu), Tokyo 2005

8. K. Iwai: Motobu Choki to Ryukyu Karate (Choki Motobu and the Karate of Ryukyu), Tokyo 2001

9. G. Kerr: Okinawa — The History of an Island People (Revised Edition), Tokyo 2000

10. G. Nakasone (editor): Karate Kenkyu (Karate Research), Tokyo 1934

11. R. Sakagami: Karatedo Kata Taikan

(The Great Model of the Forms of Karate-do), Tokyo, 1978 12 www2.tokai.or.jp/jkka/chojyo.html


— Endnotes

I. The name of Asato, Anko is popularly given as Azato, Yasutsune. “Yasutsune” is simply the Japanese, or bun reading of ‘Anko’, while ‘Azato’ has been pointed out as unsuitable transcription by Sakihara Mitsugu.

2. A simplified form Ryukyu’s class structure would be as follows, from high ranks to low: Udon, Tonchi, Oji, Aji, Ueikata (embracing 4 ranks), Peichin (embracing 10 ranks), Satonushi (embracing 2 ranks), Chikuelun (embracing 2 ranks), Ski (without rank) and Nya (without r

3. Spelled Lin-Chueh Chai in Chinese, the first two characters literally signify “horn of the unicorn”, which is, of course, an unusual thing.

4. The scroll he handed to Kuwae Ryosei (1858—1939) is well known, Yet, there are probably identical ones provided to other students.

5. Iwa, or Wei-Pe, is not his full name. Rather it signifies “Uncle Wei”, making the identification of this person very difficult.

6. Iwai Kohaku (born in 1950) is the same person as Iwai Tsukuo, Tsukuo is his real name,

7. Onaka is the place where Haebaru Ueikata, person who introduced the sabre school of Jigen- Ryu to the Ryukyu Kingdom, lived.

8. By Western standards.

9. For a complete English translation of these articles please refer to P. McCarthy: Funakoshi Gichen Tanpenshu; IRKRS 2002. Alternatively my transtion can be found in the German Journal, Cutura Martialis, Vol. 7.

10. This is probably meant to indicate catching a strike with a staff.

11. In the case of his other teacher, Itosu Anko , he wrote that his Heian and Tekki forms came from him.

12. For an Okinawan this term must hold a double meaning, ince Sho in Shobukai is also the name Ryukyu’s royal family. Therefore it is possible to interpret it as “Association of the Martial Arts from Ryukyu.”

13. James A. Caldwell was stationed in Sasebo from 1971 through 1973. He started training under Yasuzato Yoriyuki in the gymnasium at the army base, and later practised at the Shobukan.

Also see this story:



Book – Martial Arts Master Kori Hisataka: My Father’s life in Manchuria


Martial Arts Master Kori Hisataka: My Father’s life in Manchuria Paperback – Dec 1 2016
by Sachiko Hisataka (Author), Hidemi Uebayashi (Translator)

The early life of martial arts Master Kori Hisataka is vividly portrayed through the eyes of his youngest daughter, Sachiko Hisataka. With a samurai heart and pioneer spirit, he moved off the Japanese archipelago and onto the Asian continent where he lived a life of daring and intrigue. The story begins in 1932 in the newly created puppet state that Japan named Manchukuo. It follows Hisataka and his family through the turbulent guerrilla war, Japan’s defeat, and culminating with the chaotic withdrawal of the Japanese back to their home country. With a tumultuous China as the setting, the author recalls various historical events that led to Japan’s defeat and retreat. In the author’s father, readers are introduced to a devoted martial artist with a broad vision and fearless approach to life. With repatriation completed, Hisataka opened Kenkokan Karate Dojo in Tokyo as a martial arts master. Behind this great man was his wise, strong-willed wife who especially shared her abundant affection with their children. This story is as much a family portrait as it is an historical account of Japan’s foray into continental Asia.

Book – Essential Shorinjiryu Karatedo


Essential Shorinjiryu Karatedo Paperback – Jun 1 1994
by Masayuki Hisataka

In Essential Shorinjiryu Karatedo, Masayuki Kukan Hisataka, ninth Dan Black Belt Karate master, introduces the highly innovative and effective Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo system. Though an integral system of Okinawan karate practiced for centuries, it is an evolving scientific martial art that incorporates elements from kung fu, Kudakajima Shishiryu bo jutsu, and Western and Oriental medicine. In this detailed work, Master Hisataka demonstrates the techniques, fighting combinations, and kata (preset forms) that have made him a leading international master of both karate and judo.
The text describes in detail basic karate strikes, kicks, and blocks, as well as the philosophy of yin-yang and the five elements and how that philosophy relates to fighting strategy and attitude. The history and development of karate from ancient times are covered in detail, with a focus on the Okinawan masters who brought karate to Japan. This book’s 430 photographs show karate fighting techniques in action, illustrating a variety of effective striking combinations, counters, and three classical karate kata. This is also the first book in English to show the use of Supersafe protective equipment in martial arts training.

Book – Scientific Karatedo


Paperback – September 15, 1995

I posted this review on Amazon for Scientific Karatedo

There are so many different karate schools and texts on karate, a very popular oriental martial art, and so, it makes it difficult for the individual enthusiast to know what approach is best and which books to select. But the problem is simplified when the question is asked: “What must a karate system do?”. The logical answer is that a karate system ought to offer a scientific analysis of standard techniques and clear, well-founded explanations of all the basic karate rules.

Scientific Karatedo, by Masayuki Kukan Hisataka, provides exactly this kind of treatment in detailed scientific explanations, unlike anything ever published before. Furthermore, this book is more inclusive than other works on the subject. Including warm up exercises, basic techniques demonstrated in multi-photo sequences, prearranged forms, prearranged partner training, self defence, a special section on self defence for women, and it contains little known armed techniques.

In general, karate is interpreted as a way of combat involving no weapons. However, in the early stages of it’s development, karate called for the conversion of simple articles of daily use and certain agricultural tools into weapons for the peasantry to employ in protective combat.
The immense amount of material contained in this text, makes this book essential to all people who want to understand karate in it’s entirety.

NOTE: This book was originally published as a hardcover in 1976, and is much harder to find.