Anko Itosu was born in 1830 in the city of Shuri in Okinawa. History says that he was a timid boy during his childhood and had a hard time growing up with his father who was determined in making him a pro in fighting. He was said to be tied up by his father and poked with a stick so as to evoke the fighting spirit in him. However the influence of this was seen much later in the fighting techniques introduced by him as most of them reflect the art of disarming the attacker with the help of a stick. Master Matsumura is believed to be the master of Itosu and he started taking lessons from him at the age of 16. Itosu grew up to be well educated and worked as a personal secretary to King Sho Tai for thirty years. Things turned topsy turvy when the king was sent to exile and the Royal dynasty of Okinawa was ended by the Chinese. The Karate masters who had been working for the king fell apart in their lives and were enslaved to poverty as a result of the fall of their king. The higher social class to which they belonged was of no help to them at this point.
Itosu is said to be a strong man who had strong hands which were way too strong enough to crush a thick stalk of bamboo. He used to practice his punches against the stone walls while he took a stroll past the imperial tombs every day. He believed in the theory that the body should be strong and trained enough to receive yet survive the hardest of blows. The Shotokan founder Gichin Funakoshi spent ten years under his guidance to master the three basic kata.
Anko Itosu’s Influence on Karate
Itosu’s teachings hold a special place in the history of Karate. He introduced the idea of attacking the opponent and finishing the deal off in a single blow, as soon as the opponent starts with their opening attack. Itosu is considered to be the Grandfather of Modern Day Karate. He was successful in spreading the art of Karate in Okinawan schools which later paved way to this art gain popularity around the globe making it the most practiced and useful of all martial arts. The Kata (forms) are said to be modified by Itosu taught to him by his master Matsumura. Many karate masters have achieved training and taken lessons from Itosu though Karate was not invented by himself. He believed that a man of character would try his best to stay calm and love peace. He believed in the concept that the purpose of Karate is not to develop one’s physical strength alone, but to acquire the art of defending oneself. He insisted on helping other people and fighting against a single person never seemed to a great idea to him. Striking a person did not interest him much and he persuaded his students in doing away with it as much as possible. Facing others with fists and feet were also a big no according to him. He urged his students to concentrate attention around and to be modest with the people around them. He advised his students to open their eyes widely as they practice Karate, and to stiffen their bodies as they keep their shoulders down, so as to explore and experience their striking performance. He gave a clear and profound picture of what true Karateka is and is considered to be one of the legends who made Karate the most precious martial art that we see now.
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