SEARCHING FOR THE ORIGIN OF BUDO
A Courtesy of the Monthly Magazine "BUDO"
By Tomoyuki Yokose
Ancient Martial Arts Researcher
Born in 1942 in Kawanishi city, Hyogo prefecture as the eldest son of Ryusho Sakagami,
he received the Shihan License in 1973.
He succeeded his father to the position of fourth generation Itosu-ryu style in 1994,
and is currently the president of Japan Karatedo Itosu-kai.
Titles: Kendo Kyoshi 7th dan / Jodo Kyoshi 6th dan / Iaido Kyoshi 5th dan,
and Rykyu Kobudo Kongo-ryu Shuseki Shihan
Itosu-ryu Karate can be traced back to Master Sokon Matsumura, who taught Shuri-te. It also originates in Master Anko Itosu who promoted Shuri-te in the Meiji period. They consider him the first generation and the Itosu-ryu style was named after him. One of his top students, Kenwa Mabuni, practiced Shuri-te under Master Anko Itosu and he was also taught Naha-te by Master Kanryo Higaonna. He later created the Shito-ryu style whose name was derived from both masters. However, in order to pass down Anko Itosu's Shuri-te to the next generation, he made one of his top students, Ryusho Sakagami, succeed him to the position of third generation Itosu-ryu style. Itosu-ryu Karate teaches the ancient techniques of Master Itosu. Today I visited fourth generation Soke Master Sadaaki Sakagami at the headquarters in Tsurumi, Kanagawa prefecture.
Passing down the technique of Master Kenwa Mabuni
Master Kenwa Mabuni, the second generation of the Itosu-Ryu style, practiced Shuri-te under Master Anko Itosu, and later practiced Naha-te under Master Kanryo Higaonna. Furthermore, he visited other teachers in various parts of Okinawa and studied a variety of martial arts.
Ryusho Sakagami, who succeeded Master Mabuni as one of his top students, was permitted to take on the position of third generation by Master Mabuni himself.
- Soke Sadaaki Sakagami:
“I heard that when Master Mabuni passed down the Shito-ryu style through his son Kenei, he also gave the position of third generation Itosu-ryu style to my father. Itosu-ryu teaches Master Anko Itosu's Shuri-te as our origin, and we also teach some techniques from other styles researched by Master Mabuni.”
Although the root of the style is Master Anko's Shuri-te, which Master Mabuni first learned, parts of Naha-te and other styles passed down in some parts of Okinawa are also taught, just as in Shito-ryu. The teaching adheres to the results of Master Mabuni's studies.
Preserving the technique of Itosu-ryu and teaching the art.
“I started practicing martial arts at the age of about 12, when my father told me to come to the dojo. That's why I started practicing, but all of the students were adults except me.”
When he practiced kumite or sparring, he had to practice with adults, who were much bigger than him. Occasionally he would be kicked and end up crawling on the floor of the dojo in pain.
The basis for the Itso-ryu style is Shuri-te. In Shuri-te they start with basic practice, then move on to kata, finally building up the body and techniques suitable for Karate through these practices. Back then there were no tournament rules yet established.
“The most important kata is Pinan. 90% of techniques in the Itosu-ryu style are contained in the series of five Pinan katas. In the Itosu-ryu style we also practice a Naha-te technique after learning the basics of Shuri-te. Some core parts of those techniques are different in Shuri-te and Naha-te, and it is critical that we understand those differences and practice them. That's the difficult part.”
Soke Sadaaki learned Kendo, Iaido and Jodo just as his father did. He says he achieved maai (engagement distance from your opponent) in Karate by learning sword arts.
“Kendo and Judo have a theoretical system passed down from their preceding art of Kobudo (ancient martial arts). I think it is essential for Karate to implement universal theory for the future development of the art.”
Kenwa Mabuni researched old Karate in various locations in Okinawa and tried to systematize it. His ideal was passed down to today's Itosu-ryu style by Soke Sadaaki.