糸洲安恒先生遺稿 (唐手心得十ヶ條)

Kenwa MabuniFunakoshiI expect that all advanced Shotokan and Shito ryu practitioners must have heard the name Itosu Anko. Yes, he was the sensei of Gichin Funakoshi (the first photo), the founder of Shotokan and of Kenwa Mabuni (the second photo), the founder of Shito ru. However, I am afraid that not enough credit has been given to Master Itosu for what he has done to modernize karate and to bring karate to the public. Today I want to introduce him so that all of us can remember his great contributions that helped build the modern day karate that we have now.

I will also share his valuable teachings that he left in Tode Kokoroe Jukkajo (唐手心得十ヶ條 , Ten Precepts of Karate).

Instead of re-creating the biography of Master Itosu I will use a quote from a page out of Wikipedia.

Ankō Itosu (糸洲 安恒: Itosu Ankō, 1831 – 11 March 1915, photo below) is considered by many to be the father of modern karate, although this title is also often given to Gichin Funakoshi because the latter spread karate throughout Japan. A low-rank Ryukyuan Pechin, Itosu was small in stature, shy, and introverted as a child. He was raised in a strict home of the keimochi (a family of position), and was educated in the Chinese Classics and calligraphy. Itosu began his tode (karate) study under Nagahama Chikudun Pechin. His study of the art led him to Sokon Matsumura. Part of Itosu’s training was makiwara practice. He once tied a leather sandal to a stone wall in an effort to build a better makiwara. After several strikes, the stone fell from the wall. After relocating the sandal several times, Itosu ended up destroying the wall.


Itosu served as a secretary to the last king of the Ryukyu Kingdom until Japan abolished the Okinawa-based native monarchy in 1879. In 1901, he was instrumental in getting karate introduced into Okinawa’s schools. In 1905, Itosu was a 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. He created and introduced the Pinan forms (Heian) as learning steps for students, because he felt the older forms (kata) were too difficult for schoolchildren to learn. The five Pinan forms were (allegedly) created by drawing from two older forms: Kusanku and Chiang nan.

Itosu is also credited with taking the large Naihanchi form (tekki) and breaking it into the three well-known modern forms Naihanchi Shodan, Naihanchi Nidan, and Naihanchi Sandan. In 1908, Itosu wrote the influential “Ten Precepts (Jukun) of Karate,” reaching beyond Okinawa to Japan. Itosu’s style of karate, Shorin ryu, came to be known as Itosu-ryu in recognition of his skill, mastery, and role as teacher to many.

While Itosu did not invent karate himself, he modified the kata (forms) he learned from his master, Matsumura, and taught many karate masters. Itosu’s students included Choyu Motobu (1857–1927), Choki Motobu (1870–1944), Kentsu Yabu (1866–1937), Chomo Hanashiro (1869–1945), Gichin Funakoshi (1868–1957), Moden Yabiku (1880–1941), Kanken Toyama (1888–1966), Chotoku Kyan (1870–1945), Shinpan Shiroma (Gusukuma, 1890–1954), Anbun Tokuda (1886–1945), Kenwa Mabuni (1887–1952), and Choshin Chibana (1885–1969).

If you wish to learn more on Anko Itosu, here is a link: http://www.historyoffighting.com/anko-itosu.php

Itosu and Funakoshi

Below is a letter written by Itosu Sensei in October of 1908. This letter preceded the introduction of karate to Okinawan schools and eventually to the Japanese mainland. The translation below is my own poor translation of the original Japanese written by Master Itosu. I take all the blame for any possible (but unintended) wrong translation. I attach the Japanese after the English transation but please note that this is in the present day Japanese and not the old Japanese used in the early 20th century.



I do not believe karate came from Buddhism which was brought from India or Confucianism which is from the ancient Chinese philosophy (the teaching of Confucius) . What I understand is that, in the past, two schools; (Shorin ryu and the Shorei ryu), were brought to Ryukyu (Okinawa) from China. These two schools have their own unique and strong points, thus their teaching must not be easily changed. Therefore, we all must remember that the moves in the katas must not be changed or modified by your own thinking or liking. I wish to write down the important points of the karate training and their benefits in ten different precepts.




Precept 1

The main purpose of Karate-do is not merely to practice for your own physical benefit. Karate must be used with courage and justice to protect one’s family, master, or country when we encounter a serious situation even if it means that you lose your life. It must not be practiced to fight against only one assailant. Therefore, in the case you are attacked by a villain or a robber, see if it is possible to avoid a fight and to manage the situation peacefully. Never think of harming another person by your punches or kicks. One must never forget that this attitude shows the real karate spirit.





Precept 2

The ultimate goal of karate training is to make one’s body as hard as a rock so that it will bounce off any punches and kicks from an assailant. If your karate skills are excellent, you will have a strong spirit and be able to have confidence. This means you will fear no one and you can conduct yourself true to your principle. Children may start training while in elementary school, then the karate training will help them in mastering other martial arts such as kendo and jukendo when they get into military service. Remember the words attributed to the Duke of Wellington of Great Brittain after he defeated Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo in Belgium:“The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.” I consider this saying very accurate and relevant.


空手は、専ら鍛えに鍛えて筋骨を強くし、相手からの打撃をも跳ね返すほどの強さにすることが理想です。このように理想的に鍛え上げれば、自然と何事をも恐れず、自分の信念もまげずに振る舞う、逞しい行動力と強い精神力が備わるものです。それにつきましては、小学校時代から空手の練習をさせれば、いつか軍人になった時、きっと他の剣道とか銃剣道のような術伎上達の助けになる効用があります。以上述べましたようなことが、将来、軍人社会での精神面と術技面への何かしらの助けになると考えます。最も、英国のウエリントン候が、ベルギーのワーテルローでナポレオン一世に大勝した時にいいました。「今日の戦勝は、我が国の各学校のグラウンド及びその他の施設で広く体育の教育をやった成果である」と。 実に格言というべきでしょうか。

Precept 3

You cannot become an expert in karate quickly. We have a saying about a cow that walks slower than a horse, but it can last longer and travel thousands of miles. With this in mind and if one trains diligently for at least an hour or two every day, then in three to four years that person will have a much healthier body than an average person. In the end, he may be able to achieve a good level of karate but only after such training.



Precept 4

Firming the hands and feet are important in karate training, so one must train thoroughly on the makiwara. I advise that you should keep your shoulders down, open up your rib cage, grip your fists firmly, stand on the floor solidly, and sink your energy into your lower abdomen called Seika tanden (the lower belly area where the ki collects). To maximize the benefit, I suggest that you will punch and kick one to two hundred times with each hand and foot.



 5 and 6


Precept 5

Here is some advice for your stance. First, keep your back straight. Then, keep your shoulders down. It is critical to spread your strength all over your body. By dropping your breath and energy into your lower abdomen, you will stand very firmly.



Precept 6

Kata, the visible form, should be practiced many times. However, there will be little benefit if you practice them without knowing the meaning of the techniques. In order to make your training meaningful, one must learn the meaning of each technique. In addition, there are other special techniques that are not found in the kata such as the different punches and blocks as well as the grappling and joint techniques. These techniques are considered as secret techniques and they must be taught in a face to face training session with your sensei.



Precept 7

There is another important thing about kata. One must know clearly before training in kata if the techniques found in them are specifically for the kihon training purpose or they are actually for an application purpose. Only by knowing them one can practice with a definite training method and objective.



Precept 8

When you train in karate, one must have the same spirit as if marching onto a battlefield. Your eyes should be open and alert. Your shoulders should be kept low. Your body must be energized and must have elasticity. When you practice punching and blocking, you must have the mindset of actually fighting instead of merely punching and blocking in the air. If you train with this attitude, an excellent result that cannot be learned in other sports can be achieved and that will be shown in your kata. I really want you to remember and apply my advice.



Precept 9

If one over strains himself the blood will rush to his head and his eyes may become blood shot. This will result in some harm. No matter how you look at it, such training methods are dangerous to your health, thus these must be avoided.



Precept 10

Many of the karate masters have enjoyed long lives. From medical research it has been found that karate training builds a strong body. It also exercises the digestive and the circulatory systems thus resulting in longer lives. I strongly recommend that karate training to be adopted in the elementary schools’ physical education classes. Once it becomes a part of school programs we can train many school students. Such a program will make it possible to produce some experts in the future who are capable of defeating ten assailants.



Closing statement:

I further wish that the students of all high schools and universities practice karate with the ten precepts described above. Then, some will attend the Okinawa Teachers’ University with their karate experience. In this way, after graduation, these teachers can teach karate correctly in the elementary schools with the right attitude and appropriate training methods. I believe the benefit of karate will spread across the nation within ten years. The great benefit is not meant only for Okinawa but also for our entire nation. With a strong belief in this I have written this letter and the precepts for your review.

October 1908

Anko Itosu



糸洲安恒Dojo photo

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