YASUTSUNE AZATO or ANKO ASATO
AZATO ANKOH: A SHORT STORY ABOUT MY TEACHER
by Gichin Funikoshi
Translated & Edited by Patrick & Yuriko McCarthy
Okinawan Karate Master,
governor, military chief. Also known by the name Tonochi, Azato
trained under Sokon "Bushi" Matsumura.
Although he excelled in archery and swordsmanship, Azato was
also accredited with bringing even the best swordsman (carrying
katana) down with his bare hands. Azato also contributed to the
education of Master
Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of modern karate-do.
Funakoshi to "turn your hands and feet into swords".
He drilled him unmercifully in kata. Funakoshi was required to
practice a single kata for months before being allowed to move
onto another kata. Azato told his student "the secret of
victory is to know yourself and your opponent through careful
preparation and observation." This way you will never be
caught off guard.
Anko Asato or Azato Yasutsune in Japanese, 1827–1906) was an Okinawan master of karate. He and Ankō Itosu were the two main karate masters who taught Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shōtōkan-ryū karate. Funakoshi appears to be the source of most of the information available on Asato. Many articles contain information about Asato, but the relevant parts are clearly based on Funakoshi's descriptions of him.
Funakoshi first met Asato when he was a schoolmate of Asato's son; he called Asato "one of Okinawa's greatest experts in the art of karate." According to Funakoshi, Asato's family belonged to the Tonochi class (hereditary town and village chiefs), and held authority in the village of Asato, halfway between Shuri and Naha, and he was not only a master of karate, but also skilled at riding horses, Jigen-ryū kendō (swordsmanship), archery, and an exceptional scholar.
In a 1934 article, Funakoshi noted that Asato and Itosu had studied karate together under Sōkon Matsumura. He also related how Asato and Itosu once overcame a group of 20–30 attackers, and how Asato set a trap for troublemakers in his home village. In his 1956 autobiography, Funakoshi recounted several stories about Asato, including: Asato's political astuteness in following the government order to cut off the traditional men's topknot (pp. 13–14); Asato's defeat of Yōrin Kanna, in which the unarmed Asato prevailed despite Kanna being armed with an unblunted blade (pp. 14–15); Asato's demonstration of a single-point punch (ippon-ken; p. 15); and Asato and Itosu's friendly arm-wrestling matches (p. 16).