ABOUT CHITO RYU
The history of Chito-ryu karate begins with our
Chitose (1898-1984). He was born in the Kumochi area of
Naha City on the island of Okinawa on October 18, 1898. It was
the 29th year of the Meiji era in Japan. Here on this small island,
known as the cradle of karate-do, Tsuyoshi Chitose grew up and
spent his early formative years.
His original birth name was Chinen (Gochoku) Masuo.
His father Chinen (Masuo) Chiyoyu, married into his wife's last
name, and was not a practitioner of karate. Chitose Sensei changed
his name to Tsuyoshi Chitose for personal reasons after he moved
to Tokyo in 1922 to attend medical college.
In tracing the history of Chito-ryu, we must also
look into the historical influences that shaped Chitose Sensei's
martial arts experiences and impacted our art of today. The old
karate and martial arts teachers were responsible for influencing
future generations of karate practitioners with the ideas they
developed during their lifetimes. Some of these ideas were passed
to Doctor Chitose and aided him in his creation of Chito-ryu.
Chitose Sensei's mother's grandfather was a very
famous karate master. His name was Sokon (Bushi) Matsumura (1797-1889).
Matsumura Sensei was considered one of the great karate (Tode)
figures of the nineteenth century. Matsumura Sensei started his
karate training when he was thirteen years old. His father, Sofuku
Matsumura, took him to see a seventy eight year old karate teacher
named Tode (Karate) Sakugawa. Sakugawa Sensei (1733-1815) was born
in Akata Cho, a small section of the city of Shuri, Okinawa. When
Sakugawa was a young man he had been a student of Takahara Peichin
(1683 - 1760). He had also studied for six years (1756 to 1762)
with a Chinese military envoy (Kusanku). It is from this part of
our history that we get the kata - Seisan, Niseishi, Sochin, Sakugawa
No Kon Sho, and Kusanku. Years later Bushi Matsumura had an opportunity
to train with a Chinese trader named Chinto. When Chinto returned
to China, Matsumura Sensei developed a kata from the many movements
he had learned and named it Chinto in his teacher's honor. This
kata is presently required for Sho-Dan (1st degree black belt)
by the U. S. Chito-ryu Karate Federation
In 1886 Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo, established
the kyu/dan belt system. In 1907 he designed the Judo uniform from
which the karate uniform is taken, except that the karate jacket
is much lighter in weight.
In 1895 the Japanese government created the DAI
NIPPON BUTOKUKAI to oversee the martial arts, and provided two
titles - HANSHI, the highest award, and KYOSHI. In 1934 the DAI
NIPPON BUTOKUKAI created a third title, RENSHI, which was below
that of Kyoshi. On April 12, 1924 Gichin Funakoshi became the first
karate teacher to award black belts when he adopted Jigoro Kano's
practice of awarding this rank to advanced students. Experiments
in kumite training were initiated between 1924 and 1927 at Tokyo
University. By 1927 these students were practicing tournament type
sparring. All these elements played major roles in the development
Chitose Sensei started his Tode (karate) training
when he was seven years old (1905). His first teacher was a sixty
year old man by the name of Unchu (Nigaki) Kamade Arakaki (1840-1920).
Arakaki Sensei taught the young Chitose his first kata - Seisan.
The method of teaching karate in those days was to teach kata.
The practice of basics and kumite, which is common today, was unknown.
In the olden days many karate teachers refused to have or claim
a style. They said that they just taught karate (Tode), style or
ryu was never an issue. For years the young Chitose practiced the
one kata, Seisan. Only after he reached the age of fourteen did
Arakaki Sensei teach him his second kata.
When young Tsuyoshi Chitose entered high school
he had the opportunity of further training with Sensei Anko Itosu
(1832-1916). Itosu was born in Yamagawa Village, Shuri, and was
a student of Sokon Matsumura. It is believed Itosu Sensei developed
the Chinese corkscrew punch into its present form, and also originated
the Pinan (Heian) kata. In April, 1901, Itosu Sensei introduced
karate training to the Shuri Jinjo Elementary School as part of
the physical fitness training. During 1905 he introduced karate
training into the Prefectural Teachers Training College. Three
years later, under his guidance, karate training was introduced
into all Okinawan schools.
One of Chitose Sensei's young school friends was
Shoshin Nagamine, who would one day found the Matsubayashi Shorin-ryu
style of karate, and become president of the Okinawan Karate Federation.
One of their school teachers, later recognized as the greatest
karate master of the twentieth century, was Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957),
the father of modern karate and founder of Shotokan. Another of
Chitose Sensei's classmates was Funakoshi Sensei's son, Gikko (Yoshitaka)
Other kata taught to Doctor Chitose were: Shihohai,
Niseishi and Sanchin from Arakaki Sensei; Chinto, Bassai, and Kusanku
from Chotoku Kiyan Sensei (1870-1945); Ryusan from Chiyomu Hanagusuku;
and Rohai from Kauryo Higashionna (1851-1915). Also training there
at this time with Higashionna Sensei were Mr. Chojun (Miyagi) Miyagusuku
(1888-1953) founder of Goju Ryu karate and Mr. Kenwa Mabuni (1888-1953)
the founder of Shito-ryu karate.
From 1922-1932 Chitose Sensei went to college,
practiced karate in his spare time,and assisted his old school
teacher Gichin Funakoshi with his college karate classes. In 1931
Chitose Sensei assisted a new student at the Takushoku University
karate club. His name was Masatoshi Nakayama (1913-1986), who would
one day be the head instructor of the Japan Karate Association
(Shotokan). During this time Dr. Chitose also established his medical
practice. During the war he served in the Army Medical Corps and
spent some time in China. While serving in a small village in China
Dr. Chitose befriended the local citizens. As a result of his assistance
to the local population, he came into contact and was trained by
an old Chinese Gung-fu teacher. In 1936 O-Sensei was present at
a meeting of Okinawan karate authorities in Naha, Okinawa. This
was the meeting in which the translation "Empty Hand Way" was
actually adopted for Karate-do in place of the original todejutsu
or "Chinese Hand Method".
In March 1946 Doctor Chitose opened a small karate
dojo Yoseikan (training hall) in Machi, Kirkuchi-Gun, Kumamoto
Prefecture (presently called Kirkuchi City). He later held an Okinawan
Kobudo Taikai (Tournament) at the Kubukiza in Kumamoto City to
help raise relief funds for Okinawa. In 1948, O-Sensei organized
the All Japan Karate-do Federation (Zen Nihon Karate-do Renmei)
along with Gichin Funakoshi, Mabuni, Higa Seko, and Toyama Kanken
and served as president for some time. It was around this time
that O-Sensei named his style Chito-ryu. Although it may seem obvious
that "Chito" is a derivation of Chitose, this in fact
is not the case. "Chi" is derived from "thousand" and "to" is
from the Chinese "Tang", hence the translation of Chito-ryu
is "The thousand year old Chinese (Tang dynasty) way",
signifying the ultimate origin of Karate as being from China during
the Tang era roughly one thousand years ago.
At this time the practice of most martial arts
(kendo, judo and others associated with the nation of Japan) had
been forbidden by the allied powers under the command of General
Douglas MacArthur. Karate was considered an Okinawan art form and
was not subject to the close scrutiny given to Kendo and Judo.
Nevertheless, Doctor Chitose and other martial arts teachers were
very secretive in the teaching of their respective arts. Much of
the martial arts training was camouflaged as physical fitness exercises
and dances. In most instances the occupying powers just looked
the other way. This was the existing political climate when Masami
Tsuruoka received his first degree black belt in karate from Doctor
Tsuyoshi Chitose. The year was 1949.