Yasutsune (Anko) Itosu (1830-1915)
Yasutsune (Anko) Itosu was the first master of karate in the Shuri area of Okinawa, one of the three main karate development areas in that country at the turn of the century. He is responsible for the development of the five Pinan Katas, which are fundamentals of the current Shito-Ryu Itosukai style. He refined all the major katas in the Shuri-te area including such complex katas as Bussai-dai Dai and Sho, Kushanku-dai and Sho, Rohai Shodan, Nidan and Sandan and a multitude of other patterns practiced today. The name Shito-Ryu Itosukai comes, in part, from this Master. The second Master of Itosu style karate was Kenwa Mabuni a dedicated student of Master Itosu.
Kanryo Higashionna (1853-1915)
Karate pioneer born in Naha, Okinawa. He began martial art training in Tode at 16 years of age from Seisho Arakaki. Beginning as a teenager he made multiple trips to China with his family transporting firewood to Okinawa. In 1874, at 22 years of age, he began training in Shorinji Kenpo under Ryu Ryo Ko and his assistant Wan Shin Zan. It is recorded that he spent twenty harsh years in China learning Kenpo. He was often told to cut the grass, tend to the garden and clean the dojo. He worked long and hard hours until he was exhausted. Often, he thought about quitting, but the hard work helped him to develop an indomitable spirit. Higashionna remembered a song taught by his sempai: "Anybody can put up with a little, but it takes a man to put up with a lot." On returning to Okinawa he became a martial arts sensei to the royal family. After retiring from that position, he began teaching at his home and dedicated his life to the further development of Naha-te. Although Higashionna only stood five feet one inch tall, he possessed great strength from his rigorous training. He credited the kata Sanchin for the development of his extraordinary strength. It is said that the wooden floor wood become hot from the intense gripping action of his toes. He believed that "those who learn the great art of karate should help others, never seek trouble, and refrain from fighting." His notable students were Chojun Miyagi (Goju Ryu founder) and Kenwa Mabuni (Shito Ryu founder).
Kenwa Mabuni (1889-1952)
The founder (Ryuso) of Shito-ryu, Kenwa Mabuni was born on November 14, 1889 in Shuri, Okinawa. He was 17th generation from one of the bravest warriors of Ryukyu kingdom Kenio Oshiro. Kenwa Mabuni himself was a physically weak child, however, at the age of 13, he was accepted as a student at the school of the famous karate-do master Anko Itosu(1830-1915), who lived in Shuri. Within seven years Kenwa Mabuni learned the art of Shuri-karate or Shuri-te. When Mabuni was 20 years old, he began to study the art of the Naha, Okinawa, known as Naha-te, with the Grandmaster Kanryo Higaonna (1853-1915).
When the Japanese government's martial arts sanctioning organization, the Dai Nippon Butoku-kai demanded specific description and name of the karate systems, Mabuni took both of these major directions of karate-do of Okinawa to form a basis for his new style he named Hanko-Ryu (half hard style). Out of respect and honour for his two foremost teachers Mabuni later named his style of Karate to "Shito-Ryu", which is formed by combining the kanji (characters) of both first names Anko Itosu and Kanryo Higaonna.
Kenwa Mabuni combined the fast, fluid style of Master Itosu's Shuri-te art with the hard, powerful and circular patterns of from the Naha area of Okinawa taught by Master Kanryo Higashionna, the master of the Goju style. He was fundamental in combining most of today's katas into one style. He added to the growing list of Master Higonna's impressive katas with such patterns as Sanchin, Seiinchin, Saifi, Seipai, Suparempie and many others.
The name Shito-ryu is formed from the first hieroglyphs of names of these Masters ("Ito" - old Chinese hieroglyph "Shi", "Higa" - old Chinese hieroglyph To).
10th Dan (Posthumous) (1915-1992)
Ryusho Sakagami became the third master of Itosu-Kai karate after a lifetime of study with Master Kenwa Mabuni. As one of the most respected and renowned of the modern day masters of Japanese style karate he was awarded a 10th Dan degree, the highest ever awarded after his death in 1992. Recognized by the Emperor of Japan for his contribution to both karate and to Japanese culture he held Master ranks in Karate, Kendo, Judo, Aikido, Iaido, and Kobudo. As author of many books including the definitive book on Japanese Karate called Karate-Do Kata Taikan he set out in words and pictures a historic record for future generations. He was also the father of the fourth and current title holder of Itosu-Kai, Sadaaki Sakagami, 9th Dan, Soke and was the instructor and mentor of Kei Tsumura, 8th Dan, Shihan, founder and head of Canada's Itosu-Kai.
9th Dan, Soke
Sakagami Soke started studying karate and kendo at the age of 10 with his father Ryusho Sakagami Sensei. In 1960 he trained in the ancient martial arts of the Ryukyu Islands with Shinken Taira. In 1970 he performed Sai techniques with his father at the first Worldwide Karate Tournament in Tokyo. Sakagami Soke served as the Regular Director of the Kanagawa Prefectural Karate Federation, Chairman of the Kanto Division of the Association for the protection and promotion of the Ancient Arts of the Ryukyu Islands, and he for many years was the Instructor for the Karate Department of Yamanashi Gakuin University. Sakagami Soke has traveled to many parts of the world in recent years. Sakagami Soke has made numerous visits to Canada, most recently in April/May of 1999, during which he bestowed the rank of 8th Dan on Tsumura Shihan.
8th Dan, Shihan
Kei Tsumura, 8th -Dan, Shihan (No.24), is the Founder & Chief Instructor of Canada of the Shitoryu-Itosukai Karate and Kobudo Association. Born in British Columbia, Tsumura Shihan's first martial arts as a child were judo & kendo, under the guidance of his father Kumetaro Tsumura, a well-respected sensei of Japanese martial arts.
Tsumura Shihan's interest also included amateur boxing, before being introduced to the art of Karate-do. After a few years of practicing Karate in Canada he went to live and study in Yokohama, Japan, the headquarters of Shitoryu Itosukai with the family of Sakagami Ryusho, 10th-Dan (post humous) the Grand Master of Itosu-Kai.
Under Master Sakagami's guidance, Tsumura had the opportunity to meet and train with the legends of modern day Karate, such as Yamaguchi Gogen of Goju-ryu, Otsuka hironori of Wadoryu, Nakayama Masatoshi of Shotokan (JKA) and the last modern day master of the art of Kobudo (ancient weaponry) Taira Shinken. Tsumura became the last person to be awarded a 5th-Dan certificate from Master Taira, Shinken before his death in 1970. Before returning to Canada he passed his 5th-Dan test from Sakagami Ryusho in Itosu-Kai Karate.
After reluctantly coming back to Canada in 1969, he officially founded the Shito-Ryu Itosukai Karate and Kobudo Association of Canada ™. He was promoted 6th-Dan in 1979, and 7th-Dan in 1990. Master Sakagami Ryusho passed away in 1992.
On May the 2nd, 1999, Tsumura was promoted to the highest rank attainable for a student of Itosukai of 8th-Dan by the new Master of Itosukai, Sakagami Sadaaki, Soke (hereditary leader) and 4th Master of the Itosukai title.
Always considered to be one of Canada's premier Karate instructors, Tsumura Shihan was selected as coach for the 1972 Canadian Team at WUKO (World Union of Karate Org.) World Championships in Paris, France. He was also head coach of the Karate Ontario Team that captured the Canadian National Championship in Moncton, New Brunswick in 1975. He has travelled and competed frequently with his Itosukai team and students in many countries such as Ireland, Germany, Holland, Chile, Italy and Argentina. On his latest training visit to Japan, Shihan and his students went to Okinawa and attended to the monument and gravesite of Itosu Anko - from whom the Shito ryu Itosukai name derived. Tsumura Shihan still teaches actively at the Toronto Honbu and Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, which he founded in 1963.