Showing posts from December, 2013

The face of Azato

Gichin Funakoshi is well known as having had two teachers: Yasatsune (Anko) Azato and Yasatsune (Anko) Itosu.

As I pointed out in my previous article, the adjacent group photo shows Funakoshi (already a karate master in his own right) and some school students just before a demonstration to Prince Hirohito in 1921.  I have tentatively concluded (see my previous argument) that it is Funakoshi's teachers - Azato and Itosu - who are shown in the inserts (as was custom, particularly when you consider that the photo was used by Funakoshi in his 1922 book "Ryukyu kempo").

This leaves only one real question, and this is who is Azato and who is Itosu?

Having just deduced (with, I think, good reason) that the person in the right insert must be Itosu, it follows that the person on the left is Azato.  In other words, we have, for the first time, a reasonably identifiable picture of Anko Azato!

He is certainly quite distinct from the drawings we've previously seen  (see on the le…

The face of Itosu

Few karate masters have exerted as much influence as Yasatsune "Anko" Itosu (1831 – 11 March 1915) - the alleged creator of the pinan kata and possibly the naihanchi series; teacher of such luminaries as Gichin Funakoshi, Choki Motobu, Chomo Hanashiro, Chotoku Kyan, Shinpan Shiroma, Choshin Chibana and Kenwa Mabuni - among many others.

It would be fair to say that, while his legendary teacher Sokon Matsumura is regarded as the start point of the Suidi or Shorin school of karate, the real "father" of this school was Itosu.

I will let you read Tom Ross's excellent articles on concerning the man and his legacy.  I also invite you to read my article on the Channan kata and on the origins of Naihanchi.

But what did Itosu look like?  Is the picture to the right really him?

Until 2006 the only images we had of Itosu were drawings - and conflicting ones at that.  Specifically there were 3 main ones to be found on the net.

Two seemed quite similar, depi…

Nelson Mandela: the greatest fighter of all

It is strange that I was in South Africa on a training visit only a matter of weeks before the release of Nelson Mandela on 11 February 1990.  I am ashamed to say that at the time I had only a vague idea of who he was and what he stood for.

Moreover, what little I did know was largely inaccurate.

Like many whites living in South Africa in the late 70s and early 80s, the only information I had concerning Nelson Mandela was that he was a "terrorist" - and an unrepentant one.  I had heard that he had been offered chances for release on the condition that he renounce violence, but these he had refused.  On this basis, his continued incarceration seemed entirely reasonable.

I first arrived in South Africa on 30 November 1976, my father (a civil engineer) having gone there for work. I was to stay a total of 8 years in an environment that can best be described as "carefully stage managed": a kind of "Stepford Wives meets Truman Show" world of stately homes, m…