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Kyan Chotoku
(Part 2 of 2)

Kyan was also fond of travelling and assimilated knowledge not only from all over Okinawa, but also in Taiwan where he led a group in 1930 to represent Okinawa at a martial arts festival. He also visited Japan for a while as did other Okinawan masters like Mabuni and Miyagi around 1928 to 1932. We don't know what places Kyan visited or for how long. We do know that one of his famous students named Kudaka (Hisataka) Seiki accompanied him.

A karate master is not only measured by the skill that they possess, but in the skill they pass on and the students they leave behind. Karate lineages spreading out from Kyan are some of the most impressive and form some of the best-known groups of Okinawan karateka.

Kyan Chotoku
Kyan Chotoku

Kyan taught Tote at his home near the Hija Bridge in Yomitan ward and later taught at the Okinawan Prefectural Agricultural School and the Kadena Police Station. He was also an early karate teacher in the elementary school system and taught Ananku, Passai, Kusanku and Chinto at the Kenritsu Norin school. It is from these places that Kyan spawned a whole lineage of Shorin-ryu related styles. These include Shobayashi-ryu, Isshin-ryu, Matsubayashi-ryu, Shorinji-ryu, Shorinji-ryu Renshinkan, Shorinji-ryu Kenkokan and many others. These styles share some common kata and techniques with each other and with Chito-ryu.

Even though Kyan's students formed many styles, Kyan's first and most famous students didn't form any styles at all. Aragaki Ankichi (1899-1927) and Shimabukuro Taro were closest to Kyan following WWI and were seen with him all over the island. They were wild young men and accompanied Kyan at cockfights and brothels. Handsome and strong, they were the heroes of their time and were talked about often.

Aragaki Ankichi was a very talented athlete who approached karate scientifically and left a lasting impression on many masters, including Nagamine and Chitose. He trained not only in karate, but in Sumo and Kendo as well. Aragaki was a good friend of O'Sensei, as they were nearly the same age and were both training with Kyan at the same time. It is likely that O'Sensei exchanged some kata with Aragaki. Ankichi died of stomach ulcers in 1927.

Too numerous to discuss in detail, other Kyan students include: Nagamine Shoshin (founder Matsubayashi-ryu), Nakazato Joen (founder Shorinji-ryu), Shimabukuro Zenryo (founder Seibukan), Shimabuku Tatsuo (founder Isshin ryu), Shimabuku Eizo (founder Shorin-ryu Shaolin) and Kudaka/Hisataka Seiki (founder Shorinji-ryu Kenkokan).

Kyan's students also passed on stories about him which form what can only be called a mythology. This is unusual for such a recent individual (he still has living students at this writing) and includes stories of death duels and famous challenge matches and how he even killed Gushikawa Taira-gua for being a bandit by jumping on him from out of a tree. Stories like these are unfounded and probably grew wilder in the telling.

Kyan gave demonstration in May of 1942 at the opening of Nagamine Shoshin's first dojo in Naha City. He performed Bassai and Bo jutsu to an audience of distinguished guests. In 1943, Kyan and some students did demonstrations at the Motobu and Nakijin elementary schools to try and improve morale of families who'd lost sons during the war. At 73, Kyan thrilled the audience by breaking some boards.

Kyan died at the age of 76 from fatigue and malnutrition in the northern part of Okinawa in Sept. 20th, 1945 in the wake of the battle of Okinawa. His students say that he died of starvation because he was giving his food to hungry children.

By: Travis Cottreau


Hokama, Tetsuhiro: "History and Traditions of Okinawan Karate", translated by Cezar Borkowski, printed by Masters Publications, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, 1996.

Nagamine, Shoshin: "The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do", Published by Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc., 1976.

Bishop, Mark: "Okinawan Karate: Teachers, Styles and Secret Techniques", A&C Black Limited, London, England, 1989.

Borkowski, Cezar: "Nagamine Shoshin, The Living Link to the Golden Age of Okinawan Karate Part I", Steve Grayston's Martial Arts, No. 40.

Borkowski, Cezar: "Nagamine Shoshin, The Living Link to the Golden Age of Okinawan Karate Part II", Steve Grayston's Martial Arts, No. 43.

Sells, John: "Unante, the Secrets of Karate", John Sells and Hawley Publications, 1996.

Sells, John: "Chito Ryu Karatedo, the Legacy of Chitose Tsuyoshi", Bugeisha Magazine, issue #2, March 1997. Maai Productions Inc., PA, U.S.A.

Sells, John: "Seibukan, the Shorin-ryu Karate of Shimabukuro Zenryo", Bugeisha Magazine, issue #5, Winter 1998. Maai Productions Inc., PA, U.S.A.
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