Hanashiro Chomo was born in 1869 and at an early age began training
with the man many consider to be the greatest of all Tote masters,
Matsumura Sokon (1809-1901), well known as
"Bushi" Matsumura. Matsumura was quite an old man at the
time and Hanashiro was primarily a student of one of Matsumura's
Itosu Anko (1830-1915). Itosu shaped modern karate as much
as any other person in history and spearheaded a movement to
bring Tote into the Okinawan school system around the turn of
the century. Hanashiro remained with Itosu, and acted as an
assistant instructor for him up until his death in 1915. From
early in the 20th century, Hanashiro taught gymnastics at a
junior high school in Shuri (Okinawa's capital) which gave him
an excellent opportunity to aid Itosu in the introduction of
Tote into the school system.
In the 1920's, Hanashiro Chomo was one of the most highly regarded
karate masters in Okinawa, this was acknowledged even by other
masters. Despite this, information about him is rare in English
language texts, and is usually scattered somewhat in existing
It is difficult to talk about the life of Hanashiro Chomo without
also talking about another of Itosu's senior students and assistants,
Yabu Kentsu (1863-1937), also originally a student of Matsumura.
Yabu was probably most famous for his many challenge matches,
all without a single loss.
These two shared many common experiences and have remarkably
similar karate careers. Both were noted as having exceptional
physiques in the 1891 Japanese army draft's medical exams. They
were both pioneers in instructing karate in the school system
in the first decade of the 20th century, and also taught Tote
in military schools. Both were also present at the famous Oct.
25th, 1936 meeting of Okinawan Masters. At this meeting, attended
by the greatest masters of the time (including O-Sensei), the
name "karate do" was officially adopted over "Tote Jutsu". A
photo of members of the meeting can be found on Page 7 of the
Old Canadian Chito Ryu Technical Manual and many other karate
history books, Yabu and Hanashiro are in the middle of the bottom
row, O-Sensei is 2nd from the left in the top row.
story that demonstrates the association of Hanashiro and his
dojo-mate Yabu well into their lives comes from Nagamine Shoshin
(1907-1998), founder of Matsubayashi Ryu (a well known branch
of shorin ryu), and author of "The Essence of Okinawan Karate-do".
While studying at the Metropolitan Police Station in Tokyo in
1936, Nagamine met with Hanashiro Chomo and Kentsu Yabu who
warned him that the karate katas in Tokyo had changed considerably
and that Nagamine should take pains to keep the katas he taught
in their original forms. I find this interesting, as Nagamine
met with both masters at the same time, 50 years after they
were dojo mates at Bushi Matsumura's dojo. Obviously the two
were very close.
not only a pioneer in the school system, he pioneered the use
of the word "karate". In his August 1905 publication, "Karate
Shoshu Hen" (AKA "Karate Kumite"), we can see the first known
use of the modern kanji. See below for the change in the kanji
characters from the original "Tote" (China hand) to the modern
"Kara-te" (Empty hand).
one of the primary instructors for an organization formed in
the early 1920's in Okinawa called the Ryukyu Tote Kenkyukai
(Okinawan Tote Research Club). The club was an expansion of
an earlier organization formed in 1918 by Miyagi Chojun, a famous
Tote expert and founder of Goju Ryu. Originally the organization
was meant to continue the teachings of Itosu Anko,
Higashionna Kanryo and Aragaki Seisho, the last generation
of masters who had died between 1915 and 1918, leaving a great
void (NOTE: Higashionna and Aragaki were both teachers of O-Sensei).
club, Okinawa's greatest masters hung around together taught
Tote and exchanged ideas. Hanashiro Chomo wasn't the only teacher,
others included Miyagi Chojun (the original organizer), Mabuni
Kenwa (founder of Shito Ryu), Motobu Choyu (one of O-Sensei
Chitose's teachers, his teachings eventually became Motobu Ryu,
a martial art called Te, precursor to Okinawan Tote). Unfortunately,
the Kenkyukai disbanded in the late 1920's, members stated that
the demands of their students was the reason. The face of karate
today would be a different one if the Kenkyukai had remained
had a few famous students, of particular note are Nakamura Shigeru
(1892/95-1969 of Okinawan Kempo), O-Sensei Chitose (1898-1984,
founder Chito Ryu), Nakama Chozo (1899-1982, of Kobayashi Ryu),
Shimabukuro Zenryo (1904-1969, founder of Seibukan Shorin Ryu)
and Kinjo Hiroshi (1919-, Patrick McCarthy's current teacher
and famous karate historian).
with Patrick McCarthy, it is believed that Hanashiro received
the kata Ryusan from a Chinese tea merchant and White Crane
gungfu practitioner named Gokenki. Gokenki worked for the Eiko
Chako Tea Company and taught White Crane in Okinawa between
1912 and his death in 1940. Gokenki was an occasional member
of the 1920's Kenkyukai, mentioned earlier, and associated with
many of Okinawa's great masters during this time.
1945 was a
horrific year for karate and for Okinawa in general. The "Battle
of Okinawa" was fought and Okinawa was relentlessly pounded
by U.S. artillery and occupied by U.S. troops as island where
karate originated was caught between the United States and Japan
near the end of the Second World War. Best estimates coming
from Okinawa after the war state that approximately 60,000 civilians
were killed during the 82 days of fighting. The time after the
battle was no less forgiving and many died of starvation and
disease, including many karate masters and their students. Hanashiro
Chomo was one of the unfortunate victims of this time.
By: Travis Cottreau
H. and William M. Belote, "Typhoon of Steel: The Battle for
Okinawa", Harper and Row, 1970
"Bible of Karate
- Bubishi", Charles E. Tuttle, fourth printing 1997. Translated
with commentary by Patrick McCarthy.
"Okinawan Karate - Teachers, Styles and Secret Techniques",
A&C Black Ltd. London, 1989.
"Chito Ryu Karate", Canadian Chito Ryu Karate Do Association,
"Unante, the Secrets of Karate", John Sells and Hawley Publications,