Chotoku Kyan was born in Shuri, Okinawa in
December 1870 and was the first son of Chofu Kyan. Chofu Kyan had been a
descendant of the fourth Ryukyuan king, Shoshi. Kyan (also sometimes
pronounced Kiyuabu) was born a frail child, but through his martial arts
training he developed into a strong adult and his health improved much. He
had begun his training in karate-do at the age of five years old.
Kyan was known in Okinawa as 'Chan mig-wa' or 'small-eyed Kyan', and was known by this nickname because his
eyes were small and weak. Despite this handicap, he went on to become a
great master. In fact, he was one of the most knowledgeable masters of his
time, as he studied both the Shuri-te and the Tomari-te styles of karate.
He studied Shuri-te from Sokon Matsumura
and Anko Itosu and studied Tomari-te from Oyadomari Pechin, Maeda
Kosaku Matsumora. Kyan's teaching combined the elements of both of
these styles of karate, with his students originally calling his system 'migwa-te',
but later it became known as 'Sukunaihayashi-ryu'.
traveling a good deal.
During his martial arts career he journeyed to Taiwan, where he brought
back the kata Ananku to Okinawa. He also visited one of Okinawa's
off-lying islands and learned Tokumine no Kun (bo kata) there. Tokumine
Pechin had been a lord in Okinawan, but had been banished to the
Yaeyama Islands after having being involved in a fight with 30 constables
in the red-light district.
Chotoku Kyan lived in Shuri until he was
about thirty years old and then he moved to Kadena, where he opened his
own dojo. He lived in the village of Yomitan, where a karate man called
Yara taught him the Kusanku kata. In addition to Kusanku kata (which
became his favorite), he learned other kata; from
Sokon Matsumura he
learned Naihanchi and Gojushiho, from Kosaku Matsumura he learned Seisan, Oyadomari taught him Passai and Maeda Pechin taught him Wanshu.
Kyan later developed his own versions of the katas Chinto and Passai, and
he even learned tree fighting which is linked to the Okinawan monkey dance
Because of his reputation, Kyan was
often challenged. It is alleged that he fought many actual fights but was
never defeated. Kyan was highly adept at body shifting. Since he was a
small man, he used this type of body movement (known as tai sabaki) to
defeat his opponent. His technique was to never back up, but rather to
move forward rapidly and strike, or block and counter attack immediately.
Two of Chotoku Kyan's top students were
Ankichi Arakaki and
Shimabuku and it is said that they accompanied their
teacher almost everywhere and were inseparable from him. Kyan enjoyed
rooster fighting very much, in fact he often entered his own roosters in
these fights. One anecdote reveals something of Kyan's abilities as a
martial artist, by telling that on this particular occasion he attended
one of these rooster fights and had his own rooster in a firm grip under
his arm. His students, Arakaki and Shimabuku, decided to test their
masters skill and started a fight with a couple of the local men. Once the
fight got started they left and hide in some nearby bushes. When Kyan came
over to see what was happening, and to see where Arakaki and Shimabuku
were, the enraged men attacked him. Kyan is said to have fought with the
men and defeated them all. What was so unique about this occasion was that
during the entire fight, Kyan had kept a firm hold on his rooster - he
fought them all with only one hand and his feet. Arakaki and Shimabuku
watched the whole fight from their hiding place and were amazed by his
skill and composure.
Kyan felt strongly about the ancient code of
Bushido and felt that every
martial artist should follow it totally. He was both a perfectionist and a
disciplinarian, in both his own training and also his teaching. He
believed that self-discipline and social order and justice went hand in
hand. He was also quoted as saying "superior conditioning can only be
built on relentless effort. The size of one's body is irrelevant".
Master Chotoku Kyan died Ishikawa City, Okinawa, on 20th September 1945 -
he was 76 years old.
from Eastbourne Matsubayashi Karate-do Kai web site