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Chotoku Kyan

Chotoku Kyan

     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 Pechin and 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'.

     Kyan enjoyed 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 'saru mari'.

     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


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