Our style of karate originates from Japan. This is why you will hear us use a lot of Japanese terms and numbers in classes. Check out the history of our style and how we became who and where we are today. This history was researched and authored by one of our high ranking black belts, who studies the Japanese language and culture, Jason Horner.
Chitō-ryū Karate History and Lineage
The karate style of Chitō-ryū was founded by Dr. Tsuyoshi Chitose (1898-1984) in March 1946 in the city of Machi (currently Kikuchi City) on the island of Kyūshū, Japan. The word Chitō is composed of two Kanji characters. The first character, chi (千), means “thousand” and the second character, tō (唐), refers to the Tang dynasty of China. The character ryū (流) means “the way”. The name Chitō-ryū, then, literally means “the thousand year old Chinese way” (the Chinese Tang dynasty lasted from the years 618 to 907). Another way to translate the name Chitō-ryū is “the style of one thousand years”.
History of Okinawan Martial Arts
In 1429, Shō Hashi united the three kingdoms on Okinawa (Chūzan, Hokuzan, and Nanzan) through military conquest to form the Kingdom of Ryūkyū, becoming its first King. After coming into power, he immediately established a non-military government, and banned the practice of martial arts and possession of weapons, calling together scholars and statesmen from all over the kingdom to form a centralized administration. The country lived in peace for the next two hundred years, however martial arts continued to be taught in secret. The ban was continued in 1609 after Okinawa was invaded by the Shimazu (the military governors of the Satsuma fief in southern Kyūshū). Most historians agree that Karate, the unique Okinawan form of weaponless combat, owes its creation to this second ban, because it forced the Ryūkyū people to invent a means of unarmed self-defense. However, some weaponless combat techniques must have been practiced before the Satsuma invasion, and so it is likely that this latest invasion simply spurred refinement of already existing techniques. The bans contributed to the development of kobudō which uses common household and farming implements as weaponry (kamas, nunchaku).
This practice is not confined to Karate; kendo and many other martial arts share this characteristic. However, the others pale in comparison to the great lengths taken by the Ryūkyūs to guard their art; which included a self-imposed ban against keeping written records. Even when the need for concealment no longer existed, the centuries-old tradition of keeping Karate practice and instruction secret remained deeply rooted among the people. This custom of secrecy persisted in Okinawa even until the 1950s. This helps explain why there are such widely different variations in what was originally a single kata. In addition, there is always the potential problem of a student’s misinterpreting a kata, thereby altering its transmission and causing distortions.
By the 18th century, different types of Te, a predecessor of modern karate had developed in three different villages – Shuri, Naha and Tomari. Well into the 20th century, the martial arts of Okinawa were generally referred to as te and tii (手), the Japanese and Okinawan words for “hand”. Te often varied from one town to another, so to distinguish among the various types of te, the word was often prefaced with its area of origin; for example, Naha-te, Shuri-te, or Tomari-te. These styles belong to a family of martial arts that were collectively defined as Tōde-jutsu or Tōde (唐手, Tuudii, Tang hand, China hand), sometimes called Okinawa-te (沖縄手, Uchinaa-dii).
Shuri was the old capital city of the Kingdom of Ryūkyū, and some of the Shuri-te masters were Matsumura Sōkon, Itosu Ankō, Chōtoku Kyan, and Gichin Funakoshi. Naha was the old commercial center of the Ryūkyū Kingdom, and is now the capital city of Okinawa Prefecture. Some of the Naha-te masters were Higaonna Kanryō, Miyagi Chōjun, and Uechi Kanbun.
In 1892, Ogawa Shintaro, the Prefectural Commissioner of Education, invited Master Itosu Ankō to attend a meeting of school principals and to lead his students in a demonstration of Karate. The ministry immediately recognized the value of Karate-Do training and granted permission to include Karate in the physical education programs of the First Public High School of Okinawa and the Officer’s Candidate School. This is probably the first time that Karate-Do could be openly practiced, but as implied above, the need for secrecy was still very much ingrained in the teachers even then. In May of 1922, Funakoshi was asked to introduce Karate to Japan at large at the First Annual Athletic Exhibition, held in Ochanomizu. The demonstrations were very successful, and Funakoshi spent a lot of time travelling to demonstrate and teach Karate-Do to all who asked him to do so. This is where Karate truly became widespread as a martial art.
Founder and Lineage
Dr. Tsuyoshi Chitose (千歳剛直, Chitose Tsuyoshi) O-Sensei was born on October 18, 1898, in Okinawa, Japan. His mother’s grandfather was Sōkon Matsumura (1809-1889) who was considered to be one of the original karate masters of Okinawa, and one of great karate figures of the 19th century. According to legend, Matsumura-sensei was the chief bodyguard to the Okinawan king. He was sent to capture a shipwrecked Chinese sailor named Chintō that had been stealing crops from the locals to survive. However, Matsumura-sensei was equally matched with Chintō; thus, he become friends with the sailor and learned his techniques which later became the kata Chintō (鎮東 ). In 1905, Chitose o-sensei began his martial arts training at the age of seven, under Aragaki Seishō-sensei (1840- 1920). There is some discrepancy, but the first kata Aragaki-sensei taught to young Chitose was either Sanchin (三 戦) or Seisan (正整), which he practiced for seven years before he was taught another. Seisan would later become the signature kata of Chitō-ryū. It is believed that Aragaki Sensei also taught Chitose the katas Shihohai (四方拝) and Niseishi (二十四歩).
During Chitose’s high school years, he had the opportunity to training with Ankō Itosu-sensei and other karate masters. Itosu-sensei was a secretary to the last king of the Ryūkyū Kingdom until Japan absorbed the monarchy in 1879. Itosu was instrumental in bringing karate instruction into schools, and developed the Pinan katas as learning steps for younger students to be able to learn the older traditional katas. Itosu also developed a systematic way of teaching karate that is still in use today. A number of Itosu-sensei’s students would later to go on to become masters of their own right and found their own styles of karate, including Kanryō Higaonna (also known as Higashionna West) (1851-1915), Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957) and Chomo Hanashiro (1869–1945).
According to the United States Chitō-ryū Karate-Do Federation, Dr. Chitose learned the Chintō, Bassai, and Kusanku katas from Chōtoku Kyan (1870-1945), Ryusan from Chiyomu Hanagusuku, and Rohai from Kanryō Higaonna. Chitose’s classmates under Higaonna-sensei, would later go on to found other styles of karate: Chojun (Miyagi) Miyagusuku (1888-1953) founded Gōjū-ryū karate, Kenwa Mabuni (1888-1953) and Shinpai Gusukuma (1890-1954) together founded Shito-ryū, and Kyoda Juhatsu (1887-1968) founded Tōon-ryū.
Chitose went to college (1922-1932) at Takushoku University in Tokyo to study medicine. During this time, he practiced karate part time and assisted his old school teacher Gichin Funakoshi, the father of modern karate and founder of Shōtōkan, with his college karate classes. In 1931, Chitose assisted a new student at the Takushoku University karate club, named Masatoshi Nakayama (1913-1986), who would one day become the head instructor of the Japan Karate Association (Shōtōkan). During this time, Chitose also established his medical practice. Dr. Chitose also served in the Army Medical Corps and spent some time in a small village of China where he befriended with the locals and trained with an old Chinese Kung Fu master. Chitose became a karate instructor at the Shimizu camp in Kumamoto where American forces were stationed during World War II. Some of the soldiers that were confident of their wrestling and boxing training often challenged Chitose and he took them on handily, despite being small in stature. This led to many foreigners studying under Chitose, and bringing karate back to their home countries after the war.
In March, 1946, Dr. Chitose opened a small karate dojo Yoseikan (training hall) in Machi, Kirkuchi-Gun, Kumamoto Prefecture (presently called Kikuchi City). He later held an Okinawan Kobudo Taikai (Tournament) at the Kubukiza in Kumamoto City to help raise relief funds for Okinawa after World War II. In 1948, Chitose-sensei organized the All Japan Karate-do Federation (Zen Nihon Karate-do Renmei) along with Gichin Funakoshi, Mabuni, Higa Seko, and Toyama Kanken and served as president for some time. It was around this time that Chitose Sensei named his style Chitō-ryū.
As the founder and head of Chitō-ryū, Dr. Chitose held the title O-Sensei until his death in 1984. Afterward, his son Yasuhiro Chitose assumed his father’s role and took on the responsibilities as the new head of Chitō-ryū karate in Japan.
Championship Martial Arts Cary
The head instructor of Championship Martial Arts in Cary, North Carolina (CMA Cary), is Shihan Jenny Navarro, who practices and teaches the Chitō-ryū style. She has a 6th degree Black Belt and has been instructing, coaching, and consulting since January 22, 1996. Shihan Navarro trained under Shihan Frank Silverman in Orlando, Florida. Shihan Frank Silverman’s Chitō-ryū teacher was Sensei Fred Kelley, but he also trained with Master Daniel Stanton, a US Navy Seal. Sensei Fred Kelley was taught by Sensei Mike Foster who brought the Chitō-ryū style to the United States in 1966. Sensei Foster was an American serviceman stationed in Japan with the U.S. Air Force in 1957. While in Japan, he trained with one of Dr. Chitose’s top rank student and protégé, Mamoru Yamamoto Sensei.
This lineage is depicted in the following chart authored by Sensei Christopher: Chito-Ryu Lineage Chart
Chitō-ryū was developed from both Shuri-te and Naha-te. Chitose created Chitō-ryū, incorporating the strengths of each discipline, and offsetting the weaknesses. Chitose combined the two disciplines into a healthier alternative, using his knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and martial arts to modify the traditional techniques in order to increase their effectiveness and decrease the strain that long term training inflicted upon the body. It is believed that Chitose also was an early advocate of protective gear with sparring, even though the experience is not as authentic.
Chitō-ryū is a traditional Japanese martial art which offers not only self-defense but also excellent physical conditioning and preparation for life’s daily challenges. The students develop a greater sense of self-confidence and focus, and learn to respect themselves and others in their community. The development of good character, self- esteem, and manners are emphasized.
Okinawan martial arts (Wikipedia)
Ankō Itosu (Wikipedia)
Shō Hashi (Wikipedia)
Karate-Do: Way of the Empty hand: Origins of Karate-Do (www.karatemakiwara.com) Tsuyoshi Chitose (usadojo.com)
United States Chitō-ryū Karate-Do Federation