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Chito-ryu (???, Chito-ryu?) is a style of karate founded by Tsuyoshi Chitose (?? ???). The name of the style translates as: Chi (?) – 1,000; Tou (?)- China; Ryu (?) – style. Thus meaning “1,000 year old Chinese style.” The character Tou (?) refers to the Tang Dynasty of China. The style was officially founded in 1946.[1]

Chitose was born as Chinen Gua on October 18, 1898 in the town of Kumochi, Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture. He came from a martial arts lineage – his maternal grandfather was Sokon Matsumura (?? ??, Matsumura Sokon?), the personal bodyguard to the Okinawan (Ryukyu Kingdom) royal household and one of the original Karate masters of Okinawa. As a young man born and raised in Okinawa, Chitose grew up studying the pre-karate art of Tode (or “To-te”) (??) from many of the top masters of the period. He later moved to mainland Japan to practice medicine, where Chito-ryu evolved as he utilized his modern medical knowledge of anatomy and physiology to modify traditional techniques to make them both more effective against opponents as well as less detrimental to the bodies and joints of long-term practitioners.

Although generally classified as a Japanese karate style simply because Chitose formulated and founded Chito-ryu principally while living in Kumamoto, Japan, some modern practitioners feel it is more properly categorized as an Okinawan style given that its roots and techniques are firmly grounded in and derived from traditional Okinawan Tode (??).

The kata of Chito-ryu are very concise and they reflect the unique and diverse training experiences of the founder. Many Chito-ryu kata bear the same name as other traditional Okinawan kata, but the kata itself is typically very different from the original or standard version. Some of these kata may have only one or two signature moves that relate it to the original, and in other cases the kata are completely different except in name. There are some exceptions to this; Chito-ryu versions of Seisan, Passai and Chinto are near identical to the original Shorin-ryu forms as taught by Chotoku Kyan. Chito-ryu also contains a few kata that are not found in other systems such as: Shihohai, Tenshin and Ryusan. Overall, the higher-level kata of Chito-ryu show a decisively strong Chinese influence compared to other Karate systems. Additionally, outside and above of the standard syllabus are kata such as Unsu and Hoen which are very fluid complex kata that are undoubtedly derived from a strong Chinese martial arts influence. This mix of kata derived from various sources sets the groundwork for a very unique and comprehensive fighting system.

Shihohai is a kata that is peculiar to the Chito-ryu system (and derivative systems). The name translates as: Shi (?) – Four; Ho (?) – side or direction; Hai (?) – salute. The name thus translates as “salute to four sides.” Also it should be noted that the combination of kanji Shiho (??) can mean “all sides.” In which case, the kata name could translate as “salute to all sides.” There is some dispute as to the origin of this kata in the Chito-ryu syllabus, some sources claim the kata comes from Chitose’s first teacher, Aragaki Seisho. Other sources (specifically Chitose’s own book, Kempo Karate-do) state that he learned this kata from Hanashiro Chomo at Sogenji as well as the kata Jion and Jitte. Historically, it has been handed down from Chitose that this kata was used in the royal ceremonies of the Ryukyu Kingdom during the Ryukyu Dynasty Age. The “salutation to all four sides” was of great significance during these ceremonies. Some Chito-ryu groups practice a Dai version of Shihohai that contains a few additional techniques throughout the kata; however, the overall format is still the same. The Ryusei Karate group under O-Sensei’s son-in-law, Sakamoto Sensei, version of Shihohai concludes with a few additional techniques, but again the overall format of the kata is the same.[2]

The version Niseishi found in Chito-ryu is unlike other versions of Niseishi. The kata actually bears a closer resemblance to a Fujian White Crane form called Hakutsuru. The name translates as: Ni (?) – Two; Sei (?) – Ten; Shi (?) – Four; Ho (?) [silent] – Step/Walk. The characters Niseishi (???) together mean “24,” and adding the final character which is silent creates the meaning “Twenty-four Steps.” There are two versions of this kata within the Chito-ryu syllabus: they are the Sho and Dai versions. There is actually very little difference between the two, the Dai version containing one additional sequence of movements not found in the Sho version, but otherwise the kata are identical. The origins of the kata are credited to Chitose’s first teacher, Aragaki Seisho. Niseishi is commonly used in preparation for training in Sanchin kata. Chitose also made minor modifications to the breathing techniques in the kata for health reasons based on his medical background. In addition to the kata there is a set of 11 Niseishi Kaisetsu (??) techniques which are drawn from movements in the kata and are executed with a partner. These kaisetsu cover a variety of techniques including striking, kansetsu-waza (joint locking), kyusho-waza (vital point techniques) and take-downs.

Seisan is a kata found in both Naha-te and Shuri-te lineages. The Chito-ryu version most resembles the Shuri-te version passed on by Chotoku Kyan. The kanji used in Chito-ryu translates as: Sei (?) – correct; San (?) – arrangement or position. In combination, Seisan translates to “Correct Arrangement.” Traditionally, however, the Kanji used for Seisan is: ?? which translates to “Thirteen.” These are the kanji used in most other systems to describe this kata. Seisan is quite old, probably one of the oldest kata in Okinawa. The shorin-ryu variants have been in Okinawa longer, and the second variant among Naha-te styles (Goju-ryu mostly, but Uechi-ryu as well) was introduced later in a second form that shares many of the same movements and patterns. Although not practiced in every style, Seisan appears in all three major Karate lineages in Okinawa–Shorin-ryu, Goju-ryu and Uechi-ryu.

One of the most common kata in the Shorin-ryu lineages, this kata is traditionally said to have originated with Sokon Matsumura. The kanji used for Bassai translates as: Batsu (?) – to extract or remove; Sai (?) – close, shut, cover. The accepted translation used for Bassai is “To Storm a Fortress.” Although nothing in the two kanji translates to fortress, it should be noted that the character Sai (?) is used as part of words for fort, fortress, stronghold, and citadel among others in the Japanese language. According to Chitose’s book, Kempo Karate-do, he learned Bassai from Chotoku Kyan. Chito Ryu Bassai closely resembles Matsubayashi Ryu Bassai (Passai) as well as Seibukan Bassai, other styles in the Kyan/Aragaki Ankichi lineage. Kyan Chotoku learned his Bassai from a Tomari village master named Oyadomari Kokan, the version practiced by Chito-ryu is very similar to the unaltered Oyadomari Bassai. Although Chito-ryu Bassai is from Tomari village, it bears a striking resemblance to the Shuri versions of Bassai (the Bassai-dai from Shotokan, Shito-Ryu, and Shuri-ryu) are examples of the Shuri Bassai) and definitely shares a common root. The main difference between the Shuri version and the Tomari version are that the Shuri versions are done primarily with closed fists, while the Tomari versions are primarily open handed.