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A Study in Fusion


Tsuyoshi Chitose (1898 to1984) left a legacy in a karate method that he named Chito-Ryu. The name itself implies O-Sensei’s own historical view of the origins of Okinawan karate being rooted in Chinese kempo. The most notable feature of this karate method, though, is its claim to be a synthesis of the two main foundation Okinawan self-defence methods, Naha-te and Shuri-te.

O-Sensei didn’t just claim to derive his curriculum from these two methods, but he made note that his style, Chito-Ryu, was unique in that it emphasized that 70% of one’s power needed to be utilized in karate practice. Not 80%, like Naha-te, or 50%, like Shorin-ryu, but specifically 70%. This direction suggests a new understanding, and if it is truly derived from a synthesis of the two foundation Okinawan styles of te, then it also implies a very deep knowledge of both.

Here, then, lies the dilemma for the karateka who seeks mastery in Chito-Ryu. Firstly, to arrive at such mastery, one needs to show a deep understanding of the principles of both Shorin- and Shorei-Ryu. And then, one needs to understand clearly where the points of synthesis are. On top of that, the master of Chito-Ryu needs to be able to do it, and also to teach it.

For this author, that is the very dilemma. I have said to Sakamoto-Sensei many times, “Sukoshi wakarimasu, demo, dekimasen.” My Japanese is poor, but I try to convey that although I have a glimmer of understanding of what he shows and describes, I can do very little of it to my own satisfaction. So this essay is an attempt to describe what I think I know, and what I would greatly desire to be able to do.



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