Little is recorded about Ankichi Arakaki, though his influence on karate’s history is great. Shorin-ryu karate’s mae-geri (front snap kick) is much more sophisticated than it initially appears, and is difficult to master. The mae-geri was perfected and popularized by Ankichi Arakaki around the turn of the 20th century. It quickly became one the favored techniques among shorin-ryu stylists. Ankichi Arakaki, being a young aristocrat whose ancestry was no longer honored with the end of the feudal era of Japan, many times became embroiled in confrontations due to his frustrations. Once this took the form of running afoul of a Sumo wrestler, who was much larger and stronger than the young and slightly built Okinawan Karateka. One kick to the abdomen of the Sumo ended the fight, and unfortunately, due to complications caused by the strike, the wrestler’s life.
Master Chotoku Kyan was born in 1870, to a very wealthy family in Shuri, Okinawa, the cradle of Karate. At the tender age of five he was taught the empty hand art of self-defense from his father Chofu Kyan and his grandfather. Every morning Kyan was required to perform specific exercises by his grandfather, who had a very discerning eye and required nothing less than perfection. Being born into a rich family he was able to devote all of his time studying the martial arts and was sent to the best Okinawan Karate teachers available.
In those days, a Karate Sensei had only three or four Kata, therefore Master Kyan went to many teachers in hope of gaining a well rounded view of the art. Kyan’s father was an official of the King, and because of this Kyan was able to gain instruction from many of the great Teachers in Okinawa. Sokon Matsumura of Shuri was at that time the Karate Teacher of the King. Matsumura taught Master Kyan the Kata, “Seisan” and “Gojushiho”. Kyan learned the most from Matsumora (Shorin-Ryu teacher of Tomari) including the kata “Chinto”. Another great teacher of Tomari was Pechin Maeda. Kyan studied quite a while under Maeda Sensei and learned the Kata “Wansu”. He learned the Kata, “Passai”, under Pechin Oyadomari Kokan of Tomari. Pechin was a title, given to someone in employment of the King.
The next teacher Kyan studied with was the small 4ft, 10 inches tall, Yara of Chatan, a power packed dynamite of a man. Chatan Yara Sensei taught Kyan the longest and most beautiful Kata “Kusanku”. Some times known as “Yara no Kusanku”. His last teacher was Tokumine, who was reputed to be the best Bo, (Staff) man on Okinawa. Sensei Kyan traveled to the island of Yaeyama and studied the Bo and the Bo-Kata “Tokumine no Kon”.
After completing his apprenticeship under the six famous Okinawan Shorin-Ryu masters, Kyan started to teach the art at his home. In the 1920’s Kyan traveled to mainland Japan to promote the art. On his return he visited Taiwan on a martial arts exchange tour of Okinawan and Chinese Martial Arts. Being proficient in both arts, Kyan invented his own Kata “Ananku”. In the late 1920’s Kyan moved to the village of Kadena due to personal and financial problems. There he taught a small number of devoted students who were introduced by friends and city officials. One student, Zenryo Shimabukuro of Chatan was introduced by a school headmaster and accepted as a student. Zenryo Shimabukuro studied 10 years under the tutelage of Master Kyan until Kyan’s death.
Food was scarce during WWII and whatever food master Kyan obtained, he gave to the children. He felt it was his duty to take care of those who could not take care of themselves. In 1945 at the age of 75 grandmaster Kyan passed away from hunger.
Choki Motobu was born in Akahira village Shuri, the old capital of Okinawa, in 1871. He was born into a high-ranking family, his father was an aji or lord. Choyu Motobu, Choki’s elder brother, was educated and chosen to carry on the family’s martial tradition as education and privilege were reserved for the first-born son at that time. Because of this situation, Choki Motobu, the family’s third son, did not receive the privileges that his elder brother did and went looking for instruction elsewhere. Choki’s older brothers, however (particularly, as mentioned, Choyu Motobu, the eldest) were good karateka and he may have learned something of the art from them.
Choki Motobu trained himself every day, lifting stone weights and hitting the makiwara (striking post). He would strike the makiwara a thousand times a day. Motobu would sometimes sleep outside, (when he slept inside the dojo he would lie on the hard wooden floor, without a mattress), and if he woke up during the night, rather than turning over and going back to sleep he would get up and hit the makiwara. Motobu was also very agile and quick and he got the nickname “Motobu-saru” (Monkey Motobu) not only because of his rough behavior but also because of his remarkable agility in climbing trees and moving from branch to branch as nimbly as a monkey.
Choki Motobu’s idea of a good training session was to go down to Naha’s entertainment district and pick fights. This area was well known for street fighting and Motobu picked up valuable experience in this way. Being bigger and stronger than the average Okinawan he usually won these fights, but there was one occasion when he tackled a man called Itarashiki and was well beaten. This Itarashiki was a karate expert and the defeat only made Motobu more determined to train hard and learn more about karate.
Choki Motobu was able to get instruction from several leading experts, because of Motobu’s upper-class birth, many karate masters found it difficult to refuse him instruction. Motobu originally studied karate with the famous Ankoh Itosu, the leading master of Shuri-te. He later studied with Kosaku Matsumora and with Master Sakuma. However, Motobu’s karate always seemed to bear his own instinctive stamp, arising no doubt from his independent nature and his fighting experiences. He always emphasized practicality, and in time many people came to regard him as the best fighter on Okinawa. It was only after he moved to Osaka in 1921 that he became known in Japanese martial art circles. What brought Motobu to the attention of the Japanese was his victory over a Western boxer in a kind of all-comers challenge match. For the record, the story states that Motobu knocked the boxer unconscious. Choki Motobu was over 50 years old when he defeated the Western boxer!
In 1932, Choki Motobu tried to go to Hawaii, and he was refused a visa. Speculation has it that it was as a result of his unsavory reputation. In 1940, Choki Motobu returned to Okinawa and died there in 1944.