Master Anko Itosu (called Yasutsune Itosu in Japanese) was born in 1830 in the town of Shuri on the island of Okinawa, Japan. Born to a family of government officials, he received a strict education in his youth, including the great Chinese classics and calligraphy.
Photo thought to be (?) Master Ankô Itosu circa 1909
His beginnings in the practice of the local art of combat called tode are nebulous. Some attribute his early training to a master known as Nagahama, where others speak of a Chinese of the name Channan.
Around the age of 30, he became the disciple of Master Sokon Matsumura. He was also training along side another disciple by the name of Anko Azato who was the best student of Master Matsumura.
Master Itosu favored the intensive training of makiwara. His training was so developed that he had an extraordinarily developed body at the age of forty. Of small stature, but impressively muscular, his stone body was a reflection of his intense training.
In 1879, when he was 49 years old, the local royalty was abolished by the Japanese regime on the island of Okinawa. Master Itosu persevered in his work in his prefecture in spite of everything. The times were hard and the economic situation difficult. At the age of 55, in 1885, he retired and begin teaching karate in the garden of his home.
In 1901, Master Itosu succeeded in bringing the practice of karate into the primary school of the Shuri village as a form of physical education. This success occured in the context of the modernization and growing militerization of Japanese society.
Master Itosu then brought a major change to the pedagogy of the teaching of karate which moved from personalized teaching to group teaching. The influence of the military style of teaching is evident here in this profound transformation. He elaborated from his experiences with kata specifically intended for teaching karate in schools. He then compsed a series of pin an (heian in Japanese) kata and naifanshi (tekki in Japanese).
The contribution of Master Anko Itosu in the propagation of karate is immense. He had many disciples in the course of his life which have contributed greatly in their own turn to the propagation of karate. The most well known of these are: Chomo Anashiro, Kentsu Yabu, Gichin Funakoshi, Chotoku Kyan, Chosin Chibana, Anbun Tokuda, Kenwa Mabuni and Shinban Gusukuma. Master Itosu died in 1915.