TODE SAKUGAWA: FATHER OF KARATE
(Kanga “Tode”) Sakugawa lived from 1733 to 1815.
Tode Sakugawa was known in his youth as Kanga Sakugawa. He was an Okinawan martial artist and greatly contributed to the evolution of karate, or “Tode,” as it was known at the time. He studied under at least two separate masters: Takahara Peichin and Kusanku.
Oral tradition describes Sakugawa as a mischievous youth. One story relates that he was walking near a river one day when he saw an older Chinese gentleman gazing in the water. As a prank, he went to push the gentleman into the river and instead was grabbed by that man in an iron grip. The man turned out to be the Chinese martial artist Kusanku. Kusanku chastised the youth but then offered to instruct him further in the martial arts. Sakugawa consulted with his instructor at the time, Takahara, who encouraged him to learn from the Chinese master.
Sakugawa’s dedication and expertise led to his nickname: “Tode” Sakugawa. “Tode” is the term used to describe the art of karate prior to the 20th Century. The Japanese characters (kanji) used to spell “tode” indicate its Chinese influences. (After later modification, they read “karate.”)
Tode Sakugawa was an instructor of Sokon Matsumura.
The Dojo Kun used by our Alliance originated with Sakugawa. Several of our kobudo (weapons) forms also bear his name. After his instructor Kusanku passed away, Sakugawa created the “Kusanku” kata in his honor. This is the Kusanku kata that we practice in the Alliance today!
(Tode Sakagawa holds the distinction of being the first Karate master on Okinawa to teach students outside of his family. He opened the art up to members of his community. Some say that that is part of why he created the Dojo Kun. He also wanted to give students something they could use every day to further their training and not cause harm.)
By the United Ryukyu Kempo Alliance (and Jenifer Tull-Gauger)
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