Itosu Ankoh was born in 1831 and died in 1915 in Okinawa and was instrumental in the development of karate given he taught such people as Mabuni (Shito-ryu founder) and Funakoshi (Shotokan founder) and introduced such mainstream kata as the Pinan series (pronounced Heian in Japanese). Itosu's direct style of karate is Shorin-ryu (continued by his student Chibana Chosin (see WIKI lineage chart).
A photo of the fanous sensei Itosu Ankoh
He was known to be small in stature and was raised in a strict home of the keimochi (a family of position), and was educated in the Chinese classics. Itosu began his tode (karate) study under Nagahama Chikudun Pechin and his study of the art also involved Sokon Matsumura. In Gichin Funakoshi first book, "Ryukyu Kempo Karate", he wrote that Itosu was also a student of Gusukuma.
Other noted students of Itosu included Choyu Motobu (1857–1927), Choki Motobu (1870–1944), Kentsu Yabu (1866–1937), Chomo Hanashiro (1869–1945), Moden Yabiku (1880–1941), Kanken Toyama (1888–1966), Chotoku Kyan (1870–1945), Shinpan Shiroma (Gusukuma) (1890–1954), Anbun Tokuda (1886–1945), Kenwa Mabuni (1887–1952), and Chōshin Chibana (1885–1969).
A famous sketch of Itosu Ankoh
Itosu was instrumental in getting karate introduced into Okinawa's schools and served as a secretary to the last king of the Ryukyu Islands until Japan abolished the Okinawan monarchy. He also taught tote (tode/karate) at an Okinawan High School and in doing that he developed a more curriculum based approach for karate that remains in training today. He created the five Pinan kata as learning steps for students, because he felt the older forms (kata in Japanese) were too difficult for school children to learn. In theory, the five Pinan kata were derived from two older an more complex kata: kusanku and chiang nan.
As stated in an article karate historian by Charles Goodin in 2000, Kusanku is one of the most advanced of all kata in a number of styles and breaking it into 5 parts (and supplementing it with other kata) certainly did not make basic kata at all, and he goes on to argue they are too advanced for beginners (hence the probable selection by other major styles to not teach these at kyu rank levels). This is supported in Japan by numerous dojo who do not use the Pinan/Heian kata for kyu rank testing in the first first 3-5 years of dojo training. Often those styles (e.g. many Tani/Shukokai derived schools) use them as Dan rank testing kata (i.e. Pinan Shodan for a Shodan test through to Godan being demonstrated in a 5th Dan belt test i.e. Dan ranks matching the names of the kata). This matches the famous karate kata saying "san nen no kata", or 3 years one kata, which keeps students focused on more basic kata in the first few years to excel in core technique through focus (e.g. taikyoku variants in shito-ryu & gekisai in goju as 2 examples).
The Pinan kata have been transferred to many major styles and modified in that process. For example, as the Japanese FAJKO directory in 1919 states that, at the age of 51, Funakoshi sensei learned the Pinan Kata from Mabuni Kenwa and renamed and formatted them to be the Heian kata (for more details on this topic see: Karate technique selection & Street Fighting Statistics & Medical Outcomes by Armstrong et al., 2011). After this date and their modification they became key core belt test kata for Shotokan.
Video: Watching Kusanku kata by Tatsuo Shimabuku in the early 1960's one can see many moves from the various 5 Pinan/Heian kata. Tatsuo Shimabuku was the founder of Isshin-ryū and while he was not trained by Itosu Ankoh the Kusanku kata is shared across both lineages.
Itosu is also credited with taking the earlier and longer Naifanchi form (also called Naihanchin or Tekki) and breaking it into the three parts
1. Tekki/Naifanchi Shodan
2. Tekki/Naifanchi Nidan
3. Tekki/Naifanchi Sandan
In 1908, he released the well known "Ten Precepts (Tode Jukun) of Karate," and in a similar vein, one of his instructors had earlier released similar precepts (Matsumura’s Karate precepts). Later, Funakkoshi, one of Itosu’s best known students released the famous 20 precepts document. Below is one translation of Itosu’s precepts:
Itosu's 10 precept's document:
An image of Itosu Ankoh's 10 precepts of karate (source: Wikipedia)
The above article was authored by Jason Armstrong (6th dan) and pulling together personal knowledge and using the below articles:
Graham Noble with Ian McLaren and Prof. N. Karasawa. Masters of The Shorin-ryu. Fighting Arts International, Issue No. 50, Volume 9, No. 2, 1988.
Karate technique selection & Street Fighting Statistics & Medical Outcomes by Armstrong et al., 2011
Charles Goodin. The 1940 Karate-do special committee: The Fuklugata. IRKRS. Q1, 2000.
Sells. Unante,.ISBN 0910704961. 1995
Nakasone Genwa. The Japanese book "空手道大観" (A Broad View of Karatedo). 1938