In 1901 the great “Anko” Yasutsune Itsou (1830 –1915) campaigned successfully to get Karate onto the physical education program of the Shuri Jinjo elementary school. As it stood, Itsou believed Karate to be too dangerous to be taught to children and set about disguising the more dangerous techniques. As a result of these modifications, the children were taught the katas as mostly blocking and punching. Itsou also changed many of the more dangerous strikes into punches with the clenched fist. This enabled the children to gain such benefits as improved health and discipline from their karate practice without giving them knowledge of the highly effective and dangerous fighting techniques of the patterns.
In 1905, Itsou was appointed as karate teacher to the prefectural Dai Ichi Collage and the prefectural teachers’ training collage. In 1908, Itsou wrote a letter to the prefectural education department that outlined his views on karate and asked that karate be introduced onto the curriculum of all Okinawan schools. Itsou was granted his wish and karate became part of the education of all Okinawan children.
Itsou’s modifications resulted in huge changes in the way the Karate was taught. The emphasis was now placed firmly upon the development of physical fitness through the group practice of patterns. The children would receive no instruction in the combative applications associated with the patterns and deliberately misleading labels were adopted for the various techniques. Today, it is Itsou’s terminology that is most commonly used throughout the world and it is vital to understand why this terminology developed. When studying the combative applications of patterns, remember that many of the names given to various movements have no link with the movement’s fighting application. Terms such as “ high block” or “outside block” stem from the watered down karate taught to Okinawan school children, and not the highly potent fighting art taught to the adults. Itsou’s changes also resulted in the teaching of patterns without their applications. Traditional, patterns were taught and, when the student had gained the master’s trust, the applications would then be taught. Now, the norm is to teach pattern movements without ever teaching the applications.