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 in a rich family he was able to devote all of his time to 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 hopes of getting a more well rounded view of the art. Kyan’s father was an official of the King. 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, “Bassai”, 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 4 ft, 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, ” sometimes 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 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 way back he visited Taiwan on a martial arts exchange tour for Okinawan and Chinese martial arts. Having an all around knowledge of 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 hand full of devoted students who were introduced by friends and city officials. One such 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.