Article by Manuel Vignola

The kata Ananku ("Light from the South" according to one of the most accredited translations) is a young form compared to other katas, however also on the origins of this kata there are many theories and voices that have spread over time. The creator of this form is Chotoku Kyan sensei (1870-1945), one of the best-known Karate masters of his period, born into a family belonging to the Okinawan aristocracy, and whose father Chofu Kyan was a renowned martial artist. Kyan was a student of eminent masters from the Shuri area, such as his father, Sokon Matsumura and, according to some of his students, Anko Itosu; and exponents of the port area of Tomari such as Kosaku Matsumora, Kokan Oyadomari and Maeda Peichin.

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Although sometimes erroneously presented as a stark opponent of the introduction of Karate into the school system, as well as "last keeper" of the old way of doing Karate, this is not true. Chotoku Kyan did what all Okinawan masters did before and after him: he studied and analyzed the martial arts of Okinawa, which he modified [1] and readjusted to his minute physique, based on his technical background, and his experience, gained also thanks to his practical experiences. He also joined, like other masters (eg Yabu, Hanashiro, Miyagi, etc.), to the Anko Itosu sensei project, dedicated to the introduction of the basic study of Karate in the island's schools [2]. Kyan sensei himself taught publicly in some schools and institutions, including the Kadena Agricultural school.

Zenryo Shimabukuro sensei

The most common theories
As for the theories on the origin of the Ananku kata, the most popular reports that Kyan learned this kata during a trip to Taiwan in the late 1920s, learning it from an island master, an expert in Baihe Quan (White Crane Boxing). Again according to this very folkloristic theory, the name of the master would have been Anan, from which the name of the form would also derive. Kyan sensei would then modify the kata adapting it to the Okinawan mentality, or creating the form on the basis of the teachings received. Other theories say that he learned this kata from one of his teachers, Maeda Peichin, who long ago learned it right in Taiwan; still others claim that he simplified a widespread kata of his family, dating back to his grandfather Kyan Oyataka, adapting it to his educational purposes. However, these theories are not supported by evidence.
The true origins
An important testimony is offered by the Seibukan Shorin-ryu school, founded by the oldest student of Kyan sensei, Zenryo Shimabukuro (1908-1969), and to date led by his son Zenpo Shimabukuro, who in his book "Shorin Ryu Seibukan Kiyan's Karate" declares that the Ananku kata was created by Kyan around 1931, with the aim of teaching it to the students of the Agricultural school of Kadena. Kyan essentially did what Nagamine sensei and Miyagi sensei did a few years later, that is, he created a kata suitable to be taught to students of Okinawan schools. Believing that the Seisan kata was a little too complex for students, he created Ananku by simplifying the principles of some higher kata, especially Seisan and the Passai. Analyzing the form it is clear that most of the techniques are taken from the Seisan kata. After introducing it into the teaching of school Karate, and having defined his teaching curriculum, he also began to use it as a first approach for his students, starting from 1931. The Ananku kata is still part of the curriculum of the schools originating from Kyan sensei, among which the ones founded by Zenryo Shimabukuro, Bunei Okuhara and Joen Nakazato stand out (but they are not the only ones). The latter studied with Kyan mainly at the Agricultural school of Kadena [2].
Matsubayashi-ryu's Ananku
Shoshin Nagamine's Ananku (1907-1997) deserves a separate discussion. Nagamine studied for a time with Chotoku Kyan while he taught Karate to the Okinawan police. However, Nagamine's Ananku is very different from that handed down by Kyan's other direct students. It is probably his creation inspired by what Kyan sensei had done, that is, simplifying the principles of the higher kata in a form more suitable to be taught to novices, and in fact his kata presents principles that can easily be linked to the kata Tomari no Chinto.
The other Ananku
Ananku kata also appears in the Fusei Kise school (Kenshinkan Shorin-ryu Matsumura Seito), because he was in friendship with Zenryo Shimabukuro, and imported this and other kata into his school. Ananku is also found (reworked and adapted) in some branches of Shito-ryu: in that of Chojiro Tani (1921-1998), the Shukokai school, with the name of Hanenko; and in Teruo Hayashi's school (1924-2004).
[1] OSKK interview with Choshin Chibana sensei
[2] Various interviews with Joen Nakazato sensei

For more information you can read:

"Shorin-ryu Karate: kata 2" (here)

"Shorin-ryu Karate: kata" (here)

"Shorin-ryu Karate: The legacy of the bodyguards of the king of Okinawa" (here)

"The legend of the masters of Okinawan Karate: Biographies, curiosities and mysteries"  (here)