Kanga Sakugawa

Updated: Dec 21, 2021


Satunuku Sakugawa is the first teacher in the lineage of Shotokan Karate who made specific contributions to the karate we study today. His martial technique was very different from ours, based on White Crane Chu’an fa, but his ideas about teaching martial arts were very modern.


Sakugawa is credited for the creation of the first “Dojo Kun,” the rules of behaviour for the karate-ka.

At the age of seventy-eight, Sakugawa was introduced to a troubled fourteen-year-old named Sokon Matsumura, who had a great ambition to become the greatest fighter in Okinawa. He wanted to study under Sakugawa, probably to apprentice as the royal bodyguard. Though, at first Sakugawa hesitated to take on the new student, he eventually became impressed with the boy’s spirit and decided to give him a chance.


A Chinese military advisor, Kong Su Kun (also translated as Kushanku) came to Okinawa and taught Sakugawa. It is feasible that he taught him the sequence of moves that became the kata Kushanku, or better known to Shotokan as Kanku-Dai (from which the Heian katas were derived).


Important things to remember about Sakugawa are that he invented the dojo training system and the original Kushanku Kata (Kanku Dai as it is known today), and was the first teacher of Matsumura. Sakugawa did not make the leap into the raw power of linear karate. Instead he relied heavily on more circular (or soft) techniques and grappling.


Sakugawa was not as experienced in chinese martial arts as Chatan Yara (another of Kushanku's students) and did not know the principles of the Chinese martial arts. Due to this he cound not reach the depth of the martial art of Kushanku, so he modified the Kata Kushanku he had learned as Chatan Yara did and replaced many techniques he did not understand by techniques using power. By this he changed the Kata heavily and the original content was not taught to those that came after him.