During the writing of my research, I stumbled upon a strange thing about Funakoshi.
Failing to unravel the tangle, I'm trying to write here, with the hope to get help from experts present in this forum.
I will try to expose my doubts starting from the two Funakoshi's teachers: Asato and Itosu.
Here is the list of most known/famous students of the two masters (their birth date within brackets):
- Asato had only two students: Gichin Funakoshi (1868) and Oshiro Chojo (1888). Others reported that was not Oshiro Chojo but Chōgo Osokun (???).
- Itosu had several students, the most important were: Yabu Kentsū (1866), Gichin Funakoshi (1868), Chōmo Hanashiro (1869), Chōtoku Kyan (1870), Chōsin Chibana (1885), Anbun Tokuda (1886), Oshiro Chojo (1888), Kanken Tōyama (1888), Kenwa Mabuni (1889), Shinpan Shiroma (1890).
Funakoshi began as weak, sick, and in poor health; between 1877 and 1878 he started karate training under Asato, but in 1879 he switched to Itosu (because Asato was forced to move to the imperial court of Mutsuhito).
In Karate-Dō Nyūmon (1943), Funakoshi mentioned that "During the Sino-Japanese War [1894-1895] a young man trained earnestly with Itosu for several months before joining the army...", that "young man" was Yabu Kentsū.
In "Karate-do my way of life" Funakoshi tells a little about tegumi challenges during his youth.
So my question is: given his poor health and given the age of the second wave of Itosu's students (Chibana, Tokuda, Chojo, Mabuni etc), it is possible that Funakoshi never had a real training partner with whom to practice two-person drills, yakusoku-kumite, and all that practices (shime waza, kansetsu waza, qinna, etc) needed to real understand the kata(s) ?
The only references to some "realistic" bunkai are shown in Kyohan, the nage waza section (the 9 throws and links to kata): and this could be explained by the friendship and sponsorship of Jigorō Kanō and by the tegumi practice. Is it possible that Itosu passed to Funakoshi the "new" way on which he worked (and formalized/spread at the beginning of the new century), made of a simplified tode (I don't mean simplified kata, but simplified tode/practice) ?
Many thanks in advance!