Sakugawa started to teach the “Chinese hand” way in Okinawa, combining what both his teachers had taught him and structuring a training system.
Satsunuku “Tode” Sakugawa was born in Shuri, the capital of Okinawa in 1733. He began his martial arts training at the age of 17, under the Okinawan Peichin Takahara. At age 23, in 1756, Sakugawa was granted permission by Takahara to train under Kusanku, a Chinese envoy who had been settled in Okinawa. For the next six years, Sakugawa learned all that he could from Kusanku. Kusanku’s teachings would influence both Shuri-te and eventually Shorin-ryu’s development. He brought some of his other students from China to Okinawa and they would spread his style of Kempo on the island. Additionally Sakugawa traveled to China with Kusanku to study Chinese Kempo on China’s mainland.
It is rumored that Kusanku was the person who introduced the corkscrew motion to Karate’s punch. He taught students to chamber a closed fist against the side of their torso and then, from this position, the punch was thrown out in a twisting motion at the intended target. He is also credited with creating a new type of kumite (sparring) for the Okinawans. It was referred to as Kumiai Jutsu or “fighting technique”.
After his training with Kusanku, Sakugawa was known as the premier expert in the Chinese-Okinawan style of fighting, referred to as Tode (China Hand). This is where his nickname “Tode” came from. Sakugawa is usually referred to as the first teacher of Okinawan Karate. This is because it was Sakugawa who first combined the techniques of Chinese Kempo with the native Okinawan techniques he had learned from Takahara to create the basis of Okinawan Karate as we know it today.
Sakugawa learned valuable lessons from Kusanku. He soon started to teach the “Chinese hand” way in Okinawa, combining what both his teachers had taught him and structuring a training system. Among his students were Chokun Satunku Macabe, Satunuku Ukuda, Chikuntonoshinunjo Matsumoto, Kojo, Yamaguchi “Bushi” Sakumoto, and Unsume. It is believed that Sakugawa was almost 78 when he began teaching the art of “Tode” to his greatest student of all, Sokon “Bushi” Chikatosinumjo Matsumura.
Sakugawa was awarded the title of Satunushi for his services to the Okinawa King, he was an important factor in the development of “Te” on the Okinawan Islands, and Sakugawa was credited with forming several kata, which are still practiced today. These kata include the karate kata Kusanku (referred to by some as Sakugawa no Kusanku) and the bo kata Sakugawa No Kun. In addition, Sakugawa also created the concept of the Dojo Kun (dojo etiquette/rules) which has become a tradition with many styles, including Shorin-ryu.