Shito-Ryu karate was founded in 1931 by Kenwa Mabuni(1889-1952) who trained under many masters including two famous greats Itosu Anko(1813-1915) from whom he learnt Shuri-Te and Kanro Higashionna(1853-1916) from whom he learnt Naha-Te.
Mabuni was born 1889 in the Shuri-te district of Okinawa which is where he began his training at the age of 13 under the legendary Itosu who is most famous for developing the pinan katas among others, Itosu’s teachings emphasised straight and powerful techniques. It was Mabuni’s good friend Chojun Miyagi founder of Goju Ryu karate who introduced him to Kanro Higashionna and lead to Mabuni being accepted as a deshi(disciple), Higashionna taught circular movement and close combat. Both teachers taught hard-soft style of te the teachings of which can still be seen in the Shito-Ryu style today.
The style of karate developed by Mabuni was originally named Hanko-Ryu meaning half-hard, it wasn’t until later that Mabuni changed the name to honour his teachers Itosu and Higashionna, shito was made from combining the first kanji character of both teachers (‘Shi’ old Chinese hieroglyph for ‘Ito’, ‘To’ old Chinese hieroglyph for ‘Higa’), Mabuni had many teachers but named his style after these two greats out of the deep respect that he held for them both. It was in 1931 that Shito-Ryu was founded and the style was officially registered with the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai in 1939.