Itosu-ryu karatedo stems from the lineage of Shuri-te master Sokon Matsumura (1798-1890). It was founded by Anko Itosu (1830-1915), who is popularly regarded as one of the fathers of karatedo.

Anko Itosu further developed and refined tode-jutsu, a form of self-defense, into a form of physical exercise suitable to be included in the physical education curriculum. At the same time, he changed the focus from being a means of combat to being a means of character development.

Anko Itosu also created many kata, including the five Pinan kata, which are the most widely practiced kata in the world today. In some schools they are known as Heian kata.