Shotokan Karate History
Gichin Funakoshi was born in Shuri, Okinawa on November 10th 1868.
As a boy he was weak and needed herbs to strengthen his body, he was also trained in Martial arts by two famous masters of that time, Each trained him in a different Okinawan Martial art.
From Yasutune Azato, he learnt Shuri-te and from Yastune Itosu, he learnt Naha-te. It would be the melding of these two styles that would one day become Shotokan Karate. Funakoshi Sensei is the man who introduced Karate to Japan.
In 1917 he was asked to perform his martial art at a physical art exhibition sponsored by the Ministry of Education. He was asked back again in 1922 for another exhibition. He was asked back a 3rd time but this was a special performance as he demonstrated his art for theEmperor and the Royal Family!
After this, Funakoshi Sensei decided to remain in Japan to teach and promote his art.
Gichin Funakoshi later died on April 26th 1957 at the age of 88 years old.
Aside from creating Shotokan Karate and introducing it to Japan and the world, he also wrote the very book on the subject of Karate "Ryukyu Kempo: Karate-Do". He also wrote "Karate-Do Kyohan" - The Master Text, The handbook of Shotokan Karate, and he wrote his autobiography, "Karate-Do: My way of Life". These books and his art are a fitting legacy for this unassuming and gentle man.
If there is one man who could be credited with placing Karate in the position it enjoys on the Japanese mainland today, it is Gichin Funkakoshi.
This Mejin (Master) was born in Shuri, Okinawa, Japan and didn't even begin his second life as harbinger of official recognition for Karate on the mainland until he was 53 years old!
Funakoshi's story is very similar to that of many greats in Karate. He began as a weak, sickly and in poor health child, whose parents brought him to Itsosu for his Karate Training. Between his doctor, Tokashiki, who prescribed him certain herbs that would stregnthen him and Itosu's good instructions, Funakoshi blossomed. He became a good student and with Asato, Arakaki and Mastumura as his other teachers, expertise and highly disciplined mind.
When he finally came to mainland Japan from Okinawa in 1922, he stayed among his own people at the prefectural students Dormitory at Suidobata, Tokyo.
He lived in a small room alongside the entrance and would clean the Dormitory by day, whilst the students were in their classes and at night he would teach them Karate.
After a short time, he had earned sufficient means to open his first school in Meishojuku. Following this his Shotokan in Mejiro was opened and he finally has a place from which he sent forth a variety of outstanding students, such as Takagi and Nakayama of Nippon Karate Kyokai, Yoshida of Takudai, Obata of Keio, Noguchi of Waseda and Nakayama Otsuka, the Founder of Wado-Ryu Karate. It is said that in his travels and around Japan, whilst giving demonstrations and lectures, Funakoshi always had Otsuka accompanying him.
The Martial arts world in Japan, especially in the early twenties and up to the early forties, enojyed the ultra-nationalists were riding high and they looked down their noses at any art that was not purely called it as a pagan and savage art.
Funakoshi overcame this prejudice and finally gained formal recognition of Karate as one of the Japanese Martial arts by 1941.
Needless to say, many Karate clubs flourished in mainland Japan. In 1926 Karate was introduced in Tokyo University. Three years later, Karate was formally organised on a club level by three students; Matsuda Katsuichi, Himotsu Kazumi and Nakachi K. Funakoshi was their Teacher.
He also organised Karate clubs in Keio University and Shichi-Tokudo, a barracks situated in a corner of the Palace grounds.
Funakoshi visited the Shichi-Tokudo every other day to teach and was always accompanied by Otsuka, reputed to be one of the most brilliant of his students in Japan. Otsuka's favourite Kata was Naihanchi, which he performed before the Royalty of Japan with another outstanding student named Oshima, who performed the Pinan Kata (Hiean).
Otsuka calmly watched Kogura and the moment he made a move with his sword, Otsuka swept him off his feet. As this was unrehearsed, it tested the skill of Otsuka. It also bore out Funakoshi's philosophy that Kata practise was more than sufficient in times of need.
in 1927 the men, Miki, Bo and Hirayama decided that Kata practise was not enough and tried to introduce Jiyu Kumite (Free fighting). They devised prortective clothing and used Kendo masks in their matches in order to utilize full contact. Funakoshi heard about these bouts and when he could not discourage such attempts at what he considered belittling to the art of Karate, he stopped coming to the Shichi-Tokudo university. Both Funkoshi and his top student Otsuka never showed their faces there again.
When Funakoshi came to mainland Japan, he brought 16 Katas with him: 5 Pinan (Hiean) Hiean, Shodan, Hiean Nidan, Hiean Sandan, Hiean Yondan and Hiean Godan. 3 Naihanchi, Kushanku dai, Kushanksu sho, Seisan, Patsai, Wanshu, Chinto, Jutte and Jion. Many of these are still the same Katas we practised to day but most names have been modernised. He kept his students on one Kata for 3 years before they progressed (unlike modern days where you grade every 3-6 months) to the more advanced forms. The repetitious training that he insisted on paid dividends, his students went on to produce the most precise exact type of Karate taught anywhere.
Jigoro Kano, the founder of modern Judo, once invited Funakoshi and a friend Makoto Gima, to perform at the Kodokan (then located at Tomisaka) Approximately a hundred people watched the performance. Gima, who had studied under Yabu Kentsu as a youth in Okinawa, performed the Naihansai shodan and Funakoshi performed the Koshokun (Kushanku dai). Kanso Sensei watched the performance and asked Funakoshi about the techniques involved. He was greatly impressed! He invited Gima and Funkoshi to a special Tendon Dinner (Fish and Rice), during which he sang and made jokes to put Funakoshi at ease.
Irrespective of his sincerity in teaching the art of true Karate, Funakoshi was not without his detractors, his critics scorned his insistence on the Kata and decided what they called "soft" Kata wasted too much time. Funakoshi insisted on hito Kata sanen (3 years on 1 Kata).
Funakoshi was a humble man, he preached and practised an essential humility. He lived at peace with himself and his fellow men.
Whenever the name Gichin Funakohis is mentioned, it brings to mind the parable of "A Man of Tao and a Little Man"; As it is told; A student once asked "what is the difference between a Man of Tao and a Little Man?" The Sensei Replies; "It is simple, when the little man receives his 1st Dan, he can hardly wait to run home and shout at the top of his voice to tell everyone that he made his 1st Dan, upon receiving his 2nd Dan, he will climb to the rooftops and shout to the people, upon receiving his 3rd Dan, he will jump in his auto mobile and parade through town with horns blowing, telling one and all about his 3rd Dan"
The Sensei continues "When the Man of Tao receives his 1st Dan, he will bow his head in gratitude, Upon receiving his 2nd Dan he will bow his head and his shoulders, upon receiving his 3rd Dan, he will bow to his waist and quietly walk alongside the wall so that people will not see him or notice him"
Funakoshi was a man of Tao, he places emphasis on individual self-perfection, he believed in the common decency and respect that one human being owed to another. He was the Master of Masters.
By Christine Alleyn Sensei
Hitotsu Jinkaku Kansei-Ni Tsumuru Koto
To Seek Perfection Of Character
Hitotsu Makoto No-Michi-O Mamuru Koto
To Defend The Paths Of Truth
Hitotsu Doryoku No-Seshinno Yashinau Koto
To Foster The Spirit Of Effort
Hitosu Reigi-O Omonzuru Koto
To Honour The Principles Of Etiquette
Hitotsu Kekki-No Yu-O Imashimuru Koto
To Guard Against Impetuous Courage
The 20 Precepts
1. Karate Begins With Courtesy And Ends With Courtesy
2. There Is No First Attack In Karate
3. Karate Is An Aid To Justice
4. First Control Yourself Before Attempting To Control Others
5. Spirit First, Technique Second
6. Always Be Ready To Release Your Mind
7. Accidents Arise From Negligence
8. Do Not Think That Karate Training Is Only In The Dojo
9. It Will Take Your Entire Life To Learn Karate, There Is No Limit
10. Put Your Everyday Living Into Karate And You Will Find ?Myo?
11. Karate is like Boiling Water, If You Do Not Heat it Constantly, It will Cool
12. Do Not think that You have to Win, think Rather that You Do Not have to Lose
13. Victory Depends on Your Ability to Distinguish Vulnerable points from
14. The Battle is according to how You move Guarded and Unguarded
(Move according to your opponent)
15. Think of Your Hands and Feet as Swords
16. When You leave home, think that You have Numerous Opponents Waiting for you. It is Your Behaviour that Invites Trouble from them.
17. Beginners must Master Low Stance and Posture, Natural body Positions are for the Advanced.
18. Practising a Kata is one thing, Engaging in a real fight is another
19. Do Not Forget to correctly apply: Strength and Weakness of power, Stretching and Contraction of the body and Slowness and Speed of Techniques
20. Always think and Devise ways to Live the Precepts Everyday
?The Ultimate Aim Of Karate Lies Not In Victory Nor Defeat, But In The
Perfection Of The Character Of Its Participants? Master Gichin Funakoshi