Shotokan Karate History
Gichin Funakoshi &
Dojo Kun & 20 Precepts
Gichin Funakoshi &
Dojo Kun & 20 Precepts
Gichin Funakoshi was born in Shuri, Okinawa, Japan 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.
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 the Emperor and the Royal Family!
After this, Funakoshi Sensei decided to remain in Japan to teach and promote his art, where he resided in a University Dormitory, cleaning by day and teaching his martial art by night.
Funakoshi Sensei brought 16 Katas with him to mainland Japan, within these 16 Katas was the 5 Pinan (Heian) Katas.
At one of the Performances Funakoshi attended, he was invited to attend a Tendon Dinner (Fish and Rice) by Knso Sensei.
Funakoshi Sensei was against sparring and his teaching were often referred to as “soft” Kata practise and insisted on hito Kata sanen (3 years on 1 Kata).
Gichin Funakoshi later died on April 26th 1957 at the age of 88 years old.
Funakoshi was often referred to as a Man of Tao, a humble man, living a humble life.
Aside from creating Shotokan Karate and introducing it to Japan and the world, he also wrote a few books, including his biography.
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 was born prematurely in Shuri, Okinawa, Japan on 10th November 1868, he began as a weak, sickly and in poor health child, whose parents brought him to Itsosu for his martial arts training as well as his doctor, Tokashiki, who prescribed him certain herbs that would strengthen him. He became a good student and with Asato, Arakaki and Mastumura as his other teachers, expertise and highly disciplined mind.
From Yasutune Azato, he learnt Shuri-te (Shorin Ryu) and from Yastune Itosu, he learnt Naha-te (Shorei-ryu). It would be the melding of these two styles that would one day become Shotokan Karate.
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 40s, 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).
One day when Otsuka was teaching at Shichi-Tokudo, a student named Kogura, from Keio University who had a 3rd Dan in Kendo (Japanese fencing) and a Black belt in Karate, took a sword and faced Otsuka. All the students watched to see what would happen. They felt no one could face the shinken (open blade) held by Kendo expert.
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.
In 1936, Funakoshi built the first Shōtōkan dojo (training hall) in Tokyo. While on the Japanese mainland, he changed the written characters of karate to mean "empty hand" (空手) instead of "China hand" (唐手) (literally Tang dynasty) to downplay its connection to Chinese boxing. Karate had borrowed many aspects from Chinese boxing. Funakoshi also argued in his autobiography that a philosophical evaluation of the use of "empty" seemed to fit as it implied a way which was not tethered to any other physical object.
Funakoshi's re-interpretation of the character kara in karate to mean "empty" (空) rather than "Chinese" (唐) caused some tension with traditionalists back in Okinawa, prompting Funakoshi to remain in Tokyo indefinitely. In 1949 Funakoshi's students created the Japan Karate Association (JKA), with Funakoshi as the honorary head of the organization. However, in practise this organization was led by Masatoshi Nakayama. The JKA began formalizing Funakoshi's teachings.
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.
Funakoshi wrote many books, including his biography “Karate-Do: My way of life”, "Ryukyu Kempo: Karate-Do", "Karate-Do Kyohan" - The Master Text, The handbook of Shotokan Karate. These books and his art are a fitting legacy for this unassuming and gentle man. His legacy, however, rests in a document containing his philosophies of karate training now referred to as the niju kun, or "twenty principles". These rules are the premise of training for all Shotokan practitioners and are published in a work titled The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate. Within this book, Funakoshi lays out 20 rules by which students of karate are urged to abide in an effort to "become better human beings".
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