Shotokan Karate History    Shotokan Karate Union


"Shotokan" Shotokan-ryu is a style of karate,developed from various martial arts by Gichin Funakoshi (1868–1957) and his son Gigo (Yoshitaka) Funakoshi (1906–1945). Gichin was born in Okinawa and is widely credited with popularizing karate through a series of public demonstrations, and by promoting the development of university karate clubs, including those at Keio, Waseda, Hitotsubashi (Shodai), Takushoku, Chuo, Gakushuin, and Hosei. Funakoshi had many students at the university clubs and outside dojos, who continued to teach karate after his death in 1957. However, internal disagreements (in particular the notion that competition is contrary to the essence of karate) led to the creation of different organizations—including an initial split between the Japan Karate Association, headed by Masatoshi Nakayama and the Shotokai, headed by Motonobu Hironishi and Shigeru Egami, followed by many others—so that today there is no single "Shotokan school", although they all bear Funakoshi's influence. Being one of the first and biggest styles, Shotokan is considered a traditional and influential form of karate. Shotokan was the name of the first official dojo built by Funakoshi, in 1939 at Mejiro, and destroyed in 1945 as a result of 
an allied bombing.Shoto meaning "pine-waves" (the movement of pine needles when the wind blows through them), was Gichin Funakoshi's pen-name, which he used in his poetic and philosophical writings and messages to his students. The Japanese word kan means "hall". In honour of their sensei, Funakoshi's students created a sign reading shoto-kan which was placed above the entrance of the hall where Funakoshi taught. Gichin Funakoshi never gave his style a name, just calling it "karate".

The history of Martial Arts is shrouded in mystery, legend and secrecy. It is generally believed that the first ever form of a martial art was created over 1000 years ago by a monk named Bodhidharma. He was the founder of Zen Buddhism, and eventually took his teachings to China. He travelled to the Shoalin Temple where he began teaching the monks that resided there. At first they were physically unable to keep up with his teachings, and so Bodhidharma devised a training system to develop the monks both physically and spiritually. The Shaolin Monks became known as the best fighters in China and the system by which they were taught became known as Shaolin boxing. The Shaolin Monks travelled from China to spread the word of Bodhidharma and his fighting system. Zen was readily accepted in Japan. One of the most devout followers of the Buddhist religion was Sho Shin. His father was King Sho En, ruler of Okinawa, and Sho Shin became King at the age  of just 13 in 1477. Due to his devout religious beliefs, on of the first things he did during his reign was to ban all weapons. This ban was continued by the Satsuma clan. Those who studied martial arts now had to do so without any form of weaponry. In 1609 Japan invaded Okinawa, and further to the ban on weaponry, placed a ban upon anyone doing martial arts, and so martial arts training became shrouded in secrecy. Over the next 300 years in Okinawa - during the  long reigning ban on martial arts - three main branches of self defence became evident. These were Shuri-te, Naha-te and Tomari-te, named after the Okinawan towns within which they developed. They were known collectively as Okinawa-Te or To-De. Eventually these developed into two mains styles, Shorin-ryu which developed from Shuri and Tomari and Shorei-ryu which came from Naha. It is believed that Shorin-ryu was best for smaller men, with a light and fast style. Shorei-ryu was suited to the bigger, more powerful man. Gichin Funakoshi was born in 1868 and began studying martial arts at a very young age, under Anko Itosu and Yasutsune Azato. The ban on martial arts still stood, and so Funakoshi would often have lessons with his instructors at night time, so not to be discovered. To-De, the martial arts of Okinawa could also be pronounced ‘kara’ and Funakoshi gave this the alternative meaning of ‘empty’ and so his training became known as Karate. The ban on martial arts was finally lifted in 1902 when Shintaro Ogawa, the Commissioner of Education recommended that martial arts should be included in physical education in the first middle school of Okinawa. This meant that Funakoshi could continue his training in without fear of discovery, and he could now spread the word of his karate. Funakoshi was invited to Japan in 1922 to give a demonstration of Karate at the First National Athletic Exhibition in Tokyo, which was organised by the Ministry of Education. After this demonstration he decided to remain in Japan to spread the word. It is thanks to his efforts that Karate became part of the school curriculum in Japan. The style name Shotokan was given to Funakoshi’s karate by his students. Shoto was Funakoshi’s pen name as a writer, meaning ‘pine waves’ and Kan means ‘school’ so those who trained at Funakoshi’s ‘school’ became known as the Shotokan. In 1948 Funakoshi established the Japan Karate Association and he remained the head of the JKA until his death in 1957. Nakayama was a senior student of the JKA and took over the role of  head of the Association. Nakayama began studying Shotokan under  Funakoshi Sensei, at Takushoku University in 1932. Now Nakayama is held responsible for the worldwide development of Shotokan Karate. Nakayama developed a way of logically teaching karate. He decided that it was best to devise a way of teaching different abilities easily. He developed the instructor programme and karate’s first ever match system. It is thanks to Nakayama Sensei that karate is as successful a martial art as it is today. Nakayama Sensei passed away in 1987, at the age of 74.

S Banfield & E Robins

1868 Gichin Funakoshi born

1877 Gichin Funakoshi started formal martial arts training
1906 Yoshitaka Funakoshi born
1913 M Nakayama born
1918 Yoshitaka Funikoshi started formal karate training
1922 Gichin Funakoshi introduced Okinawan Martial Arts to mainland Japan
1924 Gichin Funakoshi introduced Kyu & Dan Grading ranks into Karate
1929 Gichin Funakoshi changed the name of karate-jutsu from the 
Chinese to "Karate-do" (“the way of the empty hand”)
1931 H Kanazawa born
1932 M Nakayama started formal karate training
1935 K Enodea born
1939 The Shotokan school was built
1943 Yoshitaka & Gichin Funakoshi published "Karate-do Nyumon"
1945 The Shotokan was bombed
1945 Yoshitaka Funakoshi died
1945 M Kawasoe born
1949 JKA was Formed
1949 H Kanazawa started his Shotokan training
1951 K Enodea started his Shotokan training
1955 JKA HQ was built
1956 JKA Instructors Classes started
1957 Gichin Funakoshi died
1957 1st JKA championship
1957 V Bell the 1st Briton to acheive a Karate Dan Grade
1957 The original British Karate Federation was formed 
1960 M Kawasoe started his Shotokan training             
1962 C Mack the 1st Briton to achieve a JKA Shotokan Dan Grade 
1964 The original BKF appointed as JKA's British representatives
1964 V Bell Dan Grade ratified by JKA as Shotokan Dan Grade
1965 1st Japanese JKA instructors arrive in Great Britain
1966 1st British Shotokan Only association was formed
1974 Shotokan Karate International (GB) formed
1978 Shotokan Karate International Federation formed
1985 Shotokan Karate Union formed
1987 M Nakayama died
2003 K Enodea died
2004 V Bell died

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