To search for the old is to understand the new. The old, the new, this is a matter of time. In all things man must have a clear mind. The Way: Who will pass it on straight and well? Shomen Gichin Funakoshi  (1868-1957)


After reading about the history of Shotokan karate, I think I could write a book with all that I know. For cons, I could easily fill a library with all that I do not know ... Several names of styles, people or places may seem wrong. It must be said here that some names are Chinese, or their Japanese translation (Shaolin and Shorin example). Some experts had several names or nicknames. For example Matsumura was also called; Sokon, Soshun, Sobi, Munehide, Buseiatsu, Unyu or Bucho .... Karate or karate? Karate is the Japanese word karate and its French language. Throughout history, I will keep the Japanese word. Each table has a link to a full page, click on the title.

The Bodhidarma way

It is said that Bodai Daruma (Bodhidharma), an Indian Buddhist monk, after a long journey, asked asylum monks from the Shaolin Monastery in China around the year 520 AD. Seeing his disciples exhausted after long meditations, he concluded that the search for enlightenment by Zen should not be at the expense of the body, but by the union of body and mind.

So he taught his disciples a series of physical exercises to strengthen the body. This training method based on breathing techniques and bare knuckle or stick fighting, spread later in China under the name Kenpō.

Okinawa, the birthplace of karate

Okinawa, which means rope on the ocean, is the main island of the archipelago of the Ryukyu Islands south of Japan. Traditional meeting point of Chinese and Japanese cultures, Okinawa became the place where was born the final form of unarmed combat. During the Japanese occupation of Okinawa, the use of weapons was banned a second time, forcing the inhabitants to develop most effective methods of combat using only their fists, their feet, and also instruments tillage. That is why some applications karate techniques are now difficult to explain: they were originally, to fight against swords, spears, naginatas ...

A mixture of Tō-De, local forms of combat or imported from elsewhere, eventually giving birth to the method called Okinawa-te, which will develop in three basic styles, Shuri-Te, Naha-Te, and Tomari -Te. To appear the following schools: those of Chojun Miyagi founder of Gōjū-Ryū from Mabuni Kenwa father of Shito-Ryu, Hironori Otsuka founder of Wado-Ryu, Nagamine Soshin a father of Shorin-Ryu style and Funakoshi who created the Shotokan-Ryu. In 1902, the government introduced Okinawa Okinawa-Te in secondary schools. Itosu Yasutstune became the first instructor. Subsequently, several masters will go teach their martial art off the island. Funakoshi was one of those.

Itosu Yasutsune

The holy hand of Shuri-Te, Itosu was born in Shuri in 1830. Son of civil servant, disciple of Soken Matsumura at the age of 16, he became one of the most respected martial artists in Okinawa during the 19th century. He was the private secretary of the king of the Ryukyu archipelago islands. This is largely thanks to him that we reached the tradition of Shuri-Te. One of his major contributions was the firm belief of the importance of developing the personality of the person through the study of kata and bunkai, the technical application of kata.

In 1901, when the government introduced Okinawan karate schools, Master Itosu became the first person to teach Tō-De at the Shuri-Jinjo primary school. At that time the design of physical education was militaristic, military physicians realized during examinations that practitioners of this martial art were stronger. Gichin Funakoshi begin at that time studying in Tō-De with Sensei Itosu. Itosu taught a Tō-De Shōrin style, characterized by high mobility and long techniques.

Matsumura Soken

Dubbed the Warrior (Bushi) Matsumura was born in 1797 in the city of Shuri on the island of Okinawa. Expert Okinawa-Te Shorin style he had as martial arts Sakugawa, Kushanku, Iwah teachers and Yashuhiro Ijuin a Master of the jigen kendo school the Shimazu clan of Satsuma. He worked as an officer and bodyguard for the last three kings of Ryukyu. He lived in China around the year 1830. Upon his return to Okinawa, he founded his school and began teaching his style Shorin-Ryu Karate Gosoku-An (Shaolin Karate for defense of the homeland), a modified Chinese form. Among his most famous students we can name Kyan, Yabu, Itosu and Azato. From time to time he also taught Funakoshi. However, its greatest impact was made through two Masters Azato and Itosu. According to Matsumura, if you want to understand the essence of martial arts, you have to study hard. We recognize here the Niju Kun 20 th precept.

Azato Yasuzato

Little known, one of the best disciples of Matsumura, Azato is recognized by the fact of having taught Funakoshi. Yet he was considered the greatest karate expert of his time when he began to teach Funakoshi. Funakoshi began the practice of Okinawa-Te to the age of 15 with Azato, who was the father of his schoolmaster. At the time, the Okinawan martial art was not taught to the general public. Classes were held at night secretly, away from prying eyes. His learning takes place in a traditional way at the time. It was while practicing one year to the next and only when the Master felt that the karateka was able to achieve perfectly. Learning a kata and could take several years. Kata in three years was a customary expression in old budos. Adept at swordsmanship school Jigen, he wrote one of the Niju Kun precepts; Consider the arms and legs of people like swords.

Shomen Funakoshi and the Empire of the Rising Sun

Shomen Gichin Funakoshi is considered the father of modern karate. Importer of karate in Japan and founder of the Shotokan style, he has changed the initial form of Okinawan karate. This is why he is considered a founder in many dojos around the world. Son of Tominakoshi Gisu, he was born in the early years of the Meiji restoration in the region of Yamakawa in Shuri on Okinawa island. Sickly child, he learned the art of Ryukyu combat with different masters. At that time martial arts was banned by the government, and the training sessions  were secretly held at night.

His first job at age 21, he was an assistant teacher in a primary school. Later, promotion led him to work in Naha. "It was the greatest opportunity that allowed me more time and opportunity to practice karate." Becaming a school teacher, he taught during the day and continue the practice of karate in the evening with Mr Azato.

Funakoshi then meet Master Itosu in the early 20 th century. He participated with him in the first official demonstration of Okinawa-Te, quickly followed by others throughout Japan. The Japanese were so impressed that they asked him to remain in Japan to teach his technique. By the early 1920s, karate was implanted in Japanese elementary schools. It was at this time that he will change its name from Tominakoshi to Funakoshi, the word Funa is a diminutive meaning crossing the ocean by boat.

The growing popularity of karate prompted many other experts from Okinawa to come and teach their style in Japan. Although the techniques may differ, these karate masters obey the same basic principles. The success he meets then convinces him to move to Tokyo and begin the development of karate through universities to achieve its goals there. In 1922 Funakoshi established his own style, the Okinawa-Te, who would become Shotokan later on. In 1924 he opened his first club. Three years later there will be four more.

His school formed several famous masters, Nakayama, Nishiyama, Kanazawa and Nagamine. At that time Shotokan designated the name of his dojo and not the style. Shoto being Master Funakoshi pen name to sign poems. Responsible for teaching karate at the Tokyo University, he never returned to Okinawa and died April 26, 1957 at the age of 88 years.

Funakoshi, the writer

Funakoshi wrote several books on karate, the most important is called Karate-Do Kyohan, text teaching Karate-Dō.

The first edition of this book appeared in 1922. Its author, Master Funakoshi did not stop until his death in complete and correct content. It's Hoan Kosugi, a Japanese artist well known that convinced Funakoshi published the first book This work, whose scope is immense, is the most elaborate document that has never written about karate at this time .

Funakoshi is also the author of other works, such as Karate-dō Nyumon, Karate-dō, Ichiro, Ryū Kyū Kempo, Karate destroyed in 1923, and Rentan Goshin Karate Jutsu, which is a new version of the first.

Yoshitaka Funakoshi

Yoshitaka continued to search his father ceased to age 70, he introduced new techniques such as yoko-geri, mawashi-geri and geri-ushiro. Taking the idea that Master Otsuka had issued some ten years ago, Yoshitaka introduced the notion of kumite. Ippon kumite is extended jyu ippon kumite and the jyu kumite. At that time karate was only a budō, and it was not until later that he will move towards a more sporty design. There was indeed a form of shiai, the kokan geiko who was the ancestor of the current competition.

In 1945, his health deteriorated, Yoshitaka is hospitalized and eventually died of tuberculosis. The first effective treatment for this disease appeared in 1940-1950. At the time he took the responsibility of Shotokan, at the age of 30, he had exceeded the limit of 10 years of life that the doctors had attached. His personal style is one that many karate adopt later.

The Shotokan Dojo

The construction of the Shotokan Dojo began in 1935 and was completed the following year. The dojo is located in the district of Meijuroko Tokyo. The money comes from a collection held in the country. Funakoshi arrived one morning at the dojo to see a sign above the door where his students had written Shotokan, home of Shoto. The original Shotokan means the building and not the style, "Kan" means the place, and the dojo "Shoto" is the pseudonym under which Funakoshi wrote his poems. Literally means Shoto rippling pines in the wind.

Masatoshi Nakayama

Nakayama Sensei was born in 1913 in the city of Yamaguchi in Japan. Initiated in kendo Naotoshi by his father, he joined 19 years Takushoku University of Tokyo to study languages ​​and history. It was at this time that he began karate. He spent five years of his life under Master Funakoshi. He then moved to Tokyo to Beijing as part of his university studies to deepen their knowledge of the history of China, and perfect Mandarin. It comes in contact with the Chinese masters who introduced boxing. Nakayama spent eleven years in China to return to Tokyo in 1945 after the defeat of Japan to resume practicing karate with Master Funakoshi. He founded in 1949 with former disciples of old master, the Japan Karate Association. It will be the main presenter until his death. Among his many achievements are the creation of the JKA, an organization of 10 million members in over 155 countries of karate as a sport, the JKA organized the first tournament in 1957 "All Japan Karate Tournament" which was the first world championship in karate and the instructors of the JKA program and the development of karate in the USA and the rest of the world.The 14 April 1987 Masatoshi Nakayama died at the age of 74.

Sensei Okazaki said of him: He was a true master of karate that has completely absorbed the philosophy, techniques and ideas Funakoshi, and has devoted his life to the passing world. Until his death, he continued to travel to teach, impart knowledge, while writing some twenty books on karate: "Dynamics of Karate" (2 volumes), the series "Best Karate", " The Karate Katas "(5 volumes) and" Karate Superior "(11 volumes). Gichin Funakoshi died April 26, 1957. Two months later, Nakayama organize the first All Japan Karate Championships. The winner was a man who later became a reference in the Shotokan Karate: Hirokazu Kanazawa.

Taiji Kase

Born in Japan in 1929, he studied at first Judo and Aikido. He knows his first karate training in the Navy, in a very brutal way, and then trains in the dojo Yoshitaka Funakoshi, the son of Gichin Funakoshi, great master who has integrated Karate in modern Japan, as Master Nakayama was able to spread it worldwide.

As the greatest Japanese masters in the mid 60s, as Master Kanazawa for example, is responsible for the disclosure of this discipline throughout the world and visit South Africa, the United States and Europe. It was on the initiative of Master Plée, as we found Jean-Pierre Bergheaud, there comes a day in 1967 at Gare de Lyon in Paris. Three people welcome Henry Plée, an Italian friend and Jean Pierre Lavorato, its oldest student in France is undoubtedly the leader of this movement of Karate.

Hirokazu Kanazawa

Two months after the death of Funakoshi. Master Masatoshi Nakayama organized the first All Japan Karate Championships. The winner was Hirokazu Kanazawa. Kanegawa Kanazawa Sensei was born in 1940. It is one of the last direct students Gichin Funakoshi at the University of Takushoku. He continued as a student of master Nakayama and was the first champion of Japan for two consecutive years in 1957 and 1958. He managed to win the final of 1957 with a fractured hand. The following year, after four extensions, judges désignèrent two champions, Mikami and Kanazawa. His long teaching career began in 1960. He then founded the International Shotokan Karate Federation. It is now 10th Dan. Since that time, Sensei Kanazawa is recognized and respected worldwide.

Tora No Maki

Shotokan Karate is usually represented by the Tora No Maki, a symbol found on the book's cover Gichin Funakoshi Karate-Do Kyohan. This design was painted by Hoan Kosugi, a friend and student of Gichin Funakoshi, renowned Japanese artist and president of Tabata Popular Club. He made this drawing with a brush specifically to illustrate the cover of the book Funakoshi and irregular circle indicates he did at once. The character up in the quadrant of the circle northeast part of the signature of the artist Kosugi, who had previously helped the founder, is the one who convinced Funakoshi published a book that has long been considered the bible of karate.

Shotokan Katas

Filmed after the Second World War, following 20 of the 26 Shotokan katas. An invaluable testimony of the past, those who were there before us ...

The kata are demonstrated by Senseis of JKA: Enoeda, Kanazawa, Shirai, Kase, Asai, Nakayama Shoji Mikami, Ueki, Mori, Yamaguchi and Sugiura. The last two kata Heian Godan and Tekki Shodan, are demonstrated by Gichin Funakoshi (Tekki Shodan 1924) and his son Yoshitaka (Heian Godan). My secret hope is that people fail to grasp the Way of Karate to attach themselves to open to others. In this case, my joy and gratitude would know no bounds. Gichin Funakoshi, founder of Shotokan Karate-Do.