Gichin Funakoshi

Funakoshi Gichin

The only son of a noble samurai family, Gichin Funakoshi will grow out to be the founder of what is probably the most widely spread Karate Style: Shotokan Karate Do. He started the practice of martial arts since his youth, practicing Tode. First with Azato and then with Itosu and Matsumura. Around his twenties he is already a martial arts expert. In 1901, Funakoshi and Itosu held a tode demonstration in front of an educational inspector. The inspector is so impressed that as a result tode becomes part of the Okinawan schools physical education program. In 1902, the authorities are convinced that tode provides strong educational value. Thanks to his great performance Gichin Funakoshi gets appointed as a school director and tode instructor In Shuri and Daichi prefecture.

Shortly after that, Sensei Itosu creates the 5 Pinan Kata in worder to prepare the kids for the advanced forms of what will later be Karate. In order to create the 5 Pinan Katas, Itosu extract parts from Koshonkun Dai.

Gichin Funakoshi continues to promote tode, and in 1906 he demonstrates his Karate at Budokan, in Kyoto, and in Okinawa in front of the Emperor. In other to satisfy the high demand, Funakoshi creates a group under the name of Shobu Kai. Many known master where part of the group, the the most poplar of them being Mabuni and Motobu, who will later found their own Karate styles: Shito-ryu and Motobu-ryu.

In 1922 he moves to Tokyo. He wasn’t planning on staying there but after a demonstration in front of the king he is asked to lengthen his staying in Tokio. June 3, 1922 Nichi Nichi newspaper described the demonstration under the title “A mysterious martial art”. What was supposed to be a simple colloquy on physical education, proves out to be a real succes, encouraging Funakoshi to multiply demonstrations and conferences.

At the same time he meets the founder of judo, Jigoro Kano, who invites Funakoshi to show his art at the Japanese Judo center. The two quickly become friends and Jigaro Kano will show up to be really helpful to Funakoshi. It will encourage, advice and give him precious directions on how to improve his art. After many hesitations will decide to remain in Japan and promote Karate.

Gichin Funakoshi Sensei

Gichin Funakoshi – Founder of Shotokan Karate Do

Nine months later he opens the first Dojo named Mesei Juku. The first club is opened at Keio university in 1924 and then in 1926 the second one, in Tokyo. Until  1930 ten dojos will be opened. His son, Yoshitaka, will become an instructor at Washeda.

Over 30 Dojos will be opened all around the main island and Karate will be well planted in Japan. However, it is not Funakoshi who names his style Shotokan, but his students. They will build up a central Dojo under the name Shotokan. Shotokan is translated as House of Shoto, Shoto being Funakoshi’s Sensei pseudo name as a writer. For those who don’t know Funakoshi was both a martial artist and a writer. His most fames book is Karate Do, my way of Life.

67 years old, Funakoshi Sensei structures his Karate, especially his Katas. His Karate is based on 19 Kata, 12 coming from Shuri-Te, and 7 from Naha-Te. He changes the name of the Katas from Chinese to Japanese, modifies some of the Katas and creates a progresive way of learning. As a result tode will become Karate and will no longer represent the Chinese hand. The new meaning will be Empty Hand.

Determined to create a Karate style different from the Okinawan one, he will base his Karate on the philosophy of Budo. This way Karate becomes a way of living with philosophical truth. Thus Do is added, Karate turning in to Karate Do, Do meaning way.

In 1922 he publishes the book Ryukyu Kempo Tode. This will be reedited in 1926 under the name Teitan Goshin Karate Jutsu. In 1936 he publishes two books, Karate Do Kyohan and Karate Do, my way of life.

He affirms several times that his art is Japanese, just like Judo, Kendo, Aikido and Ju Jutsu. Because of this he breaks all kind of relations with his Okinawan compatriots To them Karate is an Okinawan creation and not a Japanese one.

Aged 90, he dies in 1957 after he passes al affective, material, ideological and technical obstacles that led to the birth of Shotokan Karate Do




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Comments (5)

  • Jose 4 years ago Reply

    Hi, Master Kanazawa had a steudnt who started when he was 65 years old! Five years later he was teaching professionally. So 35 years of age is extremely young, where karate is concerned.Time taken to black belt varies tremendously from person to person and these are just some rough guide lines, but 2 to 3 times per week training = 5 to 6 years3 to 4 times per week training = 4 to 5 years, 5 plus times per week training = 3 to 4 years (this would be the shortest time in my opinion, because certain aspects of the martial arts, only appear with time.)I would recommend being a black belt for at least a year before teaching, this is where your experience will grow, once someone attains black belt, if they train hard, their level of karate grows very fast.I hope this helps and good luck with your journey in karate do! Ossu, Linden

  • Poate 4 years ago Reply

    Awesome article. Can you write on about Yoshitaka Funakoshi? I heard he is the main person behind Shotokan style. Is it true that he is the one who came with the idee of having longer stances? I will really like to find more about him

    George Paun 4 years ago Reply

    Thank you! I don’t know when I will get the chance to write about him but new articles are coming soon!

  • Zana 4 years ago Reply

    What’s up? Nice article you’ve put together here about Funakoshi Sensei

  • Martin Edson 4 years ago Reply

    Wow.. I had no ideea that all the great Sensei were in the same group to promote Karate. This is really good information. I think this just proves that Karate is Karate no matter the style

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