The History and Development of Shoto Budo - page 3



Modern Origins - Gichin Funakoshi

Funakoshi Gichin was born in Shuri, the capital of Okinawa, in 1868. As a child he was rather frail and so his family sent him to learn karate under masters Azato and Itosu. He continued practicing after taking up teaching as a profession and lectured about karate to primarily intellectual audiences. The crown prince visited Okinawa in 1921 and Funakoshi was granted the honour of taking charge of a karate demonstration held in the Great Hall of Shuri Castle. The crown prince was very much impressed with the performance and in 1922 the rest of Japan was introduced to karate, when Funakoshi participated in the First National Athletic Exhibition in Tokyo.

Funakoshi stayed on in Tokyo and later travelled throughout Japan and introduced the Japanese aristocracy to karate at the Butoku-den in Kyoto. Funakoshi and his teaching won the approval of the Ministry of Education and he became determined to devote all his available time and effort to make the art popular.

Funakoshi became friendly with Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo who asked him to lecture at the Judo Hall and the grading system was taken from Judo to allow Karate to gain membership of the Budokwai. Another well known martial artist, Master Hironori Ohtsuka, the Wado-Ryu founder, was a renowned Jujitsu master and became a close friend and student of Master Funakoshi.

In 1922 Master Funakoshi opened a dojo for students from Okinawa and also published his book, Ryukyu Kempo: Karate and later his kata reference, Karate-do Kyohan followed in 1935. Through Funakoshi's influence the characters meaning "empty hand(s)" came to replace the traditional characters meaning "Chinese hand(s)". This was very significant as it reflected the change in the art itself from the techniques (jutsu) of Okinawan karate to karate-do (the Way of Karate).

In 1935, a committee was formed of Master Funakoshi's senior students called the Shotokai ('Shoto' was Master Funakoshi's pen name and 'kai' meant association) to raise money for a dojo or hall and the Shotokai Association continued after the Shotokan (Shoto's Hall) was completed. The Shotokan was destroyed during an air raid in 1945 and in 1949 Funakoshi began to rebuild karate. Servicemen stationed in Japan after the war learned the art from some of the masters and since then have helped popularise karate around the world.

In 1956 Funakoshi with masters Egami, Hironishi and Noguchi, founded a new dojo called "Nihon Karate-Do Shotokai", Master Funakoshi died in 1975 and his work was continued by Master Egami, who headed the Shotokai organisation until his death in 1981, to be followed by Master Hironishi, who is still the President of Shotokai today. There are four main styles of karate-do in Japan: Shotokan (Gichin Funakoshi, 1868-1957); Goju-ryu (Chojun Miyagi, 1888-1953); Shito-ryu (Kenwa Mabuni, 1889-1952); Wado-ryu (Hienori Otsuka who was taught by Gichin Funakoshi)

Gichen Funakoshi has been attributed as having had more influence on karate than any other man in the history of martial arts.

Mitsusuke Harada's Influence

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