Gichin Funakoshi 1868-1957
The founder of Shotokan Karate
Gichin Funakoshi - Shotokan Karate
Gichin Funakoshi was born in 1868 on the Island of Okinawa, which is situated between Japan and Taiwan off the Chinese Coast.
At the age of 11 he was introduced to two similar styles of martial arts. From Master Azato & Master Itosu he was taught Shuri-Te (Shorin-Ryu) and from Kanryo Higaonna (sometimes spelled Higashionna) he learnt Naha-Te (Shorei-Ryu). As an adult he became a school teacher. He continued his martial arts which he called Karate Do (The way of the empty hand). He also wrote poetry that he signed with his pen name “Shoto” (Pine Waves).
Funakoshi Sensei is believed to have introduced Karate to Japan around 1917, when he was asked to perform his martial art at a Physical Education Exhibition sponsored by the Ministry of Education. He traveled to Japan twice more giving demonstrations of his art. The third occasion being a special performance for the Emperor. Following this he stayed in Japan, slowly building up a following that led to the opening of his first Dojo. The students named this Shotokan, Shoto after his pen name and Kan meaning house/building.
Shotokan = “The house of the Waving Pines”
Shotokan - Japan Karate Association (JKA)
During an air raid in World War 2 the Shotokan Dojo was destroyed, after the war the students regrouped and in 1949 the Japan Karate Association was established and Funakoshi Sensei was appointed chief instructor.
In 1957 the Ministry of Education gave official recognition to the JKA, shortly after this Master Funakoshi died at the age of 89.
When one of the most respected Sensei’s Masatoshi Nakayama was appointed chief instructor, the standards of training in Kihon, Kata,and Kumite were established, and competitions were also introduced. This caused the first split in the JKA, as the old Shotokai groups under Isao Obata, Genshin Hironishi and Shigeru Egami did not approve of competition Kumite. They left and formed the Karate-do Shotokai who still claim to be the true successors of Gichin Funakoshi.
Shotokan instructors were sent to Europe to demonstrate their art, there were four in the team which originally toured, and after the tour Sensei Keinosuke Enoeda and Sensei Hirokazu Kanazawa remained in England with Sensei Taji Kase moving to France and Sensei Hiroshi Shirai settling in Italy.
Following Nakayama’s death the JKA still thrived but many of the senior instructors left to form their own organisations.
JKA - Karate Union of Great Britain (KUGB)
In 1965 Sensei Enoeda found himself teaching full time at the Red Triangle Dojo in Liverpool, In 1966 the KUGB was formed and in 1968 he became chief instructor to the KUGB, and so began a long standing association between these two organisations.
In 2003 Sensei Enoeda sadly passed away, leaving his Hakama (formal dress) and Black Belt to Sensei Andy Sherry, signifying that he considered Andy his successor. The JKA could not accept that a westerner could take over and so they tried to appoint Sensei Ohta. In doing so they forced the KUGB to respect Enoeda Sensei’s last wishes, unfortunately this meant leaving the JKA organisations.
Note that when Funakoshi Sensei (an Okinawan) died, they appointed Nakayama Sensei (a Japanese), if we are following tradition they should have appointed another Okinawan.
The result of this was a split within the KUGB with most clubs staying with the KUGB under Sensei Sherry (9th Dan), and a small portion moving with Sensei Ohta (6th Dan), who formed a new organisation called JKA-England (JKA-E).