It is said that karate goes back 5000 years and one of the first masters and pioneers of this art is Boudid Harama who lived in 525 B.C. He was a religious leader who first gained knowledge of the sciences of his time and then decided to teach religious belief to others. In order to do this, he started his journey alone from India and after walking for thousands of kilometers and passing through many challenges of nature arrived in China and took residence in a Shaolin temple in the state of Hunan. His teachings included extreme discipline and abstinence. He was in solitude and contemplation for 9 years while in caves and mountains.
In order for his students to be able to endure long hours of contemplation and also confront aggressors, who saw religious men and their beliefs as a burden to them, he created 18 moves which in reality constitute the foundations of today’s karate.
On the other hand, when Chinese dictatorships such as the Kink and Satsuma dynasties in Okinawa, sought to prevent the empowerment of their opponents and also to control people, they made the use of swords illegal and confiscated weapons used in martial arts. Because of this, people turned to combat trainings in which no weapons were used and this caused karate to become ever more popular.
In 1921, one of the famous karate masters of Okinawa by the name of Gichin Founakoshi managed to introduce karate to Japan with a powerful and delicate approach. Some of the other students, who had been trained by the greatest masters of Okinawa, combined traditional techniques and created numerous karate styles. At the present time, karate practice consists of hundreds of different styles, all of which are rooted in the following four main styles:
Shotokan – The founder of this style is Gichin Founakoshi (1868 – 1957). Shotokan means house of Shoto (Founakoshi’s nickname) and “kan” means house. Shotokan belongs to the Shouri-Ne karate system.
Shito-Ryu – The founder of this style is Kanawa Maboni (1889 – 1952). This style consists of two karate systems: Naha-Ne and Shouri-Ne. Shito is derived from the names of two great masters from Okinawa, such that Shi comes from the name Anko-Itoso who is the undisputed master of the Shori-Ne system and to comes from the name Kanryo-Higauna who is the founder and grand master of the Naha-Ne system.
Guju-Ryu – This style was founded by Miagi-Choujoun (1888 – 1953). It means the hard and soft style and was formed in Okinawa and belongs to the Naha-Ne karate system.
Wadu-Ryu – The founder of this style is Hironouri Onsoka (1892 – 1982). It means the peaceful way or the peace-seeking method.
Gichin Funakoshi & Masatoshi Nakayama
Gichin Funakoshi, The Father of Modern Karate, was born in 1868 in Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture. He was the son of a Samurai who started training in the Martial Arts as a young man to help overcome his frailness. He became the Chairman of the Okinawa Shobukai in 1913. Funakoshi was a school teacher and a poet who wrote under the pen name of “Shoto”. From 1924 until his death in 1957, he travelled around Japan teaching karate at many Universities. He wrote several books on Karate including his autobiography, Karate-Do: My Way of Life , which was completed shortly before his death.
Masatoshi Nakayama was born in 1913 in Yamaguchi Prefecture. He is considered one of Master Funakoshi’s greatest students. Master Nakayama wrote many books on Karate included the Best Karate series. He helped to develop the JKA and served as the chief instructor from 1955 until his death in 1987. During his time as director of the JKA his goal was to spread karate around the World. He was extremely successful. Shotokan Karate is the most widely practiced form of Karate on the planet.
Nakayama & Woon-A-Tai
Okazaki & Woon-A-Tai
Yaguchi & Woon-A-Tai
Gichin Funakoshi’s pen name “Shoto” literally means ‘pine waves’, and today is synonymous with the tiger symbol and Shotokan Karate-do. But few people understand the relationship of Shoto to what is commonly known as the “Shotokan Tiger”. When Gichin Funokoshi was a young man, he enjoyed walking in solitude among the pine trees which surrounded his home town of Shuri. After a hard day of teaching in the local school and several more hours of strenuous karate practice, he would often walk up Mount Torao and meditate among the pine trees. Mount Torao is a very narrow, heavily wooded mountain which, when viewed from a distance, resembles a tiger’s tail. The name “Torao” in fact literally means “tiger’s tail”.
In later life, Funakoshi explained that the cool breezes which blew among the pines made the trees whisper like waves breaking on the shore. Thus, since he gained his greatest poetic inspirations while walking there, he chose the pen name of Shoto, “pine waves”.
The tiger which is commonly used as the symbol for Shotokan karate is a traditional Chinese design which implies that “the tiger never sleeps”. Symbolized in the Shotokan tiger, therefore, is the keen alertness of the wakeful tiger and the serenity of the peaceful mind which Gichin Funakoshi experienced while listening to the pine waves on Tiger’s Tail Mountain.