Gichin Funakoshi

 

Gichin Funakoshi (船越 義珍Funakoshi Gichin, November 10, 1868 – April 26, 1957) is the founder of Shotokan Karate-Do, perhaps the most widely known style of karate, and is known as a "father of modern karate".Following the teachings of Anko Itosu and Anko Asato, he was one of the Okinawan karate masters who introduced karate to the Japanese mainland in 1922. He taught karate at various Japanese universities and became honorary head of the Japan Karate Association upon its establishment in 1949.

Early life

Gichin Funakoshi was born on November 10, 1868, the year of the Meiji Restoration, in Shuri, Okinawa, to a Ryūkyūan Pechin. He originally had the family name Tominakoshi. Funakoshi was born prematurely. His father's name was Gisu. After entering primary school he became close friends with the son of Ankō Asato, a karate and Jigen-ryū master who would soon become his first karate teacher. − Funakoshi's family was stiffly opposed to the Meiji government's abolition of the Japanese topknot, and this meant that he would be ineligible to pursue his goal of attending medical school (where topknots were banned), despite having passed the entrance examination. Being trained in both classical Chinese and Japanese philosophies and teachings, Funakoshi became an assistant teacher in Okinawa. During this time, his relations with the Asato family grew and he began nightly travels to the Asato family residence to receive karate instruction from Ankō Asato

Shotokan Karate


Funakoshi had trained in both of the popular styles of Okinawan karate of the time: Shōrei-ryū and Shōrin-ryū. Shotokan is named after Funakoshi's pen name, Shōtō (), which means "waving pines". Kan means training hall or house, thus Shōtōkan (松濤館) referred to the "house of Shōtō". This name was coined by Funakoshi's students when they posted a sign above the entrance of the hall at which Funakoshi taught. In addition to being a karate master, Funakoshi was an avid poet and philosopher who would reportedly go for long walks in the forest where he would meditate and write his poetry.

By the late 1910s, Funakoshi had many students, of which a few were deemed capable of passing on their master's teachings. Continuing his effort to garner widespread interest in Okinawan karate, Funakoshi ventured to mainland Japan in 1917, and again in 1922.

In 1930, Funakoshi established an association named Dai-Nihon Karate-do Kenkyukai to promote communication and information exchange among people who study karate-dō. In 1936, Dai-Nippon Karate-do Kenkyukai changed its name to Dai-Nippon Karate-do Shoto-kai.The association is known today as Shotokai, and is the official keeper of Funakoshi's karate heritage.

In 1936, Funakoshi built the first Shōtōkan dojo (training hall) in Tokyo. While on the Japanese mainland, he changed the written characters of karate to mean "empty hand" (空手) instead of "China hand" (唐手) (literally Tang dynasty) to downplay its connection to Chinese boxing. Karate had borrowed many aspects from Chinese boxing. Funakoshi also argued in his autobiography that a philosophical evaluation of the use of "empty" seemed to fit as it implied a way which was not tethered to any other physical object.

Funakoshi's re-interpretation of the character kara in karate to mean "empty" () rather than "Chinese" () caused some tension with traditionalists back in Okinawa, prompting Funakoshi to remain in Tokyo indefinitely.[citation needed] In 1949 Funakoshi's students created the Japan Karate Association (JKA), with Funakoshi as the honorary head of the organization. However, in practise this organization was led by Masatoshi Nakayama. The JKA began formalizing Funakoshi's teachings.

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