Origins of karate
Karate is a martial art developed in Japan from a system used on the
island of Okinawa. Okinawa is the Principle Island of the Ryukyu
Archipelago, laying three hundred miles to the south of Japan and three
miles east of main land China. Although the roots of Martial Arts can be
traced back thousands of years to India, the evolution of karate as we
know it today began in the seventeenth century.
Legend has it that an Indian Buddhist monk named Bodhidharma, the
originator of Zen Buddhism, brought Chuan-Fa to the Shaolin temple in
China during the Sung Dynasty. Some historians claim this to be false, yet it remains a popular view. Very little is known from that
period, until records of the practice of Chuan-Fa in Okinawa in 1372
when King Satto declared his allegiance to China's Ming Emperor.
In the centuries to follow Chuan-Fa gained a strong foothold in
Okinawa, it was practised along side an indigenous unarmed fighting
system known as Tode. In 1609 the Japanese Satsuma Clan marched on the
Ryukyu Islands ending their independence and banning all weaponry. This
brought a bond between the Chuan-Fa and Tode to develop a fighting
method to strengthen the physical and spiritual body in a bid to
survive. The union came to be known as 'Te' (hand).
Te was practised in secret in three main centres around the towns of,
Shuri, Naha and Tomari. These local variations were later known as
Shuri-Te, Naha-Te and Tomari-Te. Between 1784 and 1903 karate replaced
the word Te to describe the fighting system. In 1875 the Satsuma
occupation of the Ryukyu Islands ended and they officially became part
of the Japanese Empire. By 1903 karate was practised openly in schools.
Master Gichin Funakoshi (1868 - 1957)
Karate was by now a combination of hand and foot techniques
influenced by its origins. Karate was officially introduced to Japan in
1917 when Gichin Funakoshi demonstrated the art at the Butokuden in
Kyoto. By 1921 popularity had grown and Prince Hirohito was so impressed
by a demonstration, it was included in his official report to the
Japanese Ministry of Education recommending it to be taught in
Universities.Prominent Karate masters, Funakoshi, Mijagi and Mabuni were
instrumental in developing the three main styles from which all others
originate, these are Shotokan, Shito Ryu and Goju Ryu. Yoshitaka
Funakoshi, son of Gichin brought later changes forming Shotokan Karate
into what is recognisable today.
Gichin Funakoshi was also a poet and wrote under the pen name
"Shoto", meaning "whispering pines". The Shotokan was the "place of
Shoto", where Gichin Funakoshi set up a dojo (training hall). Sensei
Taiji Kase who was the founder of the WKSA and now SRKHIA, trained at
the Shotokan with Yoshitaka Funakoshi. Sensei Steve Cattle who founded
the ESA, in turn, was a student of Sensei Kase.
Yoshitaka Funakoshi (1906 - 1945)
The development of modern day Shotokan, can be in the most part,
accredited to Gichin Funakoshi's third son, Yoshitaka. It is Yoshitaka's
influence that has resulted in the karate that Shotokan exponents
practice today. Yoshitaka is known to have developed longer, deeper
stances to create more strength, his kicks were more dynamic and the
attacking techniques were developed even further.
Around 1930, Yoshitaka took over the running of his father's main dojo
in Japan. Yoshitaka was instrumental in introducing many more katas to
the Shotokan system which he had learned from Sensei Azato. Yoshitaka
was ill, however, and was told when he was a boy that he would not live
beyond his twenties due to tuberculosis. However, through hard training
he lived into his forties.
Yoshitaka taught at the Shotokan dojo until 1944/45 but by 1945 he
was seriously ill and much of the teaching was carried out by Genshin
Hironishi. Without a doubt from 1932/33 until 1945, Yoshitaka had an
enormous influence on the way Shotokan karate developed. However when he
died, Gichin Funakoshi had to come out of "retirement" to take over
from where his son had left off, to oversee the training at the