History of Shotokan

Shotokan karate has been developed since the 1920´s. Gichin Funakoshi (1868–1957), an assistant teacher trained in Chinese and Japanese philosophy from Okinawa, and his son Yoshitaka (Gigo) Funakoshi (1906–1945) formulated the foundational principles of the. Further generations added pieces and aspects to the art. However, Gichin and Yoshitaka Funakoshi laid the foundation of Shotokan. Especially, Masatoshi Nakayama had a formative influence on modern Shotokan karate.

Origin in Okinawa

In the 19th century, karate was already an established and diversified martial art in Okinawa. Gichin Funakoshi learnt different styles of the art from different Okinawa karate masters like Anko Asato and Anko Itosu. Thus, the exposure to different styles gave him an overview about the versatility of karate.

It was in Japan that he began to form his own style of Karate based on the teachings he received in Okinawa. Especially the 1930´s became a formative period for the art. Yoshitaka (Gigo) Funakoshi had an innovative influence on the style and introduced several techniques that still distinguish the style from the Okinawa versions. For instance: Mawashi Geri (roundhouse kick).

Further Development in Mainland Japan

In 1922, Gichin Funakoshi migrated to mainland Japan. Although Okinawa had been occupied by Japan for some time, karate had not been introduced to the mainland. As a result, it was unknown back then. Other martial arts like Kendo, Aikido, and Judo already achieved a wide public recognition.

Together with other Okinawa masters he introduced the martial art to the Japanese population. At the beginning, however, was deemed as profane and provincial.

For Gichin Funakoshi Shotokan, however, consists of more than self-defense. While this had a high priority during the formation of the style. Philosophical aspects also became relevant. Thus, Funakoshi coined the style with Buddhist and East-Asian philosophy (see below). Above all, to make ones character perfect stands at the center of Shotokan teaching.

List of Authors:

Dr. Christian Tribowski