THE FATHER OF SHOTOKAN KARATE
Gichin Funakoshi (1868 – 1957)
was the creator of Shotokan karate, perhaps the most widely known style of karate, and is referred to as the ‘Father of modern karate.’ Following the teachings of Anko Itosu, he was one of the Okinawan karate masters who introduced karate to the Japanese mainland in 1921. Gichin Funakoshi taught karate at various Japanese universities and became honorary head of the Japan Karate Association upon its establishment in 1949.
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, Shoto, which means “pine waves” or “wind in the pines”. 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. Kan means training hall, or house, thus Shotokan referred to the “house of Shoto”. This name was coined by Funakoshi’s students when they posted a sign reading “Shoto kan” above the entrance of the hall at which Funakoshi taught.
Through his famous words, “karate ni sente nashi” meaning” there is no first attack in Karate’ and “karate wa kunshi no bugei”, meaning “karate is the martial art of intelligent people”, karate has now become a standard requirement for many to develop their own good character and improved physical and mental skills.
The 20 Precepts of Funakoshi
- Karate-do begins and ends with bowing.
- There is no first strike in karate.
- Karate stands on the side of justice.
- First know yourself, then know others.
- Mentality over technique.
- The heart must be set free.
- Calamity springs from carelessness.
- Karate goes beyond the dojo.
- Karate is a lifelong pursuit.
- Apply the way of karate to all things. Therein lies its beauty.
- Karate is like boiling water; without heat, it returns to its tepid state.
- Do not think of wining. Think, rather, of not losing.
- Make adjustments according to your opponent.
- The outcome of a battle depends on how one handles emptiness and fullness (weakness and strength).
- Think of hands and feet as swords.
- When you step beyond your own gate, you face a million enemies.
- Formal stances are for beginners; later, one stands naturally.
- Perform prescribed sets of techniques exactly; actual combat is another matter.
- Do not forget the employment of withdrawal of power, the extension or contraction of the body, the swift or leisurely application of technique.
- Be constantly mindful, diligent, and resourceful, in your pursuit of the Way.