The History of Shotokan Karate

The Start

Everything has a beginning.

And Shotokan Karate-do is no exception.

While it was conceived on the island of Okinawa, it was in Japan that Shotokan Karate-do was truly born.

It is not my intention here, to go into the history of either Shotokan Karate, or the life of Gichin Funakoshi. There are simply far many books and web sites available where you can learn more, so this is simply a brief introduction,.

The year was 1868, near the end of the Meiji period. It was into this world that the Founder of Shotokan Karate, Gichin Funakoshi was born into a minor samurai family, the only son of a government official. Due to a premature birth he was a frail young child and as such his family did not believe that he would live a very long life.

It was due to his poor health that ultimately led his family to decide that he should begin to study of karate. Little did they know that their decision to send their son down the karate road would one day led to the creation of Shotokan Karate-do. Today the most widely practiced style of karate in the world.

While in the beginning he said that karate held little interest for him he soon found that the training had a profound effect on his heath and his wellbeing. This led him to finally take a much greater interest in his training. By the time he was an adult, no trace of that frail child remained.

Gichin Funakoshi had two primary karate teachers. His first teacher was Master Yasutsune Azato, a member of the Okinawan upper class and a well know expert, not only in karate but, also in several other martial arts. His second teacher was Master Yasutsune Itosu, who is credited with the creation of the Pinan katas, known in Shotokan, as the Heian Katas.

Both of these masters are said to have studied under the Okinawan master, Sokon “Bushi” Matsumura, himself a student of the legendary master, Tode Sakugawa.

Here are some books and web sites that offer additional information are:

Karate-Do Kyohan - The Master Text

The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate

The Essence of Karate

Karate-Do Nyumon

Remember: "Above all else, seek perfection of character".