Masters

Gichin Funakoshi

Father of modern Karate Gichin Funakoshi

Supreme Master Funakoshi Gichin (1868-1957) was born on Nov 10, 1868 in Yamakawa, Shuri, Okinawa Prefecture.

As over the years he pursued his training and continuously developed his remarkable skills, Master Funakoshi became chairman of the Okinawa Martial Arts Society, as well as an instructor at the Okinawa Teacher’s School. Then in 1922, when he was 54 years old, he introduced Okinawan karate-jutsu at the first Ministry of Education (now Ministry of Education, Science, Sports, and Culture)-sponsored Physical Education Exhibition. This introduction, the first ever public display of karate-jutsu in Japan, was a stunning success. And the previously unknown martial artist Funakoshi Gichin rose to instant fame throughout the Japanese world of martial arts.

Excited by the opportunity to further promote the martial art that he had done so much to introduce to Japan, Master Funakoshi subsequently began teaching it at Tokyo’s Meiseijuku, a dormitory for Okinawan students there. In 1922, he published a book entitled “Ryukyu Kempo Karate.” It was the first formal exposition in Japan on the art of karate-jutsu. Not only were its contents fresh and novel, it was also beautifully written, and immediately created an unprecedented karate boom.

As the popularity of karate-jutsu began to spread, Master Funakoshi produced the first ever “Dan Ranking Certification” in April, 1924.

Around the same time, with the encouragement of his teacher of Buddhism, Abbot Furukawa Gyodo of Enkakuji Temple in Kamakura, Master Funakoshi started practicing Zen. He contemplated the well-known Buddhist teaching that says “form is emptiness and emptiness is form.” He began to see the relevance of that teaching to his martial art, and ultimately changed the characters for karate from kara + te (“Chinese” + “hand”) to kara + te (“empty” + “hand”).

At last the way of karate had come into its own, and was gaining popularity all across Japan. The number of people wishing to begin training was growing daily—so much so that it became difficult to find a place for them to practice. So in 1939 Master Funakoshi established the “Shotokan” dojo, which he built at his own expense. (“Shoto” was the literary first name he used when doing calligraphy and writing poetry. “Shoto” means “Pine Waves,” and refers to the sound of wind blowing through the pines, which resembles the sound of ocean waves.)

On April 10, 1957, the Ministry of Education gave official recognition to the JKA, and it became a legal entity. A mere sixteen days later, at the age of 89, Master Funakoshi passed away. A large public memorial service was held at the Ryogoku Kokugikan (Ryogoku National Sumo Hall), attended by more than 20,000 people, including many famous names who came to pay their respects.

Masatoshi Nakayama

Master Masatoshi Nakayama

Master Nakayama Masatoshi (1913-1987) Carrying On the Spirit and Tradition of Funakoshi Gichin's Work Master Nakayama Masatoshi had martial arts in his blood. Born in April 1913 in Yamaguchi Prefecture, he was a descendant of the Sanada clan, in the Nagano region. His ancestors were highly-skilled instructors of kenjutsu (the art of swordsmanship).

Upon entering Takushoku University in 1932, Master Nakayama immedi- ately joined the university’s karate club, studying under Master Funakoshi Gichin and one of the master’s sons, Funakoshi Yoshitaka. Deciding to devote his life to karate, he traveled to China after graduation for further study and training.

When he returned from China in May 1946, he got together with fellow Shotokan practitioners from his university days to revive the Shotokan karate tradition with Funakoshi Gichin as Supreme Master. Together, in 1949, they established the Japan Karate Association. In 1955 a head- quarters dojo was built at Yotsuya in Tokyo. It spurred the building of JKA branch dojo all across Japan.

Master Nakayama also invented karate’s first match system: the first ever JKA All Japan Karate Championship was held at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium in October, 1957—and was attended by so many participants and spectators that the venue was filled to capacity. His adaptation of kata and kumite for the match system was a huge success; the 5th JKA All Japan Karate Championship in 1961 was even attended by His Majesty the Crown Prince of Japan (now His Majesty the Emperor of Japan). Karate was growing increasingly popular throughout the world.

Source: Japan Karate Association (www.jka.or.jp)

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