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A Short History of Shotokan Karate

The dynamic Yoshitaka Funakoshi (1897 - 1944), son of Gichin Funakoshi, pioneer of  Shotokan Karate.

Yoshitaka, third son of Gichin Funakoshi is largely responsible for the way Shotokan Karate is practiced today. In 1935, when his father was in his fifties, Yoshitaka was given the running of the karate dojo (training hall).

Yoshitaka was young, strong and creative and helped to develop the Shotokan style. However, although he was vigorous and strong he suffered from tuberculosis.

Taiji Kase on Yoshitaka Funakoshi

"He was 38 at the time and in top physical form although seriously ill - he would have to stop in the middle of training and go to a corner of the dojo and suffer in silence. He would then come back, apologize, and train even harder. As he had been told when he was twelve years old that there was no hope of recovering from his illness, and that he would not live beyond the age of twenty he had decided to cross over to the spiritual side of karate by training without limit...and he wasn't dead. I believe that is the reason for his extraordinary mental force and technique. His face full of life, appeared to be that of a man in good health." comments by Taiji Kase.

In the Ryukyu Islands the name Okinawa referred to the main island and apart from Okinawa-te, the empty hand styles were also called karate. The written character kara means China and te means hand. However, particularly due to their past conflicts, this was not a suitable name by which to introduce a style to Japan, so Funakoshi changed the written character 'kara' to mean 'empty'; thus today karate means 'empty hand'.

The public's image of karate is mainly one of exponents breaking a whole variety of objects ranging from planks of wood to lumps of concrete. This misleading emphasis is primarily due to public demonstrations that emphasize this aspect to excite and entertain their audiences. The true essence of karate-do is reflected in master Funakoshi's words: 

"As a mirror's polished surface reflects whatever stands before it and a quiet valley carries even small sounds, so must the student of karate render his mind empty of selfishness and wickedness in an effort to react appropriately towards anything he may encounter."

Gichin Funakoshi in 1925 with a pose from the kata gankaku (chinto)

Gichin Funakoshi (1868 - 1957) the father of modern karate

Standing outside the Gichin Funakoshi memorial in Naha, Okinawa