Every time a
butterfly flaps its wings, a breeze is felt the other side of the world.
For every action comes re-action, a principle held dear in Karate-Do.
Just as insignificant as a butterfly, or as important as a Politician,
your actions affect others. We at the Shotokan Way want to help your actions become amplified and heard by the world. The 4th September is an important date, but to appreciate where our karate is going, we need to understand where it has come from.
The history of Martial Arts is
shrouded in mystery, legend and secrecy. It is generally believed that
the first ever form of a martial art was created over 1000 years ago by a
monk named Bodhidharma. He was the founder of Zen Buddhism, and
eventually took his teachings to China.
He travelled to the Shoalin
Temple where he began teaching the monks that resided there. At first
they were physically unable to keep up with his teachings, and so
Bodhidharma devised a training system to develop the monks both
physically and spiritually. The Shaolin Monks became known as the best
fighters in China and the system by which they were taught became known
as Shaolin boxing. The Shaolin Monks travelled from China to spread the
word of Bodhidharma and his fighting system. Zen was readily accepted in
One of the most devout
followers of the Buddhist religion was Sho Shin. His father was King Sho
En, ruler of Okinawa, and Sho Shin became King at the age of just 13 in
1477. Due to his devout religious beliefs, on of the first things he
did during his reign was to ban all weapons. This ban was continued by
the Satsuma clan. Those who studied martial arts now had to do so
without any form of weaponry.
In 1609 Japan invaded Okinawa,
and further to the ban on weaponry, placed a ban upon anyone doing
martial arts, and so martial arts training became shrouded in secrecy.
Over the next 300 years in
Okinawa - during the long reigning ban on martial arts - three main
branches of self defence became evident. These were Shuri-te, Naha-te
and Tomari-te, named after the Okinawan towns within which they
developed. They were known collectively as Okinawa-Te or Tode.
Eventually these developed into
two mains styles, Shorin-ryu which developed from Shuri and Tomari and
Shorei-ryu which came from Naha. It is believed that Shorin-ryu was best
for smaller men, with a light and fast style. Shorei-ryu was suited to
the bigger, more powerful man.
Gichin Funakoshi was born in
1868 and began studying martial arts at a very young age, under Anko
Itosu and Yasutsune Azato. The ban on martial arts still stood, and so
Funakoshi would often have lessons with his instructors at night time,
so not to be discovered.
Tode, the martial arts of
Okinawa could also be pronounced ‘kara’ and Funakoshi gave this the
alternative meaning of ‘empty’ and so his training became known as
The ban on martial arts was
finally lifted in 1902 when Shintaro Ogawa, the Commissioner of
Education recommended that martial arts should be included in physical
education in the first middle school of Okinawa.
This meant that Funakoshi could
continue his training in without fear of discovery, and he could now
spread the word of his karate.
Funakoshi was invited to Japan in 1922 to give a demonstration of Karate at the First National Athletic Exhibition in Tokyo,
which was organised by the Ministry of Education. After this
demonstration he decided to remain in Japan to spread the word.
It is thanks to his efforts that Karate became part of the school curriculum in Japan.
The style name Shotokan was
given to Funakoshi’s karate by his students. Shoto was Funakoshi’s pen
name as a writer, meaning ‘pine waves’ and Kan means ‘school’ so those
who trained at Funakoshi’s ‘school’ became known as the Shotokan.
In 1948 Funakoshi established the Japan Karate Association and he remained the head of the JKA until his death in 1957.
Nakayama was a senior student of the JKA and took over the role of head of the Association.
Nakayama began studying Shotokan under Funakoshi Sensei, at Takushoku University in 1932.
Now Nakayama is
held responsible for the worldwide development of Shotokan Karate.
Nakayama developed a way of logically teaching karate. He decided that
it was best to devise a way of teaching different abilities easily. He developed the instructor programme and karate’s first ever match system.
It is thanks to Nakayama
Sensei that karate is as successful a martial art as it is today.
Nakayama Sensei passed away in 1987, at the age of 74
The current Shotokan that
we know has developed since through so many great people, and will
continue to develop with the help of those teaching today. It will be
the current generation of Instructors that will forge the path for
future Shotokan Karate. Everyone has an effect. Every time you kiai, a
whisper will be heard the other side of the world.