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Shotokan Karate Academy
Gichin Funakoshi

Gichin Funakoshi

Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan Karate was born in Nov 10, 1868 in Yamakawa, Shuri, Okinawa.


He had trained in both of the popular styles of Okinawa karate of the time:

  1. Shōrin-ryū (Shuri-te) with masters:

    • Anko Azato (1827 – 1906)

    • Anko Itosu  (1831 – 11 March 1915)

  2. Shōrei-ryū (Naha-te )


After years of study in both styles, master Funakoshi created a simpler system that combined the ideals of the two. He never named this style, however, always referring to it simply as "Karate."


“Karate” was then brought by Sensei Funakoshi to Japan, when he was invited in 1917 to perform at a physical education exhibition sponsored by the Ministry of Education. He was asked back several times in the following years, including by Japan’s emperor in 1922, at which time Master Funakoshi decided to teach and promote his art in Japan.


Master Funakoshi changed the names of some of the kata in an effort to make the Okinawan kata names easier to pronounce in the Japanese dialect.

In 1924, Funakoshi adopted the Kyū / Dan rank system and the uniform (keikogi) developed by Kano Jigoro, the founder of Judo. This system uses colored belts (obi) to indicate rank. Originally, karate had only three belt colors: white, brown, and black (with ranks within each). The original belt system, still used by many Shotokan schools, is:


  • 8th rising to 4th kyū: white

  • 3rd rising to 1st kyū: brown

  • 1st and higher dan: black


In 1930, Funakoshi established an association named Dai-Nihon Karate-do Kenkyukai to promote communication and information exchange among people who study karate-do. In 1939, Funakoshi built the first Shōtōkan Dojo (training hall) in Tokyo.


In 1949 Funakoshi's students created the Japan Karate Association (JKA), with Funakoshi as the honorary head of the organization. However in practice this organization was led by Masatoshi Nakayama. The JKA began formalizing Funakoshi's teachings. Funakoshi was not supportive of all of the changes that the JKA eventually made to his karate style.


Master Funakoshi passed away in April 26, 1957 at the age of 88.


Famous Students:

Isao Obata, Shigeru Egami, Teruyuki Okazaki, Taiji Kase,Tetsuhiko Asai, Masatoshi Nakayama, Hirokazu KanazawaHidetaka Nishiyama, Tsutomu Ohshima, Taiji Kase, Mitsusuke Harada.




  • Karate-Do Kyohan (1973): The Master Text

  • The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate(1975), The Spiritual Legacy of the Master

  • Karate-Do: My Way of Life. (1981) [1975]

  • Karate-Do Nyumon: The Master Introductory Text  (1994) [1988]

  • Karate Jutsu: The Original Teachings of Master Funakoshi  (2001)

  • The Essence of Karate (2010)

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