What is Shotokan Karate?
Karate means “empty hand”, and Karate-do translates to “the way of Karate”. Shotokan Karate is a weaponless martial art that is founded on the basic techniques of punching, striking, kicking and blocking, yet there is a deeper aspect to serious Karate training which deals with character development. Shotokan Karate is a way for an individual to realize greater potential and expand the limits of that individual’s physical and mental capabilities. Karate in an excellent, time-proven method of personal development. Shotokan Karate is a traditional Japanese Martial Art founded by Master Gichin Funakoshi. Shotokan Karate remains firmly rooted in a strong martial arts tradition, emphasizing lifetime training for a healthy mind and body, rather than strictly as a sport.
Master Gichin Funakoshi, Shoto – (November 10, 1868 – April 26, 1957)
Gichin Funakoshi is known today as the father of modern day karate. He was born in 1868 in Okinawa. As a boy he studied karate under two masters, Master Itosu and Master Azato. In those days a master only took on a few students and the practice of the martial arts was still kept secret. When Funakoshi grew up he became a school teacher, training in karate all the while with both masters.
It was during this time, Okinawan karate emerged from its seclusion to become a legally sanctioned martial art. Funakoshi, knowing the huge benefits of the study of karate, introduced karate into the Okinawan public school system. In 1922, the Japanese Ministry of Education held a martial arts demonstration in Tokyo and Funakoshi was asked to introduce Okinawan karate to Japan.
Funakoshi did not get the chance to return to Okinawa. His demonstration made a powerful impression on the Japanese public; Funakoshi was soon besieged with requests to further demonstrate and teach his art. Eventually Funakoshi had enough students to open the first karate dojo in Japan. The dojo was called ‘Shotokan’ (‘Kan’ means ‘building’, ‘Shoto’ means ‘pine waves’, which was Funakoshi’s pen name). In 1955, Funakoshi established the Japan Karate Association. Funakoshi served as chief instructor of the JKA until his death in 1957. Since then, Shotokan students have continued his spirit and teachings.
Gichin Funakoshi had a vision to bring karate from the backyards of Okinawa to mainstream Japan. He wanted to see the benefits of karate training spread across the country. He worked with the masters in Okinawa to change the name to “Karate” as we know it today. The original characters translated to “Chinese Hands” and he change it to Kara (empty) hands. He also change the name from “Karate Just” (fighting) to Karate-Do (the way). He spread his teachings across the universities of Japan. He also realized he need to rename the kata’s to Japanese names instead of the original Okinawa names. So the “Pinan” kata’s became the “Heian” (Peaceful) katas and so on.
Master Nakayama Masatoshi (1913-1987) (excerpt from The Shotokan Way)
Today, Karate is practiced the entire world over. It is estimated that in ever country in the world you will find a Shotokan Karate dojo. Funakoshi Sensei is repsonsible for bringing Karate from Okinawa to Japan, but Nakayama Sensei and his team are responsible for the globalisation of karate.
Masatoshi Nakayama, Former Chief Instructor of the JKA – Japan Karate Association was born on April 13th 1913, and came from a Martial Arts background, and it wasn’t unnatural that he would gravitate towards the Martial Arts since his ancestors were renown practitioners of kenjutsu (the art of swordsmanship). Upon entering Takushoku University in 1932, Nakayama Sensei came under the instruction of the Funakoshi’s, and it wasn’t long until he made the decision to decided his life to karate, deciding to travel to China to further study and train.
The Second World War however had left the dojo in ruins and upon his return to Japan in 1946, Nakayama helped rebuild and in 1949 he helped establish the JKA Japan Karate Association and in 1955 a hombu dojo was built at Yotsuya in Tokyo, which then led to sub branches being open widely thoughout Japan.
With a group of karateka, Nakayama helped develop the teaching methods of shotokan karate, which saw the art being scientifically studied and understood, laying the foundations of an understanding that developed the art further. He established an instructor’s programme, which was and remains incredibly successful, and it is because of this programme the art was spread so effectively throughout the world, reaching even the smallest of countries.
Along with others he also developed the first ever contest for shotokan karate, which was a major success, which in its own way helped to propagate shotokan throughout the world, bringing limelight to a Martial Art. Also, he made vital contributions such as the ‘Dynamic Karate’ textbook, considered the bible of the art, along with the ‘best karate’ series, which is the definitive kata collection, which today, decades later are the primary reference for many regardless of group.
Nakayama sensei is, with an exception of Funakoshi Sensei, possibly the most important and successful men to have promoted karate. He was devoted to the art, and dedicated his life to its promotion and instruction. Until his death in 1987 at the age of 74, he taught and toured the world teaching seminars, spreading karate in his charasmatic way.
If one man must be credited for why you can enter any nation in the world and practice shotokan karate, it would have to be Nakayama. He picked up where Funakoshi left off, and left a legacy that few will match.
Kancho Takemasa Okuyama
Kancho Okuyama is a pioneer of Canadian karate and around the world. A rare 10th degree blackbelt and world renowned artist. He has been teaching and training for over 6 decades. He is Kyoshi Peter’s long time Sensei, mentor and a genius in the world of Karate.
Master Okuyama began to train in Japan at the age of 7. In line with the family tradition, he practised sumo and judo. At the aged of 13 he started to learn karate from master Kinjo from Okinawa. In 1960 he started to study at the Takushoku University, which became famous all around the world because of training the best Shotokan karate instructors. He studied political science and foreign trade, regularly training karate with masters: Tabata, Hamanaka and Tsuyama. In 1966 he arrived in the USA to continue his studies and started to train under the instruction of master Takayuki Kubota. Having recognised him as the greatest of the encountered karate masters he remains faithful to him up to this day. In 1970 he moved to Canada, where he a leader in and Shotokan karate. In 1992 master Kubota awarded him with the Kancho title and 8 dan degree in karate. Apart from his karate activity, Kancho Takemasa Okuyama is a well-known businessman – president of Hachi-O-Kai World Budo Federation and an artist who occupies himself with traditional painting and playing the Japanese flute.