History Of Shotokan Karate
The history of Shotokan karate begins where many Asian martial arts begin, with the history of kung fu. Bodhidharma Daruma, the Indian founder of Zen Buddhism, took his philosophy to China, eventually settling at the Shaolin temple. Kung fu began to be developed in 500 B.C. as a progressive way of training the monks physically and spiritually. The Shaolin monks eventually spread Bodhidharma's teachings elsewhere. Japan eagerly accepted them.
The history of karate itself begins on the island of Okinawa as a blending of different kung fu styles. Collectively, the Okinawan martial arts were violent and efficient but also filled with a philosophy bent, an influence from Chinese culture. A ban on weaponry by ruler Sho Shin in 1477 further increased the importance and development of unarmed fighting techniques, eventually leading to Shotokan karate.
Mainland Japan invaded Okinawa in 1608 and banned martial arts entirely. But this didn't stop people from practicing in secret. Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan karate, was born in 1868. Because the ban was still on while he was growing up, Funakoshi trained with his teachers during the cover of nightfall. He developed a mastery of all the Okinawan martial arts styles and began teaching a synthesis of them as karate, a name he coined.
The martial arts ban was lifted in 1902 on the recommendation of Shintaro Ogawa, Commissioner of Education. He wanted them to be taught as physical education at Okinawa's first middle school. Funakoshi could now practice and teach out in the open. He was invited to demonstrate karate in Tokyo, Japan in 1922 at the First National Athletic Exhibition. Afterwards, he relocated to Japan to spread his karate teachings.
The name Shotokan Karate comes from the pen name Funakoshi used to write poetry. He started the Japan Karate Association in 1948. When he died in 1957, Masatoshi Nakayama took over and changed the way Shotokan karate is taught. He developed the instructor program that's used today, allowing for different abilities to be taught more easily, as well as bringing a competitive edge to the martial art with the match system. Nakayama, who died in 1987, is an important figure in karate history because he greatly helped to popularize karate the world over.