Funakoshi Gichin was an educated man and a modernist. He embraced the modern age, did not cling to the old Samurai days but did embrace the idea of Okinawans becoming Japanese.
He admired Jigoro Kano, founder of Judo for the way Kano had taken a bunch of haphardly taught Jujutsu schools and distilled them into a modern, standardised, international Budo form.
Funakoshi wanted to do the same for Karate. He wanted to take “Rentan Goshin Tode Jutsu” or “Toshu Jutsu” and make it into “Karatedo” a single, entity like Judo, with rules, a uniform and a Japanese sense of etiquette.
But Funakoshi couldn’t do it alone. And the first person who helped him was a fellow student of Itosu named Makoto Gima who also knew his way around Tokyo.
Makoto Gima was born on September 28, 1896 in Okinawa. After graduating from Okinawa Shihan Gakko (Higher Normal Scool), Mr. Gima studied in Tokyo at Shoka Daigaku (presently Hitotsubashi University). In 1912, under the guidance of both Masters Itosu and Kentsu Yabe he began to pursue Karate.
Jigoro Kano requested a karate demonstration at the Kodokan (Judo headquarters). As Master Funakoski’s assistant, Gima demonstrated the kata Tekki Shodan, while Master Funakoshi demonstrated Kanku Dai.
for the purpose of karate expansion in Japan, Mr. Gima participated as a partner with Master Funakoshi. In March 1923, Master Funakoshi promoted Makoto Gima to the rank of first degree black belt. Funakoshi himself had received a “Renshi” grade from the Dai Nippon Butokukai which implied he was at least 4th-6th Dan.
The second man we should mention is Hironori Ohtsuka.
In 1921, Ohtsuka had received the menkyo kaiden (certificate of mastery and license to teach) in Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu and in 1922, began training in Shotokan karate under Funakoshi.
By 1928, Ohtsuka was an assistant instructor in Funakoshi’s school. He also trained under Chokii Motobu – a decision which didn’t go down well with Funakoshi.
Upon hearing that Funakoshi had received a Renshi grade, Motobu remarked, “what does that make me then? a 10th Dan?”
Funakoshi considered Motobu and uneducated pleb and Motobu considered Funakoshi a weak Karateka. Motobu would often challenge Funakoshi to “friendly” bouts of pushing hands and wrestling drills in order to humiliate him.
In 1930, Funakoshi established an association named Dai-Nihon Karate-do Kenkyukai to promote communication and information exchange among people who study karate-do.
The Kenkyukai eventually became Shotokai, and in 1939, Funakoshi built the first Shotokan dojo (training hall) in Tokyo. Makoto Gima also began to refer to his art as Shoto Ryu. But we should note that Funakoshi himself never referred to his art as Shotokai, Shotokan or Shoto Ryu. He called himself Shoto as a nickname but only ever wanted his art to be called “Karatedo” in the way that Jigoro Kano only referred to Judo not “Kano Ryu Judo.”
Another early student of Funakoshi’s was Minoru Mochizuki, later founder of Yoseikan, and the only Budoka considered to have mastered Judo, Aikido, Karate, Kendo, Iaido and Kenjutsu. It is possible Mochizuki received a Karate lesson as early as 1924 since his Judo teach Toku Sanpo was Okinawan. We might suggest that an Okinawan martial artist would have been very likely to have known at least a little Karate.
In the 1920s another Okinawan began teaching in Japan, he was Kenwa Mabuni. Like Funakoshi and Motobu he was also a student of Itosu. If we can say anything about Mabuni it was that he was a walking directory of kata. Studying almost every style on Okinawa, under Itosu, Higaonna, Aragaki and Gokenki he may have known upwards of 70 kata. Even Funakoshi sent his own sons to train with Mabuni to learn new kata (the Aragaki ones) since Funakoshi only knew in the region of about 12.
Funakoshi’s art was beginning to be known as Shoto Ryu (much to his dismay), Chojun Miyagi’s Naha Te based art was now called Goju Ryu (via his Japanese representative Gogen Yamaguchi), Hironori Ohtsuka’s mixture of Jujutsu and Karate was now called Wado Ryu and Kenwa Mabuni’s mixture of Itosu and Higaonna styles was now called Shito Ryu. Minoru Mochizuki would later follow with Yoseikan Ryu, Kanbun Uechi with Uechi Ryu and so on.
However this was mostly happening in Japan. Karate was very much still thriving in Okinawa. Men like Hanashiro Chomo (Shorin Ryu), Chojun Miyagi (Goju Ryu) and Choki Motobu (Motobu Ryu) saw what was happening in Japan and it would seem their views were mixed.
On one side, they didn’t seem to appreciate Funakoshi and Mabuni standardising Karate and making it popular. On the other side…. they wanted in.
In 1936, a local newspaper in Okinawa held a meeting of the island’s leading Karate masters.
Chomo Hanashiro (Shorin Ryu senior student of Itosu)
Kyan Chotoku (Tomari Te student of Matsumora and Itosu)
Choki Motobu (Tomari Te student of Matsumora, Itosu and Matsumura)
Chojun Miyagi (Goju Ryu. Student of Higaonna)
Juhatsu Kyoda (To-on Ryu. Student of Higaonna)
Choshin Chibana (Shorin Ryu student of Itosu)
Shimpan Gusukuma (Shorin Ryu student of Itosu. Not to be confused with earlier Gusukuma)
Genwa Nakasone (representing Kanken Toyama – more on him later)
Nakasone remarked that the instructors in Tokyo (ie Funakoshi) were calling Toshu Jutsu (also pronounced Toshu Jutsu or Karate Jutsu) “Karate” (empty hand rather than Chinese Hand) and he thought that was a good idea.
Hanashiro Chomo, concured saying lots of people just called it Te anyway.
Chojun Miyagi stated he called it Chinese Hand but saw no problem changing, considering Jujutsu and Hakuda had changed to Judo.
Kyoda however felt most Okinawans would oppose calling it by a new name and felt more research was needed. But Chomo said he himself had used “empty hand” as early as 1905.
Gizaburo Furukawa, Supervisor of Physical Education of Okinawa Prefecture, stated that he thought Okinawan Karate should be unified, saying: “There are a lot of Ryu or styles in karate now. I think we have to unify them at any cost. I hear there are small differences between Shuri style karate and Naha style karate. I think both styles should be unified and we should make Kata of Japanese Karate-do. In the old days, we had about 200 styles of Kendo (= swordsmanship), but now they have been unified and we have the standard Kata of Japanese Kendo. I think karate would become popular all over the country if we had the unified Kata. For example, we can newly establish ten Kata as Japanese Karate. The name of each Kata should be changed into Japanese, such as Junan-No-Kata (soft and stretch kata), Kogeki-No-Kata (= offensive kata) and so on.”
Obviously this idea did not exactly catch on…
Miyagi said he agreed with some things, such as a standardised uniform, but didn’t just want to invent new kata, saying: “As to karate clothes, we also would like to make karate uniform soon as we often have problems. As for terminology of karate, I think we will have to control it in the future. I am also advocating it, and I have been making new technical words and promoting them. Regarding Kata, I think traditional Kata should be preserved as old or classic Kata.”
Shortly after this meeting new styles of Karate emerged in Okinawa along with the already strong ones like Goju Ryu and To-on Ryu.
Chosin Chibana called his style Shorin Ryu, basing it entirely on Itosu’s teachings. The characters Shorin can also be read Kobayashi.
Shoshin Nagamine, a student of Choki Motobu and Chotoku Kyan also called his art Shorin Ryu, but used the syllable Sho (Matsu) rather than Sho (Ko) in order to pay homage to Matsumura and Matsumora. Therefore this school is also called Matsubayashi Ryu.
Therefore among the original Karate styles and their founders were, in no particular order:
Goju Ryu (Chojun Miyagi. Largely based on Naha Te and White Crane)
To-On Ryu (Kyoda. Largely based on Naha Te)
Ryuei Ryu (Norisato. Largely based on Naha Te)
Shoto Ryu (Funakoshi and Gima. Largely based on Shuri Te and Tomari Te)
Kobayashi Ryu (Chosin Chibana. Largely based on Shuri Te and Tomari Te)
Matsubayashi Ryu (Shoshin Nagamine. Largely based on Motobu Ryu and Tomari Te)
Wado Ryu (Hironori Ohtsuka. Largely based on Shoto Ryu and Jujutsu)
Yoseikan Ryu (Minoru Mochizuki. Largely based on Shoto Ryu, Aikido and Judo)
Uechi Ryu (Kanbun Uechi. Largely based on Naha Te and Pangainoon)
Shudokan (Kanken Toyama. Largely based on Itosu, Higaonna and other arts)
There were also notable derivative styles, such as Kyokushin (largely a mix of Shotokan and Goju Ryu) and Shukokai (originally Chojiro Tani’s branch of Shito Ryu) as well as Malaysian Budokan which was developed by Chew Choo Soot, a student of Takamizawa whose main teacher was Kanken Toyama.
Ironically two styles that came later were founded by descendants of Sokon Matsumura. They were Chito Ryu, founded by Tsuyoshi Chitose and Matsumura Orthodox Shorin Ryu, founded by Hohan Soken.
There were other martial arts of course arriving later in Okinawa and Japan which resembled Karate, including Shorinji Kempo, Taikiken and Akio Kinjo’s Jukendo, but the above are the main arts from which other styles developed.
While the likes of Gichin Funakoshi and Mabuni were pushing Karate on the “mainland”, in Okinawa, many Karate looked to Kanken Toyama for leadership.
Kanken Toyama, was born in Shuri, Okinawa on the 21st year of Meiji, September 24, 1888. His given name was Kanken Oyadamari and he born into to a noble family.
In 1897 Toyama Kanken began his formal training in Toshukuken (Toshu Jutsu or Karate) under Master Itarashiki. Later, he apprenticed himself to Anko Itosu, who then became his primary teacher and was his inspirational guide. He continued studying under Itosu until Itosu’s death in 1915.
In 1907 Toyama was named Shihandai (assistant) to Itosu at the Okinawa Teacher’s College in Shuri City, and in 1914 he held a high office at the Shuri First Elementary School. Toyama was one of only two students to be granted the title of Shihanshi (protege); Gichin Funakoshi was the other to receive this title from Itosu.
In 1924 Toyama Kanken moved his family to Taiwan where he taught elementary school and studied related systems of Chinese Ch’uan Fa (Kempo). This included Taku (Hakuda), Makaitan, Rutaobai, and Ubo. Taku is one of central China’s Hotsupu (northern school) Ch’uan Fa and is further classified as Neikung Ch’uan Fa (Shorei Kempo), that is, an internal method. Makaitan and Rutaobai, which the techniques of nukite (spear hand) came, and Ubo, all belong to the Nampa (southern school) Ch’uan Fa and are external methods or Waikung Ch’uan Fa (Shorei Kempo). These later three styles hail primarily from Taiwan and Fukuden, China. Toyama sensei was also known to have studied and taught Tai Chi.
Early in 1930 Toyama moved again from Taiwan to mainland Japan and on 20 March 1930 he opened his first dojo in Tokyo. He called his dojo Shu Do Kan meaning “The Hall for the Study of the Way” (in this case the karate-way).
In 1946, Toyama Kanken, now a Dai Shihan, founded the All Japan Karate-Do Federation (AJKF). Toyama’s intention when establishing the AJKF organisation was to unify the karates of Japan and Okinawa into one governing organization, providing a forum for the exchange of ideas and technique.
Toyama’s specialties in karate-do were strong gripping methods, Useishi No Kata [Gojushiho] and the Aku Ryoku Ho of Itosu and Itarashiki and similar Chinese methods of finger and hand strengthening. He was the author of books Karate-do Taihokan and Karate-do.
In 1949 Toyama was awarded a special title of honor by the Governor of Okinawa, Mr. Shikioku Koshin. Aside from learning Shorin-Ryu from Itosu, Toyama studied and mastered other styles of karate from other notable masters of Naha-te and Tomari-te which also included Okinawan Kobudo. A few of his other teachers were Aragaki, Azato, Chibana, Oshiro, Tana, and Yabu. It is also thought that when the Korean (Ch’uan fa) master, Yoon Byung-In came to train at his gymnasium, he also studied Northern Manchurian Kwan-bop with him. Toyama therefore was also an ancestor of Taekwondo.
While Karate was taking over the world, men like Kanken Toyama meant it was in good shape in Okinawa.
Meanwhile upon Gichin Funakoshi’s death in the 1950s, his students descended into bickering factions.
In previous articles I have written about Karate (to be precise Yoseikan Ryu) arriving in Europe and Britain in 1956 so I won’t hammer that point here. Except to say the movement was led by Hiroo Mochizuki, Tetsuji Murikami, Mitsuhiro Kondo, Shoji Sugiyama, Henri Plee, and Jim Alcheik.
By the 1960s, arts like Shotokan, Shotokai, Goju Ryu, Wado Ryu, Uechi Ryu, Kyokushin, Shukokai, Budokan and their cousin arts like Tang Soo Do and Taekwondo were being taught in just about every country in the civilised world.
Shotokan was one of the most “forward at coming forward” with masters like Kanazawa, Enoeda, Shirai and Kase spreading the art throughout the world under the watchful eye of Masatoshi Nakayama.
In Britain, among the early notable and early practitioners of Karate included, in no particular order:
John Van Weenan
By the 1970s, Japan had no sense of superiority in Karate. The art had very much become an international sport. The England Karate team defeated the Japanese team. To make matters worse Karate was becoming the poor relative of Kung Fu.
However Karate had not completely become just a sport. The old ways of Karate Jutsu still existed for those who bothered to look for them.