Gichin Funakoshi
Hirokazu Kanazawa
What is karate?

Karate was developed on the small island of Okinawa, just south of Japan, from a variety of influences, but especially the Chinese combat systems that came with trade and political connections.

On Okinawa, three main strands of karate (at the time meaning Chinese Hand, but sometimes just referred to as 'te') developed and intermingled around the cities of Shuri, Naha and Tomari, all within just a few miles of each other.

For most of its history, karate was taught privately on a person-to-person basis, until the early twentieth century when it was introduced to the school system. From here it was exported to mainland Japan and the styles we know today came into being. By this time karate had come to mean 'empty hand' to aid its introduction to the Japanese.

Shotokan was developed by some of the students of Gichin Funakoshi (the 'father of modern karate') in Japan, who was largely responsible for bringing Okinawan karate into the public eye. Shotokan has its roots in Shorin Ryu and shares strong connections with Shotokai and Wado-Ryu, among others (the creation of Taekwondo was strongly influenced by Shotokan). Funakoshi's karate came mainly through the masters Matsumura, Asato and Itosu.

From Japan, initially through the American air bases on the mainland and in Okinawa, karate has spread to all the corners of the earth. It came to Britain in 1957 through Vernon Bell, who eventually invited the first JKA Shotokan instructors to the country in the mid-60s (these were Kanazawa, Enoeda, Kase and Shirai).

While it is always developing, and new schools spring up from old styles, the form is very successful and remains fairly consistent. To watch a person practice karate is to see a deep-rooted history brought to life.

Karate is
Not to hit someone
Nor to be defeated
It is to avoid trouble

- Konishi Yasuhiro