Karate-do is an empty-handed fighting art that has been developed through long years of history and tradition. Its ultimate goal lies not in winning or losing, but in fostering spiritual and physical strength through serious practice, and in trying to achieve an overall balance as individuals.
Students of Karate learn punching, blocking and kicking techniques along with respect and control. Benefits such as feeling fitter, being more flexible, and increasing self-confidence.
Gichin Funakoshi was born in 1868 - the year of the Meiji Restoration - in the capital of Okinawa shuri. A weak child, Funakoshi trained in karate as an exercise to improve his general health and was the only student (at that time) of Yasutsune Azato, a master of the Shorin-ryu school of Karate. By the time he had reached his twentieth birthday Funakoshi had a firm knowledge and experience of the Okinawan karate.
He eventually qualified as a Primary School teacher, was elected chairman of the Okinawan Shubokal and selected to teach karate to the members of the Japanese navy. In 1917, Funakoshi travelled to Japan and at the Hall of Ancient Virtue in Kyoto, gave the Japanese their first public demonstration of Karate-Jutsu. Four years later in 1921, Crown Prince Hirohito visited Shun and witnessed an impressive demonstration of Karate by Funakoshi, who was then 53 years old.
"The ultimate aim of the art of karate lies not in victory or defeat... but in the perfection of the characters of its participants."
- Gichin Funakoshi
Karate was introduced in earnest to Japan in 1922 when, by invitation of the Japanese Ministry of Education, Gichin Funakoshi presented a demonstration at the All Japan Athletics Exhibition in Tokyo. This event stimulated such interest that he was persuaded to stay in Tokyo and give further lectures and demonstrations following which, the popularity of Karate spread rapidly. Funakoshi had soon established the art in many Universities, military academies and even business organisations. Before long, Funakoshi opened his full-time Karate Dojo ('training hall') which was known as the 'Shotokan' or 'The House of Shoto' - Shoto being Funakoshi’s pen name used when he was writing poetry. As the study of Karate in Japan became increasingly popular, many other Martial Arts experts from Okinawa and China came to Japan to give instruction.
In April 1957, Funakoshi died at the age of eighty-eight. During the thirty years after Master Funakoshi’s death, the art of Karate spread rapidly from Japan and is now established and accepted worldwide. All manner of people train in Karate, all having their own reasons for training, be it the powerful and dynamic training, the physical and mental training, or simply as an extremely effective means of self-defence. Whatever the purpose behind training, Karate is an empty handed fighting system that requires a healthy body, a sound spirit and a refined character.
"To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the highest skill... to subdue the enemy without fighting is the highest skill."
- Gichin Funakoshi