Master Gichin FUNAKOSHI is considered the founder of modern karate.
Born in Shuri, Okinawa Prefecture in 1868, he learned karate-do at an early age. Indeed, of fragile or even sickly natural constitution, it was from childhood that his parents made him study karate to overcome his handicaps. In primary school, his health improved markedly and he decided to invest in art to achieve a true mastery. Gichin Funakoshi, who was fifteen at the time, was introduced to the arts of Okinawa by his school teacher, who was none other than the son of the great master Asato. Later, Master Asato accepted him as a disciple and trained him according to the traditional spirit of practice. Gichin Funakoshi will learn the austerity of teaching, endless repetitions and the principle of learning "one kata every three years" is respected. But his great technical wealth he owes it to Master Itosu.
He was therefore fortunate to be trained by the two main successors of Sokon Matsumura
At that time, the government had outlawed the practice of Karate and training had to take place in secret.
He was a cultured man and a renowned poet. He followed very closely the moral code of his ancestors and observed the prohibitions of yesteryear. True to his principles, he considered that the Samurai should have an impeccable appearance.
Gichin Funakoshi sometimes learned the spiritual and technical aspects of Karate under their dual tutelage.
In 1902 he demonstrated to the officials of Kagoshima province.
In 1912, the Okinawa Shôbukai chose him to perform a demonstration at the Japanese Navy. He was noticed by the admiral of the Imperial fleet.
G.Funakoshi first went to Japan in 1917 to demonstrate at the Butokuden in Kyoto. He returned five years later for a second demonstration to japan's Minister of National Education. Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo, invited him to Tokyo to present his art at the Kodokan.
The success was immediate and requests for courses poured in. Sensei decides to stay in this city to teach Okinawa- He never returned to Okinawa. At this time, in 1921 the master Choku Motobu, also a former student of Itosu, already teaching this art in Japan.
Funakoshi first taught at Meisojuku, a student boarding house in a 40m2 dojo. Later he shared the dojo of Hakudo Naka-yama, a Kendo master.
In 1935, Sensei opened his own dojo (the Shotokan)in the Meijiro district. In 1936, G.Funakoshi had opened more than thirty dojos in universities and businesses. It was at this time that the katas were revised in form.
It was around 1930 that Funakoshi began to use the ideogram "Kara" meaning empty, at the expense of that, of identical pronunciation "To" denoting China. The obvious reason for this was the rise of nationalism in Japan, but, to justify himself, he will invoke one of the teachings of Zen Buddhism: "Shiki soku ze ku, Ku soku ze shiki" which can be translated by the apparent is access to the void, the void allows access to other states (of consciousness). He will add the suffix "DO" to follow the same evolution as the other Budo who had gone from Jutsu to Do. Thus was born the Karate-do, "the way of the empty hand", which replaces the To-de, "the hand of China".
In the context of the Sino-Japanese conflict, which began in 1936, Funakoshi also had to resolve to change many Kata names of Chinese origin in Japanese. This is how the Pinan became Heian.
Gichin Funakoshi passed on only fifteen katas to his students. The other katas were taught by other Okinawa masters, friends of the Sensei who came to Japan to organize seminars.
Before dying in 1957 (on April 26 precisely at the age of 86), he trained many students, including Master Tsutomu OHSHIMA.