Master Funakoshi is widely recognized as the creator of Shotokan and "father of modern karate".
Following in the teachings of Anko Itosu, he was one of the Okinawan karate masters who introduced karate to the Japanese mainland in 1921.
In 1922 the Japanese Ministry of Education invited him to Tokyo to give a karate demonstration.
Keio University became the first Japanese university to open a dojo; by 1932, all Japanese universities had dojo.
He is credited with promoting the development of the university karate clubs (including those at Keio, Waseda, Hitotsubashi (Shodai), Takushoku, Chuo, Gakushuin, and Hosei) and popularizing karate through a series of public demonstrations.

(November 10, 1868 – April 26, 1957)

Early Life

Gichin Funakoshi was born in Shuri, Okinawa in the year of the Meiji Restoration around 1868 to ethnic Okinawan parents and originally had the family name Tominakoshi.
After entering primary school he became close friends with the son of Ankō Asato, a karate and kendo master who would soon become his first karate teacher.
Stiff opposition of Funakoshi's family to the abolition of the Japanese "topknot" meant he would be ineligible to pursue his goal of attending medical school.
Being trained in both classical Chinese and Japanese philosophies and teachings, Funakoshi became an assistant teacher in Okinawa.
During this time, his relations with the Asato family grew and he began nightly travels to the Asato family residence to receive karate instruction from Ankō Asato.
In addition to being a karate master, Funakoshi was an avid poet and philosopher who would reportedly go for long walks in the forest where he would meditate and write his poetry.
By the late 1910s, Funakoshi had many students, of which a few were deemed capable of passing on their master's teachings.
Continuing his effort to garner wide-spread interest in Okinawan karate, Funakoshi ventured to mainland Japan in 1922.

The Creation of Shotokan Karate

In 1936, Funakoshi built the first Shōtōkan dojo in Tokyo.
He changed the name of karate to mean "empty hand" instead of "China hand" (as referred to in Okinawa); the two words sound the same in Japanese, but are written differently.
It was his belief that using the term for "Chinese" would mislead people into thinking karate originated with Chinese boxing. Karate had borrowed many aspects from Chinese boxing which the original creators say as being positive, as they had done with other martial arts.
In addition, Funakoshi argued in his autobiography that a philosophical evaluation of the use of "empty" seemed to fit as it implied a way which was not tethered to any other physical object.
Funakoshi's take on the use of kata was reported to have caused some recoil in Okinawa, prompting Funakoshi to remain in Tokyo indefinitely.
His extended stay eventually led to the creation of the Japan Karate Association (JKA) in 1955 with Funakoshi as the chief instructor.
Funakoshi was not supportive of all of the changes that the organization eventually made to his karate style.
He remained in Tokyo until his death in 1957.
After World War II, Funakoshi's surviving students formalized his teachings.


Funakoshi published several books on karate including his autobiography, Karate-Do: My Way of Life.
His legacy, however, rests in a document containing his philosophies of karate training now referred to as the niju kun, or "twenty principles".
These rules are the premise of training for all Shotokan karateka and are published in a work titled The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate.
Within this book, Funakoshi lays out 20 rules by which students of karate and urged to abide in an effort to "become better human beings" Funakoshi's Karate-Do Kyohan "The Master Text" remains his most detailed publication, containing sections on history, basics and kata and kumite.
The famous Shotokan Tiger by Hoan adorns the hardback cover.