- Feb 8, 2021
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Funakoshi, "The father of modern karate", was a traditional Okinawan master who studied with Itosu Anko in the "old ways" of toude/todi. His time predates the wearing of a gi and even the name "karate", itself. It was his efforts in popularizing this art that are responsible for all of us practicing and treasuring it today, 100 years later. But at what cost? It was Funakoshi who transformed the art by introducing it to the public schools in Okinawa, and later, Japan. To do this, as most of us know, he simplified the kata, removed many of the truly dangerous techniques, and even changed the names from the native Okinawan language (Hogan or Uchinaaguchi) to Japanese. Karate became something different and was sent on a new trajectory.
There was no cost. Funakoshi (a disciple of two of the top 10 karate-ka in Okinawa at that time i.e , Itosu & Azato, was a skilled teacher. Funakoshi's karate was above par (he wasn't the best but... his karate was of high caliber) Let me highlight he was chosen to demonstrate Karate to the crown prince/future Emperor Hirohito. Not Motobu Choki, not his older brother Choyu etc..etc.. Some have floated Funakoshi was chosen to demonstrate karate to the Prince, because he was educated and cultured. Chances are he would not have been permitted even to talk to the Prince... (at the time, one wasn't allowed to look at the Emperor i.e. the Prince's father, who was viewed at the turn of the century as a religious figure/demi god/king) Funakoshi was not going to be permitted to carry on a two way conversation. (high % the theory his education was the "why" IMO is laughable when you know your Japanese history)
Funakoshi also produced excellent Karate-ka. e.g. Gigi Funikoshi was probably the most talented Karate-ka of his age. Together with Motokuni, they produced the quality of: Nakayama, Nishiyama, Kase, who produced the likes of Ueki, Okazaki, Ohshima, Asai, Enoeda, Kanazawa, Osaka, Ozawa, Tanaka, Kagawa.
I could end post right here... these gent's karate speak for themselves
These karate-ka traveled the world subjecting themselves to peer review, competing etc...
These master have produced western karate-ka like Berteli and Hotton.. master t karate-ka themselves
Itosu Anko is the founder of the Pinan kata and it was him that introduced the kata to public schools, Funakoshi-O'Sensei facilitated only, being a teacher. Nor did Funakoshi O'Sensei simplify the Pinan kata. Later on in the late 40's early 1950s Gigo, along with Nakayama and Nishiyama and a few others would "Shotokan" or "Japanese" some of the kata.. This had as much to do with the influence of Konishi Yasuhiro 1893-1983 than anything.... Konishi Yasuhiro , a traditional Taijutsu/Jujitsu master, had a lot of influence on Gichen and Gigo. Some example: Instead of neko-ashi dachi... kokutsu dachi was employed. Kenjustu and Kendo (which at that time had grappling) was also an influence, in Ashi Sabaki as well as kumite tournamnet rules. Nor did Funakoshi remove dangerous techniques. Understand this if anything .... Funakoshi's skill met Jigoro Kano satisfaction. Both men had great respect for each other. Judo was forged by extreme competition with many jujitsu ryu. It's a safe bet, no it's a NO brainer that Jigoro Kano could have perceived if Funakoshi was lacking in skill. No one ever talks about the ban of martial arts after the War, the US occupation, the shutdown of the Dai Nippon Butokukai, then the reestablishment of sports late 40's early 50's. These are the man factors the sent "dangerous techniques" behind closed doors... not some "lack of skill or selling out" or "watering it down"... changing the terminology and nomenclature to fit the Japanese culture is hardly selling out.
There has been in the last 10 yrs or so.. In print media and on the internet.. some weird Okinawan karate history revision by some, who have attempted to down play Funakoshi's O'sensei (the father of modern karate) his contributions, or his legacy, by calling into question his skill or knowledge of karate. The names of the extremely highly skilled Karate-ka I listed above, revered Funakoshi O'sensei, there skill, and what they thought of Funakoshi should lead all but a fool to comprehend.... that the proof is in the pudding.