History of Shotokan Karate
The Origin of Karate
Karate as a direct translation from Japanese means “empty hand” and despite what martial arts films like Karate Kid and Enter the Dragon may portray, it is not about breaking planks of wood or chopping bricks in half.
Karate exists in various forms today, but the history of Karate goes back way beyond what we practice nowadays. The origin of Karate in its simplest form can be dated back to some 2000 years ago to India where Buddhist monks, who were forbidden by their religion to use weapons, used Karate as a mode of self defence.
The Origin of Shotokan
At Kokoro Karate we teach traditional Shotokan Karate, which unlike many westernised versions of Karate remains rooted in a strong martial arts tradition. It is more than just the mastering of defensive techniques, the training is both mentally and physically challenging, and teaches respect, discipline, confidence and self control.
The founder of the Shotokan Karate we practice and teach today is widely recognised as Gichin Funakoshi – a Japanese poet and former high school teacher from Okinawa (a small island off Japan). In fact Shotokan is actually named after Funakoshi’s pen name, Shoto, which means “waving pines”. Kan means training hall, or house, thus Shotokan literally refers to the “house of Shoto”.
The Founder: Gichin Funakoshi
Funakoshi was born in 1868 and started Karate lessons at primary school, although it was in his teenage years he began training more seriously under Yasutsune Azato and Ankō Itosu, having been a schoolmate of Azato’s son.
When the study of Karate was legalised and subsequently became mandatory in senior schools in Okinawa in 1901, Funakoshi began his teaching, aged 33 years old. He went on to teach the then reigning King of Okinawa.
In the 1920s Funakoshi moved to mainland Japan to spread his teaching: his method of Karate being concentrated on control and discipline. In fact Funakoshi himself did all he could throughout his life to avoid being involved in a physical fight, and only once used his Karate against another person during World War II when a thief attempted to attack him. It is well documented that he even regretted not being able to avoid using his Karate in this instance.
Following continued requests from America, in the 1950s the now aging Funakoshi sent a number of his finest students to the US to spread his teachings. One of these students included Masatoshi Nakayama.
The International Master: Nakayama
Born in 1913 Nakayama was instrumental in popularising Shotokan worldwide. Upon entering Takushoku University in 1932, Nakayama immediately joined the university’s karate club, studying under Funakoshi and one of the master’s sons, Yoshitaka Funakoshi.
Following his studies in China he returned to Japan, and along with his former fellow university practitioners, he formed the JKA: the Japanese Karate Association. JKA dojos began appearing across Japan widening the Shotokan Karate principles of Funakoshi.
It was during the growth of the JKA that Nakayama introduced the first match system. It is under this system that the adaptation of Kata and Kumite were introduced, proving to be hugely successful and Shotokan Karate began growing in popularity. Not only in Japan and America, but worldwide!
Nakayama valued the spiritual aspects of karate that his teacher, Funakoshi espoused—especially the virtue of modesty and the spirit of harmony. Nakayama enjoyed teaching and he continually reminded his students to keep in mind that “the way of karate we pursue is a bare-handed martial art which we practice with an unwavering heart in a state of emptiness; it is a way of developing the personality.”
In his later years he summarized all his techniques and philosophy in his book Dynamic Karate which you can find on the recommended reading list on the Useful Resource page. This was also broken down and published as an 11 volume set.
Chief Instructor of Europe: Enoeda
A shining student of Nakayama from Takoshoku University and university club captain, was Keinosuki Enoeda. Excelling at competitions and becoming one of the finest instructors Enoeda became known as the Shotokan “Tora” meaning tiger. Nakayama had used this term to describe Enoeda’s tremendous fighting spirit, awe inspiring skill and dominating ability after he achieved his goal of becoming JKA All-Japan champion in 1963.
Continuing the policy of the JKA to send the best instructors throughout the world to introduce Shotokan worldwide, Enoeda arrived in England on 20th April 1965. In 1971, Sensei Enoeda was made the JKA’s chief instructor for Europe and having resided in London for some years following his time in the north, 1973 saw the opening of Sensei’s full-time Marshall Street Dojo.
1973 also saw Sensei Enoeda perform a demonstration of Karate on live television for the BBC. This was the first British TV programme ever dedicated to Karate. Enoeda also published many well renowned books, some of which also appear on our recommended reading list.
It was during his time teaching at the Red Triangle club in Liverpool that our chief instructor, Sensei Conroy, 8th dan, began training under Enoeda. In 1968, Sensei Enoeda was appointed as Chief Instructor of the KUGB (Karate Union of Great Britain) following the retirement of Sensei Kanazawa, another former student of Nakayama. Enoeda remained in this position until his death in 2003.
Chief Instructor of the UK: Sensei Conroy
Sensei Conroy started Shotokan Karate training in the mid 1960’s and in 1967 joined the KUGB. He began teaching Karate in Leicester in 1973 whilst still continuing his training under Sensei Enoeda, including a weeks course in Crystal palace, during which time he was graded by Sensei Enoeda.
During the 1980s and 1990s Sensei Conroy continued his instruction and training, visiting Japan and training with Fujita Sensei and Tsura Sensei. Some of his students were selected to represent Great Britain. Subsequently, Conroy Karate was founded, under which Kokoro Karate Dojo, formerly Kibworth Karate, was formed by Sensei Tim Wood and Sempai Jack Wood.
Kokoro Karate Dojo, formerly Kibworth Karate
The Kokoro Karate Dojo was formed initially as Kibworth Karate in June 7th 2015 by Sensei Wood and prides itself on continuing the teaching and principles of Shotokan Karate, handed down by the great Japanese masters of Karate right back to its founder, Sensei Funakoshi.
Below you can see an outline of our genealogy and the history that Kokoro Karate Dojo is proudly continuing.