Master Gichin Funakoshi is widely considered the primary "father" of modern
karate due to his efforts to introduce the Okinawan art to mainland Japan, from
where it spread to the rest of the world. Born in 1868, he began to study karate at
the age of 11, and was a student of the two greatest masters of the time, Azato and
Itosu. He grew so proficient that he was initiated into all the major styles of karate
in Okinawa at the time. For Master Funakoshi, the word karate eventually took on a
deeper and broader meaning through the synthesis of these many methods,
becoming karate-do, literally the "way of karate," or of the empty hand. Training in
karate-do became an education for life itself.
Master Funakoshi was the first expert to introduce karate-do to mainland Japan. In
1916 he gave a demonstration to the Butokuden in Kyoto, Japan, which at that time
was the official center of all martial arts. On March 6, 1921, the Crown Prince, who
was later to become the Emperor of Japan, visited Okinawa and Master Funakoshi
was asked to demonstrate karate.
In the early spring of 1922 Master Funakoshi traveled to Tokyo to present his art at
the First National Athletic Exhibition in Tokyo organized by the Ministry of
Education. He was strongly urged by several eminent groups and individuals to
remain in Japan, and indeed he never did return to Okinawa.Master Funakoshi
taught only one method, a total discipline, which represented a synthesis of
Okinawan karate styles. This method became known as Shotokan, literally the clan
or the house of Shoto, which was the Master's pen name for his poetry, denoting the
sound of the wind blowing through pines.