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The roots of martial arts are frequently obscured by the traditions of secrecy among those who originated the practices. Development of a system of unarmed self-defense by people who were forbidden to use weapons, the early masters and practitioners revealed their secrets only to a chosen, faithful group of students. Martial arts began in defferent forms in different places. They eventually spread throughout the oriental world through travel and commerce, taking new forms as they evolved. One of the places they eventually spread to was Okinawa.

During the 18th century, the different fighting arts of the Okinawan people were synthsized with other forms to create the self defense systems called te (empty hand). At the turn of the 19th century, there were three primary styles often practiced in Okinawa. They were Shuri-te, Naha-te and Tomari-te. These styles eventually changed into the modern day styles of Goju-ryu, Shorin-ryu, Shito-ryu and Shotokan.

Gichin Funakoshi was born in Shuri, Okinawa in 1868. During his youth, began to study under Master Azato. Master Azato was a scholarly man who emphasized karate for the development of mind and body. Mr Funakoshi ganed a deep understanding of bushido (the warrior ideal stressing self-improvement through awareness and study) from Master Azato. It was done secretly, however, because at that time, the Okinawan governent had banned the practice of

karate. Eventually, in 1902, the government sanctioned karate as a legal martial art and lifted its' restrictions on the practice. Mr Funakoshi, who was working as a schoolteacher, began to teach his art and give demostrations all throughout Okinawa.

In 1922, he went to Japan, at the invitation of Jogoro Kano (the founder of Judo), when the Japanese Ministry of Education held a martial arts demonstration at the Kodokan. His demonstration was so powerful that he was deluged with requests to further demonstrate and teach his art. He never returned to Okinawa. He opened a dojo in a dormitory lecture hall ans soon was teaching at a number of local universities. His room at the dormitory was adjacent to the door. During the day when the students were in class, he cleaned the dormortory. At night he taught karate.

Master Funakoshi also visited and taught at other karate clubs. He visited one, the Shichi-Tokudo, every other day until 1927 when three of the leaders decided that practice was not enough and introduced Jiyu Kumite (free fighting). Funakoshi considered this action destructive and belittling to karate and, when he could not discourage it, ceased attending the school. Funakoshi prohibited sports sparring at his schools. The first sanctioned competitions did not appear until after his death.

Funakoshi set out to make karate more accessible to the public. He revised, distilled, and streamlined the components of karate training, especially the kata, in order to make karate simple enough for everybody to learn. Funakoshi believed it would take a lifetime to truly master just a handful of kata, but he actually knew and taught more than 40 different kata.

In 1935, Funakoshi's supporters raised enough money to build the first free-standing karate dojo in Japan. It was completed and opened the following year. The dojo name was Shoto-kan. Kan means "building", and Shoto means "pine waves". This described the sound of the wind in the pines around the structure. Master Funakoshi's style of karate is now known as Shotokan Karate. For Shoto-Kan, he chose the 16 kata he believed were best suited for physical strength and self-defense. He firmly believed kata was an art, rather than a sport and believed students should spend a minimum of three years learning each kata before advancing.

The school was damaged by bombing during World War II, but after the war it was repaired and the instructors regrouped. In 1949 they established the Nihon Karate Kyokai (the Japan Karate Association) and named Masatoshi Nakayama as Chief Instructor. Under his leadership, the organization flourished.

Gichin Funakoshi passed away in April of 1957 at age 89. His students carry on his spirit and teachings. The JKA has over 100,000 active students and over 300 affiliated karate clubs worldwide. In later years, many of Mr. Funakoshi's students from the JKA would leave to form new organization, among them Shotokan Karate International, and the Shotokai.

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WUKF World Champions 2016

A Hearty congratulations to Brian Hall and Hayley Just on becoming WUKF World Champions 2016

Clearly a force to be reckoned with.

Best wishes from all at Gakushuin

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