A Touch of History
There are many types of Oriental fighting arts, and some can be traced back over 2,000 years. For various historical and geographical reasons the Japanese Island of Okinawa, halfway between Japan and Formosa, came into contact with many of these fighting arts, especially those of China. Many of the features from these arts were added to a native Okinawa fighting art. In 1609 the Japanese invaded Okinawa and banned the use and carrying of weapons, so the warrior-class secretly trained themselves in unarmed self-defence, using and improving the ancient techniques. Since they were preparing to fight armed men, they developed techniques which could dispose of the opponent with one technique, even if he was wearing samurai armour. The secrecy was imperative since punishment for even practicing a martial art could be extreme.
Thus ‘Modern Day Karate’ is the outcome of centuries of interchange between China, the Ryukyus and Japan. It only recently came to be openly taught to the public, first in Okinawa and later in Japan. During 1917 and 1922 the late Gichin Funakoshi, who was then a Professor at the Okinawa Teachers College, was invited to lecture at an exhibition of traditional martial arts sponsored by the Ministry of Education. The demonstration was so successful that he stayed on in Tokyo to teach Karate at various universities and the Kodokan, Home of Judo, until he was able to establish the Shotokan Dojo in 1936 from which the name of the style originated. The name “Shotokan” is derived from Master Funakoshi’s nickname or pen name, “Shoto” combined with “kan”, which is the Japanese word for school. Today the name “Shotokan” applies to the type of Karate as taught originally by Master Funakoshi. By 1935 karate clubs were established at most of the leading universities in Japan. The Japan Karate Association (JKA) was established in May 1949 with Sensei Funakoshi appointed as honorary Chief Instructor.
Master Gichin Funakoshi was instructed in the art by Masters (Ankō) Azato, (1828-1906) and Master (Ankō) Itosu (1831-1915). Master Azato was the son of a Tonichi, from one of the two highest classes of the Okinawan society. He was advisor to the Okinawan King in military subjects. Master Itosu was of the keimochi (a family of position), a low-ranking Sumurai and was educated in the Chinese Classics and Calligraphy.
Interestingly, both shared the same christian name, Yasutsune, known and Anko.
The Cambridge Karate Club ‘Family Tree’:
Master Asato Anko (1827 – 1906) & Master Itosu Anko (1831 – 1915)
Funakoshi Gichin Sensei (1868 – 1957)
Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei (10th Dan 1913 – 1987)
Kanazawa Hirokazu Sensei (10th Dan 1931 – 2019)
Sensei Michael Randall (9th Dan 1944 – 2020)
Sensei Michael Nursey (9th Dan) – ESKA Chief Instructor