Gichin Funakoshi, widely considered the father of modern karate, was born in 1869 in Shuri, on the island of Okinawa. Son of Tominakoshi Gisu, he was introduced to martial arts at a time when it was banned by the ruling government. In Okinawa, he secretly practiced his skills during the night.
In his early twenties, Gichin Funakoshi moved to Naha in order to teach. At that time, he met the two Senseis who would have the greatest impact on his study of karate: Master Azato and Master Itosu.
The beginning of the 20th century marked the first official demonstration of Okinawa-te (karate) in Japan. This was followed by demonstrations from a number of different masters. Karate quickly became popular and was taught in elementary schools. It was during this period that Funakoshi changed his surname from Tominakoshi. The word Funa means “one who has crossed the ocean by boat”.
With the success of his teaching, he moved to Tokyo to develop his own style of karate or Okinawa-te, which was later changed to Shotokan. In 1924, Funakoshi opened his first dojo; three years later, he established four others. Many grand masters have emerged from these four dojos, including Nakayama, Nishiyama, Kanzawa and Nagamine. These students named the dojo “Shotokan” (house of Shoto) as “Shoto” was the pen name used by Funakoshi to sign his poems. Funakoshi went on to teach karate at the University of Tokyo, and never returned to his homeland. He died on April 26, 1957 at the age of 88.