Masatoshi Nakayama

“Mind and technique makes one”
M. Nakayama 1913 – 1987

In 1913, in Kanazawa, Japan, Masatoshi Nakayama was born to a samurai family. His grandfather was a Kendo teacher. His father was an Army Doctor and studied Judo. The family was station in Taipei, Taiwan, and it was there that the young Masatoshi spend his grammar school years. He also spend time practicing Kendo. Nakayama’s father expected that Masatoshi followed his footsteps into medicine but the future karate Master, however, had developed a strong interest in visiting and studying China. Consequently, he secretly took the entrance exams for Takushuko University in Japan, which specialized in preparing students for overseas work.

When in the University Nakayama intended continuing with his Kendo practice and due to a misreading of the schedule, he showed up at the Dojo when the karate team was practicing instead. He was fascinated by what he saw and came back for the next class to give it a try. As he would put it latter, “I completely forgot about Kendo.”

At that time, Master Funakoshi was still active in teaching and the training was grueling. Only about 10% of the students lasted more than six months. In addition to his five hours a day of karate training, Nakayama pursue an academic course in Chinese history and language. In 1933 he spend four month traveling in Manchuria and latter in 1937 was a student exchange at Peking University. He was there for the next five years and then went to work for the Chinese Government. He did not return to Japan until 1946. During the decade he spend in China, Nakayama continue to practice and teach karate, but he also studied various Chinese martial arts with a number of masters there.

Upon his return to Japan, Nakayama found that many of his karate peers, as well as the Shoto-Kan Dojo itself, had perished because of the war. He began to organize classes again and in 1949, he helped to found the Japan Karate Association, with would be incorporated as an educational body under the Ministry of Education in 1955.

Master Funakoshi was the honorary head of the new organization, he was 81 years old at that time, but it was Masatoshi Nakayama, Funakoshi hand picked successor, who was the Chief Instructor of the J.K.A. from it’s founding until his death.

Master Funakoshi was without a doubt, the driving force which brought karate to Japan and to the Japanese Educational System. However, among Master Nakayama many accomplishments were organizing the first All Japan Karate Tournament hosted by the JKA in 1957, the creation of the JKA Instructor Training Program and the spreading of karate to the rest of the world. On April 14th, 1987, Masatoshi Nakayama died at the age of 74. Until his death, he continued to travel, teach, write books about karate (over 20). He was a true master who understood and lived Master Funakoshi’s philosophies and ideas, and spend his life passing them on to the world.

Gichin Funakoshi

The Father of Modern Karate

“You must be deadly serous in training. When I say that, I do not mean that you should be reasonably diligent or moderately in earnest. I mean that your opponent must always be present in your mind, whether you sit or stand or walk or raise your arms.”
Gichin Funakoshi 1868 – 1957

Born in Naha City, Okinawa in 1868, he began to study karate at the age of 11, and was a student of two great masters at the time, Master Yasutsune Azato and Master Itosu. Funakoshi become a school teacher by profession and continued his study of karate throughout his life. By 1913 he become the Chairman of the Okinawa Shobu Kai and was also one of the first people to teach karate in the Okinawa public school system. On March 6, 1921, the Crown Prince Hirohito, who was latter to become the Emperor of Japan, visited Okinawa and Funakoshi performed a karate demonstration in his honour. Consequently Master Funakoshi was invited to demonstrate Karate in Japan. In the early spring of 1922 Master Funakoshi traveled to Tokyo to present his art at the First National Athletic Exhibition organized by the Ministry of Education.

In response of several requests of eminent groups and individuals, Master Funakoshi remained teaching and traveled throughout Japan and he would never return to live in Okinawa again. From 1922, the year of the publication of his first book, “Ryukyu Kempo” to 1935 when he published, “Karate – Do Kyokan” there were many significant changes and this was an important period for karate. Traditionally Karate used to be written with Chinese characters and meant “Chinese hand”. Master Funakoshi urges to change it and to replace it for another Kanji character that mean “empty”. The pronunciation would stay the same, but this would reflect the change in the art itself from Jutsu of Okinawa to Karate. Another reason for the change was that “empty hand” was a very apt description of the weaponless art. Also and most important, the term “empty” reflects the Zen Buddhist concept of the calm detachment that is necessary to achieve perfection in karate as well as in life.

Master Funakoshi placed great emphasis on the spiritual aspects of the art and karate took a deeper and broader meaning, so the word DO (The way) was added and become Karate-Do, literally “the way of the empty hand”. Training in Karate-Do become an education for life itself.

This karate method becomes to be known as Shotokan (the house of Shoto). Shoto was the Master’s pen name for his poetry, denoting the sound of the wing blowing trough pine trees.

As time passed, Master Funakoshi made changes to both the Katas and to his teaching methods. He taught what today are the “basic fifteen” kata of the Shotokan system: the five Heian, three Tekki, Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Jion, Empi, Gankaku, Hangetsu, and Jitte. Master Funakoshi continued to teach regularly well into his 60’s and, in his 70’s, would often sit and observe classes being taught by his son, Yoshitaka, and other instructors he had trained. On April 26th, 1957 Gichin Funakoshi died in Tokyo at 88 years of age. He produced one of the world’s most renowned instructors, Masatoshi Nakayama, whom he left to continue his teaching.

The Shotokan Code

Master Funakoshi wrote 20 guiding principles and he mandated that five of his 20 principles should be posted in all Shotokan Dojo. The clear adherence to these guiding principles distinguish Shotokan practicioners as true martial artist.

The 5 Key Principles

Hitotsu! Jinkaku kansei ni stuttomuru koto
(Seek perfection of character)

Hitotsu! Makoto no michi o mamoru koto
(Be faithful)

Hitotsu! Doryoku no seichin o yashinau koto
(Endeavor)

Hitotsu! Reigi o omonzuru koto
(Respect others)

Hitotsu! Kekki no yu o imachimuru koto
(Refrain from violent behavior)