Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957) was the founder of the Shotokan-ryu style. Funakoshi was born in the Okinawan capital of Shuri into a family of the Shizoku class (upper class). Master Gichin Funakoshi was instructed by Yasutsune Azato and Yasutsune Itosu. He was responsible for introducing Karate to Japan in the 1920's. He was also responsible for changing (or defining, depending how you look at it) the meaning of the word Karate-do.

He changed the 'kara' symbol in Karate from the old symbol, meaning 'China', to the new symbol, meaning 'empty'.

In his book Karate-Do Nyumon, he writes: "Just as an empty valley can carry a resounding voice, so must the person who follows the Way of Karate make himself void or empty by ridding himself or all self-centeredness and greed. Make yourself empty within, but upright without. This is the real meaning of the 'empty' in Karate."

"...Once one has perceived the infinity of forms and elements in the universe, one returns to emptiness, to the void. In other words, emptiness is none other than the true form of the universe. There are various fighting techniques - yarijutsu ['spear techniques'] and bojitsu ['stick techniques'], for example - and forms of martial arts, such as judo and kendo. All share an essential principle with Karate, but Karate alone explicitly states the basis of all martial arts. Form equals emptiness; emptiness equals form. The use of the character [for 'empty'] in Karate is indeed based on this principle."

The result of this change is that Karate, which formerly translated loosely to 'Chinese hand', now translates to '[the way of the] empty hand'.

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Original author unknown.

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