Shotokan Karate & the JKA

Originally, the martial art Te (Hand) developed in Okinawa as a system of self-defense. Due to Okinawa's frequent contact and exchange with China, it is certain that the Okinawan martial art was influenced by Chinese kempo at some point during its development. However, with only oral tradition and no formal contemporary written records, it is not certain exactly when the art called Kara-Te first emerged in Okinawa. It is believed that it developed roughly 500 years ago, when the dynastic ruler King Shoha unified the region after decades of warfare and issued an edict banning the possession of weapons on the island. According to conventional accounts, a similar law forbidding the possession or use of weapons was re-issued and enforced by the Satsuma clan, who had invaded Okinawa in the early 1600's and brought it under the rule of the Japanese Shogunate. It is believed that in this environment karate developed as a form of unarmed combat for protecting oneself and one's country, and it was taught and practiced in secret.

Then came the birth in 1868 of Okinawan karate master Gichin Funakoshi. He dedicated his whole life to promoting the values of the art, and introduced the way of karate-jutsu to Japan, where it spread across the country. By 1949, his followers had established an association for the promotion of karate; they called it Nihon Karate Kyokai, or Japan Karate Association. It was the beginning of the JKA.

Master Gichin Funakoshi

The Early Years (1949-1957)
The JKA was founded in May, 1949. By 1955, the first headquarters dojo had been built at Yotsuya in Tokyo, and the first JKA Chairman had been appointed: Saigo Kichinosuke, member of the upper house of the Japanese Diet and grandson of Saigo Takamori, one of the greatest heroes of Meiji Japan. In 1956, the JKA set up the first-ever karate specialist instructor intern (kenshusei) training program at the headquarters dojo, and accepted its first round of trainees. This was the start of the finest karate instructor training program ever created, a program never matched or even approached by any other karate organization. It is through this program that the JKA has built up its unique cadre of distinguished karate instructors, all full-time salaried professionals whose numbers are consistently maintained at roughly twenty individuals.

On April 10, 1957, the JKA became a legal entity when Japan's Ministry of Education (now Ministry of Education, Science, Sports, and Culture) officially recognized the JKA as an association of members for the pro- motion of karate and the spread and enrichment of actual karate practice. Twelve years later, another karate organization was also given legal status, based not on membership but on contribution by an individual foundation, mainly for the purpose of arranging karate matches.

Roughly two weeks after official status was granted, Supreme Master Funakoshi passed away at the age of 89. After almost a decade of milestones, it was the end of an era. But the real growth of karate was yet to come.

  • May 1949 - JKA formed under Supreme Master Gichin Funakoshi
  • Mar 20, 1955 - First JKA headquarters dojo established at Yotsuya
  • Mar 22, 1955 - Saigo Kichinosuke becomes first JKA Chairman
  • Apr 1, 1956 - First ever karate specialist instructor training program established at headquarters dojo
  • Apr 10, 1957 - JKA officially recognized by Japanese government; becomes legal entity
  • Apr 26, 1957 - Supreme Master Funakoshi passes away (age 89)

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Courtesy JKA

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