Shotokan Karate - Legends

Shotokan Karate is one of most popular Martial Arts styles there is and with it are many legends that will always be remembered. There are many Shotokan Karate Legends, and as such listing all of them would require a whole library itself, so we have decided to list the most influential figures.


Top legends of Shotokan Karate


Karate LegendsGichin Funakoshi (1868-1957)

If you had to name one person as being the most influential figure for Karate in both Japan and the rest of the world, it has to be this man. This master (meijin) was born in Shuri, Okinawa, an island off Japan. Funakoshi introduced Karate to Japan, where it enjoys being the most popular Martial Art. Funakoshi’s nickname was ‘Shoto’ and hence his style was named Shotokan. More can be read about this on our Shotokan history page.


Gigo Funakoshi (1906-1945)

Karate LegendAlso known as Yoshitake, the third son of Gichin, he is widely credited for having a huge influential effect on Karate. Whereas his father is known for transforming Karate from a mere fighting technique to a philosophical martial do (way of life), Gigo developed the style immensely with encouragement from his father. Developing new techbiques separated Japanese Karate-do from his native Okinawan art, giving it a completely different and unique style and look.

Even though his father is known as being the creator of Karate as we know it today, Gigo is infact the technical creator of most of the techniques, kata and forms. The changes he brought can be seen in the contrast between the ancient art of To-de, which emphasized the use and development of the upper extremities and Shotokan which used new leg techniques such as mawashi geri, yoko geri kekomi, yoko geri keage, fumikomi, ura mawashi geri and ushiro geri. He used leg techniques which are carried out with a much higher knee-lift than in previous styles with an emphasis on using the hips. He also emphasized the oi tsuki and gyaku tsuki.


Shotokan LegendTaiji Kase (1829-1999)

Kase is well known for bringing Karate to the Western world. He began his karate training in 1944, however he had already obtained much experience in other styles such as kendo, aikido and judo He gained his 2nd dan in judo in that same year. When he was 15, after meeting with Gichin Funakoshi, Sensei Kase was taken on as a student at the Shotokan dojo. During his time at the Shotokan, Sensei Kase was taught by many different instructors, including Gigo (above/Yoshitaka Funakoshi). Sensei Kase joined the JKA (Japanese Karate Association) and in 1964, he decided to leave Japan to teach in countries all around the world. These included South Africa, the USA, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and in 1967, France. Where he settled permanently in Paris. Due to his contribution to Karate and bringing this style to many countries of the world, he will always be remembered as a Shotokan Karate legend.


Other Karate Legends

We are contantly looking to update our Karate legends page, if you know of person you feel should be listed here, please contact us. All contributions are very welcome.


Gichin and Giogo Funakoshi

Shotokan Karate, as it is quiet obvious by the name itself, this is a style of martial art developed by father and son duo, Gichin Funakoshi and Giogo Funakoshi. They evolved this form of martial art very successfully. They helped this style in its popularity by its public demonstration. Shotokan Karate is basically a fusion of 2 styles of martial art i.e. Shorei-ryu and Shorin-ryu. Initially, the founders did not name the form of martial art they had created. However, Shotokan evolved by concatenating two words namely Shoto and Kan, Shoto was an unofficial name of Funakoshi, which he used, while writing of poems and when he had to give any messages to students. Japanese meaning of the word Kan is “hall” or “house”. This appended name were written by Funakoshi’s students on the wall of the hall, where he taught his students the art of Shotokan Karate and hence evolved the name of Shotokan Karate, which is now known all over the world.

The training of Shotokan Karate involves huge amount of concentration and the ability to use the power efficiently. The whole training process is basically divide into 3 parts – namely kata, kihon and kumite, among these kihon and kata steps require long and deep stance, this helps in providing powerful movements with efficient stability and this process overall helps in strengthening of legs. In the initial stages of the training, there is more stress on the use of power rather than motions such as grapple and catch etc. There are many levels of training in Shotokan Karate, with continuous practice, trainers move to a higher level. The 5 basic philosophical rules are faithful, perfection in character, desire to excel, ignoring violent demeanor and always having respect for other people.

Shotokan Karate is mainly known for its effectiveness as well as simplicity while fighting. The techniques involved in Shotokan Karate demands proper regulation of body dynamics. Undoubtedly, there must be proper co-ordination and concentration when power application is used on the opponent. Apart from a type of martial art it is also a kind of discipline generating routine, if one practices regularly. This is because proper and regular practice of Shotokan Karate provides an all around fitness to the personality of an individual. It helps in developing the confidence and co-ordination that ultimately makes you fit physically as well as mentally. The popularity of Shotokan Karate led to its emergence as a very popular sport.

Teruyuki Okazaki

Shotokan Karate as a sport has been selected for a future Olympic event. Its popularity can be just understood by the fact that there is an organization that is working to preserve this form of martial art. International Shotokan Karate Federation (ISKF) was founded by Master Teruyuki Okazaki and he was a student of the founder Funakoshi. ISKF has always maintained its traditions to carry forward the martial art in an excellent way.

Lyoto Carvalho Machida

There have been many legends in the field of Shotokan Karate who have gained all the name and fame and now even they have become synonymous to this famous martial art style. Such a legend is Lyoto Carvalho Machida. He is formerly a champion of the UFC Light Heavy Weight Championship. In his career as a Shotokan Karate fighter so far, he has defeated some popular and well established players. He got his interest in Shotokan Karate from his father who was trained in Shotokan Karate. He had started learning Shotokan Karate at the age of 3, and as it is said well begun is half completed, same seems to be the case with Lyoto Carvalho Machida. After his initial training in Shotokan Karate he also did his training in Thailand Wrestling Muay Thai. He started his winning career against Sam Hoger and won in undoubtedly in the debut match. Since then he has never looked back and has continued to grow up as a mature fighter in Shotokan Karate. He has been successful due to his commitment and dedication to Shotokan Karate not only as a sport but as a true learner at every step.

Overall, Shotokan Karate is especially for the individuals who can take it up seriously, because there is so much to learn which includes not only the fighting skills but also the discipline that it imparts on the learner. It develops whole personality of the learner. The contribution of Gichin Funakoshi and Giogo Funakoshi by founding and developing this art is indefinable and it completes an honor when Shotokan Karate is being considered to include in the great Olympic Games.


decker dude's picture

I feel that John Van Weenan, MBE, 7th Dan and Chief Instructor: Traditional Association of Shotokan Karate, is worthy of mention here. I have not practised this art for about 24 years through one thing and another, but i have had a copy of Sensei Van Weenans book, ''The beginners Guide To Shotokan Karate'' by my side for almost all those 24 years. I would like to think that i have picked up a few pointers here and there from this astounding book over the years, but do realise that there is no substitute for a good Club and that there is certainly no substitute for a good and knowledgeable Sensei. Sensei Van Weenan was also the Author of Three other books, ''Advanced Shotokan Karate Kata'', ''Task Force Albania-an odyssey'', and ''Task Force Albania-The Kosovo connection''. This man shows so much humility and dedication to so many people far and wide, and from many walks of life, he truely has found ''The Way''.
Another practitioner of this noble and great art of Shotokan Karate is none other than the late Master ''Masatoshi Nakayama'' Sensei. A student of Funakoshi Gichin, Nakayama Sensei carried on the teachings and traditions of his teacher Funakoshi's beloved Shotokan Karate and attained the 9th degree Black Belt before his Death in 1987. I think myself that these two men ARE in fact Legends in their own lifetimes in their chosen Maritial Art, and therefore two more to add to the list!