Gichin Funakoshi (1868 - 1957), already acknowledged as the founder of modern-day karate, was reluctant to call his style a ryu (school) - he simply labelled it 'karate-do'. His teachings in the 1930s differed greatly from his contemporaries in Okinawa and from the way he himself was taught. He had a profound effect on all his students and placed much emphasis upon their mental awareness, alongside physical prowess.
The Shotokan that we are familiar with today can be credited more to Funakoshi's third son, who was affectionately called Giko. He, like Hironori Ohtsuka, founder of the Wado-ryu style of karate, believed in applying karate techniques in actual free fighting. As with all young men of that generation, he wanted to test his skills on someone else. By 1936, whenGichin Funakoshi established a Shotokan school of karate in Tokyo, he was already a 68 year old man.
Even though he had a tremendous following, a lot of the burden was now placed on his son. The young Funakoshi's style of karate was quiet different to that of his father's. The older Funakoshi had always adopted high standes; those of his son were a lot lower. His son also used full leg extension techniques such as mawashigeri (roundhouse kick) and yoko-geri (sde kick) which he is credited with introducing into karate. The kata of Shotokan are numerous and some even have derivations, which reflect the older Funakoshi's teachings. Today, Shotokan is the style of karate which is most practised throughout the world.
Reproduced with kind permission from Chris Thompson.