Gichin Funakoshi (船越 義珍 Funakoshi Gichin, November 10 1868 – April 26 1957) was the creator of Shotokan karate and is attributed as being the "father of modern karate. Following in the teachings of Anko Itosu, he was one of the Okinawan karate masters who introduced karate to the Japanese mainland in 1921.
Stiff opposition of Funakoshi's family to the abolition of the Japanese "topknot" meant he would be ineligible to pursue his goal of attending medical school. Being trained in both classical Chinese and Japanese philosophies and teachings, Funakoshi became an assistant teacher in Okinawa. During this time, his relations with the Asato family grew and he began nightly travels to the Asato family residence to receive karate instruction from Ankō Asato.
Shotokan is named after Funakoshi's pen name, Shoto, which means "pine waves" or "wind in the pines". In addition to being a karate master, Funakoshi was an avid poet and philosopher who would reportedly go for long walks in the forest where he would meditate and write his poetry. Kan means training hall, or house, thus Shotokan referred to the "house of Shoto". This name was coined by Funakoshi's students when they posted a sign above the entrance of the hall at which Funakoshi taught reading "Shoto kan".
By the late 1910s, Funakoshi had many students, of which a few were deemed capable of passing on their master's teachings. Continuing his effort to garner wide-spread interest in Okinawan karate, Funakoshi ventured to mainland Japan in 1922.
Funakoshi's take on the use of kata was reported to have caused some recoil in Okinawa, prompting Funakoshi to remain in Tokyo indefinitely. His extended stay eventually led to the creation of the Japan Karate Association (JKA) in 1955 with Funakoshi as the chief instructor. Funakoshi was not supportive of all of the changes that the organization eventually made to his karate style. He remained in Tokyo until his death in 1957. After World War II, Funakoshi's surviving students formalized his teachings.
Towards the latter half of his life, Master Funakoshi became extremely dissatisfied with the direction in which the system he had originally created had been developed. All elements of true karate style pressure point striking were slowly removed and emphasis on fighting and training with kata devolved to little more than endurance training, with little understanding of kata's meaning. Funakoshi made a stringent plea to the collective body of karate masters in Okinawa and Japan to cease referring to him as the "Father" of modern Karate, as he had come to despise the title; the karate now being taught was not the system he had tried to create and he wanted neither part of, nor credit for it. And although the other masters agreed, it was too late, as it had spread too far for them to control. To this day his reputation and moniker as the Father of Modern Karate has remained.
A memorial to Gichin Funakoshi was erected by the Shotokai at Engaku-ji, a temple in Kamakura, on December 1 1968. Designed by Kenji Ogata the monument features calligraphy by Funakoshi and Sōgen Asahina (1891-1979), chief priest of the temple which reads Karate ni sente nashi (There is no first attack in karate), the second of Funakoshi’s Twenty Precepts. To the right of Funakoshi’s precept is a copy of the poem he wrote on his way to Japan in 1922.
A second stone features an inscription by Nobuhide Ohama and reads: