We are honored to carry a rare, direct lineage to early karate experts through the "father" of modern karate Gichin Funakoshi and one of his last direct pupils, Tsutomu Ohshima. Mr. Ohshima was the first person to teach karate in the US and is Shihan (chief instructor) of SKA:
Origins of karate
The eclectic beginnings of karate created a fearsome fighting art and opened the door to hidden benefits. Early practitioners quickly realized how rigorous training gave them a better understanding of themselves and others. It built on their strengths and chiseled personal weaknesses. Mastery of martial skills infused early masters with self-confidence wrapped in a humble nature.
Modern karate is rooted in the ancient traditions of Daruma, founder of Zen Buddhism in Western India. In 400 A.D., Daruma introduced Buddhism into China and incorporated physical teaching methods to teach inner strength. His methodology was so demanding disciples dropped in exhaustion. To develop greater strength and endurance, Daruma developed a more progressive training system recorded in Ekkin-Kyo, the first book on karate.
Daruma's philosophical principles were assimilated into spiritual teaching at the Shaolin Temple. Shaolin kung-fu, also known as the Shorin style of northern China, was characterized by very colorful rapid and dynamic movements. The Shokei school of southern China became known for more powerful and sober techniques.
Merchants from Okinawa returned with news about Chinese fighting methods and merged them with Okinawa-te (Okinawan hand), the island’s fighting techniques. The “te” style grew in popularity when Japanese lords banned weaponry in Okinawa, then a prefecture of Japan. The art was practiced in secret, often after dark. Okinawan masters passed down training methods and insights from generation to generation.
Early in the 20th Century a diminutive Okinawan schoolteacher brought the secretive art into the open. Master Gichin Funakoshi traveled from Okinawa to Japan at the request of the Ministry of Education. His public demonstrations launched a national interest in karate, and “dojos,” or training facilities, sprang up throughout the country.
One of Master Funakoshi’s students, Tsutomu Ohshima, introduced karate to the United States in 1956 and founded what was to become Shotokan Karate of America. SKA is now a multinational organization with thousands of practitioners. Mr. Ohshima continues to lead the organization and practice at its central facility in Santa Barbaba, California.
SKA remains committed to the original foundation of karate — developing a person’s inner strength and character through strict practice of the martial arts.
Read about Master Funakoshi »