The style of karate we practise is known as Shotokan. It is the method originally pioneered in Japan by the Okinawan Master, Gichin Funakoshi, further developed by Master Masatoshi Nakayama, who wrote and published a vast number of important books on the art. The present head of the Japan Karate Association (JKA) is Master Masaaki Ueki.

Origins of JKA Shotokan Karate

Funakoshi Sensei in his 40's
Nakayama Sensei

Gichin Funakoshi (from Okinawa, an island province south of Japan), was the first Karate master to formally introduce Karate to the Japanese mainland in 1922. He was also a school teacher and calligrapher who signed his work SHOTO. The karate system which he developed and taught in Japan became known as SHOTOKAN.

In his Shotokan school, he combined elements of the Shurite – Shorin lineage with elements of the Shorei system. Thus, his Shotokan Karate contains techniques and Kata of both of the major styles of Okinawa.

In 1945, the American Occupational Forces placed a ban upon the martial arts in Japan which was lifted in 1947. In 1948, the Japanese Karate teachers, mainly students of Gichin Funakoshi, formed the Japan Karate Association to honour Gichin Funakoshi. The Karate clubs of Keio, Hosei, Waseda, and Takushoku Universities formed the backbone of the Japan Karate Association.

Masatoshi Nakayama, a graduate of Takushoku University, who had learnt under Gichin Funakoshi, as well as studying Chinese fighting arts in Beijing, was appointed Chief Instructor of the Japan Karate Association, known as JKA.

In 1957, JKA held its first All-Japan Karate Championships. Under the leadership of Chief Instructor Nakayama, JKA, in the late 1950s established its first proper headquarters in the hall of a small film studio situated in a Tokyo suburb call Yotsuya. Most of JKA’s master instructors who are now famous worldwide, taught, trained, and were graded at the Head Dojo in Yotsuya: Sensei Nakayama (deceased), Nishiyama, Okazaki, Sugiura, Itoh, Sugarno, Shoji, Kase, Mikami, Mori, Yaguchi, Kanazawa, Asai, Enoeda, Ueki, Tanaka, Shirai, Okamoto, Miyazaki, Y. Takahashi, Kisaka, and Stan Schmidt (South Africa). Stan Schmidt was the first and only non-Japanese permitted to train in the instructor class with the abovementioned masters in the original Yotsuya Honbu Dojo in 1963.

By 1966, JKA had relocated its headquarters to the old Kodokan Building (previously the headquarters of Japanese Judo) situated in Suidobashi. Some of the famous instructors who commenced their Japanese training at the Suidobashi headquarters were Osaka, Yahara, Takashina, Yano, Mabuchi, Oishi, Iida, Tabata, S. Takahashi, Hayakawa, Ochi, plus the following pioneer South Africans who have served on the South African JKA Karate Association Shihankai: Eddie Dorey, Ken Wittstock, Robert Ferriere, Norman Robinson, Nigel Jackson, and Derrick Geyer.

Thus, the start of JKA’s Golden Era of training began where small groups of young talented black-belts from various Japanese Universities were invited to undergo the very strenuous Kenchusei (student instructor) training programme which takes place daily at JKA headquarters. The training in this JKA Instructors’ Class was not like any other training in the world. It was tough, dangerous, and extremely demanding – physically and mentally. But it produced in a nutshell, lethal gentlemen.

In 1974, JKA again moved its headquarters to the suburb of Ebisu, closer to Master Nakayama’s house and private dojo, Hoitsukan. Some of the famous instructors who commenced their Japanese training at the Ebisu headquarters were Kaneko, Fukami, Sakata, Tatetsu, Nakamura, Tsuchii, Shina, Ogura, Imamura, Imura, Omura, Mori, Kasuya, Yamamoto, Kawawada, Kurasako, Naka, and the South Africans who have served in the SA JKA Shihankai: Dave Friend, Johan Roets, David Nteso, Keith Geyer, Allen Fourie, and Malcolm Dorfman.