Perhaps the most widely known karate-ka of modern times, Funakoshi Gichin began his study under Anko Azato while still in grade school. Soon after, he began his study of Shorin-Ryu under Itosu Anko. Having also studied Shorei-Ryu, Funakoshi began teaching Karate in the early 1900s, and by 1910 had many students. In 1922, he ventured to mainland Japan to introduce Karate. In 1930, he established an association named Dai Nihon Karate-Do Kenkyukai. This organization still exists today under the name Shotokai and is the official keeper of Funakoshi’s lineage. In 1939, Funakoshi built the first Shotokan dojo in Tokyo.
Due to the distaste of the Chinese in Japan, Funakoshi changed the first character of Karate 唐手, which up until now represented “China Hand,” to the homonym Karate 空手, which was translated as “Empty Hand” in order for his art to be widely accepted and studied. He also added the suffix Do, signifying that it was not just a means of combat but a way of life. Funakoshi’s interpretation, however, caused recoil in Okinawa, prompting him to stay in Tokyo indefinitely. In 1949, Funakoshi’s students started the Japan Karate Association with Funakoshi as the figurative head of the organization, although its daily operations were governed by Masatoshi Nakayama. Upon Funakoshi’s death in 1957, his students began calling his style of karate Shotokan.
Toyama Kanken's karate training began at the age of nine in 1897 with Itarashiki, although he studied with Itosu Anko for 18 years, until the latter's death in 1915. In 1907 Toyama was appointed "shihandai" (assistant master) to Itosu at the Okinawa Teacher's College, and he and Funakoshi were the only two students to be granted the title of shihanshi (protégé). Some people believe that Toyama outranked Funakoshi, who did not have the rank of shihandai.
In 1924 Toyama moved his family to Taiwan, where he taught in an elementary school and studied Chinese Ch'uan Fa, which included Taku, Makaitan, Rutaobai, and Ubo. In early 1930 he returned to Japan and on March 20, 1930, he opened his first dojo in Tokyo. He named his dojo Shudokn meaning "the Hall for the Study of the Karate Way." Toyama taught what he had learnt from Itosu and the Ch'uan Fa and did not claim to have originated a new style of karate. In 1946, Toyama founded the All Japan Karate-Do Federation (AJKF) with the intention of unifying the various forms of karate of Japan and Okinawa under one governing organization. As Toyama did not view the Shudokan as a distinct style of karate, but merely a place for training, he did not appoint a successor. Thus, the organization he founded fragmented after his death in 1966.
All Japan Karate-Do Federation
Tang Soo Do
Lee Won Kuk
When the Japanese occupied Korea prior to World War II, the Japanese outlawed many aspects of Korean culture including Korean martial arts. For years, Koreans were brought up as Japanese and as such, often traveled to mainland Japan. There, many took up the study of Karate-Do. When the Japanese occupation of Korea ended in 1945, many Koreans returned home. Those who studied martial arts in Japan began opening schools. These individual schools were called Kwans, and there were originally nine* set up between 1944 and 1953. The first Kwan to open up was the Chung do Kwan, founded by Lee Won Kuk in 1944, taught at the Yung Shin school gym, located in Okchun-dong, Seodaemun District in Seoul. This was the first documented use of the term Tang Soo Do.
Depending on who they studied with in Japan, each master referred to their art as either Tang Soo Do, which is the Korean pronunciation of the original kanji for Karate-Do 唐手道 or Kong Soo Do, which is the Korean pronunciation of the kanji for Karate-Do 空手道 as introduced by Funakoshi Gichin. Another term used was Kwon Bup, the Korean pronunciation of Kempo 拳法. As Korean culture regained strength, kanji was used less in writings in favor of hangul, native Korean. As such, the arts were written as Tang Soo Do 당수도 (can also be Romanized as Dang Soo Do) and Kong Soo Do 공수도 respectively.
In 1952, the Korean government ordered all the Kwans to unify under one common name. In 1955, the name Taekwondo was coined by Choi Hong Hi (1918-2002). Taekwondo was chosen because of its resemblance to Taekkyeon, an ancient Korean martial art, and the Koreans were attempting to remove any Japanese influence. The Korea Taekwondo Association was founded in 1960, and replaced by the Kukkiwon in 1972 as the World Headquarters of Taekwondo.
One Kwan that did not unify with the others was the Moo Duk Kwan, founded by Hwang Kee in 1945. Kee originally referred to his art as Hwa Soo Do before adopting the term Tang Soo Do. Kee had studied Taijiquan under Yang Kuk Jin, providing a unique base for his Moo Duk Kwan that separated it from other Tang Soo Do Kwans, which were primarily rooted in Karate-Do. The Moo Duk Kwan did evolve over time, incorporating many Shotokan kata which Kee learned through cross training with various martial artists. However, after numerous political rifts in the Moo Duk Kwan, Kee dropped the use of Tang Soo Do and coined the term Soo Bahk Do to describe his art, in honor of the Subak warriors of ancient Korea.
*Some people consider only the first five Kwans to be truly original, because they were founded prior to the Korean War in 1950. We include all nine Kwans that were established prior to the unification under the name "Taekwondo."