The History of Karate

According to legend, the evolution of Karate began over a thousand years ago, possibly as early as the 5th century B.C. when Bodhidharma, a Buddhist Monk arrived in Shaolin-si, China from India and taught Zen Buddhism. He also introduced a set of exercises designed to strengthen the mind and body. Bodhidharma’s teachings later became the basis for the majority of Chinese martial arts. In truth, the origins of Karate appear to be somewhat obscure and little is known about the early development of Karate until it appeared in Okinawa. Sometime between the years 1784 and 1903, the term karate replaced that of Te. This new name reflected the synthesis of the native Okinawan martial arts of Te with the influence of the Chinese Martial Arts the Okinawans had been exposed to.



Karate-do was modified and transformed into a way of life by Master Gichin Funakoshi in 1905. Before this, it was just a group of techniques that permitted self-defense without weapons. Weapons bans, imposed on the Okinawans at various points thoughout their history, encouraged the refinement of empty-hand techniques and, for this reason, was trained in secret until modern times. Further refinement came with the influence of other martial arts brought by nobles and trade merchants to the island. Born in 1868, Funakoshi began to study karate at the age of 11, and was a student of the two greatest masters of the time, Yasutsune Itosu and Yasutsune Azato.

The first public demonstration of karate in Japan was in 1917 by Funakoshi, at the Butoku-den in Kyoto. This, and subsequent demonstrations, greatly impressed many Japanese, including the Crown-Prince Hirohito, who was very enthusiastic about the Okinawan art. In 1922, having mastered two major styles of Karate, Funakoshi, then President of the Okinawa association of the Spirit of Martial Arts, was chosen to demonstrate Karate at the first National Athletic Exhibition in Tokyo. This led to the introduction of the ancient martial art to the rest of Japan. Karate

History of Butokukan Karate

Soke Yoichi Nakachi

Butokukan Karate traces its roots to Okinawa. In about 1846 Anko Itosu began studying karate from Soshu “Bushi” Matsumura. Later Itosu became the teacher and his style was Itosu-ryu. Okinawan karate came to Japan through Gichin Funakoshi, a student of Itosu. Funakoshi is often referred to as the father of modern karate. He founded the Shotokan system. He began teaching at the Butokukai Military Arts Academy in Kyoto in 1922. Other instructors from Okinawa were also invited to teach at the Butokukai including Kenwa Mabuni.

Mabuni, a student under Itosu and Matsumura, was teaching in Kyoto and Osaka, Japan, by 1929. He was the founder of the Shito-ryu style. Mabuni was the primary instructor of Yun Pon Gun. In the early 1940s, Yun Pon Gun took over a group near Kushimoto, Japan, called Shimpu-ren. Yoichi Nakachi became a student of Shimpu-ren and at the age of 16 (1948) he was promoted to Nidan (second degree).

In 1950, Yun Pon Gun left Kushimoto and left Sensei Nakachi in charge of Shimpu-ren. In 1959, Nakachi moved to Seattle, WA, and attended the University of Washington. He started a Shimpu-ren dojo in the University District of Seattle. In 1961, Nakachi transferred to Olympic College in Bremerton, WA. His Seattle dojo had moved to the downtown YMCA and he started a second dojo at a health club. Nakachi was asked to teach karate at Olympic College.

Robert Hill began studying under Nakachi at Olympic College. Nakachi taught for about two more years in Seattle. Robert Hill was promoted to Shodan (first degree) in June 1963. That same year, Master Nakachi renamed Shimpu-ren to Butokukan, changed the crest, and changed the katas (forms). The name Butokukan was chosen to honor the former school in Kyoto. It was Master Nakachi’s desire to incorporate some of the fluid movements of the Chinese styles, softening the traditional hard style of the Okinawans.

In 1965, Master Nakachi returned to Japan. He promoted Sensei Hill to Nidan and left him in charge of the newly-formed Butokukan Karate.

After returning to Japan, Master Nakachi worked full time teaching swimming in Tokyo. He never returned to the States because he was full time caregiver for his wife who was very ill. Master Nakachi died in October 1998 and is interred in Kushimoto, his boyhood home.

Robert Hill is now Judan (tenth degree) and is the Grandmaster (Soke) of the Japan American Butokukan Karate Association. He currently resides in Gig Harbor, WA.