Shotokan karate is a style of karate, developed from various martial arts by Gichin Funakoshi (1868–1957) and his son Gigo (Yoshitaka) Funakoshi (1906–1945). Gichin was born in Okinawa and is widely credited with popularizing karate through a series of public demonstrations, and by promoting the development of university karate clubs, including those at Keio, Waseda, Hitotsubashi (Shodai), Takushoku, Chuo, Gakushuin, and Hosei.
Gichin Funakoshi had trained in both of the popular styles of Okinawan karate of the time: Shorei-ryu and Shorin-ryu. After years of study in both styles, Funakoshi created a simpler style that combined the ideals of the two. He never named his style, however, always referring to it simply as “karate.” Funakoshi’s karate reflects the changes made in the art by Anko Itosu, including the Heian/Pinan kata series. Funakoshi changed the names of some of the kata in an effort to make the Okinawan kata names easier to pronounce in the Japanese Honshu dialect.
In 1924, Funakoshi adopted the Kyu / Dan rank system and the uniform (keikogi) developed by Kano Jigoro, the founder of judo. This system uses colored belts (obi) to indicate rank. Originally, karate had only three belt colors: white, brown, and black (with ranks within each).
The original belt system, still used by many Shotokan schools, is:
- 8th rising to 4th kyu: white
- 3rd rising to 1st kyu: brown
- 1st and higher dan: black
Funakoshi awarded the first 1st dan (shodan) Shotokan karate ranks to Tokuda, Otsuka, Akiba, Shimizu, Hirose, Gima, and Kasuya on 10 April 1924. His Korean students allegedly founded schools of Shotokan that eventually became Taekwondo, although that history is subject to some debate. They were Won Kuk Lee founder of Chung Do Kwan, Byong Jick Roh founder of Song Moo Kwan and Sang Sup Chun founder of Jidokwan.