Brief History of Karate From Bodhidharma to Kyokushin to MKA

Karate from Bodhidharma to Okinawa

Most Western students of Asian martial arts, if they have done any research on the subject at all, will surely have come across references to Bodhidharma. He is known as "Daruma" in Japan and as often as not, this Indian Buddhist monk is cited as the prime source for all martial arts styles or at the vary least, for any style which traces its roots back to the fabled Shaolin Temple. However, the question of his contributions to the martial arts and to Zen Buddhism and even of his very existence has been a matter of controversy among historians and martial arts scholars for many years (Spiessbach,1992).

As legend has it, the evolution of karate began over a thousand years ago, possibly as early as the fifth century BC when Bodhidharma arrived in Shaolin-si (small forest temple), China from India and taught Zen Buddhism. He also introduced a systematized set of exercises designed to strengthen the mind and body, exercises which allegedly marked the beginning of the Shaolin style of temple boxing. 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.

Okinawa is a small island of the group that comprises modern day Japan. It is the main island in the chain of Ryuku Islands which spans from Japan to Taiwan. Surrounded by coral, Okinawa is approximately 10 km (6 mi.) wide and only about 110 km (less than 70 mi.) long. It is situated 740 km (400 nautical mi.) east of mainland China, 550 km (300 nautical miles) south of mainland Japan and an equal distance north of Taiwan. Being at the crossroads of major trading routes, its significance as a "resting spot" was first discovered by the Japanese. It later developed as a trade center for southeastern Asia, trading with Japan, China, Indo China, Thailand, Malaysia, Borneo and the Philippines.

In its earliest stages, the martial art known as "karate" was an indigenous form of closed fist fighting which was developed in Okinawa and called Te, or 'hand'. Weapons bans, imposed on the Okinawans at various points in 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.

Te continued to develop over the years, primarily in three Okinawan cities: Shuri, Naha and Tomari. Each of these towns was a center to a different sect of society: kings and nobles, merchants and business people, and farmers and fishermen, respectively. For this reason, different forms of self-defense developed within each city and subsequently became known as Shuri-te, Naha-te and Tomari-te. Collectively they were called Okinawa-Te or Tode, 'Chinese hand'. Gradually, karate was divided into two main groups: Shorin-ryu which developed around Shuri and Tomari and Shorei-ryu which came from the Naha area. "It is important to note, however, that the towns of Shuri, Tomari, Naha are only a few miles apart, and that the differences between their arts were essentially ones of emphasis, not of kind. Beneath these surface differences, both the methods and aims of all Okinawan karate are one in the same" (Howard, 1991). Gichin Funakoshi goes further to suggest that these two styles were developed based on different physical requirements Funakoshi, 1935). Shorin-ryu was quick and linear with natural breathing while Shorei-ryu emphasized steady, rooted movements with breathing in synchrony with each movement. Interestingly, this concept of two basic styles also exist in kung-fu with a similar division of characteristics (Wong, 1978).

The Chinese character used to write Tode could also be pronounced 'kara' thus the name Te was replaced with kara te - jutsu or 'Chinese hand art' by the Okinawan Masters. This was later changed to karate-do by Gichin Funakoshi who adopted an alternate meaning for the Chinese character for kara, 'empty'. From this point on the term karate came to mean 'empty hand'. The Do in karate-do means 'way' or 'path', and is indicative of the discipline and philosophy of karate with moral and spiritual connotations.

The first public demonstration of karate in Japan was in 1917 by Gichin Funakoshi, at the Butoku-den in Kyoto (Hassell 1984). This, and subsequent demonstrations, greatly impressed many Japanese, including the Crown-Prince Hirohito, who was very enthusiastic about the Okinawan art. In 1922, Dr. Jano Kano, founder of the Japanese art of Judo, invited Funakoshi to demonstrate at the famous Kodokan Dojo and to remain in Japan to teach karate. This sponsorship was instrumental in establishing a base for karate in Japan. As an Okinawan "peasant art," karate would have been scorned by the Japanese without the backing of so formidable a martial arts master (Maliszewski, 1992).

Today there are four main styles of karate-do in Japan: Goju-ryu, Shito-ryu, Shotokan, and Wado-ryu:

Goju-ryu developed out of Naha-te, its popularity primarily due to the success of Kanryo Higaonna (1853-1915). Higaonna opened a dojo in Naha using eight forms brought from China. His best student, Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953) later founded Goju-ryu, 'hard soft way' in 1930. In Goju-ryu much emphasis is placed on combining soft circular blocking techniques with quick strong counter attacks delivered in rapid succession.

Shito-ryu was founded by Kenwa Mabuni (1889-1952) in 1928 and was influenced directly by both Naha-te and Shuri-te. The name Shito is constructively derived from the combination of the Japanese characters of Mabuni's teachers' names - Ankoh Itosu and Kanryo Higaonna. Shito-ryu schools use a large number of kata, about fifty, and is characterized by an emphasis on power in the execution of techniques.

Shotokan was founded by Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957) in Tokyo in 1938. Funakoshi is considered to be the founder of modern karate. Born in Okinawa, he began to study karate with Yasutsune Azato, one of Okinawa's greatest experts in the art. In 1921 Funakoshi first introduced Karate to Tokyo. In 1936, at nearly 70 years of age, he opened his own training hall. The dojo was called Shotokan after the pen name used by Funakoshi to sign poems written in his youth. Shotokan Karate is characterized by powerful linear techniques and deep strong stances.

Wado-ryu, 'way of harmony', founded in 1939 is a system of karate developed from jujitsu and karate by Hienori Otsuka as taught by one of his instructors, Gichin Funakoshi. This style of karate combines basic movements of jujitsu with techniques of evasion, putting a strong emphasis on softness and the way of harmony or spiritual discipline.

Master Funakoshi

Master Gichin Funakoshi is widely considered the primary "father" of modern karate due to his efforts to introduce the Okinawan art to mainland Japan, from where it spread to the rest of the world. Born in 1868, he began to study karate at the age of 11, and was a student of the two greatest masters of the time, Azato and Itosu. He grew so proficient that he was initiated into all the major styles of karate in Okinawa at the time. For Master Funakoshi, the word karate eventually took on a deeper and broader meaning through the synthesis of these many methods, becoming karate-do, literally the "way of karate," or of the empty hand. Training in karate-do became an education for life itself

Master Funakoshi was the first expert to introduce karate-do to mainland Japan. In 1916 he gave a demonstration to the Butokuden in Kyoto, Japan, which at that time was the official center of all martial arts. On March 6, 1921, the Crown Prince, who was later to become the Emperor of Japan, visited Okinawa and Master Funakoshi was asked to demonstrate karate. In the early spring of 1922 Master Funakoshi traveled to Tokyo to present his art at the First National Athletic Exhibition in Tokyo organized by the Ministry of Education. He was strongly urged by several eminent groups and individuals to remain in Japan, and indeed he never did return to Okinawa.

Master Funakoshi taught only one method, a total discipline, which represented a synthesis of Okinawan karate styles. This method became known as Shotokan, literally the clan or the house of Shoto, which was the Master's pen name for his poetry, denoting the sound of the wind blowing through pines.

Masutatsu Oyama

Masutatsu Oyama was born in Ryong-Ri Yong-chi-Myo'n Chul Na Do Korea in 1923, and completed middle school in Seoul. In 1938, when he was 12 years old, he came to Japan to live, where in 1941, he entered the Tokyo Takushoku University. Oyama had mastered the Eighteen Techniques of Chinese Kempo while he was still in his homeland. When he came to Japan, he became a pupil of Gichin Funakoshi, the man who introduced karate into Japan, and soon achieved the status of a second-grade (Dan) karate master. He interrupted hi college education when he was drafted into the military in 1943, but he continued his karate studies with Sodeiju, then karate instructor at the Goju school. By the time the war was over, he had become a fourth-grade karate master. Though, when World War II was over, he temporarily volunteered to assist his native land in its recovery, because of the conflict that soon followed between North and South Korea he gave up these efforts and concentrated on karate.

In 1947, after he had won the All-Japan Karate Tournament, he resolved to live his life in the way of karate and determined to follow the doctrines of its way. After 1948, for a full three years, he secluded himself from human society, devoting himself completely to a life according to the precept of Zen. He lived in temples and in the mountains and subjected himself to the disciplines of the martial arts both night and day. Through such rigorous training as seated meditation under waterfalls, struggles with wild animals, and smashing trees and stones with his bare hands, Oyama refined not only his doctrine of karate, but also his own mind and body. When he had completed this course of rigid discipline, his self-confidence returned to him. In 1951, he returned to civilization from his mountain retreat to teach the true meaning of karate to the world. His amazing techniques, manifested most dramatically in his ability to rip the horns from bulls, caused a sensation in the karate world.

The renown of Oyama karate flashed abroad with such speed that a training hall soon became necessary for the many students clamoring to be trained in the Oyama way. Oyama's 1952 karate tour of thirty-two of the United States met with great success. In 1956, he toured Southeast Asia, and in 1962, starting in Europe, he went around the entire world establishing training halls for the Oyama karate method. Now Oyama karate halls number 17 in the United States and 76 in 16 other countries of the world. The number of students already exceeds 100,000. In 1958, for the sake of these students, Oyama published his first karate guidebook, "What is Karate?" In Japan, the first Oyama training hall, the Kyokushin Kaikan, opened in 1955, and in 1964 a new five-story hall, with present Prime Minister Eisaku Sato as honorary chairman, began carrying on the master's training program.

Information from "What is Karate"
Sadly, Mas Oyama passed away in 1994. A memorial has been erected in memory of this great man!

Donald "Buck" Irving Lindsey

Don Buck was both kind and powerful. He spent his life helping others and teaching the martial arts. His close friend and teacher, Mas Oyama gave Don Buck the title "Fierce Tiger".

As a child, Don and a few other children stayed at a daycare center supervised by an Indian Yogi. Whenever Don and the other children were unruly, the Yogi would hypnotize them and place them in a trance. They would sit quietly against the wall until allowed to resume playing. This early experience gave Don special insight into the power and usefulness of hypnotism. Later, he extensively studied hypnotism (known in Japanese as sai ming jitsu) in conjunction with karate. Sensei had a natural gift for sai ming, which he considered a part of Chi-Gong practice. It was said that he could hypnotize you with a stare (see photograph to the right). Thoughout his life, he used this power constructively to help others.

In his youth, Don Buck grew up on the tough streets of San Francisco. He was very athletic and spent hours practicing gymnastics in Golden Gate Park.

During WW II, he served in the Admiralty Islands where he taught hand-to-hand combat. While in the military, he became a boxing champion. While not on duty, he practiced other martial arts including knife fighting.

After the war, in 1945, he returned to the San Francisco Bay Area where he resumed weight lifting and began to train under Duke Moore in Judo and Jujitsu.

In 1955, Don Buck was contacted by karate legend Mas Oyama. Sensei Buck began a lifelong friendship with the founder of Kyokushin karate. According to Don Buck, "We trained together for hours." This workout included karate as well as boxing, judo and jujitsu techniques. Both men were extremely aggressive and strong. They were also highly trained in the mental and physical aspects of the martial arts. On trips to America, Mas Oyama would make a point of staying with his friend Don Buck.

Don Buck made several trips to China and Japan to increase the depth of his knowledge and to share his expertise with others. He was awarded the honorary degree of M.D.T.C.M. (doctor of traditional Chinese medicine) by the Hong Kong Naturopathy Association. He also trained with other high-ranking martial artists who had immigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area.

Don Buck was instrumental in founding the AAU for Karate and Kung fu. He was the founder of his own school known as the "School of the Tiger". He trained many outstanding karate Sensei, including his wife, Marriette Buck, Alice Eguchi, his 2 sons, Fred Buck and Don Buck Jr., Steve Senne, Larry Giordano, Birney Jarvis, John Pell and Mike Dayton (former Mr. America). In 1989, he encouraged his student, friend, and personal physician, Dr. Daniel Andrews to start teaching karate to the public (prior to this, Dr. Andrews only taught family members).

Buck believed that "all of the arts are one."

Hanshi passed away in September of 1998. His contributions to the martial arts will never be forgotten.

Larry F. Giordano

Hanshi Larry F. Giordano is Director and Chief Instructor if the Methuen Karate Association (School of the Rooster) and president of the New England Kyokushin Karate Organization. The N.E.K.K.O main headquarters is in Methuen, Massachusetts and was established in 1968. Methuen Karate Association. was established in 1968 and has an enrollment of 300 students as well as five associate schools. 

Hanshi Giordano started his formal karate training in 1963 with Sensei Norbit Faye, a German national, studying Shotokan while in the military service. In 1970, Hanshi Giordano began his study of Kyokushin under the tutelage of Sensei Stephen Senne, of California, attaining the rank of Shodan. He then started training with Sensei Donald I. Buck, 8'th Dan (School of the Tiger), of San Francisco, California. Sensei Buck is a Kyokushin Organization affiliate of Master Mas Oyama, Japan.

Hanshi Giordano received his Branch Chief certificate and his 2'nd Dan from Master Mas Oyama Kyokushin, of Japan, on August 2, 1976, and his 5'th Dan in September 1988 from Sensei Donald I. Buck. In January 1993, he was awarded his 6'th Dan from his instructor, Sensei Buck, in recognition of his many years of dedication to the art of karate.

In 1981, he made his first of 5 trips to Japan. In March of 1990, Hanshi Giordano, representing Sensei Donald I. Buck, traveled to Japan as the U.S.A. representative to the World Branch Chief meeting in Tokyo, Japan.

N.E.K.K.O. has promoted forty three black belts. Six of them have opened their own schools, teaching the True Art of Karate, assuring the traditional Kyokushin Karate will be maintained throughout the U.S.A. In May 1991, a dojo opened in Puerto Rico, the following in Lawrence, one in New Hampshire, and one in Maine, the Arizona dojo was opened in 1976. All Dojos were opened by his black belts. 

Hanshi Giordano was employed as a police officer for the Town of Methuen (1972-1986), as a K-9 officer, and a member of the Tactical Division - on call. He is now actively involved in self-defense for women. During the past 22 years, he has taught numerous courses as the junior and senior high school levels. Hanshi Giordano has been asked to speak to many local women's and senior citizen groups interested in this field of self-defense. He has his own monthly TV program and has been putting on programs for women. 

Hanshi Giordano was for 2 1/2 years the Massachusetts Commissioner for the Department of Public Safety. With his very impressive background with martial arts and other related activities he has been licensed as a judge for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Boxing Commission also the International Boxing Federation/USA Boxing Association. As a judge for the Mass Boxing Commission he has experienced judging of world championship fights.

As chairman of the N.E.A.A.U. for eight years, he has been instrumental in organizing this growing organization and has helped bring Karate to the foreground as a major amateur participation sport in this region and country. 

Hanshi Giordano retired from the Methuen Police Department with 22 years of service in 1996. He is now devoted to teaching full time at his school in Methuen and has been traveling to his student Dojos to keep the true spirit of Kyokushin alive in New England. Hanshi Giordano has also started to teach after school programs in the Methuen and Lawrence Public Schools and for private organizations. He has now been teaching karate full time after 37 years, and the school in Methuen has been open for 32 years. 

Hanshi was presented his seventh Degree Black Belt by his instructor Sensei Don Buck before his passing. Sensei Don Buck was like a father to Hanshi Giordano who was very saddened by his passing. Sensei Buck is missed by all his students OSU.


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