French FR English EN

Master Funakoshi: his way, his life.


Gichin FunakoshiYou will probably have noticed, the Karate that I practice is Shotokan. I had to talk about the Master Founder of this style, Sensei Gichin Funakoshi.

In fact, Master Funakoshi did not want to create his own Karate style, but rather to broadcast a unique Karate, Karate-do.

I will not resume here the life of Sensei Funakoshi, because we can find on the net many articles on the subject.

By cons I would like to present a beautiful book written by the Master himself:

Karate-do: my way, my life

This little book can not leave you indifferent. Any Karateka, of any style, should have read it at least once. He traces through various anecdotes told with emotion by the Master, the creation of Karatedô which radically changed the world of martial arts.

Gichin Funakoshi explains in the preface of the book, how forty years after the beginning of his adventure, Karate has gained an international reputation.
He explains how his ninety years of practicing Karate have been good for his health: " The Karatedô not only learns to give blows, it is also a bulwark against the disease and aggressions »
The humility that emerges over the pages of the book is almost palpable. Master Funakoshi is revealed with great simplicity. He tells us of his formidable human adventure in " concentrating all his energy to reveal the majesty of the principles of Heaven and Earth ... »

Gichin Funakoshi describes the creation of Karatedô in an autobiographical form in seven chapters that I will try to present here.
I apologize to the reader if I can not bring out the emotion that one feels when reading the book. My goal is only to give you a presentation and not to reveal to you all that this book holds as hidden treasure. For that you will have to read it yourself ;-), it's a treat.


Gichin Funakoshi takes us to the dawn of his life and his debut in what he will call: " art »

To lose a bun

The author tells us about his birth in Okinawa in 1868. He describes how the wearing of the traditional bun profoundly changed his destiny. He tells us about his meeting with Master Azato, " unsurpassed in Karate », His first lessons, at night (« karate practice was outlawed ") In the house of Master Azato where he tirelessly repeated the same kata. He explains the benefits of karate practice on his health:

« ... I began to seriously consider my practice as a way of life. "

No Sense and Reality

Master Funakoshi explains what is not karate, silencing all the more or less absurd myths about karate practice and its so-called superhuman powers ". For him, the spirit of Karate is elsewhere and " the practitioner who boasts of his exploits [...] has only a very limited view of the true nature of Art »


The Master tells us of his beginnings as a teacher in Okinawa and his incessant pursuit of learning Karate with the great masters of the time as Master Kiyuna, Master Tôonno, Master Niigaki, Master Matsumura and of course Master Azato and Master Itosu.

Chapter two: EMPTY HAND

Gichin Funakoshi ongoing Heian NidanIn this chapter, Master Funakoshi explains among other things how Okinawa Karate has gradually evolved into an educational karate. This is the beginning of modern karate.

An important lesson

The author tells us a famous adventure of Master Matsumura: " A duel he could win on another Master without even taking a single shot ».
Master Matsumura arrives by his mere presence and total abandonment of the desire to win to completely destabilize his opponent, who is also expert in karate.
An invaluable life lesson, where we finally understand how:

« vanity is the only obstacle that forbids us to live ».

A forgotten story

Gichin Funakoshi, as a good teacher, gives us a course on the history of Karate in Okinawa. He often uses the conditional because there is little writing on the subject. It tells how Karate, born of a clandestine activity following the prohibition of weapons on the island, has developed to become a method of self-defense that " begins and ends in courtesy ».

Hand Chinese Empty Hand

Always with his quality of teacher, the Master explains how he transformed the term Karate, which in Japanese meant " The Chinese Hand In Karate, which means " Empty hand ". The ideograms are different, but the pronunciation remains the same. He explains his choice: " Kara which means empty [...] represents the refusal to use other weapons than the hands and the feet. In addition, the goal of Karate students [...] is to purify their hearts and minds from all earthly desire and vanity. »
The Master also tells us of other changes he undertook " to allow the introduction of Karate into the public school physical education program Especially on the Kata.
He explains that " it is the requirement of simplicity that should govern the evolution of Karate so that it remains a physical education accessible to all. »

Karatédô is a

Sensei Funakoshi, considered the father of Shotokan, " formally opposes this attempt at classification ". For him, Karatedô is only one school. He advocates the unification of all schools " so that Karatédô continues an orderly and useful progression to the future development of man. »

The Karate of my Bride

Gichin Funakoshi tells us how thanks to the courage of his wife, he managed to support a family of 10 people (parents, grandparents ...) with his " princely salary Of school teacher (3 yens by me). His wife never complained, and for that to rest ... " practiced kata ».

« Just by looking at me and occasionally practicing herself, she had achieved a quite exceptional understanding of Art ».

In broad daylight

The Master tells how, at the beginning of the twentieth century, following a Karate demonstration in front of a head of the Prefecture School Board, visibly impressed, the karate came out of hiding to be introduced into teaching " at the Daiichi Prefecture College and the Ecole Normale des Hommes. This was the beginning of the " popularization of karate ". Soon karate flourished in schools in Okinawa and later in Tokyo.

Third chapter: THE WAY AND LIFE

Funakoshi HumilityIn this chapter which bears almost the title of this book, The Master, with the help of many anecdotes and adventures of daily life in Okinanawa, shows us the virtues of karate.

Against a typhoon

A feat of Master Funakoshi that he prefers by humility does not tell himself. With a lot of humor he makes the introduction explaining that " the reader will see in my behavior a little madness but I do not disavow it ».

Meeting with a Viper

A little anecdote where Master Funakoshi tells his meeting with a viper who " really understands the spirit of karate »

Win in Loser

Through two stories, Gichin Funakoshi helps us " to understand the essence of Karatédô »; How to win by giving up the victory.

The Danger of Pride

At the bend of a walk, the Master is let slip into a small competition of " hand thrusts With young people from Okinawa. A little adventure that could seem very banal to our contemporaries, always eager for competition of any kind. Yet many years later, Gichin Funakoshi, telling it, " still feel deeply ashamed ».

Goodness without pity

Gichin Funakoshi unwittingly gets caught up with police because he had just rescued a fugitive. A little incredible story where the Master ended up making us understand, that we should not confuse goodness and pity.


Following a conflict between two neighboring villages, the Master is asked (probably because of his knowledge in Karate) to play the role of arbitrator or rather mediator. He explains how karate was useful to him to avoid any conflict.

Humble Man

Gichin Funakoshi tells us about his meeting with a driver from jinrikisha unusual, which for him " has always represented the perfect reincarnation of the Samurai spirit ". But who is this mysterious man?

The Spirit of Play

Through a tug-of-war contest, Master teaches us the spirit of the game by explaining that the "who participates for pleasure, without worrying about winning or losing, often wins" even Karate.

Karate to the rescue

Gichin Funakoshi shows us by this little misadventure how karate and especially the control of his emotions and his center of gravity can serve us at any time. And to add that the daily practice of the martial art can be invaluable in the danger.


Master Funakoshi Kata Tekki ShodanIn this chapter, Gichin Funakoshi tells us about the beginnings of Karate in Japan and its social recognition.

Difficult days

Following a martial arts demonstration in Japan, where he introduced Okinawa Karate, then little known outside the island, Gichin Funakoshi was invited to stay in Tokyo, first by Jigorô Kanô, the great Master of Judo, then by others to give them private lessons.
The Master understood while he was » the right man to spread karate all over Japan ". We are now in 1922, and this is the beginning of a great adventure for Gichin Funakoshi.
The first days were more than difficult because Karate was little known and the money was sorely lacking and he sometimes could not " raise enough money to buy the minimum subsistence ».
But Master does not complain about this period: " She was not devoid of fantasy and gaiety He writes. He tells us these " difficult days With a lot of humor; he is sometimes the karate expert, sometimes an old sweeper and sometimes a scarlet melon
Fortunately, some benefactors were generous with Gichin Funakoshi:

« To all of them, I feel immense gratitude He concludes.

Public Interest

After a while, the number of students increased and the situation was improving ". Soon karate was even taught in the universities of Tokyo. It was the beginning of the social rise of Karate, but it was also for our Master the period when he had to resign himselfto several years of separation From his wife who had remained in Okinawa for the worship of his ancestors.

My First Book

Soon Gichin Funakoshi was invited to " write a reference book on Karatédô ". Thanks to this knowledge amassed in Okinawa and probably also thanks to his qualities as a schoolmaster, he published his favorite book: Ryu-Kyu kempo: Karate.
Very popular book that was reissued in 1926 under the pull: Renten Goshin Karate Jutsu.

Friends and relationships

Master Funakoshi tells us here the relations and friendships he had with some of his students and especially some Sumô wrestlers.
« I have learned a lot from them [...] Sumo and Karate have basically the same goal: training the body and the mind ».


Master explains how after many years of training in a dilapidated dojo, it took to build a Dôjô for Karate".
With the help of a national support committee, in 1936 was built the first Japanese Karate Dojo bearing the name: Shotokan.
« I had not suspected that the committee would have chosen the pseudonym under which I wrote Chinese poems in my youth.
For Gichin Funakoshi, despite his 70 years, it was "the beginning [...] There was still a lot to do ».

Fifth chapter: A LIFE

In this chapter, Master Funakoshi tells us about karate everyday, he gets to the heart of the subject of this book and explains why karate is his way, his life.

Big losses

With great emotion, Master Funakoshi tells his students who go to the battlefield during the Great Pacific War: " I felt my heart clench at the announcement of the successive deaths of so many promising young people ».
He also tells us with great sadness the destruction of his Dojo: " for me the greatest achievement of my life ».
But his biggest loss of this period was without a doubt that of his wife: " We were so poor that neither she nor I could enjoy the little pleasures of life that are the comfort of ordinary people. She gave us her life, me, her husband, with her karate love, and her children ».

Recognize true karate

The Master here addresses a crucial topic on his conception of karate. He explains what, in his opinion, is karate and especially what it is not; that the true essence of Karate is far from the striking that allows to kill or the breaking of boards or tiles; that this is only an effect, that certainly can allow training in karate, but that it is by no means the goal.
He insists that karate must be taught in a spirit of defense and never " for offensive purposes " and "the cardinal virtues of karate are prudence and humility"

Use karate " to settle different personalities [...] would totally despise the true meaning of karate. "

My Daily Life

Karatedo My way My life

Gichin Funakoshi writes Karate-do: my way, my life at about 90 years and of course many people ask him: " What is your longevity? »
The Master takes advantage of this question to tell us his life in everyday life: In fact, he lives in the same way since 75 years. He still teaches karate, writes books, gives himself calligraphy, in short he is very active. He details his diet, " without excess »; his way of life very humbly, without excessive comfort, without smoking, without drinking; his daily body hygiene with warm water, ...

In short, a simple life without miracle recipe outside of moderation ».


Master enters here into the very essence of Karate by explaining that " those who think that karate is only working in a Dojo, with a teacher [...] are not real karateka »; that being Karateka is also " to be a good and honest citizen ».
It's a daily job, listening to your neighbor, being courteous in your daily life as in the Dojo.
« The study of Karate in the long term Is allowed only by " a high ideal ". So karate becomes exciting.


In this chapter, Master addresses the essential points of Art that are often known or forgotten by the public. These points are crucial for anyone who wants to progress in the path of karate.

Six rules

Master gives us here the 6 rules absolutely necessary for anyone who wants to understand the nature of Art "

  1. « training must be as [...] serious as death »
    « Do not bet on a second chance is the condition of success »
  2. « Train body and soul without worrying about the theory »
    « The real practice is without words. »
  3. Karatédo is very vast to learn, but for each technique it is necessary understand how it fits into the entire system »
    « If you have a kata, you will soon understand all the others»
  4. « Avoid complacency and dogmatism. »
  5. « Avoid deceiving yourself and adopting the know-how of your peers "in other words, always question yourself ..."
  6. « Respect the rules of morality in your daily life in public and in private »
    « No one can achieve perfection in karatedo without having understood that it is, above all, a faith, a way »

Violate the Rule

Gichin Funakoshi tells us the time (the only one!) Where at 80 years, he went on the attack against a thug who wanted to rob him, grabbing him " the testicles (Aie !!! :-()
After reflection, the Master explains to us that contrary to the teaching which he lavishes, he had acted " on the spur of the moment ».
« I did not feel very proud of myself He tells us.

Karate for all

That would be " young or old, strong or weak, male or female Karate is for everyone, with or without a partner.
Master Funakoshi explains to us that Karate can be practiced by everyone, almost anywhere and without any particular attention.
He teaches us that in Karate one should not look for " become strong but weak And that training is a " way to know one's own weaknesses ».

Chapter seventh: THE PAST, THE FUTURE

Diversity of weapons

Gichin Funakoshi at MakiwaraMaster Funakoshi shows us how each body part (or almost), " from the top of the skull to the tip of the toes, can serve as a weapon ».
Then he tells us how to close his fist well, Seiken, " the most basic Weapons of Karate, then he explains why and how to work his Tsuki everyday with the help of a makiwara.
It then details other natural weapons as Tettsui, Nukite, Shuto, Enpi, Koshi...

Childhood memories

The Master tells us about a game he often played in his childhood: " Okinawa wrestling Named Tegumi, to explain us the interest of this type of sport for the muscular development estimating that it is a very good complement to the practice of karate.

Karate Becomes International

I will let Master Funakoshi the founder of Karateo finish this summary himself:

« Karate, which in my youth was a local and clandestine activity, had become a Japanese martial art [...] It was now known around the world. [...] I continue to be amazed at the popularity of karate and I think that once this book is finished, I will have to embark on a new project - that of sending Japanese experts abroad.«

Here, I hope that this summary will give you the desire to read Karate-do: my way, my life and that this reading will open up many horizons for you to understand what Master Funakoshi called Art, Karate-Do.

If you do not have this little book yet, it's time to crack the piggy bank

I put you the link below. (It's an affiliate link, so if you go through it, it will not cost you more, but I will earn a small commission. I thank you in advance.)

Karate-do: my way, my life

Here, I wish you good readings.

And of course, as usual, I look forward to your comment!

see you soon,

Facebook Comments
Guide offered!
"How to succeed your grade passes"


  1. Nina Roethinger at

    I already read it really gave me another look on karate, I became aware of the artistic essence of karate and I do not regret having read it

  2. Hello dear friend Bruno,
    It is with a great pleasure and thanks that I would read the sentences of the great master and founder of karate do who was a long time deadly fights and it is thanks to him that karate became: A very sport martial art disciplined, which is beneficial to the body and soul of man.
    My warmest and most cordial thanks and greetings.

  3. Haby Bagayoko at

    Hello Master Bruno, thank you for this summary on the life of Master Gichin Funakoshi, very informative and rewarding. I would spend my belt pass tonight, white belt with yellow belt, I hope that it will be well, I stress a max and we will have two unknown masters to supervise our passage. Good day, dear master. Bye.

  4. The book, my way, my life is good. I also advise: Karate Dô Kyôhan: The founding text on the way to the empty Hand. A book written by the sensei Gichin Funakoshi. Beautiful book, available at Amazon, for who wants to learn more about the origins of modern karate with this beautiful reissue of one of the first educational book on the subject. a very interesting book, the pedagogical progression of Gichin Funakoshi in relation to these first books is flagrant. the work of a lifetime for a martial art known outside Okinawa for less than 100 years.

    What do you think Bruno?

  5. Hello Bruno

    Thank you for the summary of this great Master's book that makes you want to buy it. I started karate recently and you really bring me so much by your teachings, your advice.
    Good recovery and continues to enchant us,

  6. Hello Bruno,
    Excellent book, your presentation is very well done and if I did not already know this book, I would have immediately wanted to read it. For me, it is a little "the bible" of karateka or rather the bedside book that we can not help but read and re-read with the same admiration and a deep respect for Master Funakoshi. I totally agree with you about the incredible humility that comes with it and the fact that every karateka should have read his book at least once. It is a beautiful life lesson for everyone (karateka or not), because I think that even those who do not practice karate, can be touched by the beauty of this very human book.
    Thanks for everything you do.

  7. Julien Bocquet at

    Hello Bruno!

    Super summary, I read this book and I found it great: we draw beautiful lessons of life!
    Thank you for all your courses, online advice, I start karate and it goes Bcp help me.
    I am sincerely passionate for
    This sport that sticks with my values, I like karate codes with respect, surpassing oneself, honesty ...
    I sent the link of your site to my teacher (5ème dan) and he finds that you explain well!

    Thank you for everything.

    • Hello Julien,

      You are passionate about Karate and you have read this book, you should know that Karate is not just a sport
      I'm kidding ... you've summed up the values ​​of karate very well.
      Keep your passions and you'll learn a lot from karate.
      Thank you for sharing with your teacher, this is a very good approach. At least if I tell you abbots, he can correct them. Greet him from me.

  8. This summary made me want to read the entire book! (By the way I run there
    I would never have believed that Karate will be a religion in its own right: O!

    • Hello Eldiabloto,
      If I made you want to read "Karate-do: my way, my life," I'm delighted.
      On the other hand, do not misunderstand me, Karate has nothing of a religion which is "the fact of taking care of a higher nature which one calls divine and of rendering a worship to him" (Cicero).
      In karate, there is no divinity, no worship. Even if we respect the memory of the ancients, it is only respect, there is no worship in there.
      Karate is a faith, certainly, but in the sense of trust. We must believe in karate, trust the training methods (Kihon, Kata, Kumite) and work hard by trusting his Sensei.
      There is no religious connotation. Even if, for an outside eye, traditional salvation can make one think of a prayer, it is not so. It is only a hello between the Professor and his students with a thought for the elders. Only a respectful greeting (Rei).
      I insist because it is important to explain that Karate is an art of living and not a religion.
      Besides that we are called Eldiabloto ...

      • I'm not sure that there is not a religious side in Okinawan and Japanese martial arts, I followed a year with a Okinawa and he clapped his hands after salvation. Some uninformed think it is heating up. In fact, it's about getting the attention of kamis. Kamis are spirits in the broadest sense of the term, sometimes like the thought-forms of the esoterists. Thus the founder of aikido, who was a follower of a shninto cult, the omoto-kyo, had created the temple of aikido (aiki jinja). A temple dedicated to a practice ?! In parenthesis, certain movements practiced in the 70 years in aikido, like the rowers are the same gestures that one makes in the Shintoist cults.
        I think that the shamanic-type thoughts, let the human consciousness immerse a long time ago, in a universe of perception that has become foreign to us. Our consciousness is in "focused, pointed, linear, and we keep our children sitting during 20 years of studies to focus on sequences of words (thought) which causes damage. a choice you can not do weight lifting and classical dance. Of course, the Japanese rarely talk about it and asking questions about it would be like asking him how he makes babies. This modesty even affects practices like the tea ceremony, of course they fear misunderstanding. I know someone who has a tea ceremony and exclaims: "I have not noticed that they have bled sugar ..."

  9. Hello Bruno,

    First of all, I wish you a speedy recovery, I understood in your emails that you had some physical problems. Your description of the book is indeed interesting enough for me to buy it! About me (as a reminder, I have 45 years and I started karate in October 2011, c not won so :-)), I got the yellow belt in late January, I work the orange, always by working with your videos! So I hope to see you on new video as soon as you get back. Good luck. Christophe

    • Hello Christopher,
      I'm a little better, but it's still not the best. I see you're working with my videos. I'm happy to help you.
      Continue working well
      And for the book do not hesitate to read it, it's really nice.

  10. Thank you Bruno for this summary very clear and clear !!!
    it really makes you want to read it and continue to invest in this way. For me it's still the beginning and I discover a world that fits perfectly with all my values ​​and my ideals!
    Good evening to all,

    • Thank you Marie-Ange, I'm glad you like the summary. I'm not sure I managed to bring out the basics, but hey I did my best because I do not have the pen of Sensei Funakoshi.
      Have a good day,

Leave a comment

vel, Lorem dolor elementum Curabitur velit, commodo mi, justo eleifend neque.