Legends of Shotokan
There are a number of great Shotokan karate teachers in the world today who are unique enough in their own right to be referred to as, "modern masters".
Some of these individuals were direct students of either Sensei Gichin Funakoshi, or of his son Sensei Yoshitaka Funakoshi, others were not. However, that in no way diminished their knowledge, their skill, or their right to be considered in the same company as those who began their training at the original Shoto Kan dojo so many years ago.
Most if not all of the sensei's listed here were at one time or another affiliated with, or were members of, the now split Japan Karate Association (JKA), that originally came into being in 1949. Today, however, most of these sensei's have long since branched out and formed their own unique organizations, yet they all still share a deep common desire, and that is to see the art Shotokan Karate-Do and the basic underlying principles of Sensei Gichin Funakoshi, spread to all corners of the globe.
It is important for the reader to understand that this is by no means meant to be a definitive list for it is still a work in progress and no slight is intended to anyone not yet listed here. Nor is it my intention to go into any great detail on the teaching methods, background, or all the accomplishments of these individuals. There are other resources available to anyone wishing an in-depth look at these individuals so where ever possible I have included a link to a relevant web site where additional information on these senseis can be obtained.
It is my hope is that on your own you will seek out additional details for yourself, and in so doing come to your own conclusions regarding the merits of these rare few, these "modern masters".
Sensei Yoshitaka Funakoshi
1906 -1945
The third son of the Founder of Shotokan Karate, Master Gichin Funakoshi, Sensei Yoshitaka Funakoshi, also known as Giko, was lost to us in his late thirties as a direct result of tuberculosis which had afflicted him since childhood.
During his short life his impact on Shotokan Karate was truly profound.
He was amongst other things, responsible for the introduction of new ways of kicking. These methods included, mawashi geri, yoko geri kekomi, yoko geri keage, fumikomi, and ushiro geri. Although small in stature by Western standards Sensei Yoshitaka was a very powerful individual. By using all of his body weight, and introducing the full extension of the hip, he gave us a more dynamic way of creating power while at the same time adding a greater range to all these methods of kicking.
In addition, the low stances that today characterize the modern Shotokan style came about as a direct result of Sensei Yoshitaka's training methods, as well he established the fundamental kumite methods we use today such as, Ippon Kumite, Jiyu Ippon Kumite, and Gobon kumite along with other fighting techniques. There is simply no telling where our basics and katas would be today had he lived to an old age.
The kata Wankan is said to have been created by him and that it's short duration, only twenty movements, is due to the fact that he never was able to complete the kata. His death in 1945 was a great loss not only to his family, but also to the future of Shotokan karate.
Shihan Masatoshi Nakayama, 10th Dan, JKA
April 6, 1913 - April 15, 1987
Born into a samurai family in Kanazawa, Japan, in 1913 Master Nakayama is known today as the most famous student to have trained directly under Master Gichin Funakoshi. Instrumental in the founding of the in 1949 Master Nakayama is also best known for the introduction of more scientific ways of training and for the JKA's decision to send JKA instructors overseas to Hawaii and Europe starting in the 1960's in order to spread the art of Shotokan Karate beyond the shores of Japan.
The author of a great many books on the subject of Shotokan Karate these publications are today still considered as essential reading on the subject for any serious student. Master Nakayama was the Chief Instructor of the JKA from 1955 until his death on April 15, 1987. With his passing the world of Shotokan lost one of its few remaining direct links to the Founder, and Father of Shotokan Karate, Sensei Gichin Funakoshi.
Sensei Hidetaka Nishiyama, 9th Dan, ITKF
November 21, 1928 - November 7, 2008
Born in Tokyo in 1928, Sensei Hidetaka Nishiyama was one of the very few instructors who began karate training directly under Master Gichin Funakoshi, which he did in 1943 at the original Shoto Kan dojo. Two years later he enrolled in Takushoku University where he joined the karate team ultimately becoming Team Captain.
A co-founder and member of the Board of Directors of the Japan Karate Association (JKA) Sensei Nishiyama was also the co-founder of the All Japan Collegiate Karate Federation, and was elected its first chairman. Also an author, his book "Karate, The art of Empty Hand Fighting", is one of the most popular books ever written on the art of Shotokan Karate.
In 1985 Sensei Nishiyama formed the International Traditional Karate Federation, as a true Master of Karate, Sensei Nishiyama continues his lifelong goal of pioneering the art of traditional Japanese karate by conducting seminars throughout the world. Sensei Nishiyama's passing is a great loss to our worldwide Shotokan family. For additional information on Sensei Nishiyama please visit the ITKF web site at .
Sensei Teruyuki Okazaki, 9th Dan, ISKF
June 22, 1931 -
Sensei Teruyuki Okazaki was born in Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan, and he began his karate training at the age of sixteen when he entered Takushoku University in 1948. For the next ten years he would remain a direct student of Sensei Gichin Funakoshi, the Founder of Shotokan Karate, until Sensei Funakoshi's death in 1957.
After Sensei Funakoshi's death Sensei Okazaki came under the guidance of Sensei Matsatoshi Nakayama, whom he assisted for many years, during which he was instrumental in the establishment of tournament rules and much of the curriculum for the then fledgling JKA'S Instructors Program. The first three graduates of that program were Sensei Mikami, Sensei Kanazawa and Sensei Takaura.
In 1961 as the second instructor to be sent overseas (after after Sensei Kanazawa), Sensei Okazaki located in Pennsylvania, USA, where was responsible for the wide spread growth of Shotokan karate in the United States of America. Today the Chief Instructor of his own organization which he formed in 1977, known as the International Shotokan Karate Federation (ISKF) which is headquartered in Philadelphia, Sensei Okazaki still remains closely affiliated with the JKA. For additional information on Sensei Okazaki please visit the ISKF web site at .
Sensei Taiji Kase, 9th Dan, WKSA
February 9, 1929 - November 24, 2004
Born in Chiba, Japan in 1929 Sensei Kase's was one of the few who could lay claim to having been taught at the original Shoto Kan dojo by the son of the Founder of Shotokan karate, Sensei Yoshitaka Funakoshi, the depth of Sensei Kase knowledge and skill was said to be enormous.
After the end of the World War II Sensei Kase continued to train at university, he joined the fledgling Japan Karate Association (JKA) in 1950 becoming a Director. In addition he was responsible for teaching the first post war generation of international instructors Sensei's Kanazawa, Sensei Enoeda, and Sensei Shirai.
Sensei Kase remained a member of the JKA until 1989 at which time he co-founded with Sensei Hiroshi Shirai and organization known as, the World Shotokan Karate-Do Academy (WKSA) which focused on returning to the teachings of his teacher Sensei Yoshitaka Funakoshi. The WSKA currently restricts the members of its organization to 3rd Dan and above. Sensei Kase's recent passing is a great loss to the world wide Shotokan family. For additional information on Sensei Kase please visit the WSKA web site at .
Shihan Hirokazu Kanazawa, 10th Dan, SKIF
1931 -
Born in Iwate Prefecture in Japan in 1931, Shihan Hirokazu Kanazawa is one of the best known and most widely respected Shotokan karate Masters in the world today.
Shihan Kanazawa's karate was honed during his time at Takushoku University, after graduating he joined the JKA in 1956 becoming a direct student of Sensei Masatoshi Nakayama, and he became one of the first graduates of the Japan Karate Associations legendary Instructors Training Program.
His victory in the 1957 "All Japan Karate Championships" and subsequent victory in both kata and kumite in the 1958 "All Japan Karate Championship" ultimately led the JKA to send Shihan Kanazawa overseas to Hawaii in 1961. While there he was to become the first Shotokan sensei to instruct Shihan Kenneth Funakoshi, 9th Dan, Chief Instructor, of the Funakoshi Shotokan Karate Association. Several years later Shihan Kanazawa would move to England to become the Chief Instructor for the Karate Union of Great Britain.
In 1977 in a surprising move Shihan Kanzawa left the JKA and formed his own organization the Shotokan Karate International Federation (SKIF). Shihan Kanzawa is currently ranked 10th Dan and is the only living Shotokan Master to currently hold this rank. For additional information on Shihan Kanazawa please visit the SKIF web site at .
Sensei Keinosuke Enoeda, 9th Dan
July 4, 1935 - March 29, 2003
Born in Fukuoka, Japan in 1935 Sensei Enoeda was descended from samurai lineage and as such was drawn to martial arts from an early age, attaining his Ni Dan in Judo by the age of sixteen. Fate, however, was to see him walk a different road. His first introduction to karate came when he witnessed a demonstration of karate at Takushoku University, he was so impressed that he enrolled in the university as a business major in order to be able to study karate.
After enrolling in Takushoku University he joined the karate club, within two years of joining he had earned the rank of Shodan, and he ultimately went on to become the club Captain. After graduating from university he entered the JKA'S Instructor Program where he was to spend the next three years under the watchful eye of Sensei Matsatoshi Nakayama.
As a top competitor, and JKA Champion, Sensei Enoeda become known as the "Tiger of Shotokan" a name that would one day be known worldwide.
Sent overseas to the United Kingdom in 1965 he settled in Liverpool, where he was to set the tone for English Shotokan karate that was to last for the next forty years. Today the Karate Union of Great Britain continues his legacy. Sensei Enoeda's recent passing is another great loss for the world wide Shotokan family. For additional information on Sensei Enoeda please visit the KUGB web site at .
Shihan Kenneth Funakoshi, 9th Dan
September 4, 1937 -
Shihan Kenneth Funakoshi, Founder and Chief Instructor of the Funakoshi Shotokan Karate Association, started judo training in 1948 under Arakaki Sensei at the Fort Gakuen Japanese Language School in Honolulu, Hawaii. He attended Farrington High School in the Kalihi District and was on the football team and captain of the Territory of Hawaii (Hawaii was not a state yet) Championship swim team. While attending the University of Hawaii on a swimming scholarship Funakoshi Sensei started Kempo training under Adriano Emperado from 1956 to 1959.
In 1960, Shihan Funakoshi started Shotokan training when the Japan Karate Association (JKA) assigned its first Grand Champion, Sensei Hirokazu Kanazawa, to teach at the Karate Association of Hawaii, Shihan Funakoshi remained a student of Sensei Kanazawa's for the next three years. Then from 1963-1966 Shihan Funakoshi trained under Sensei Masataka Mori, another instructor from the JKA. Finally from 1966 to 1969, he trained under the third and last instructor sent by the JKA, the legendary Sensei Tetsuhiko Asai, another former Grand Champion from Japan.
In 1969, after training ten years under three of Japan's top Shotokan instructors and then winning the Grand Championship of the Karate Association of Hawaii for five years in a row (1964-1968), Shihan Funakoshi was appointed as the Chief Instructor for the Karate Association of Hawaii.
Shihan Funakoshi moved to San Jose, California to teach karate in December 1986. In 1987, the non-political Funakoshi Shotokan Karate Association was founded with its world headquarters now in Milpitas, California and the organization now has affiliates throughout the United States, Canada, England, Ireland, Europe, Russia, Mexico, and many other countries around the world. For additional information on Shihan Funakoshi please visit the FSKA web site at .
Sensei Yutaka Yaguchi, 8th Dan, ISKF
1932 -
Born in Hiroshima, Japan in 1932, Sensei Yaguchi is another of the very few remaining masters to have trained under the Founder of Shotokan karate, Master Gichin Funakoshi's. In addition to grading for his first and second Dan under Master Funakoshi, Sensei Yaguchi was also one of the first of many to graduate from the legendary JKA Instructors Training Program. As strong competitor Sensei Yaguchi placed third in the kumite at the 1963 JKA All Japan Championship.
The first JKA instructor to be sent to the United States by Sensei Nakayama in 1964, today Sensei Yaguchi is the Chief Instructor, Mountain States Region of ISKF in Colorado, U.S.A. an organization founded by Sensei Teruyuki Okazaki, 9th Dan, in 1977 and affiliated with the JKA. For additional information on Sensei Yaguchi please visit the ISKF web site at .
Sensei Mikio Yahara, 9th Dan, KWF
April 4, 1947 -
Sensei Mikio Yahara was born in Ehime Prefecture, Japan in 1947. A graduate of Kokushinkan University and a JKA instructor he is today a legend within the Shotokan karate community for his remarkable fighting skill, a former JKA Kata and Kumite Champion his reputation precedes him where ever he goes.
Sensei Yahara is today the Chief Instructor of the, Karate-no-michi World Federation, an organization he founded with Sensei Akihito Isaka, 8th Dan, with the aim of creating truly effective karate. A firm believer that karate must return to its original source and be a true reflection of Budo, Sensei Yahara trains with the constant goal of perfecting his technical skill. For additional information on Sensei Yahara please visit the KWF web site at .
Sensei Shirai, 9th Dan, ITKF
July 31, 1937

Born in Nagasaki, Japan in 1937 Sensei Hiroshi Shirai is a graduate of Komozawa University in Tokyo where he studied karate under Sensei Hidetaka Nishiyama and he remains affiliated with him to this day. A graduate of the JKA Instructor Program where he came under the influence of Sensei Taiji Kase.

A former instructor with the JKA and a former JKA champion Sensei Shirai has lived in Italy since 1965 and is currently the head of the Technical Committee of the International Traditional Karate Federation (ITKF) and is joined on this committee by Sensei Masao Kawasoe, 8th Dan, the overall head of the ITKF is Sensei Hidetaka Nishiyama. For additional information on Sensei Shirai please visit the ITKF web site at .

Sensei Hideo Ochi, 8th Dan, JKA
February 28, 1940 -
Born in 1940 Sensei Ochi started karate during his days at Takushoku University in Tokyo. A former graduate of the JKA's Instructor Program in 1964 he began teaching at the JKA Honbu dojo on a regular basis after passing his final examination.
An active competitor he Sensei Ochi is also a former All Japan Grand Champion placing first on numerous occasions. In 1970 Sensei Ochi was sent overseas to Germany to join Sensei Kanzawa. In 1993 he formed his own organization Deutche Japan Karate Bund (DJKB) to help return German karate to more traditional roots and away from sport karate which was becoming ever more prevalent in that country.
In 1997 he was awarded the German Medal of Honor for his contributions to the development of German Karate. For additional information on Sensei Ochi please visit the following web site at .
Greatness was never their ultimate goal,
we thrust it upon them in honor of their dedication.
Part the clouds - see the way.
"The objective of karate-do is to contribute to the evolution
of the human spirit through physical and mental training."
Sensei Peter Lindsay