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.
Tsutomu Ohshima is the founder and Shihan (Chief Instructor) of Shotokan Karate of America (SKA), and is also recognized as chief instructor of many other international Shotokan organizations. Mr. Ohshima’s branch of the Shotokan world has become known as Shotokan Ohshima Karate.
Mr. Ohshima was born on August 6, 1930, and by the age of five had already entered the disciplined and rigorous world of Japanese martial arts. Practicing daily, he pursued sumo wrestling from the age of five until he was fifteen; kendo (Japanese sword fighting) from the ages of eight to fifteen, and judo from the ages of nine to thirteen. Mr. Ohshima’s distinguished association with Shotokan karate began at Waseda University, beginning in 1948. While he was there he trained directly under the style’s founder, Master Funakoshi, until 1953. His training was also influenced by his leading seniors, who were, in order of seniority:
Hiroshi Noguchi, First Waseda Captain
Seniors Egami, Kamata-Watanabe, and Okuyama have each honored Mr. Ohshima and Shotokan Karate of America by visiting the United States to observe and instruct our members.
At the All-Japan Sandan Promotional in 1952 Master Funakoshi personally awarded Mr. Ohshima his sandan (third degree black belt) rank, while honoring him with the highest score of any participant. Also in 1952 he became the Captain of the Waseda University Karate Club, working with Master Funakoshi. In 1957 Mr. Ohshima also received his godan (fifth degree black belt) rank from Master Funakoshi, the highest rank awarded by Master Funakoshi and still the highest rank achievable in SKA.
It was also during 1952 that Mr. Ohshima innovated the judging system still used in modern day tournaments. However, for students wishing to participate, he cautions that tournaments should not be viewed as an expression of true karate itself.
Mr. Ohshima left Japan in 1955 to continue his studies at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where, in January 1956, he led his first U.S. practice. The first university karate club in the United States was founded by Mr. Ohshima, at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, CA, in 1957. In 1959 the Southern California Karate Association (SCKA) was founded, and for the next ten years the reputation and membership of the SCKA continued to grow. Many new dojos were started by Mr. Ohshima’s black belt instructors in California and across the nation. Thus the organization was renamed Shotokan Karate of America in 1969.
As of one of Mr. Tsutomu Ohshima's first American-trained black belts in Shotokan karate, Caylor Adkins is known as a pioneer in karate and has become legendary to the world of martial arts.
Caylor Adkins began practicing judo in 1957 when he witnessed the first official demonstration of karate to the American public gave by Mr. Tsutomu Ohshima at the 1957 Nisei Week Exhibition and Tournament. Mr. Adkins started karate practice in October 1957 and under the direction of Mr. Ohshima he was one of six members to be awarded the rank of shodan (first degree black belt) in 1959 at the first dan test in SKA.
During his early Shotokan karate training, Mr. Adkins attended California State University, Long Beach in 1961 and formed the school’s first karate club. CSULB Shotokan Karate Club became the second university karate club to be established in the United States. However, the club dissolved in one semester. That same year, Caylor traveled to Japan to study karate at Waseda University and upon his return he open his Long Beach dojo with John Ogden's Judo dojo. In 1968, Caylor came back to CSULB, along with Don DePree, and re-established the karate club.
Early in his martial arts career, Caylor Adkins was President of Shotokan Karate of America, National Chairman of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) karate committee (1975-1977), and first vice president of World Union of Karate-do Organizations (1975-1977). His dedication and active involvement in karate had carried him all over the world and he has been known for his many feats in the martial arts arena in the 1960s and 1970s. During the last 30 years he has concentrated on studying a wide range of martial arts beyond his original training in Shotokan Karate. Mr. Caylor Adkins has become recognized for his leadership and knowledge of the martial arts.
Bob Lopez started his karate training under Caylor Adkins and received his shodan (first degree black belt) in 1965 making him Caylor's first black belt. That same year, in 1965, Mr. Bob Lopez began the Long Beach Community College Karate Club. This club would attract a very important key figure in the development of the CSULB Shotokan Karate Club and Shotokan Karate of America. This key figure was Don DePree. Mr. DePree joined Lopez’s club the year it opened.
Don DePree started his first martial arts training in 1965 while attending Long Beach Community College and learned karate under Bob Lopez. In 1968, Don DePree, along with Caylor Adkins, re-established the Shotokan Karate Club at California State University, Long Beach; Caylor was the club leader and Don was his assistant instructor.
Through Don’s strong leadership and commitment, the Community College club transferred to a permanent and successful CSULB karate club. In 1970, Caylor Adkins handed the leadership of the club over to Don DePree. In 1972, DePree was hired as a CSULB faculty to teach Self-Defense and Karate PE classes. Mr. DePree would go on to build and strengthen the club producing many new black belts. For more than 20 years, Mr. DePree continued to take the club to new heights by making the club a respected dojo.
In 1992, Don DePree passed the leadership of the CSULB Shotokan Karate Club to Mr. Samir Abboud in order to head the Shotokan Ohshima Dojo building project for SKA. Since then, Mr. DePree serves as the executive vice-president for Shotokan Karate of America and became the central pillar to the Shotokan Ohshima Dojo and the organization. He continued to teach karate on a national level spreading his wisdom and knowledge to all martial artists.