Karate is a martial art developed in the Ryukyu Islands in what is now Okinawa, Japan. It was developed from indigenous fighting methods called te (手?, literally "hand"; Tii in Okinawan) and Chinese kenpō.
Karate is a striking art using punching, kicking, knee and elbow strikes, and open-handed techniques such as knife-hands. Grappling, locks, restraints, throws, and vital point strikes are taught in some styles. A karate practitioner is called a karateka.
Karate was developed in the Ryukyu Kingdom prior to its 19th century annexation by Japan. It was brought to the Japanese mainland in the early 20th century during a time of cultural exchanges between the Japanese and the Ryukyuans. In 1922 the Japanese Ministry of Education invited Gichin Funakoshi to Tokyo to give a karate demonstration. In 1924 Keio University established the first university karate club in Japan and by 1932, major Japanese universities had karate clubs. In this era of escalating Japanese militarism, the name was changed from 唐手 ("Chinese hand") to 空手 ("empty hand") – both of which are pronounced karate – to indicate that the Japanese wished to develop the combat form in Japanese style.
After the Second World War, Okinawa became an important United States military site and karate became popular among servicemen stationed there. The martial arts movies of the 1960s and 1970s served to greatly increase its popularity and the word karate began to be used in a generic way to refer to all striking-based Oriental martial arts.
Karate schools began appearing across the world, catering to those with casual interest as well as those seeking a deeper study of the art.
Master Tani, Soke of Tani-ha Shito-ryu Karate-do Kempo Shukokai, asked Doshisha University Karate Club students whether any of them would like to assist in the development of Tani-ha Shito-ryu abroad and go to America to assist Sensei Kimura or to Europe to assist Sensei Suzuki. It was intended to be for one or two years after graduation, before settling down to be 'company men' back in Japan. Out of the three who said yes, two finally made the journey from Tokyo to Paris in March 1972. These were Naoki Omi and Keiji Tomiyama, now Joint Chief Instructors of Tani-ha Shito-ryu Karate-do Kofukan International. Not quite 'company men' in the recognized sense, they are nevertheless dedicated to one organization, and that is the karate association which has now spread around the world.
However, the Chief Instructor for Europe at the time was Sensei Yasuhiro Suzuki. He was assisted by Senseis Hanai, Ikazaki and Shimabukuro, who each had their own specialities. Life with the two 'new boys' settled down to a routine of lessons in French, informal training among themselves and visiting the different karate clubs in the evening. In the summer their number increased again, when Miss Ishimaru and Mr. Hayashi arrived . In that same year a Shukokai Championship was held in Stockholm. Sensei Suzuki was of course in charge of Tani-ha Shito-ryu Shukokai in Europe at that time, but without as yet a structured organization. The main countries involved were France, England, Yugoslavia and Sweden, with small groups in Norway and Belgium.
Sensei Suzuki moved to work at his company's Brussels office, taking Keiji Tomiyama with him to teach in Belgium.
In the spring a large "Central Dojo" was opened in Brussels and members of S.W.K.U. (England) attended for two week-long seminars. After this, Mr. Hayashi was sent to England to teach where he stayed for about a year.
Euro-Cup in Brussels, the first of a yearly event. From 1976 till 1978, the Euro-Cup was held each year at Pepinster, a small Belgian town near the German border. In 1975, the large "Central Dojo" had to be closed and a smaller one was found near the Gare du Nord. This Dojo became the headquarters of S.W.K.U.E. (Shukokai World Karate Union Europe) until 1978. The association continued to develop, alongside some groups who adhered to Master Kimura's organization, which is why there are two Shukokai organizations in some countries.
We started to issue our newsletter "Forum" twice yearly. "Forum" continued to be published until 1982. In 1978, Keiji Tomiyama moved to England leaving Sensei Shimabukuro to look after Belgium.
The Euro-Cup was held in Paris. Keiji Tomiyama was appointed General-Secretary. It was decided to formalize our organization and to collect a membership fee from every member (œ1/year) to pay for administration costs and services. Belgian representatives disagreed : at the same time Sensei Shimabukuro left Belgium to engage in business and the "Central Dojo" was closed, bringing the end of Tani-ha Shito-ryu in Belgium.
The Euro-Cup was held in Peterborough, England. Sensei Suzuki attended the event and conducted a grading examination for Mess. Omi, Okubo, Kamohara and Tomiyama in lieu of demonstrations during the event: all were awarded 5th Dan. Also in 1980, Master Tani visited Europe with his wife and several instructors. On that occasion, Master Tani asked for a World Cup to be organized the following year in Europe. So, we organized a World Cup in Edinburgh in 1981. Master Tani brought Mr. & Mrs. Inagaki with him, who later formed Nippon Kofukan. Sensei Suzuki finally went back to Japan that year, called by his company, thus Senseis Omi and Tomiyama became the leaders of the organization. Some other Japanese instructors had also by this time left the organization, leaving just three resident in Europe, including Hiroshi Okubo.
At the beginning of the 80s there were many groups called themselves "Shukokai", especially in Britain. The majority of these groups were break-aways from Sensei Kimura's organization. This situation made the impact of our organization weaker, being one of many "Shukokai" groups. After many discussions between Sensei Suzuki and Sensei Tomiyama it was decided to call our organization "Kofukan", the name of Sensei Suzuki's Dojo, instead of "Shukokai World Karate Union Europe". We became the one and only "Kofukan" with a strong identity. Master Tani understood the situation and we, naturally, remained as a part of his "Shukokai" organization.
Master Tani visited Europe and awarded Mess. Omi, Okubo and Tomiyama 6th Dan.
Master Tani attended our Euro-Cup held in Slovenia (then Yugoslavia). Our member countries then were Sweden, Norway, Scotland, England, France, Channel Islands and Yugoslavia.
From this time on there was a rapid expansion of the organization. In 1990 Bulgaria joined with Dimitar Savov at the head, also Georgia, ex-USSR, under Vladimir Japaridze and Shota Shartava. Portugal rejoined under the leadership of Joao Dias in 1991 and Denmark also joined. After a chain of contacts, Kofukan was well established in Zimbabwe, Botswana & South Africa by the end of 1991. Also in 1991 we were joined by Matthew Beaumont's group in Australia and in 1992 by Brian Davis in New Zealand. After an initial contact by Emmanuel Rajasekaran in 1989, the United Arab Emirates & India became members in 1992. Sensei Tomiyama visited India for the first time in 1993. In 1992 Karl Skrabl, previously training in Slovenia, moved to work in Switzerland and started a group there. Good contact was maintained with Mr. & Mrs. Inagaki from 1981 onwards, including many group visits to their home town of Izushi, and in 1994 they received permission from Master Tani and Sensei Takahara to leave Sensei Takahara's Seikenkan group to become independent as Nippon Kofukan (Kofukan Japan). Also in 1994 Israel decided to join us under their leader Husny A-arar. In 1995 Tim McMenamin and his group in Ireland joined. Also, through contact by Kofukan Georgia, we now have groups in Russia, Kazakstan, Ukraine and Greece. So Kofukan has certainly grown as an organization in the last 30 years. We consider it a remarkable achievement to gain so many new member countries in the last 10 years without ever offering any incentive such as giving away new grades. All our members, both old ones and new ones, are serious and honourable people and we are proud of their continuing progress and achievements.
Kofukan 20th Anniversary
We held our 20th Anniversary Event in Oslo in 1992. We invited Master Tani and he accepted to attend. Unfortunately, Master Tani was hospitalised and could not make it. However, he sent Senseis Yamada, Ishitobi and Sumino as well as Miss Yamada as his representatives to the celebration. Also, he awarded a "Shihan" diploma to Keiji Tomiyama on this occasion. Shukokai 45th Anniversary Master Tani held the Anniversary Championships and celebration event in Kobe in 1994. Both Senseis Omi and Tomiyama attended this remarkable event and were both awarded 7th Dan. Sensei Omi received his "Shihan" diploma on this occasion.
Although Senseis Omi and Tomiyama became the practical leaders of Kofukan organization after Sensei Suzuki's return to Japan in 1981, the structure of the organization was unchanged. Keiji Tomiyama remained as General Secretary and Sensei Suzuki remained as the Chief Instructor despite the fact that he stopped practicing and teaching due to his busy schedule. In 1994 it was suggested that we needed to re-structure our organization to reflect the true state of the organization and clarify the positions of responsibility. After working on the question Keiji Tomiyama proposed certain changes of structure at our International Committee meeting in 1995. After some discussion, the new structure was agreed as follows;
Soke (Head of the Style) Master Chojiro Tani
Honorary Chaiman Sensei Yoshimichi Shimizu
Adviser Sensei Yasuhiro Suzuki
President Keiji Tomiyama
Chief Executive Naoki Omi
Joint Chief Instructors Keiji Tomiyama
Executive Comittee Keiji Tomiyama
Dick Schorling (Sweden)
Geir Henriksen (Norway)
Anton Marusa (Slovenia)
Technical Committee Keiji Tomiyama
James Todd (England)
Didier Couet (France)
Secretary Sally Tomiyama
Joint Chief Referees Enrico Vatteroni (Sweden)
Michel Depoix (France)
Since that time, Master Chojiro Tani has sadly died, but the position of Soke has been taken up by his son, Chojiro Tani II. We continue to have a good and productive relationship with his Shukokai organization, while developing our own unique organization around the world.