An interview with Kevin Funakoshi Sensei, Shuseki Shihan, Hachi dan (8th Dan) Funakoshi Shotokan Karate Association World
by Sensei Andy Gillies 26th April 2020.
AG) Shihan, can you clarify for the readers, what is your lineage to Funakoshi Gichin the founder of Shotokan?
KF) Gichin Funakoshi is great grand uncle, 5th cousin to me. At some point our great grandfather had the same father as Gichin Funakoshi.
AG) Shihan, can you give the readers a brief understanding of your journey in martial arts, from your beginning through to your current Shotokan style?
KF) Basically, I was born into Shotokan Karate. My Father was a young single father so I was brought up watching classes run by Kanazawa, Mori and Asai Sensei as a infant to young child. I remember some of the students girlfriends or wives watching and playing with me as a very young child. It is interesting that I could not train as a young child because in the old days JKA would not let young children train. So "NOT BEING" able to train made me "WANT" to train. This is why my father started his own dojo, so I could train, which is another first for JKA worldwide, kids as young as 5 being allowed to train in a JKA dojo.
AG) Shihan, which person or event has had the greatest influence on your karate-do and has your karate-do changed you personally over the years?
KF) Well of course my father Kenneth Funakoshi had the most influence on my Karate-do from the day I was born to present. My Father was the first and only instructor I have had for 50+ years. Yes, Karate becomes Karate-do as we all age. What we Karateka think is Karate in our teens, 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's, 60s, 70s and 80s will always change just like our everyday life.
AG) Shihan, in your role within an international association, having travelled over the world, what would you say has been the most noticeable change in Karate since you began training, and what aspect has been the most challenging teaching internationally ?
KF) In the past, Shotokan Karate was very standardized and had very little difference in technique by the top instructors. Currently, there are much more experienced Karate Instructors with much more theories and philosophy of techniques and Karate-do which could be both bad and good for the modern Karate. Teaching internationally is actually much more difficult nowadays as every seminar has Karate from a very big range of skill and knowledge. In the Past, the range of skill was much narrower and standardized.
AG) Shihan, when did you first enter competitions, and what experience have you drawn from taking part then absorbed into your own karate-do?
KF) My first competition was in 1969 or 1970 if I recall correctly. I was very young and it was the first time I competed with no face shots awarded. It was very difficult for me because I was a "head hunter" even at a young age. I remember thinking that no one would fight without punching the face. The rules were being abused and the other kids were just covering their stomach and not worrying about the face. Even at a young age I could understand that was not very good. I learned at a very young age to not change your Karate to win by playing with the rules. Believe it or not, I have never read a tournament rule book in my life; my father taught me that if I attack, press the opponent and have good control of my techniques a Karateka does not need to read any rule book and can enter any type of tournament. My father also taught me, 'it is better to lose attacking than win running away'. How I conducted myself at competition was much more important than winning the competition.
AG) Shihan, what would you say has been the greatest noticeable change between formative years training in the dojo and in the way current training is taught. Which do you prefer ?
KF) Current Karate training has fewer injuries, which again could be good and bad. Both personal injury and injury caused by someone else is part of a learning process. In the past, you learned by getting injured and pushing to overcome the fear of injury.
AG) Shihan, what is your belief regarding the path of todays Shotokan karate from its origins.
KF) Shotokan Karate currently is more personal path or 'my way'. In the past, Shotokan Karate was basically decided by the instructor. 'His way or the Highway' which again can be good or bad.
AG) Shihan, what is your view on the introduction of Karate into the Olympics. Do you have any views regarding sport karate training versus budo/spiritual training for both male and female karate?
KF) I love Karate in the Olympics, I may not agree with the rules but Karate in the Olympics is beneficial to Shotokan Karate and Karate in general. Sport Karate or Competition is only a small step and has a small shelf life for all Karate. When a Karateka is done with Competition many will find that Karate is more than winning medals or winning in general. Many Karate athletes will become Karate and look for the answers for the questions 'what is Karate?'.
AG) Shihan, have you a preference for kihon, kumite or kata within your training, and has this balance changed over the years?
KF) Kihon, Kata and Kumite is all related and if a Karateka trains correctly they all become one. Many current Karateka are specializing in one or two elements which will hamper the path to Karate-do in their later years.
AG) Shihan, what is your teaching regarding the spiritual aspects and budo significance that define the way a traditional obi is worn?
KF) In our dojo, rank meant very little. The respect you got from the other Karate by training, dojo kumite and most importantly a Karateka’s Character is what defined everything in our dojo.
AG) Shihan, can you explain which training regime you use and the methods you adapt to retain your fitness?
KF) This may sound very strange for most Karate. I physically train very little now days. Technique is the most important focus if a Karateka wants to have longevity and understanding of Karate do. I mentally go through techniques more than I physically train nowadays.
AG) Shihan, is there any particular advice regarding approach to attain longevity in training that you could give to our karate?
KF) Everything is Basics and perfecting Basic Techniques. Having the mental endeavour to perfect simple basics is what develops the physical and character of a Karate. There are no secrets in Shotokan Karate. Basics are everything.
AG) I would like to give thanks to Kevin Funakoshi Sensei, for sharing his experience and knowledge on this such an auspicious day in the history of Shotokan .
Shihan Kevin Funakoshi with the Funakoshi family crest (Mon)
Shihan Funakoshi visiting his ancestor’s resting place to show his respect.
The resting place of Gichin Funakoshi
Born: November 10, 1868, Shuri, Naha, Okinawa, Japan
Died: April 26, 1957, Tokyo, Japan
“Japanese usually do not take pictures of a final resting place. I feel that Gichin Funakoshi’s legacy and history needs to be understood and recognized. Today I visited and paid my respect and gratitude to Funakoshi Gichin.”
The words of Kevin Funakoshi Sensei
Here are some images of Shihans' family tree book, tracing the lineage of the Funakoshi line from 1540 to 1986
I would like to thank Shihan for allowing the use of these family photographs (Sensei Andy Gillies)
Some Additional Information on Kevin Funakoshi Sensei
Shuseki Shihan www.fskaworld.com Sensei Kevin Funakoshi is a certified Hachi Dan(8th Dan) under Black Belt Hall of Fame inductee and founder of FSKA Shihan Kenneth Funakoshi (cousin to the founder of Shotokan Karate, Gichin Funakoshi also known as the "Father of Modern Karate"). Sensei Kevin Funakoshi started training in 1966 under Shihan Kenneth Funakoshi at the original Hawaii JKA dojo in Honolulu, Hawaii. Following the Funakoshi legacy as a Kumite and Kata Champion at the highest levels of competition Sensei Kevin Funakoshi is now dedicated to bring out the maximum potential from the current generation of Karate students. Sensei Kevin Funakoshi also conducts seminars and examinations in the USA and internationally to affiliate schools as well as non-affiliate clubs. Notable Highlights:
50 years Shotokan Karate
8th Dan Funakoshi Shotokan Karate Association
Cousin of Gichin Funakoshi "Father of Modern Karate"
Eldest Son of Kenneth Funakoshi "Black Belt Magazine Hall of Fame"
1984 Ozawa Cup (Las Vegas inv) Open Kumite Champion
1983 World Karate Congress Kumite Champion Open Styles
1983 Hawaii Karate Congress Fighter of the Year All Styles
1987 USA Demo team to Japan National Games
JKA Hawaii Kumite and Kata Grand Champion
KAH Kumite and Kata Grand Champion
FSKA Kumite and Kata Grand Champion