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Genwa Nakasone - Teacher, Journalist, Politician

Although not a martial artist let alone a karate-ka, Genwa Nakasone was a big supporter of Funakoshi Sensei. He was a teacher, journalist and politician. He is known for editing and publishing books on karate such as, Karate-Do Taikan.

Nakasone was born in 1895 and was key in the introduction of Okinawan karate to Japan. Through his work and writing he was able to introduce the first karate books to the Japanese public. His books that he either co-wrote or edited focused on the spirit of karate, principles of the time such as Funakoshi’s Twenty Precepts and more. This all meant that karate, despite being a non-native Japanese art form could be added into the Japanese martial arts.

A meeting took place in the 1930s; attended by Nakasone, other officials from both Japan and Okinawa as well as many Okinawan masters such Motobu, Miyagi, Chibana and Gusukuma. Interestingly a large part of the meeting surrounded the meaning of ‘Karate.’ As some reading may know the original meaning of karate was Chinese Hand and was later changed to Empty Hand. Nakasone started the meeting and said that; “When karate was first introduced in Tokyo, the capital of Japan, 'karate' was written in Kanji (Chinese character) as 'Chinese Hand'. In Tokyo, most karate dojo use the kanji 'The Way of Empty Hand' for karate-do, although there are still a few dojo using the kanji 'Chinese Hand'. To better develop Japanese martial arts, I think kanji for 'karate' should be 'Empty Hand” instead of 'Chinese Hand,' and 'karate-do' should be the official name. What do you think?”

There was much discussion around what the meaning of karate should be and it was decided in the meeting that they would not change it there and then. Funakoshi Sensei would later change the meeting in the way in which Nakasone suggested.

An image of a later meeting between karate style founders, other karate-ka and Nakasone (from left to right, Kanken Toyama, Hironori Otsuka, Takeshi Shimoda, Gichin Funakoshi, Motobu Chōki, Kenwa Mabuni, Genwa Nakasone, and Shinken Taira)

One of the most influential pieces that Nakasone helped write was ‘The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate,’ Nakasone expanded on Funakoshi’s thoughts and from that came one of my favourite quotes where Nakasone elaborated on ‘stances for the beginner, later they are natural positions,’ and the quote is ‘karate has many stances and it has none.’

Many of the Okinawan masters could read and write although not in Japanese, Nakasone was able to facilitate this through his contacts and abilities, in helping karate become published pieces of work and therefore make it more accessible to a wider audience.

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