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Yoshitaka 'Gigo' Funakoshi

Updated: Dec 21, 2021

Some background information on Gichin Funakoshi's third son, Yoshitaka, also known as Gigo.

Yoshitaka (Gigo) Funakoshi 1906-1945

He was born in Okinawa and was diagnosed with tuberculosis at the age of seven. He started karate at age twelve as a means to improve his health. In the early years, his father often took him along to his training sessions with Anko Itosu. Gigo moved to Tokyo with his father at age 17.

When Gichin Funakoshi's senior instructor, Takeshi Shimoda, died, Gigo assumed his role within the Shotokan organisation teaching at various universities. Gigo began to develop karate technique that separated Japanese karate-do from the local Okinawan fighting arts.

His physical strength became instrumental in the creation of these new techniques. More so than his father, Gigo was the technical creator of modern karate. Yoshitaka discovered new leg techniques, Mawashi Geri, Yoko Geri Kekomi, Yoko Geri Keage, Fumikomi, Ura Mawashi Geri [though it may be that that Kase sensei was responsible for this technique] and Ushiro Geri.

The leg techniques were performed with a much higher knee-lift than in previous styles, and the use of the hips were emphasized. Other technical developments were the turning of the torso to a half-facing position (hanmi) when blocking and thrusting the rear leg and hips when performing the techniques, the idea being to deliver the attack with the whole of the body.

Yoshitaka insisted on using low stances and long attacks, chained techniques, something that immediately separated it from Okinawan karate. He also emphasized the oi zuki and gyaku zuki

Gigo is also largely responsible for the Taikyoku kata, Wankan, and Ten no Kata.

During 1930 and 1935, changes were mostly in kumite (combat, free fighting training). Whereas Gichin placed most of the emphasis on kata, Yoshitaka developed the fighting techniques and training.

First of all he created the Gohon Kumite (predetermined sparring with five advancing attacks), a system very much like Kendo, an art that Yoshitaka also practiced and studied under the last Great Master, Hakudo Nakayama, from whom he obtained valuable inspiration for the future karate developments. They all inspired the kata Ten-No-Kata.

Yoshitaka also developed Kihon Ippon Kumite and Jiyu Ippon Kumite, and then jiyu kumite (free-fighting)

His illness from his childhood plagued him for most of his short life and he died in 1945

This quote was taken from Mitsusuke Harada sensei's biography:

"It was whilst training at the Shotokan, I first saw the legendary Yoshitaka Funakoshi. The rumour that Waka (Young) Sensei was coming went before him as the buzz of expectancy spread.

Yoshitaka was Gichin Funakoshi’s third son, He had taken over as Chief Instructor the Shotokan and first assistant to his father after the sudden death of Master Takeshi Shimoda.

Yoshitaka had been awarded the rank of Renshi from the Butokukai. He lived next door to the dojo with his wife and family. Harada recollected that when Waka Sensei entered the room the atmosphere changed, becoming “charged with energy”. He had the reputation of having awesome ability. At this time Yoshitaka Funakoshi was 36 years old and stood 5ft 5ins, he was stockier than his father; had a crew cut, large eyes and a prominent Hara – Master Harada recalled. Yoshitaka would select black belts and accept any attack, standing in a deep fudo-dachi posture (his favourite) with an open handed kamae. He also welcomed forceful attacks with bokken and bo.

Unfortunately, even though he looked fit and strong he was indeed very ill and in 1945 he died of gangrene of the lungs. This was a truly massive loss, not only to his father, but also a disaster to Shotokan Karate; as Yoshitaka was indeed a very special individual whom was always researching and developing his fathers Karate, he was innovative, dynamic and creative. He searched for and made much progress in the development of Shotokan Karate."


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