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Martial Arts

Kenneth Funakoshi – A fighter’s instructor

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Kenneth Funakoshi – A brief history
1938 – Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, September 4th
1948 – Began Judo under Arazaki Sensei
1956 – 59 – Attended the University of Hawaii after winning a swimming scholarship. Continued training in Judo and commenced training in Kenpo under Kajukenbo Founder, Adriano Emperado. Won 1st place Kumite in the first Kajukenbo tournament in Hawaii.
1959-60 – Joined the USAF and taught Kenpo in Mexico.
1960-63 – Transferred to Hawaii and began training in Shotokan under Hirokazu Kanazawa.
1963 – Travelled to Japan to compete in the JKA Championships
1963-64 – Moved to L.A. in order to train under Hidetaka Nishiyama.
1964 – 68 – 5 Times Grand Champion of JKA-Hawaii
Runner up in H. Nishiyama’s All American Karate Federation Championship kata and kumite several years.
1965 – Captain of Hawaii Team that defeated the All Japan Collegiate Championship Team
1966 – 69 – Trained under Tetsuhiko Asai.
1967 – Captain of Hawaii Team in JKA Championships in Tokyo. Advanced to the final day of competition in individual kumite.
1968 – Coach of Hawaii Team that defeated All Japan Collegiate Championship Team.
1969 – Appointed Chief Instructor of JKA-Hawaii.
1978 – Awarded ‘Instructor of the Year’ by Black Belt magazine.
1984 – Trained at JKA Instructor’s classes in Japan
Appointed Chief Instructor of JKA Pacific region by Masatoshi Nakayama, Chief Instructor of JKA>
1985 – Awarded 7th Dan by Hawaii Karate Kodanshakai, a multi-style karate association of senior instructors.
1986 – Moved to San Jose to teach Karate.
1987 – Founded Funakoshi Shotokan Karate Association to develop perfection of character through karate training and following the philosophy of Gichin Funakoshi’s Twenty Precepts.
1994 – Awarded 8th Dan by Hawaii Karate Kodanshakai
1995 – 2005 – Travels the world over teaching seminars, oversee gradings and supervise tournaments
2001 – Awarded 9th Dan by Hawaii Karate Kodanshakai
2003 – Sponsor of Annual FSKA World Championship in Las Vegas
Sponsor of Annual FSKA European Championship in a different country every year
2007 – Sponsor of Annual FSKA European Championship in England.
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The name Funakoshi is synonymous with martial arts, specifically Karate. Gichin Funakoshi was responsible for Karate being widely accepted by the Japanese. So successful was he in this that many people believe that Karate is Japanese. It is in fact Okinawan.

Funakoshi’s legacy is being continued by one of his descendants, Kenneth Funakoshi. Kenneth Funakoshi is often described as being an ‘untraditional traditionalist’ due to his beliefs and unorthodox approach.

Karate the world over is renowned for the reverse punch and its predominance in competition. Indeed, the reverse punch is often the most highly scoring technique to be found on the circuit. It is also Kenneth Funakoshi’s favourite sparring technique.

“The reverse punch is the most used technique in kumite today yet it is not necessarily the easiest to master … I have on occasions spent long hours teaching only Gyaku-zuki. It is all down to Kime.”

When he says that he has been teaching this technique for hours, what he actually means is that he has spent an entire seminar teaching just that technique. Kenneth Funakoshi will take every movement involved in getting the punch out and break it down so that tournament fighters have a clear understanding as to how to master this simple technique and how to use it to maximum effect.

Kenneth Funakoshi doesn’t just rely on technique however as he has a wealth of experience in using this technique to great effect at world-class tournament level.

Although based in Hawaii for the majority of his life, Kenneth Funakoshi went to Japan in 1963 and 1968 to compete in the JKA championships. He was literally taking on the Japanese at their own game. In the 1968 tournament over 1,000 black belts entered the tournament and Kenneth Funakoshi was able to fight his way through to the second day before being beaten by Lida Sensei on the second day.

Not only did he compete against the Japanese, he dominated the Hawaiian Karate competition scene from 1964 – 1968. Considering he came from a Judo and Kenpo background this high level of skill is nothing short of astounding.

Not content with fighting the Japanese on their home ground, he became the Coach/Instructor of the Hawaiian team and came up with a challenge; “I suggested that we have a seven man match thus allowing the Japanese team to use their reserves.”

Under Kenneth Funakoshi’s guidance the Hawaiians served the Japanese a taste of their own medicine, trouncing them 5-1 with one match drawn. This challenge had it roots in an earlier event when Kenneth Funakoshi was in the Hawaiian team of 1965. The Collegiate team had already beaten the All American team and were riding the crest of a wave when they travelled to face the Hawaiians. Obviously, Hawaii is considerably smaller than the United States and so had a much smaller skill base to draw from. Victory should have been assured for the Japanese.

However, the teams were 2-2 when Kenneth Funakoshi (who was also the team Captain) stepped onto the mat to face the Ozawa, the Collegiate caption.

“The score was 2-2 and after about one minute of hard, fast fighting with no score, we stopped and faced each other. We were both waiting for the other to attack or make a mistake. I felt that he was about to move. I punched gyaku-zuki to score ippon. Hawaii 3 – Japan 2.”

Kenneth Funakoshi isn’t just a Master who’s a former champion, he’s a Master that holds some very (for the world of Shotokan) controversial and challenging views. Having trained in both Judo and Kenpo before training in Shotokan he is a very keen advocate of cross-training. Such an eclectic background is fairly common thing to come across nowadays. Back in the early 50’s to 70’s (and actually later) to say that this was rare is an understatement.

Kenneth Funakoshi still teaches Judo and Kenpo, believing that knowing one style is good, but that every style has its good and bad points. He is also honest enough to tell his students that winning medals does not mean that they are going to be good fighters in a self-protection situation.

“Karate is good as long as you’re standing on your feet and at a certain distance. Once the Judo man grabs hold of you, the karate man is dead”. If this article was a documentary on television there would be many a shoe put through the screen. Kenneth Funakoshi went on to state that Kenpo stresses the backfist strike a lot. “Karate does a lot of reverse punches; these are good, but occasionally there is a need for a backfist strike.”

It doesn’t matter what style you’re from, having a well-respected Master of that art publicly stating that it lacks the skills and techniques necessary to carry out the basic premise of that art i.e., self-defence, must hurt.

About mattsylvester

Father of two beautiful daughters and married to the beautiful Karen, Matthew has been reading and writing fantasy and science fiction since he first read the Hobbit at the age of 7.


One thought on “Kenneth Funakoshi – A fighter’s instructor



    Posted by KEN MIYAMOTO | March 12, 2014, 1:39 pm

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