We practice Shotokan karate, the style of martial arts developed by Grandmaster Funakoshi Gichin in Tokyo in the early 20th century. Funakoshi had been trained extensively in the martial arts of his homeland, Okinawa, and as a professional educator sought a platform through which he could introduce karate to the wider world.
During Funakoshi's lifetime he was recognized by the imperial Dai Nippon Budokai (the Great Japanese Martial Arts Association) and he formed the Shotokai (the Pine Waves Association) to teach his form of martial arts in Japan. Upon his death the Shotokai splintered. One faction of his students stayed in the Shotokai, some formed the Nihon Karate Kyokai (Japan Karate Association) and others became independent of both groups. A lot of ink has been spilled about the repercussions of this factionalization, but for our purposes let's stipulate that there were and there are great teachers in all of the factions.
Our direct Shotokan lineage bridges these groups. We have Shotokan teachers from both the Shotokai and JKA lineages in our history. We draw heavily on the karate brought to the US from Japan in 1960s by Teruyuki Okazaki. Master Okazaki, today one of the few true 10th dan in the world, had trained under Funakoshi in the Shotokai and had become a premier instructor of the JKA. He in turn founded the International Shotokan Karate Federation, one of the largest Shotokan groups in the world.
The ISKF was formed in America, but was still essentially a Japanese organization under exclusive Japanese leadership. In the 1970s there was a movement to democratize the leadership of karate organizations while maintaining the integrity of the art. In America, it was hoped, old rivalries could be forgotten and new friendships formed. One of the earliest attempts to build democratic governance structures in karate in America was through an organization called the Seishinkai (Pure Heart Association), which in time became the National Karate Jujitsu Union. In our lineage Master Al Gardner, a true master of Chinese martial arts and Shotokan karate, joined the NKJU. Master Gardner was a man of legendary skills. I hope someday to write a longer biography of his many achievements.
Al Gardner was a man of strong opinions and strong friendships. In the early 1990s, when the NKJU went through some turmoil, he joined a group of teachers to form the National Martial Arts Association. My teachers followed this path also affiliating with the NMAA.
In the following decades the fortunes of many traditional karate organizations have waxed and waned. A few years ago I rejoined the NMAA. Its leadership is very welcoming and I have a great deal of respect for its senior surviving teachers. However, in Maine the NMAA exists more as a concept than as a living organization. I am pleased to report, however, that its parent organization, the National Karate Jujitsu Union, is still around and with the recent appointment of Steven Johnson as the new director is actively growing. I am proud to be a new NKJU member.
So, "Where in the wide world of sports are we?" Well, we are where we have always been - on the dojo floor, practicing kihon, kata and kumite. We are traditional in our practice, but open to the best instruction we can find. We are a Shotokan karate school in Orono, Maine with a direct lineage in Shotokan karate through renowned master teachers and we are members of the NKJU.
Have questions? Please ask. And consider joining us for programming in traditional Shotokan karate-do.