Most of you will know that the Funakoshi karate discipline or style was created by a South African in the late 1960’s, a man by the name of Edwin Ward. Soke Dai Hanshi (Founder and head of the style) Ward left our shores in the 1970’s to begin a new life in Canada, though not before he had left sufficiently trained students to continue growing the style in South Africa.
Unfortunately, human memory is not perfect and as the years went by, certain nuances were changed or completely forgotten as responsibility transferred from teacher to student, meaning that many of the forms and kata as well as the basic understanding of certain aspects altered from the original style, meaning that what was left in South Africa was more of a watered down version of the original vision of Dai Hanshi Ward’s Funakoshi karate system.
However, the Funakoshi style continues to thrive elsewhere across the world and it was fortuitous turn of events that led to the head instructor of the Gordon’s Bay Funakoshi dojo, Sensei Birgitt Smit getting into direct contact with Dai Hanshi Ward.
Conversation and ideas flowed, and with it came the establishment of Funakoshi Karate International South Africa (or FKISA for short), a loose collaboration of affiliated dojos with a direct line to Dai Hanshi Ward and his teachings.
But what does that direct link mean?
Well in our case it means technology. And more specifically, Skype. Skype has revolutionised our training in that the instructors and senior students now have the ability to train once or twice a week with Dai Hanshi as he instructs us from his often chilly home over in Canada, watching over, correcting and explaining as we sweat and train over here in Sunny Gordon’s Bay.
These sessions are invaluable in correcting our katas and techniques, and more importantly for realigning our karate with the original vision Dai Hanshi had for his Funakoshi style. Already black belt gradings are being conducted with Dai Hanshi sitting in on the sessions and the overall result is simply a much stronger and better karate for us all.
And that is in short how Funakoshi Karate International South Africa maintains its direct link with the original founder of the style.