Gichin Funakoshi was born in Shuri, Okinawa, in 1868, and began training in tode (which would later become known as karate) when he was 11 years old. His two primary teachers, Yasutsune Itosu and Yasutsune Azato, gave him a thorough grounding in both the physical aspects of tode and the philosophical aspects of Confucianism and other Chinese philosophy.
Funakoshi rose to prominence in Okinawa as a karate practitioner and helped introduce the art to the public school system at the beginning of the 20th century.
In 1917, Funakoshi gave a demonstration of karate in mainland Japan and in 1922, he demonstrated it again at Japan's National Athletic Exhibition. That same year, he started Japan's first karate club at Tokyo's prestigious Keio University. His efforts in 1922 are considered to be the first, formal introduction of karate to the Japanese mainland, and Funakoshi is now known as the father of modern karate.
Karate grew rapidly in Japan under Funakoshi's guidance, and other masters from Okinawa soon followed him to the mainland with their own versions of the art.
Today, there are more than 100 styles of karate being taught in Japan, with Funakoshi's style (which has come to be known as Shotokan) the largest. Internationally, Funakoshi's Shotokan karate is practiced by millions of people in almost every country.
Gichin Funakoshi died in 1957, leaving behind him the enormous legacy of Shotokan karate.