With a vast membership in over 100 countries, the JKA is the world’s largest and most prestigious karate organisation. It is the only legal karate body officially approved by the Japanese government as an association of members for the promotion of karate. More importantly, the JKA is the preserver of the spirit of the art of karate based on the ancient Japanese tradition of “Bushido” (the way of the samurai). Its mission is to promote this way of karate throughout the world, ensuring that it remains true to the philosophies upon which it was created.
This is the governing body for karate that the JKA England affiliates to, and the body that ratifies our dan grades (black belt grades). It is through this organisation that we ensure that our dan grades are recognised around the world.
The JKA was founded in May, 1949. By 1955, the first headquarters dojo had been built in Tokyo, and the first JKA Chairman had been appointed. In 1956, the JKA set up the first-ever karate specialist instructor training program at the headquarters dojo, and accepted its first round of trainees. This was the start of the finest karate instructor training program ever created, a program never matched or even approached by any other karate organisation. It is through this that the JKA has built up its unique group of distinguished karate instructors.
In April 1957, the JKA became a legal entity when Japan’s Ministry of Education officially recognised the JKA as an association of members for the promotion of karate and karate practice.
Karate’s popularity continued to grow. In October 1957, the 1st JKA All Japan Karate Championship was held in Tokyo. At this first tournament, the first karate match rules tournament in history.
Once this annual tournament system was established, it wasn’t long before there were JKA karate branches in towns, schools and as many as 40 prominent universities in Japan. In 1961, the Crown Prince of Japan (now the Emperor of Japan) attended the 5th JKA All Japan Karate Championship. JKA karate was getting noticed.
Over the years, the tournament divisions expanded and, the number of participants grew enormously.
During this period, the JKA further developed its karate instruction system, and (as early as 1958) began sending some of its most highly-accomplished professional instructors overseas to America, Europe and the Middle. Karate was becoming a big hit outside Japan too.
In 1985, the first international Shoto World Cup was held in Japan, a testimony to how much karate had become an international art.
This period witnessed spectacular development in the art of karate.
As a result of continuous training among instructors, the karate techniques were developed into a complete system. For the first time there emerged a clear, scientific, and practical “best” form for each stance, posture and movement.
Once these techniques developed, many instructors went overseas to spread the art of karate around the world. The JKA was the first karate organisation to set up dojo outside Japan. This is the reason the JKA is so prominent and powerful overseas.
In December 2000, it purchased land and established a brand new headquarters and dojo in the centre of Tokyo. This was the first time the JKA had owned its own land and building. The grand opening ceremony was held in May 2001, attended by numerous dignitaries and many members from other karate organisations.
With renewed vigour, the JKA clearly defined itself as ‘The Keeper of Karate’s Highest Tradition’ and it continues to promote true karate around the world.
Lucy (one of Sensei Martyn’s students) competing at the JKA World Championships in Tokyo
Gichin Funakoshi is the founder of Shotokan Karate, and is attributed as being the "father of modern karate”.
He introduced karate to the Japanese mainland in 1922 and taught karate at various Japanese universities and became honorary head of the Japan Karate Association upon its establishment in 1949.
Funakoshi was an avid poet and philosopher who would go for long walks in the forest where he would meditate and write his poetry. Shotokan is named after Funakoshi's pen name, Shoto, which means "waving pines". Kan means training hall, or house. Shotokan referred to the "house of Shoto". This name was coined by Funakoshi's students when they posted a sign above the entrance of the hall at which he taught reading "Shoto kan".