Genshin Hironishi

As years pass by I like Karate-do more and more. As I grow older I understand things in greater depth.

Genshin Hironishi

Also known as Motonobu Hironishi, Genshin was considered one of Gichin Funakoshi’s favorite students. Together with Shigeru Egami, he was an assistant to Yoshitaka Funakoshi. He was one of the main instructors at the Shoto Kan, Gichin Funakoshi‘a purpose-built dojo.

Genshin Hironishi was born in Kyoto, Japan on 1 January 1913.

In 1931 Hironishi enrolled at Waseda University to study Russian Language and Literature. He joined the university’s Karate club, where he began learning the martial art for the first time.

At the Waseda Karate Club Hironishi trained under Gichin Funakoshi and Takeshi Shimoda. His fellow students included Shigeru Egami and Hiroshi Noguchi. He developed a lifelong friendship with Egami.

Following the death of Takeshi Shimoda in 1934, Gichin Funakoshi’s son, Yoshitaka, took over Shimoda’s duties.

Yoshitaka Funakoshi was known as Waka Sensei (young teacher) to differentiate him from his father, O Sensei (Old Teacher). He became the Chief Instructor of the Shotokan group. His father was now in his 70s and stepped back from much of his teaching duties.

Apart from teaching at the Hombu, Yoshitaka Funakoshi also taught at various university clubs. Following Shimoda’s death, Hironishi began training with him.

In 1935 Gichin Funakoshi established the Shotokai, which means Soto’s Association. Shoto was Funakoshi’s pen name. The association brought together all of Funakoshi’s various students. It was formed primarily to gather funds to establish his own dojo.

Hironishi graduated from Waseda University in 1936.

On 7 July 1937, the 2nd Sino-Japanese war between Japan and China began. Hironishi was conscripted and saw action on the Chinese front. Because of his communist views, he served in the ranks, rather than being appointed an officer. He eventually rose to the rank of sergeant.

Japan declared war on the United States on 7 December 1941. The Japanese had bombed the Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, located in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Although he returned from the Chinese front in 1943, it is thought that Hironishi was not redeployed, as he was a Communist. He remained in Tokyo during the war years.

In Tokyo, Hironishi resumed his training and teaching at the Shoto Kan. The Shoto Kan was formally opened on 29 January 1939. He became the Hombu of the Funakoshi group.

By 1943 Hironishi had been promoted to 4th Dan and assisted Yoshitaka Funakoshi at the Shoto Kan. By the following year he, Funakoshi, Wada Uemura, and Yoshiaki Hayashi were the most senior grades teaching at the dojo. They were all ranked 4th Dan.

Yoshitaka Funakoshi’s health had begun to deteriorate by 1944. This was mainly due to the difficult living conditions during the war. He has been diagnosed with tuberculosis as a child.

Hironishi took over much of the Funakoshi’s teaching duties. Yoshitaka Funakoshi would still teach and supervise classes whenever he could. However, he did not take part in the training.

On 29 April 1945, the Shoto Kan was destroyed during a bombing raid on Tokyo, by American B-29 bombers, during World War II.

On 24 November 1945, Yoshitaka Funakoshi died from tuberculosis. He was only 39 years old. Taiji Kade, who was training at the time, recalled that Hironishi took over the majority of the teaching duties.

After the war, many of Gichin Funakoshi’s students who had survived wanted to resume their pre-war, Karate training. However, due to a lack of training, some of the student’s technical skills had declined.

On 1 May 1949, the Nippon Karate Kyokai (Japan Karate Association) was established. The aim of the association was to gather Karate knowledge and to address the technical decline. Isao Obata was named Chairman; Kichinosuke Saigo was named President; Masatomo Takagi was named Administrator; and Masatoshi Nakayama was named Chief Instructor of the new Association. Gichin Funakoshi was named Honorary Chief Instructor. Hironishi also helped with a lot of the teaching.

By 1956 the JKA had become the face of Shotokan Karate. That year they published the “Rules for Sportive Competition in Karate”.

Not liking the direction the JKA was taking, some of the Funakoshi’s students established Shotokai Karate (not to be confused with the group established in 1935), as a version of Shotokan that followed the teachings of Funakoshi.

Some of the followers of Shotokai Karate believed the JKA was teaching a corrupted version of Funakoshi’s teachings. Shigeru Egami became the Chief Instructor of the organization, with Funakoshi becoming President.

On 26 April 1957, Gichin Funakoshi died. Following his wishes the Shotokai was reformed and included his family in various University groups. His son Giel became the new President of the Shotokai. However, several University groups decided to leave the organization. Egami and Hironishi remained with the Shotokai.

The JKA and the Shotokai eventually parted ways in 1957. The JKA were beginning to follow a more sport-orientated approach to Karate, whereas the Shotokai wanted to follow a more traditional approach, in keeping with Funakoshi’s teachings.

In 1962 Hironishi was elected the new President of the Shotokai, following the death of Giel Funakoshi, the previous year.

Through the following years, Hironishi and Egami developed the Shotokai into a respected international Shotokan organization.

On 8 January 1981, Hironishi’s great friend Shigeru Egami died.

Hironishi replaced Egami as Chief Instructor of the Shotokai. He was also President of the Japan Shotokai Karate-do.

In 1995 Hironishi stepped down from his positions of Chief Instructor and President. Jotaro Takaji succeeded him as President. Hironishi remained an Honorary President until his death.

Genshin Hironishi died in December 1999, aged 86. A ceremony was organized in his honour, and a special book was also published.

Hironishi worked hard to carry on the legacy of Gichin and Yoshitaka Funakoshi and their teachings.

Hironishi’s role of carrying on teaching Shotokan Karate, after the death of Yoshitaka Funakoshi, and the end of World War II, cannot be underestimated. He helped improve the standard of the Karate of the students returning from the war.

As President of the Shotokai, Hironishi did much to make it an internationally recognized Shotokan organization.

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    • Barry on October 18, 2023 at 1:19 am
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    Hi Patrick. I believe that the reference to Obama should read Obata. Spell check seems to not know karate history.

    1. Thank you Barry. School boy error :).

    • Anonymous on October 18, 2023 at 5:35 am
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    I cannot thank you enough; my education re Karate-Do is improved every time a new article is released… Burt Gottlieb

    1. Thank you Burt. I am very happy that you like my work.

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