The History of ISKF

The International Shotokan Karate Federation (ISKF) is a non-profit organization that seeks to promulgate traditional Japanese karate-do throughout the world.

The Beginning

The ISKF was founded in September 1977. Shihan Teruyuki Okazaki, 10th dan, the Chairman and the Chief Instructor of the ISKF (retired), and Shihan Yutaka Yaguchi, 9th dan, the Vice Chairman and the Vice Chief Instructor (retired), were two of the original founders. Today, the ISKF is comprised of over twenty-eight Pan American countries, and over thirty-two countries from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. The ISKF is still growing and continually adds new clubs and countries to its membership, and currently has over 75,000 individual members worldwide.

The vision of the ISKF founders was to promote traditional shotokan karate-do as described in the teachings of the Dojo Kun and Niju Kun. Master Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of modern shotokan karate, wrote the Dojo and Niju Kuns not only as a guide to practicing karate, but also as a guide to everyday life. He viewed karate as a vehicle to spread peace and harmony worldwide. Master Nakayama was also a staunch supporter of spreading karate to the world and letting each culture adopt and spread karate in their homelands. He wanted to present karate-do in the context of each country’s culture and in a democratic fashion. He believed this approach would contribute to spreading karate-do around the globe. This vision laid the foundation for the structure and guidance of the International Shotokan Karate Federation.
The name of the organization encapsulates the purpose, history, and future of the ISKF. The choice for the name was a conscious decision of the founders to acknowledge the growth of karate around the world and to show respect to each member country. Because karate was becoming a worldwide martial art, the founders felt it was only fair to act as an international entity. Karate, although a traditional Japanese martial art, was now international, hence they dropped Japan from the title just as judo, kendo, and aikido organizations did. "Shotokan" shows respect and homage to Master Funakoshi for developing the form we now practice.

Formation of Pan American Region

By 1981, the ISKF had grown to include other countries in North and South America, and the Caribbean. Throughout the 1980s, the organization continued to grow and add member countries. This group of countries was later recognized as the Pan American region within the Japan Karate Association (JKA). In 1987, the ISKF hosted the first Pan American tournament in Trinidad with a handful of countries. In 1989, the tournament was held in Guyana and over 20 countries were invited and participated. Subsequent tournaments have been held throughout the Caribbean, Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, and the United States.

Instructor Training Institute

During this time, karate enthusiasts abound. The ISKF experienced a great expansion in both the USA and other countries. In the 1970s, only a few instructors had formal training, either through the JKA Instructor Training program, or a program on the East Coast modeled after the JKA program. Shihan Okazaki saw the need to encourage more students to develop as instructors and continue spreading traditional karate-do. In 1981, at the ISKF National Board of Directors meeting in Sioux Falls, SD, Shihan Okazaki proposed establishing an official Instructor Training program adopted from the JKA program to further develop the organization. The Instructor Training Institute was established with five sites: Philadelphia, PA; New Orleans, LA; Denver, CO; Phoenix, AZ; and Ft. Lauderdale, FL, each headed by a certified instructor.
All ISKF training programs perpetuate the teachings of Masters Funakoshi and Nakayama. The aim is to continue the transfer of knowledge and maintain continuity of the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of true shotokan karate. Today Shihan Okazaki and Yaguchi along with ISKF technical committee conduct ISKF Instructor Training Program.

Pan-American Tournaments

  • 1986 Trinidad, Tobago
  • 1987USA- Philadelphia
  • 1989Guyana
  • 1991Venezuela
  • 1993Canada- Toronto
  • 1995Jamaica- Kingston
  • 1997Mexico- Mexico City
  • 1999Barbados, West Indies
  • 2001USA- Philadelphia
  • 2004Panama
  • 2007Cancelled
  • 2010Guyana
  • 2014Mexico
  • 2018Venezuela

Commencement of the World Karate Federation

In 1994, member countries of the Japan Karate Association (JKA) agreed to form an international karate organization to bring Master Nakayama’s vision to fruition. The World Karate Federation, or WKF, was established and announced at the 1994 World Shoto Cup, held in Philadelphia, PA. Mr. Nakahara, the President of the JKA announced the new organization and its structure. The main office would be in Tokyo, Mr. Nakahara would be President, and the administrative office would be in the United States. Shihan Okazaki was appointed Chairman, and was asked to set up the administrative office of the WKF in Philadelphia as well as draw up the by-laws. Since there were so many countries to consider, the group chose to use English as the official language, just as most businesses do. After completing the by-laws, Shihan Okazaki was asked to stop operations the next year. At this time, the ISKF is not a part of the WKF. Until recently the ISKF kept a close affiliation and allegiance to the JKA for its foresight under the direction of Masters Funakoshi and Nakayama to spread karate-do globally.

Master Camp

Every summer the ISKF hosts a weeklong international karate camp known as Master Camp. The camp invites karate masters from all over the world. Traditionally, the top instructors from the Untied States, Europe, Japan, Africa, and Canada are invited. Master Nakayama was a favorite and attended every Master Camp until his death in 1987. Past guest, instructors have included Senseis Kanazawa, Mikami, Enoeda, Yaguchi, Asai, Ochi, Ueki, Miura, Osaka, Tanaka, Koyama, Takashina, and Schmidt among others. These instructors have been assisted by top instructors from the Pan-American region such as Greer Golden, Frank Woon-A-Tai, James Field, Maynard Miner, Robin Rielly, Najib Amin, Cathy Cline, Dexter Shim, Garry Turnbull, Hiroyoshi Okazaki, Gary Swain, David Jones, and Larry Loreth. June 2004 was the 40th Anniversary of Master Camp. The theme was “Shoshin ni Kaeru” or “Back to the Beginning,” and each participant received a certificate and other memorabilia to celebrate the occasion. Each year the number of the participants has grown and in recent years, the camp has filled. Master Camp is one of the oldest international karate immersion camps in existence.

The New ISKF-Independence

In August 2006, at the World Shoto Cup meeting the JKA asked the ISKF to make operational changes and a name change. These requests would affect all of the Pan-American countries affiliation with the ISKF and in some cases their names as well. The following month at the United States national tournament, the Board of Directors convened and discussed these requests. The Pan-American countries were asked to weigh in with their opinions as well. Representatives from each member country met at the 2007 Master Camp and decided it was in the best interest of the ISKF to become independent and a letter of separation from the JKA was signed. The ISKF accepts membership from countries all around the world. In the past, countries outside of the Pan American region were only allowed an affiliate or associate member status with the ISKF in accordance with JKA rules. Now, any country is able to become a full-fledged member and participate in all ISKF events. Our goal remains the promulgation of true Japanese shotokan karate-do as espoused by Master’s Funakoshi and Nakayama. We are dedicated to upholding the principles of Master Funakoshi: Seek Perfection of Character, Be Faithful, Endeavor, Respect Others, and Refrain from Violent Behavior.

Timeline of Important Events

  • 1977
    Founded in September
    HQ established in Philadelphia, PA
  • 1981
    Instructor Training Institute established
  • 1987
    Passing of Master Masatoshi Nakayama
  • 1989
    25th Anniversary of Master Camp
  • 1994
    ISKF hosts 5th World Shoto Cup
    ISKF appointed Administrative Office of the JKA/WKF
    30th Anniversary of Master Camp
  • 2004
    40th Anniversary of Master Camp
  • 2007
    ISKF separates from the JKA
  • 2008
    1st ISKF World Shoto Cup held in Toronto, Canada
  • 2012
    2nd ISKF World Shoto Cup held in Cebu, Philippines
  • 2016
    3rd ISKF World Shoto Cup held in Cape Town, South Africa

ISKF Headquarters

222 South 45th Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104 U.S.A.
Tel: 215-222-9382
Email: iskfhq@gmail.com

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