Club History

Karate in University College Cork

The UCC Karate club was formed in 1976 by John McCormack and has been trained, developed and overseen since 1980 by Sensei Trevor Williams, Sensei Nigel Williams and Sensei Susan Dwane.

In 2016, the club affiliated to the World Traditional Karate Organisation, and in 2017, the torch of overseeing the club and technical instruction was passed to Steve Collins Sensei. The following spring, UCCKC hosted and won the All-Ireland karate intervarsities, and hosted the WTKO Open National Championships that same year, building it’s links with local communities beyond UCC.


Karate is a martial art which developed in the Ryukyu Islands in what is now Okinawa, Japan. It developed from the indigenous martial arts of Ryukyu Islands under the influence of Chinese martial arts. Karate is a striking art using punching, kicking, knee strikes, elbow strikes and open hand techniques such as knife-hands, spear-hands, and palm-heel strikes. In some styles, grappling, throws, joint locks, restraints, and vital point strikes are also taught. A karate practitioner is called a karateka.

From Okinawa, karate was brought to the Japanese mainland in the early 20th century during a time of cultural exchanges between the Japanese and the Ryukyuans (Okinawans). It was systematically taught in Japan after the Taisho era. In 1922 the Japanese Ministry of Education invited a senior karateka known as Gichin Funakoshi to Tokyo to give a karate demonstration. By 1924 Keio University had established the first university karate club in Japan and by 1932, major Japanese universities had karate clubs. I After World War II, Okinawa became an important United States military site and karate became popular among servicemen stationed there. Karate thus began to be taught overseas from Japan, and in the decades since has reached across the globe to Ireland and University College Cork.

About Shotokan Karate

Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of shotokan karate, stated that the ultimate aim of karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in perfection of character. In this way, karate may be described as an aesthetic course of self-discipline, leading to enlightenment. Literally, karate-do is the way of the empty hand. This includes the philosophical notion of “emptying” oneself of improper motives; not merely fighting without weapons. The principles of training go beyond technique and may be applied to ordinary life. Karate training involves little instruction in philosophy. Students are expected to learn the underlying philosophical principles through hard work and much practice. By following the technical directions of the instructors, the example of the senior students and applying themselves completely to each technique, karate-ka will develop a deep understanding of both the technical and philosophical aspects of karate.

Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of shotokan karate

Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of shotokan karate

It is said that in karate there is no second chance. Karate-ka are taught to use each technique as if their lives depended upon its successful application. This concept is called ikken hikattsu in Japanese, literally to kill with one blow. However, the real meaning is that a karate-ka must be completely committed to each technique and must apply each technique with certainty, force, decisiveness and without regard to the possibility of failure. Shotokan karate traces its roots to the islands of Okinawa, which now form part of Japan. An indigenous fighting system know as Okinawa-te (Okinawa hand) would eventually become karate (Chinese hand) and, finally, karate-do (the way of the empty hand). Historically, Okinawa was an independent kingdom, but it was strongly influenced by Chinese culture. Okinawa established a tributary relationship with China, which allowed Okinawan martial artists to study in China (and to train with Chinese martial artists visiting Okinawa). There were originally three styles of Okinawa-te, named for the towns where they were located: Shuri-te, Naha-te and Tomari-te. Shotokan karate is a modern Japanese style, descended from these traditional Okinawan styles. Unfortunately, the history of karate is somewhat incomplete and speculative. Until recently, karate was taught in secret and few records were maintained. During the period of secrecy, there would be no open discussion karate training, even within a family.

Gichin Funakoshi is widely regarded as the father of modern karate and is certainly the father of Japanese karate. He was an Okinawan schoolteacher and an enthusiastic karate-ka. He began karate training in his childhood, primarily with Yasutsune Azato (1827-1906) and Yasutsune Itosu (1830-1915). Funakoshi was selected to give the first demonstrations of karate outside Okinawa. They occurred in 1916 (possibly 1917) and in 1922. His demonstrations were well received and there was much interest in the introduction of karate to Japan. Funakoshi remained in Japan after the second demonstration.

Initially, there were few students to support the only karate instructor in Japan. The 56 year old schoolteacher had to take odd jobs at the dormitory where he set up his temporary dojo. He worked as watchman, caretaker and gardener. To pay for his meals, he had to persuade the cook to take lessons. Our style is called Shotokan as a tribute to Master Funakoshi, who used the pen-name Shoto on poetry and calligraphy. Shoto means waving pine. Funakoshi selected this name because he enjoyed hearing the sound of the wind through the pine trees as he took evening walks in Okinawa. In 1936, Funakoshi built his first dojo in Tokyo. His students named it the Shotokan, meaning Shoto’s club. Funakoshi did not actually name his style of karate, but the name of the dojo came to be associated with the style itself. Master Funakoshi died on 26 April 1957. During his lifetime, he trained many famous students, including Shigeru Egami, Masatoshi Nakayama, Keinosuke Enoeda, Tsutomu Oshima, Hidetaka Nishiyama and Teruyuki Okazaki.

One of Master Funakoshi’s enduring legacies are the Dojo kun. Five precepts which all students of Karate should adhere.

These are:

  • Seek perfection of character   (Hitotsu jinkaku kansei ni tsutomurukoto)
  • Be faithful   (Hitotsu, makoto no michi wo yashinaukoto)
  • Endeavour   (Hitotsu, doryoku no seishin wo yashinnaukoto)
  • Respect others   (Hitotsu, reigi wo omonzurukoto)
  • Refrain from violent behaviour   (Hitotsu, kekki no yuu wo imashimurukoto)