Master Gichin Funakoshi
There are four major styles of Karate today:-
Shotokan-ryu, which was founded by Gichin Funakoshi in Tokyo in 1938. Funakoshi is considered to be the founder of modern karate. Born in Okinawa, he began to study karate with Yasutsune Azato, one of Okinawa's greatest experts in the art. In 1921 Funakoshi first introduced Karate to Tokyo. In 1936, at nearly 70 years of age, he opened his own training hall. The dojo was called Shotokan after the pen name used by Funakoshi to sign poems written in his youth. Shotokan Karate was influenced directly by Shuri-te (Shorin-ryu), and is characterized by powerful linear techniques and deep strong stances. This style was one of the first styles to be introduced to Japan in the 1920's. Powerful kata such as Bassai (Shuri-te) are typical of this style.
Shito-ryu, was founded by Kenwa Mabuni (1887-1952) in 1928. It was influenced directly by both Naha-te and Shuri-te (Shorin-ryu and Shorei-ryu). The name Shito is constructively derived from the combination of the Japanese characters of Mabuni's teachers' names - Yasutsune "Anko" Itosu and Kanryo Higa'shi'onna. Shito-ryu is fast, but is still powerful and artistic. Shito-ryu schools use a large number of kata, about fifty, and is characterized by an emphasis on power in the execution of techniques. Its kata include the same kata as Shotokan-ryu and Goju-ryu, as well as some artistic Chinese white crane kata such as Nipaipo. Shito-ryu also practices with Kobudo (weapon arts) and sometimes Iaido (sword arts) as part of the style, which makes Shito-ryu fairly unique among the modern Karate styles.
Goju-ryu, which was founded by Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953). Its popularity due to the success of Kanryo Higashionna (1853-1915). Higashionna opened a dojo in Naha using eight forms brought from China. His student, Chojun Miyagi founded Goju-ryu, 'hard soft way' in 1930. In Goju-ryu much emphasis is placed on combining soft circular blocking techniques with quick strong counter attacks delivered in rapid succession. It came from Shorei-ryu (from Naha-te and Tomari-te), which utilize up and down stances and internal breathing power (known as "hard and soft" techniques). Kata such as Sanchin (Naha-te) and Rohai (Tomari-te) demonstrate this techniques well.
Wado-ryu, "way of peace and harmony", founded by by Hironori Ohtsuka, a student of Gichin Funakoshi, in 1939. This style of karate combines basic movements of jujitsu with techniques of evasion, putting a strong emphasis on softness and the way of harmony or spiritual discipline. Wado kai or ryu is one of the four major styles of karate in Japan. Trained in classical bujutsu (the techniques of the samurai), Sensei Ohtsuka applied this outlook and experience to his teachings. Some of the harsher resistive or hard contact elements of sparring technique, typical of many karate styles, are not present in Wado. Sensei Ohtsuka rejected hardening certain parts of the body, such as hand conditioning, as useless preparation. The current head of Wado Kai karate for North America is one of Ohtsuka Sensei's senior students, Sensei Masaru Shintani.