Shōtōkan (松濤館) is a style of Karate, named after Sensei Gichin Funakoshi, considered as the founder of modern day Japanese Karate-Do. Shotokan Karate-Do was developed from various martial arts by Sensei Gichin Funakoshi (1868–1957) and his son Sensei Gigo (Yoshitaka) Funakoshi (1906–1945). As the most widely practiced style, Shotokan is considered the oldest, traditional and influential form of Karate-Do. It was developed at the beginning of the twentieth century on the island of Okinawa.
The Ultimate Aim Of Karate Lies Not In Victory Or Defeat, But In The Perfection Of The Character Of The Participant.
— SENSEI GICHIN FUNAKOSHI
Sensei Funakoshi trained in both of the popular styles of Karate that were popular in Okinawa at the time: Shorei-ryu and Shorin-ryu.
Shorei-ryu was designed for well-built people, which gave importance to developing physical strength and was impressive in its shear power; it utilized the heavy strikes of Okinawa-Te and some of the Sumo grappling moves. Whereas, Shorin-ryu was light and quick, with fast strikes and counterattacks, designed for people who were small in size and very agile. Shorin-ryu utilized attacks on pressure points characteristic of Dim-Mak and grappling moves from Jujutsu.
After years of intense study of both styles, Sensei Funakoshi arrived at a new understanding of martial arts, and a simplistic style was created, that combined the ideals of Shorei-ryu and Shorin-ryu. Sensei Funakoshi found a path to physical health and stamina through individual technique. Thus, Modern Karate focused on breathing, releasing energy and outstanding mind and body control.
Sensei Gichin Funakoshi never gave his style a name, just calling it karate. In 1935, students of Sensei Funakoshi opened a dojo in his honor and named it “Shoto Kan Karate Dojo”. The students of Sensei Funakoshi chose the name Shoto Kan because Shoto was the pen name used by Sensei Funakoshi in his poetic and philosophical writings and messages to his students. Shoto (松濤), means “pine-waves”, which resembles the movement of pine needles when the wind blows through them) and kan (館) means “house” or “hall”. But, after the opening of the Shotokan Karate Dojo in Tokyo, the style he had developed became to be known as Shotokan.
When Sensei Funakoshi created his style of martial arts, he chose the Tiger as the animal symbol to represent Shotokan because it signified Strength, Power, and Tenacity. The tiger in the traditional circular image is a traditional Chinese design that implies “the tiger never sleeps”. It symbolizes, therefore, the Keen Alertness of the Wakeful Tiger and Serenity of the Peaceful Mind. The Shotokan Tiger is drawn within a circle to show that the power of the tiger, like the power of Shotokan, is contained. It indicates that this power should never be used on a whim. The power is only unleashed, or broken from the circle, in order to defend ourselves or others who can’t defend themselves from a violent attack.
Shotokan Karate training is usually divided into three parts: Kihon (basics), Kata (forms or patterns of moves), and Kumite (sparring). Techniques in kihon and kata are characterised by deep, long stances that provide stability, enable powerful movements, and strengthen the legs. Shotokan is regarded as a dynamic martial art as it develops anaerobic, powerful techniques as well as developing speed.
Shotokan Niju Kun
Sensei Gichin Funakoshi created Twenty Precepts of Karate or Niju Kun, which are the guideline forming the foundations of Shotokan karate. The philosophy of Shotokan lies within these twenty precepts or principles which are based on Bushido and Zen. These principles address issues of character and the spiritual, as well as the need for courage, honesty, perseverance, humility, all of which can find expression through genuine courtesy and respect. These twenty principles are applicable to ones lives in general as they are to the practice of karate. They encourage us to prefect not just our art but ourselves since true karate-do (Way of Karate) trains both the mind and body.