Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Art & History Feature - Shotokan Karate

Dan Exam on March 23rd 2012 at JSKA-USA (Shodan, Nidan and Sandan)
 In honor of taking the Nidan (2nd degree black belt) exam last night and passing it, and as a tribute to my classmates who also earned their Shodan (1st degree black belt), Nidan or Sandan (3rd degree black belt) degrees with me, I'd like to tell you about Shotokan Karate - the style that I practice

Shotokan Karate

Shotokan Tiger
The founder of Shotokan Karate is Gichin Funakoshi (1868–1957). It is interesting to note that Funakoshi himself did not want different styles of karate to exist - he wanted karate to be united. The term Shotokan was coined by Funakoshi's students. This is what they called the first official dojo built by the their teacher in 1939. Funakoshi's pen name was "Shoto", which translates as "pine-waves". "Kan" means "hall". And so put together and loosely translated, Shotokan means "the hall of pine-waves". Funakoshi himself called the martial arts simply "karate" and never gave the style an official name. He also never created an organization. However, after his death in 1957, his students split into various organizations due to political and ideological conflicts.
Gichin Funakoshi - founder of Shotokan Karate

Shotokan Karate came out of a various martial arts that Funakoshi practiced as a child and as a young man in his native Okinawa. The practice of martial arts was forbidden in Okinawa starting in the 1400s. They were taught in secret through generations. The villagers developed various self-defense techniques and perfected the use of simple farming implements as weapons in order to protect themselves from the militarized and heavily trained samurai of Japan. The three main martial arts styles to develop in Okinawa were Naha-te, Shuri-te, and Tomari-te. However, collectively, they were mostly known as "te", which means "hand" in Japanese.

Gichin Funakoshi was a sickly child and his parents decided that martial arts will make him stronger. Among great masters of the time, he trained with Anko Azato. He trained mainly in two of the most popular styles of the time Shōrei-ryū and Shōrin-ryū. Shotokan combines both of these styles. Funakoshi became a teacher and his main mission in life eventually became the spread of karate onto the mainland of Japan and into the Japanese education system. He also changed the name to karate-te, meaning "empty hand".

Today, Shotokan Karate includes kihon (basics), kata (forms), kumite (fighting/sparring) and bunkai (applications - although not taught by everyone). While karate has become widely sports-oriented in our times, many people are still attracted to it for its original ideas and philosophies of budo (the martial way).

Dojo Kun
This dojo kun is recited in all Shotokan dojos:
  •  Seek perfection of character
  • Be Faithful
  • Endeavor
  • Respect others
  • Refrain from violent behavior
Also, these  20 Precepts of Funakoshi should be familiar to all Karate practitioners:

1. Karate-do begins with courtesy and ends with rei (bow/respect)

2. There is no first strike in karate.
3. Karate is an aid to justice.
4. First know yourself before attempting to know others.
5. Spirit first, technique second.
6. Always be ready to release your mind.
7. Accidents arise from negligence.
8. Do not think that karate training is only in the dojo.
9. It will take your entire life to learn karate, there is no limit.
10. Put your everyday living into karate and you will find "Myo" (subtle secrets).
11. Karate is like boiling water, if you do not heat it constantly, it will cool.
12. Do not think that you have to win, think rather that you do not have to lose.
13. Victory depends on your ability to distinguish vulnerable points from invulnerable ones.
14. The out come of the battle depends on how you handle weakness and strength.
15. Think of your opponents hands and feet as swords.16. When you leave home, think that you have numerous opponents waiting for you.
17. Beginners must master low stance and posture, natural body positions are for the advanced.
18. Practicing a kata exactly is one thing, engaging in a real fight is another. 
19. Do not forget to correctly apply: strength and weakness of power, stretching and contraction ofthe body, and slowness and speed of techniques.
20. Always think and devise ways to live the precepts of karate-do every day.

I'm proud to be a part of the world-wide Shotokan Karate family!


  1. Great post, thanks for sharing! I practiced Hsing-I when I lived in the States for many years, but have never been able to find a teacher since I moved to France. ): It's awsome you still get to practice! (:

    1. Hope you can get back to practicing martial arts one day :)

  2. Karate has brought so many wonderful things to my life. Cannot even begin to write just how much and how many. Adore this post. Thanks for writing about this amazing martial art.

  3. Congratulations! I'm very impressed - it's such an accomplishment. I've always wanted to take a class - someday I will. P.S. I left a Sunshine award for you on my blog:)

    1. Thank you :) It does feel good to get through it and pass.
      Thank you for the award!

  4. Nice blog with amazing write up. It is the best technique for self defense.

  5. Nice blog with amazing write up. It is the best technique for self defense.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...