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History of Shotokan Karate

Shotokan is originally from Japan and was founded by Gichin Funakoshi (1868–1957) and his son Gigo (Yoshitaka) Funakoshi (1906–1945). Shotokan was the name of the first official dojo built by Gichin Funakoshi, in 1936. Shoto means "pine-waves" (the movement of pine needles when the wind blows through them). The Japanese kan means "house" or "hall". In honor of their sensei, Funakoshi's students created a sign reading shoto-kan, which they placed above the entrance of the hall where Funakoshi taught.


This particular style of martial arts training is usually divided into three parts: kihon (basics), kata (forms or patterns of moves), and kumite (sparring). Techniques in kihon and kata are characterized by deep, long stances that provide stability, enable powerful movements, and strengthen the legs. Shotokan is often regarded as a 'hard' and 'external' martial art because it is taught that way to beginners and intermediates to develop strong basic techniques and stances. Initially strength and power are demonstrated instead of slower, more flowing motions. Those who progress to brown, red and black belt levels develop a much more fluid style that incorporates grappling. Kumite techniques mirror these stances and movements at a basic level, but are less structured, with a focus instead on speed and efficiency.


Gichin Funakoshi laid out the twenty principles of karate, which form the foundations of the art. Within these twenty principles, lies the philosophy of Shotokan. These principles shun upon humility, and condone respect, compassion, patience, and both an inward and outward calmness. It was Funakoshi's belief that through karate practice and observation of these 20 principles, Shotokan would improve their person.


                                  “Seek the perfection of character.”

                                                         -Gichin Funakoshi

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