Gichin Funakoshi was born in Okinawa and is widely credited with popularizing “karate do” through a series of public demonstrations, and by promoting the development of university karate clubs.
Shotokan was the name of the first official dojo built by Gichin Funakoshi, in 1936 at Mejiro, and destroyed in 1945 as a result of an allied bombing. Shoto (松濤Shōtō), meaning “pine-waves” (the movement of pine needles when the wind blows through them), was Funakoshi’s pen-name, which he used in his poetic and philosophical writings and messages to his students.
The Japanese kan (館 kan) means “house” or “hall”. In honour of their sensei, Funakoshi’s students created a sign reading shōtō-kan, which they placed above the entrance of the hall where Funakoshi taught.
Gichin Funakoshi never gave his system a name, just calling it karate. The system know as Shotokan Karate was introduced to Japan in 1922 by Gichin Funakoshi. In 1955 the Japan Karate Association was formed and sponsored by the Japanese Government.
Shotokan is a dynamic form of karate characterised by its deep stances and powerful extended movements. The style uses considerable muscle power in the delivery of its techniques, whether they are blocks or attacks. During training attacks are practised, striking to the various vital parts of the body using full power and speed, yet with perfect control, such that no contact is ever made.
Shotokan training is usually divided into three parts:
- Kihon (basics)
- Kata (forms of patterns of moves)
- 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 regarded as a dynamic martial art as it develops anaerobic, powerful techniques as well as developing speed. Initially strength and power are demonstrated instead of slower, more flowing motions.
Those who progress to brown and black belt level develop a much more fluid style that incorporates grappling, locks and throws, which can be found in the black belt kata. Kumite (fighting) techniques are practised in the kihon and kata and developed from basic to advanced levels with an opponent.