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Shotokan  is a style of karate, developed from various martial arts by Gichin Funakoshi (1868–1957) and his son Gigo (Yoshitaka) Funakoshi (1906–1945).

Shoto, 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  means "house" or "hall". In honor 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 style a name, just calling it karate.

Kara is the Japanese for empty while te means hand and do translates as the way, or path.

So Karate-do is The Way of the Empty Hand. It is a martial art in which the ultimate purpose is not to seek to win, but to work towards perfection of character, self-control and self-discipline by the accumulation of experience through training. It is also a form of self-defence using all parts of the body which, by hard and systematic training, become effective and powerful weapons.

Karate encompasses whole body movements which develop balance, flexibility, co-ordination, speed and power.This is achieved through the constant practice of the basic movements (Kihon) which, due to their variety and complexity, can be considered as a complete art form themselves.


Oriental fighting arts can be traced back over 2,000 years. The Japanese island of Okinawa came in to contact with many of these combat systems, especially those of China. Some of their features were added to a native Okinawan fighting art. 

In the 1600’s the Japanese invaded Okinawa and banned the carrying of weapons, and so the warrior-class secretly trained themselves in unarmed self-defence, using and improving the ancient techniques.

Thus modern Karate is the outcome of centuries of interchange between China, Okinawa and Japan. It only came to be taught openly to the public in the early 1900’s. The founder of modern Karate, Gichin Funakoshi from Okinawa, first demonstrated his powers to the Japanese public in 1922 in Tokyo. Funakoshi established his first Dojo in Japan in 1936.

The Japan Karate Association (JKA) was created in 1955 with Funakoshi as the Chief Instructor. The name Shotokan is derived from Funakoshi’s pen-name, Shoto and the Japanese word for hall, kan. 

The Japanese first brought Karate to Europe in the late 1950’s. Kanazawa Sensei, 10th Dan, is generally recognized as the greatest Shotokan Karate instructor alive today. Shotokan Karate is the original and most popular style of Karate and differs from other styles by combining swift and dynamic techniques with controlled (non-contact) and powerful strikes.