Shotokan Karate

A brief History

My main style of marital arts has been Shotokan karate for 12 years. Often affiliated with the infamous Shotokan tiger symbol pictured left, Shotokan karate is one of four main styles of Japanese karate that exist today. It was created by Gichin Funakoshi, who originally just called it “karate”. His students titled it, or rather, Funakoshi’s first dojo as “Shotokan“, naming it after Funakoshi’s pen name “Shoto“. The name stuck and it is what we call the style of karate today. Shoto, Funakoshi’s pen name stands for “whispering pines”, where as “kan” was added to name his “place” or, first karate dojo, hence the fully translated name “house of whispering pines“. Funakoshi’s original dojo named after this was sadly destroyed in a fire while Funakoshi was still alive.

Today there are hundreds, if not thousands, of Shotokan karate schools located across the world. Originating in Japan, Shotokan is now a popular style in many countries including the US, Mexico, UK, Italy, France, Germany, Canada, and even parts of Africa. No matter what part of the world you are in, there is most likely a Shotokan karate school located in that part of the world somewhere. The beautiful thing about Shotokan karate is that, no matter what part of the world you train in, if you went to another Shotokan karate school there is hardly a difference in the basics and kata. Furthermore, most schools (in my experience) always teach basics in Japanese, so even if you don’t know the common language of the people you can still train in karate with them.

 Important Names of Shotokan

Often times in general discussion and teaching, many names get brought up that most beginners are unfamiliar with. Here is a general list of important and historical characters to Shotokan karate. In this list I have noted which one’s have a line that I have been taught through.

  • Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957) – the creator and founder of Shotokan karate, often labeled as “the father modern karate”
  • Gigō Funakoshi (1906-1945) – Son of Gichin Funakoshi, responsible for further fine tuning Shotokan and giving the style it’s deep stances, also added more kata to Shotokan, passed away of tuberculosis at only 39 years old
  • Masatoshi Nakayama (1913-1987)  – student of both Gichin and Gigō Funakoshi, responsible for founding the JKA and for spreading Shotokan out across the world, first master in Shotokan history to reach the rank of 9th Dan
  • Hidetaka Nishiyama (1928-2008) – recently passed away in 2008, was one of the last surviving direct students of Gichin Funakoshi, hugely responsible and honored by the United States Senate for introducing karate to American’s for the first time by teaching the US Armed Forces karate, helped establish the JKA
  • Hirokazu Kanazawa (1938) – Legendary Shotokan martial artist who is currently one of the last of Funakoshi’s surviving students, published many books and has many videos on the web performing traditional kata, known for being one of the first world champion fighters of Shotokan, runs the SKIF and still teaches today, had taught and promoted Sensei Clay Morton who I have had the privilege of training under a few times
  • Keinosuke Enoeda (1935-2003) – Student of Nakayama and founder of the Karate Union of Great Britain, trained most of the biggest martial artist of Great Britian including Sensei Grenville Harrop who I have the privilege of training with every weekend
  • Teruyuki Okazaki (1931) – Another of Funakoshi’s surviving students, Sensei Okazaki is one of the biggest traditional martial artist in the United States, currently teaches karate in Philadelphia, PA and has taught my master Sensei William Viola who promoted me to black belt
  • Robert Trias (1923-1989) – Opened the first karate school in the United States, founded the USKA, instructed my master Sensei William Viola


This page serves as a general ground for what Shotokan is. For more info, check out the drop down menus with the pages and history on Shotokan, Gichin Funakoshi, and more.

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