Shotokan (松濤館流 ,Shōtōkan-ryū) is a style of karate, developed from various martial arts by Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957) and his son Gigo (Yoshitaka) Funakoshi (1906-1945).

The Shotokan style is a simple style that does not apply a wide variety of motions or stances. As compared to Kyokushin karate or Taekwondo, Shotokan works only a few techniques many, many times. However, the few techniques designed for both self-defense and self-development are to be mastered to such a high degree of precision and mastery that they "truly" become extraordinarily efficient weapons of self defense.


Shotokan Karate
The most common defense used is a pre-emptive strike against an incoming opponent. The Shotokan karate student derives the majority of his or her strength from continual repetition of basic techniques and correct and spirited performance of kata. Training is rigorous, requiring a lot of both mental determination and physical exertion as the Shotokan expert is expected to perform using strictly defined basic techniques even under harsh conditions. As opposed to Taekwondo or Kyokushin the Shotokan expert is not supposed to engage in a long-lasting battle, but to combine fast movement and power inflicting major damage with little or no damage to oneself.

Shoto (
松濤 ,Shōtō), means "pine-waves" (the movement of pine needles when the wind blows through them). It was Funakoshi's pen-name, which he used in his messages to his students and in his writings. The Japanese kan ( ,kan) means "house" or "hall". Shotokan was also the name of the first official dojo built by Funakoshi, in 1936 at Mejiro, and destroyed in 1945 as a result of allied bombing.

In honor of their sensei, Funakoshi's students created a sign reading sh
ōtō-kan which was placed above the entrance of the hall where Funakoshi taught. Note that Gichin Funakoshi himself never gave his style a name, just calling it "karate".

The word Karate itself is a combination of two Japanese characters: "KARA", meaning empty, and "TE", meaning hand. So the literal translation of the word Karate means "empty hand" or "with bare hands". Adding the suffix "-Do" (pronounced "doe"), meaning "the way," differentiates the mere mastery of physical techniques ("Karate") and puts the emphasis on the acquisition of spiritual insight and development, becoming "the way of the empty hand" or "the way of the open hand".

Karate is a martial art (method of combat), which employs a variety of techniques, including punches, kicks, blocks, strikes, throws, chokes, joint locks and bone breaking.

The style is recognizable by its linear, direct punching, striking, blocking, and kicking techniques from low stances. As compared to other styles of karate, Shotokan places little emphasis on elaborate kicks or punches. Above all, Shotokan emphasizes correct posture, correct joint alignment, and formality of basic technique.

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Karate was probably developed on the island of Okinawa when the Japanese made the use of weapons illegal on the Ryukyu islands after annexation of the archipel in the XVIth century. As a result, Okinawans started using their bare hands as weapons.

Funakoshi sensei is credited with first introducing and popularizing karate on the main islands of Japan, when he performed a demonstration in front of the Japanese Emperor in 1922. He is considered the father of modern karate. Different schools and styles have been created in the XXth century. They differ in strikes, stances, use of weapons, etc. The most important  Karate styles are: Shotokan, Kyokushin, Goju-Ryu, Wado-Ryu and Shito-Ryu, Shorin-ryu,Uechi-ryu,Budokan.

Shotokan founder Gichin Funakoshi
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Shotokan Karatedo is sometimes regarded as the perfect fusion between the modern science of Biomechanics and Sports Medicine with ancient Japanese and Okinawan training methods, allowing fantastic amounts of power to be generated through the correct mastery of one's body dynamics.

Basic techniques are defined to the minutest detail, leaving no room for 'creativity'. Performing these basic techniques with absolute perfection is given the highest priority. According to the Japan Shotokan Karate Association "The idea behind this is that one elegant technique mastered so completely that it is as natural as flipping a light switch will finish off the opponent quickly and efficiently.
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In situations where there are multiple opponents, such an ability is believed essential because there may not be time to throw more than one technique per opponent. And getting entangled in grappling with your adversary when multiple attackers are also trying to harm you is very unwise. Therefore, each Karate technique is maximized at the expense of learning more complicated defenses. In combat, less is usually more. Simple techniques win (physical, mental and emotional) engagements. The Shotokan belief is that nothing is more important than a relaxed mind and strong basic technique."

Originally, karate (like all traditional Japanese martial arts) had only three belt colors: white (for beginners), black (for the initiated), and brown for those preparing the black belt. In the 1920s, Funakoshi adopted the Kyu/Dan rank system, which uses colored belts (obi) to indicate rank (kyu), and the uniform (keikogi) developed by Kano Jigoro, the founder of judo. However, Shotokan Karate of America still uses the original belt system:

    - 8th-4th kyu: white
    - 3rd
-1st kyu: brown
    - 1st-5th dan: black

Each Shotokan school may have a different number of maximum dans. However, most schools consider the 5th dan the highest grade as this was the highest grade obtained by Tutsomu Ohshima Sensei from the hands of Gichin Funakoshi  before his death.

In competitions competitors wear either a red (aka) or blue (ao) belt.


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