Keiko Shin Blog


Goals of Shotokan Karate

"Do not think of winning. Think, rather, of not losing..."

Shotokan is a striking style of martial arts that teaches practitioners through a series of kihon (basics), kata (forms) and kumite (sparring) how to defend oneself. Shotokan is a hard martial arts style that emphasizes powerful strikes, long stances, and a lot of in and out techniques in sparring designed to avoid damage and end a fight quickly.

Early karate origins

Karate is an ancient martial art whose origins date back over one thousand years. Karate can trace its roots to the Chinese Shao Lin fighting art. The Shao Lin style arose from the training methods introduced by Dharma at the Shao Lin monastery. Designed to build strength and endurance, these methods helped the Shao Lin monks carry out their religion's strict discipline.

The Shao Lin style migrated to Okinawa, where the authorities forbade the use of weapons. The Okinawan style of "empty-hand" fighting and self-defense soon arose, combining Shao Lin with indigenous fighting techniques. This martial art was called karate in recognition of its Chinese origin. ("Kara" means "Chinese"; "te" means "hand".)

The development of modern karate under Gichin Funakoshi

Gichin Funakoshi was born in Okinawa in 1868, the same year as Japan's Meiji Restoration. Introduced to karate as a boy, Funakoshi's early training took place in complete secrecy -- at the time, the Okinawan government had banned the practice of karate. Funakoshi eventually became a schoolteacher, training in karate all the while. During this time, Okinawan karate emerged from its seclusion to become a legally sanctioned martial art. In 1922, the Japanese Ministry of Education held a martial arts demonstration in Tokyo; the Okinawan Department of Education asked Funakoshi to introduce Okinawan karate to Japan.

His demonstration made a powerful impression on the Japanese public; Funakoshi was soon besieged with requests to further demonstrate and teach his art.

Recognizing that the karate he practiced had diverged from the Chinese fighting styles, Funakoshi changed the meaning of "karate" from "Chinese hand" to "empty hand." ("Kara" can also mean "empty".) The change was important to Funakoshi: the "empty hand" concept not only reflected the fact that its practitioners used no weapons, it also recalled the Zen process of perfecting oneself and one's art -- by emptying the heart and mind of earthly desire and vanity.

Funakoshi also set out to make karate more accessible to the public. He revised and streamlined the components of karate training, especially the kata, to make karate simple enough for everybody -- young and old, men and women. That's why Funakoshi Sensei is knowned as a "The father of Modern Karate..."

Karate began to spread throughout Japan. In 1935, Funakoshi's supporters had pooled enough funds to erect the first free-standing karate dojo in Japan. The dojo opened the next year, with a sign over the door bearing the dojo's name: Shoto-kan.

("Kan" means "building/house." "Shoto" means "pine waves," which describes the sound of the wind rustling through pine trees. Funakoshi, who loved nature, was fond of this murmuring sound -- he considered it a kind of "celestial music." Therefore, he used the pen-name "Shoto" to sign his calligraphy.)

Gichin Funakoshi passed away shortly after, in 1957. Since then, Shotokan students have carried on his spirit and teachings. The result: the JKA now has over 100,000 active karate students and approximately 300 affiliated karate clubs worldwide.

Hirokazu Kanazawa:

He needs no introduction...Hirokazu Kanazawa is arguably the most influential Shotokan Karateka alive today, and is a true inspiration to all Martial Artists. He is one of the few still alive who has trained with Master Funakoshi, and despite being in his mid-seventies, his vigor and passion for karate burns as strong now as ever.

Kanazawa, born in 1931 in Japan, like many in karate started his training in the Martial Arts through judo during his younger years, but while at University he took up karate.

Kanazawa, in Japanese karate, gained his famous reputation in 1957 when he entered the notorious All Japan Karate championship tournament; winning his final bout with a broken wrist, against medical advice reportedly because his mother was in the crowd and he did not want to disappoint her.

Those who encounter Kanazawa Sensei comment on his charismatic personality, that impresses all who meet him, and his humorous presence makes people comfortable, leaving many shocked that a man with his reputation can be so fun and open. This was probably why in 1967, he was placed as Chief instructor of JKA Europe, a position he held for quite some time.

However, in 1977, Kanazawa 7th Dan turned a new chapter in the Kanazawa book, and was forced into a position that meant he had to leave the JKA. When so many people thought his career was over, he established the SKIF, an Organization that has grown to house over two million members. Our dojo is one of the members with the honor of belonging to that prestigious Organization.

Sensei Kanazawa, like Funakoshi and Nakayama, is not just a karateKa, but also a pioneer, who has without a doubt changed the world of karate forever.

Present Day Shotokan Practitioners

Lyoto Machida

In recent years a UFC fighter by the name of Lyoto Machida has done quite a bit to bring the art of Shotokan to the forefront as well, by knowing how to strike with devastating force before anyone even realizes he's considering it. In a nutshell, that's what Shotokan karate looks like in battle. Former UFC Light Heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida holds a 3rd dan black belt in Shotokan karate, while his brother Shinzo holds a 4th dan and their father Yoshizo holds a 7th dan and was head of the Japan Karate Association's Brazilian branch.

Jean Claude Van Damme

Action movie star Jean-Claude Van Damme holds a black belt in Shotokan and used the style when he competed in full contact karate competitions in the 1970s and 1980s.





Rafael Aghayev

Rafael Aghayev: (Video) World and European Karate Champion. S.K.I.F. Member






Several other mixed martial artists also have a Shotokan background or utilize Shotokan (e.g., Vitor Belfort, Antonio Carvalho, Mark Holst, Assuerio Silva).


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