History of Shotokan Karate

A short reminder to Shotokan karate history:

Karate means “empty hand”, and Karate-do translates to “the way of Karate”. It was renamed from “To-Te Jutsu” (the art of the Chinese hand) to “Karate-Do”. Karate is a highly developed method of combat based on the systems which developed at the beginning of the twentieth century by Master Gichin Funakoshi, on the island of Okinawa. Gichin Funakoshi is known today as the father of modern day karate. He was born in 1868 in Okinawa. As a boy, he studied karate under two masters, Master Itosu and Master Azato. In those days a master only took on a few students and the practice of the martial arts was still kept secret. When Funakoshi grew up he became a school teacher, training in karate all the while with both masters.

The word Shotokan is comprised of three Kanji characters in Japanese – Sho To Kan. The verbatim translation is Pine Waves Hall, and is synonymous with the tiger symbol and Shotokan Karate today.

Master Gichin Funakoshi’s pen name was Shoto and signs his works of calligraphy with his pen name. He would explain that the cool breezes, which blew among the pine trees where he lived, made a sound like waves breaking the shore.

The tiger, which is commonly used as the symbol of Shotokan implies that the tiger never sleeps.

Significant Dates in the Karate History

1905:     Karate is included in Okinawa’s physical education programs at the intermediate level.
1917:     Funakoshi gives the first public demonstration of karate-do.
1922:     Funakoshi is invited by Dr. Jano Kano to give a demonstration at the Kodokan Dojo, bringing karate-do to Japan.
1924:     The first university club is established in Japan, at Keio University.
1930:    Karate makes its way to Canada.
1936:     Okinawan masters meet to discuss karate in Okinawa, a meeting sponsored by the newspaper Ryukyu Shimpo.
1939:     Japan opens Shoto-Kan, its first formal training school.
1945:     The first dojo is opened in the United States.
1949:     The Japan Karate Association is formed.
1960:    Karate makes its way to the Soviet Union and is banned and unbanned several times over the next three decades.

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