Shotokan Karate - General Background

By: Thanaseelan

History:

Shotokan is both a young and an ancient martial art. It is ancient because its roots are deeply entrenched in the past, and young because, as it is expressed today, it is an art that is less than a 100 years old. Shotokan is characterised by its long and low stances, its powerful techniques and its dynamic forms.

The founder of Shotokan, Gichin Funakoshi, was an Okinawan. He trained in the oldest of the Okinawan te (hand) systems as a young man and in the early 20th century brought what he had learned in the island of Okinawa to mainland Japan, where he demonstrated his art before the Emperor. He originally intended to return to Okinawa but was persuaded to to remain and continue teaching in Japan. Funakoshi's pen name was Shoto (waving pines) and kan (hall). Hence Shotokan can be translated to mean "Shoto's hall of the way of the empty hand".

While Funakoshi was the originator of Shotokan, it was really his son, Yoshitaka Funakoshi, who developed it into the form we know today. It rapidly grew in popularity, supported, encouraged and regulated by the powerful Japan Karate Association. Before long, it was to be found all over the world.

Triads:

Shotokan is built on what are known as triads, which are both real organisations and metaphors for something much deeper within the human psyche. There exists the physical triad of kihon (basics), kumite (sparring) and kata (forms), which require dedicated training and the constant perfecting of technique. This is followed by the moral triad of justice, mercy and compassion and finally by the ethical triad of duty, honour and loyalty.

If we put all of the 9 triad principles together (9 symbolises perfection) we achieve the whole, rounded person. When these principles are practised in a martial art, they illustrate one of the fundamental concepts of Shotokan, as advocated by the founder, Gichin Funakoshi. His aim was to focus on the development of the human character as a whole being, rather than on winning and losing.

Significance:

While Shotokan is a wonderful form of relaxation or sport for many people, for those who practise it seriously it has a much deeper and wider significance. This deeper realisation, however, can only come after years of dedicated practice. While this is a dimension of the art that emerges rather slowlyScience Articles, Shotokan can still be enjoyed at all levels by hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world.

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