- THE TIGER
AND THE NAME
- A poet's
- The names given to the
various styles of martial arts found around the world are
as varied as the people who created them.
- Each culture places it's
own particular imprint on what is created within it's
borders, and the art of Shotokan Karate is no different.
- Founded by an Okinawan
school teacher named Gichin Funakoshi, Shotokan Karate-Do,
as his style is known today, officially took it's first
breath in Tokyo Japan. For it was here that Sensei
Funakoshi opened his first dojo in Zoshigaya, Toshima
Ward, in the Spring of 1936.
- The name Shotokan, however,
came about as a result of events that took place in
Sensei Funakoshi's youth.
- As a young man he would
often walk into the hills and the pine forests
surrounding his Okinawan home town of Shuri, where as he
says, "he would often listen to the sound of the
rustle of the pines when the wind blew". In his book
'Karate-do, My Way of Life" he says, "to me the
murmur was a kind of celestial music.
- As a result of his love for
these forests he decided to adopt a "pen name"
with which to sign all of his calligraphy and poems.
Master Funakoshi therefore got into the habit of signing
all his works with the name "Shoto". In
Japanese "Sho" literally translates into "pine"
and the word ""to" translates into "waving"
hence, "Shoto" means "waving pines".
- The word "kan" on
the other hand means "hall or building", and so
when his students were asked where they went to study
karate they would say, " to "Shoto's kan"
or the "hall of the waving pines" and so over
time the name "Shotokan" became associated with
Sensei Gichin Funakoshi and his particular style of
- Today the name Shotokan is
recognized world wide and is the only style of karate in
Japan that is sponsored by the Ministry of Education.
- Along with the name
Shotokan, Sensei Funakoshi's style of karate is also
identified by it's symbol, that of a Tiger surrounded by
a circle. This design came about as the result of Sensei
Funakoshi's meeting with the painter Hoan Kosugi in Tokyo
shortly after his arrival. In fact it was Hoan Kosugi who
encouraged him to write a reference book on the subject
of karate-do. This ultimately led to his first book
"Ryukyu Kempo" being published by Bukyosha, in
- The tiger symbol was then
drawn for Sensei Funakoshi's book by Hoan Kosugi. The
irregular appearance of the circle it's self suggests
that it was drawn free hand and with one continuous
stroke of his brush. The kanji found in the upper right
hand corner is Hoan Kosugi's own name.
- Why the Tiger was selected
is not entirely clear and while there are several
theories, all are speculation as far as I can tell, and
as such I will not elaborate on them here.
- Suffice to say that without
either the name Shoto-Kan, or the symbol of the Tiger,
our art would in many ways be greatly diminished.
- What master
Gichin Funakoshi said,
great virtues of karate are prudence and humility"
- Part the
clouds - see the way.
objective of karate-do is to contribute to the evolution
- of the
human spirit through physical and mental training."