Shotokan - The Meaning

The Shotokan style of Karate was started and developed by Sensei Gichin Funakoshi. Initially Shotokan was the name of the first Karate dojo (the "honbu dojo" - central dojo) but over time it became the name of style of karate that Sensei Funakoshi taught/practiced.


When Sensei Funakoshi first came to Japan he did not have a dedicated place for training so H.Nakayama, a great kendo instructor, offered Funakoshi the use of his dojo when not in use.


About 1935/36, supporters and students had sufficient funds to construct the first karate dojo in Japan and on the 29th July 1939 it was dedicated as the "Shoto-kan". The word Shotokan was painted in white above the entrance to the dojo. The building was quite small, about the size of a badminton court.


The name Shotokan was chosen by his students. The name is formed by the words "shoto" and "kan". Shoto has the meaning "waving or billowing pine trees" and was the pen name of Sensei Funakoshi when he wrote his poetry in his youth. He used to walk along mount Torao (near Shuri on Okinawa) which was covered in Ryukyu pines and when the wind blew it rustled the pines. He felt it was a place of peace, where he could contemplate the mysteries of life. Kan has the meaning of a large building or hall.



The Shotokan (Hall of Shoto) was erected in the district of Zoshigaya, Toyama Ku (Tokoyo) when sensei Funakoshi was aged 70, unfortunately it was destroyed during an air raid on the 10th March 1945 during the second world war.


By Sensei Nelson


Bibliography: Shotokan Karate Dictionary by Schlatt; A Shotokan Karate Book of Facts by Layton, Randall & Nursey; Karate-Do: My Way of Life by Funakoshi.

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