Karate Shotokan Ryu
The Karate | Karate History | Karate Origins | The Karate Styles | Karate Goju Ryu | Karate Practice | Whatâ€™s in Karate Name | Karate in America | Gichin Funakoshi | Tatsuo Shimabuku | Karate Influence | Karate Stances | Return to Our Roots | Karate Shito Ryu | Karate Shotokan Ryu | Karate Wado Ryu | Uechi Ryu Karate
Shotokan Karate is one of the four main schools of Karate in Japan. It is best characterised by its long and deep stances and its use of more linear movements.
Shotokan Karate has little of the circular movements found in Okinawan styles of karate, nor does it have the body conditioning and supplementary training exercises typical for Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate.
Shotokon Karate is considered by many a sports style of Karate, where tournaments and point-sparring are central to the art.
Many exponents of Shotokan are displeased about the way Shotokan has been portrayed and would prefer that Shotokan becomes again the traditional, non-sports martial art as conceived by Funakoshi.
Shotokan-ryu (æ¾æ¿¤é¤¨æµ, ShÅtÅkan-ryÅ«) is a school of karate, developed from various martial arts by Gichin Funakoshi (1868â€“1957) and his son Yoshitaka Funakoshi (1906â€“1945).
Gichin Funakoshi is widely recognized as having brought karate from Okinawa to mainland Japan, although Kenwa Mabuni, ChÅki Motobu, and other Okinawan karate masters were actively teaching karate in Japan prior to this point.
Shoto (“pine waves”) was Funakoshi’s pen-name, while kan means “house.” Hence, shÅtÅ-kan was the name of the hall where Funakoshi trained his students.
Shotokan is one of the four traditional karate styles, the others being Goju-ryu, Shito-ryu, and Wado-ryu. Although it began as a unified karate school that developed into the Japan Karate Association, Shotokan now exists as several independent organizations.
Origins: Gichin Funakoshi had trained in both of the popular styles of Okinawan karate of the time: Shorei-ryu and Shorin-ryu. After years of study in both styles, Funakoshi created a simpler style that combined the ideals of the two. He never named his style, however, always referring to it simply as “karate.” Funakoshi’s karate reflects the changes made in the art by AnkÅ Itosu, including the Heian/Pinan kata series. Funakoshi changed the names of the kata in an effort to make the “foreign” Okinawan names more palatable to the then-nationalistic Japanese mainland.
In the 1920s, Funakoshi adopted the KyÅ«/Dan rank system and the uniform (keikogi) developed by Kano Jigoro, the founder of judo. This system uses colored belts (obi) to indicate rank. Originally, karate had only three belt colors: white, brown, and black (with ranks within each). The original belt system, still used by Shotokan Karate of America, is:
- Ungraded: White
- 8th kyÅ«â€“4th kyÅ«: white
- 3rd kyÅ«â€“1st kyÅ«: brown
- Dan grades: black
Funakoshi awarded the first 1st dan (åˆæ®µ; shodan) Shotokan karate ranks to Tokuda, Otsuka, Akiba, Shimizu, Hirose, Gima, and Kasuya on 10 April 1924. Hong Hi Choi, a key figure in the development of taekwondo, studied Shotokan karate during the Japanese occupation of Korea during the first half of the 20th century.
Characteristics: Shotokan training is usually divided into three parts: kihon (basics), kata (forms or patterns of moves), and kumite (sparring). Techniques in kihon and kata are characterized by deep, long stances that provide stability, enable powerful movements, and strengthen the legs.
Strength and power are often demonstrated instead of slower, more flowing motions. Kumite techniques mirror these stances and movements at a basic level, but progress to being more flexible with greater experience. Funakoshi reportedly found traditional martial arts (e.g., sumo, jujutsu, and kenjutsu) to be too focused on combat; he emphasised health, breathing, release of energy, and concentrated mind- and body-control.Shotokan can be regarded as a ‘hard’ and ‘external’ martial art.
Kata: Kata is often described as a set sequence of karate moves organized into a pre-arranged fight against imaginary opponents. The kata consists of kicks, punches, sweeps, strikes, blocks, and throws. Body movement in various kata includes stepping, twisting, turning, dropping to the ground, and jumping.
In Shotokan, kata is not a performance or a demonstration, but is for individual karateka to practice full techniquesâ€”with every technique potentially a killing blow (ikken hisatsu)â€”while paying particular attention to form and timing (rhythm). As the karateka grows older, more emphasis is placed on the health benefits of practicing kata, promoting fitness while keeping the body soft, supple, and agile.
Several Shotokan groups have introduced kata from other styles into their training, but when the JKA was formed, Nakayama laid down 26 kata as the kata syllabus for this organization. Even today, thousands of Shotokan dojo only practice these 26 kata. The standard kata are: Taikyoku shodan (å¤ªæ¥µåˆæ®µ), Heian shodan (å¹³å®‰åˆæ®µ), Heian nidan (å¹³å®‰äºŒæ®µ), Heian sandan (å¹³å®‰ä¸‰æ®µ), Heian yondan (å¹³å®‰å››æ®µ), Heian godan (å¹³å®‰äº”æ®µ), Bassai dai (æŠ«å¡žå¤§), Jion (æ…ˆæ©), Empi (ç‡•é£›), Kanku dai (è¦³ç©ºå¤§), Hangetsu (åŠæœˆ), Jitte (åæ‰‹), Gankaku (å²©é¶´), Tekki shodan (é‰„é¨Žåˆæ®µ), Tekki nidan (é‰„é¨ŽäºŒæ®µ), Tekki sandan (é‰„é¨Žä¸‰æ®µ), Nijushiho (äºŒåå››æ¥), Chinte (çæ‰‹), Sochin (å£¯éŽ), Meikyo (æ˜Žé¡), Unsu (é›²æ‰‹), Bassai sho (æŠ«å¡žå°), Kanku sho (è¦³ç©ºå°), Wankan (çŽ‹å† ), Gojushiho sho (äº”åå››æ©å°), Gojushiho dai (äº”åå››æ©å¤§), and Ji’in (æ…ˆé™°).
Kumite: Beginners normally commence kumite training with five-step sparring (gohon kumite) or three-step sparring (sanbon kumite). These exercises required two training partners. Once the training partners pair up and bow, the attacker steps back into a front stance (zenkutsu dachi) while executing a downward block (gedan-barai), and announces the imminent attack in a clear, audible fashion.
The first type of five-step sparring is designated high-level (jodan), where the attacker will subsequently execute a high lunge punch (oi-zuki). The defender then steps back and executes a rising block (age-uke) to block the attack. The training partners repeat this sequence until the fifth punch, when the defender then executes a minor counter-attack in the form of a reverse punch (gyaku zuki).
The defender is expected to kiai with the counter-attack. The next step is for the training partners to return to ready position (yoi) and the defender now becomes the attacker (and vice versa), repeating the sequence above. Another type of five-step sparring is designated mid-level (chudan). The differences are that the attacking partner uses mid-level punches and the defender uses outside mid-level blocks (soto-uke). An alternative sequence of attacks may be used at this level, in which the attacker executes a series of front snap kicks (mae geri), while the defender uses downward blocks (gedan-barai).
At intermediate level, usually above 5th kyÅ«, karateka learn one-step sparring (ippon kumite). Though there is only one step involved, rather than three or five, this exercise is more advanced because it involves a greater variety of attacks and blocks. It also requires the defender to execute a counter-attack faster than in the earlier types of sparring. Counter-attacks may be almost anything, including strikes, grapples, and take-down maneuvers.
The next level of kumite is freestyle one-step sparring (jiyu ippon kumite). This is almost the same as one-step sparring but requires the karateka to be in motion. Practicing one-step sparring improves free sparring (jiyu kumite) skills, and also provides an opportunity for practicing major counter-attacks (as opposed to minor counter-attacks). Tsutomu Ohshima says in his book, Notes on Training, that one-step sparring is the most realistic practice in Shotokan karate, and that it is more realistic than free sparring.
Free sparring (jiyu kumite) is usually the last element of sparring to be learned. In this exercise, two training partners are free to use any karate technique or combination of attacks, and the defender at any given moment is free to avoid, block, counter, or attack at will. Training partners are encouraged to make controlled and focused contact with their opponent, but to withdraw their attack as soon as surface contact has been made.
This allows a full range of target areas to be attacked (including punches and kicks to the face, head, throat, and body) with no padding or protective gloves, but maintains a degree of safety for the participants. The use of throws and takedowns is permitted in free sparring, however it is unusual for fights to involve extended grappling or ground-wrestling, as Shotokan karateka are encouraged to ‘finish’ a downed opponent with a punch or kick.
Kaishu ippon kumite is an additional sparring exercise that is usually introduced for higher grades. This starts in a similar manner to freestyle one-step sparring; the attacker names the attack he/she will execute, attacks with that technique, and the defender blocks and counters the attack.
Unlike freestyle one-step sparring, however, the attacker must then block the defender’s counter-attack and strike back. This exercise is often considered more difficult than either freestyle one-step sparring or free sparring, as the defender typically cannot escape to a safe distance in time to avoid the counter to the counter-attack.
Japan Karate Association: The Japan Karate Association (JKA; “Nihon Karate Kyokai” in Japan) was the first formal Shotokan organization, formed by the Shotokan karate clubs of Japanese universities. Takushoku University provided the most members initially, but Hosei, Waseda, Gakushuin, and Keio Universities also contributed members. Masatoshi Nakayama (1913â€“1987) led the JKA, with Gichin Funakoshi holding a position equivalent to Professor Emeritus.
The JKA grew to be one of the biggest karate organisations in the world. Differences between senior instructors and administrators gave rise to several breakaway groups, with the JKA itself eventually dividing into two factions. Nobuyuki Nakahara, Ueki Masaaki, Tanaka Masahiko, and others led one faction, while Asai Tetsuhiko led the other. Following legal battles, the Nakahara group retained control of the JKA. The following sections describe some of the Shotokan organisations that descended from the JKA. The founders of these organisations are some of the most senior Shotokan instructors in the world.
Shotokai: Shigeru Egami (1912â€“1981), 10th dan, founded the ShÅtÅkai, or association/group of Shoto (Funakoshi). The Shotokai claims that Egami, the most senior of the Shotokai, was named successor by Gichin Funakoshi after the death of his son Yoshitaka.
International Traditional Karate Federation: Hidetaka Nishiyama (1928â€“), 10th dan, is Chairman of the International Traditional Karate Federation (ITKF) and President of the American Amateur Karate Federation (AAKF). Nishiyama began his karate training in 1943 under Gichin Funakoshi at the Shotokan-ryu. Two years later, while enrolled at Takushoku University, he became a member of the university’s karate team, for which in 1949 he was named captain. He was a co-founder of the All Japan Collegiate Karate Federation and was elected as its first chairman.
In 1951, Nishiyama became a founding member of the JKA, and was elected to the JKA Board of Directors. In 1952, he was selected as a member of the martial arts combat instruction staff for the US Strategic Air Command (SAC) Combat Training Program. The other karate instructors for this program included Funakoshi, Nakayama, and Isao Obata. Nishiyama is one of the most senior Shotokan karateka in the world. His former students include Hiroshi Shirai and Takeshi Oishi. Nishiyama continues to instruct at the Central Dojo in Los Angeles.
World Shotokan Karate Academy: Taiji Kase (1929â€“2004), 10th dan, founded the World Shotokan Karate Academy, which has since become the Shotokan-Ryu-Kase-Ha Instructor Academy (SRKHIA). He studied martial arts under his father (a judo instructor), as well as both Gichin Funakoshi and Yoshitaka Funakoshi.
Kase left Japan in 1964 to teach karate internationally, but started teaching his own style of Shotokan to avoid the power struggles in the art. The SRKHIA is an organisation for 3rd dan karateka and above as individual members; it does not register national associations and its mission is the ongoing technical development of its members.
Shotokan Karate of America: Tsutomu Ohshima (1930â€“present), 5th dan (the rank Funakoshi awarded him, and the rank he has retained by choice), is head of Shotokan Karate of America (SKA), a non-profit organization that has been teaching traditional karate-do in the United States since 1955.
Ohshima was believed to have been given permission by Gichin Funakoshi to bring Shotokan karate to the USA. Ohshima is also recognized as the chief instructor of many other SKA-affiliated Shotokan organizations worldwide. SKA maintains its national headquarters in Los Angeles and is not affiliated with the JKA.
Shotokan Karate-do International Federation: Hirokazu Kanazawa (1931â€“), 10th dan, was the first to break away from the JKA, and called his organization “Shotokan Karate-do International Federation” (SKIF). Kanazawa had studied under Masatoshi Nakayama and Hidetaka Nishiyama (1928â€“), both students of Gichin Funakoshi. SKIF introduced elements of Tai Chi Chuan, particularly in the matter of flow and balance, and actively promoted the evolution of Shotokan while maintaining the traditional core of the art.
Kanazawa is considered one of the most technically brilliant Shotokan exponents, and was a top contender in competition. Most notably, he won the kumite championship at the first JKA Open Tournament (1957) with a broken hand. Kanazawa was awarded 10th dan in 2000.
International Shotokan Karate Federation: Teruyuki Okazaki (1931â€“), 9th dan, leads the International Shotokan Karate Federation (ISKF), which is the largest Shotokan karate organization in North America and South America. Okazaki studied under Gichin Funakoshi and Masatoshi Nakayama, and was integral in the founding of the JKA Instructor Trainee program. As part of an effort by Nakayama to spread Shotokan karate internationally, Okazaki came to the USA in 1961. Okazaki founded the ISKF in 1977 and it was part of the JKA until June 2007.
Karate Union of Great Britain: Keinosuke Enoeda (1935â€“2003), 9th dan, was the JKA representative in the United Kingdom for many years, with his organisation, the Karate Union of Great Britain acting as the largest British arm of the JKA. The Karate Union of Scotland (both North and South) represented the JKA in Scotland, and also came under the direct leadership of the KUGB.
Since Enoeda’s death in 2003, the KUGB has continued as an independent organization under the leadership of Andy Sherry. The KUS has splintered into many subgroups, with the JKA being represented in Scotland by two groups: the JKA (Scotland) and the JKA World Federation (Scotland). The JKA continues to be represented in England by JKA England headed by Yoshinobu Ohta.
Japan Karate Shotorenmei: Tetsuhiko Asai (1935â€“2006), 9th dan, often practiced Sumo, Judo, Kendo, and the Spear in his youth. Asai studied at the Takushoku University in Tokyo, where he also studied Shotokan karate. He joined the instructors’ program and became a JKA instructor. In later years, Asai instructed in China, Hong Kong, America, Europe, and Hawaii (where he led the Hawaiian Karate Association). Asai was made Chief Instructor of the JKA after Masatoshi Nakayama’s death in 1987; however, heâ€”along with a number of other senior JKA instructorsâ€”opposed the appointment of Nakahara as Chairman, and so formed a separate JKA (Matsuno Section). Following a lengthy legal battle, the Nakahara group won the rights to the JKA title and Asai’s group adopted the name of the Japan Karate Shotorenmei (JKS).
Japan Shotokan Karate Association: Keigo Abe (1938â€“present), 8th dan, as a student at the JKA Honbu, learned directly from Nakayama, which is reflected in his deference to Nakayama as being his only headmaster. Abe was a former senior instructor at the JKA Honbu, having graduated from the instructors’ program. He held the office of Director of Qualifications in the original, pre-split JKA. However after the split in 1990, he became the Technical Director of the JKA (Matsuno Section), during some of the association’s most turbulent years.
In his youth, Abe took 3rd place in the very first JKA National Championships; was the captain of the Japanese team at the second World Championships in Paris, France; won 1st place at the JKA International Friendship Tournament (1973); and took 1st place in the second and third JKF National Championships as a representative of Tokyo. Renowned for his strong traditional approach to Shotokan karate, he retired from the JKA in 1999 to form his own international organisationâ€”the Japan Shotokan Karate Association (JSKA). Abe was also responsible for formulating the Shobu Ippon tournament rules, which are used by most Shotokan stylists today.
Karatenomichi World Federation: Mikio Yahara (1947â€“), 8th dan, is Chief Instructor of the Karatenomichi World Federation (KWF). Yahara graduated from Kokushikan University and became a JKA instructor during that organization’s zenith in the 1970s and 1980s. In over a decade of competition, Yahara distinguished himself as a predatory fighter, monopolizing the high ranks of domestic and international championships. As a Kata World Cup Champion, he is probably most famous for his performance of the Unsu and Empi kata. He is known for single-handly defeating 34 local gangsters (yakuza), facing down a gangster with a gun, and turning up for a competition with a knife wound.
When Tetsuhiko Asai, Yahara, Keigo Abe, Akihito Isaka and other leading JKA Karateka formed the Matsuno Section of the JKA, Yahara became Assistant Chief Instructor. In 2000, Yahara formed the Karatenomichi World Federation with Isaka and which is represented in over 40 countries. Yahara fractured three of his opponent’s ribs during his 8th dan promotion kumite in July 2006. The KWF claims that no other senior karate instructor has ever submitted himself to real kumite, in front of juniors and in front of the camera, for his 8th dan. In April 2007, Yahara and Japanese industrial loan magnate Kenshin Oshima, who is also a personal pupil of Yahara officially opened the ShotoKan, ï¿¥1 billion private members’ dojo donated to the KWF by Oshima.You might also like: