Shotokan - Technical Details

Master Funakoshi taught only one method, a total discipline, devised from several Okinawan Karate styles.

Around 1936 Funakoshi opened his first training Dojo. He named the Dojo Shoto-kan. Shoto was the pen name he used in his poetry, which means "pine waves" while kan means "house". Hence, Shoto-kan was the name of the hall where he trained his students. Funakoshi devised a Dojo Kun (Training Hall Code of Ethics) to summarise the philosophy behind his Karate beliefs

  • Hitotsu, jinkaku kansei ni tsutomuru koto - First, seek perfection of character.
  • Hitotsu, makoto no michi o mamoru koto - First, protect the path of truth.
  • Hitotsu, doryoku no seishin o yashinau koto - First, foster the spirit of effort.
  • Hitotsu, reigi o omonzuru koto - First, respect the rules of etiquette.
  • Hitotsu, kekki no yu o imashimuru koto - First, guard against impetuous courage.

The prefix Hitotsu (variously translated as one or first) is used to indicate that all five principles are equally important. An easier translation of the Dojo Kun is:

  • Seek perfection of character.
  • Be faithful.
  • Endeavour.
  • Respect others.
  • Refrain from violent behaviour.

Shotokan Karate training involves body and spirit and Karate-ka must always treat their opponent courteously and with the proper etiquette. The first purpose in pursuing Shotokan is to develop a spirit of humility. Shotokan Karate does not train individuals to solve problems through fighting. On the contrary, the highest achievement in Shotokan is to learn to resolve conflicts without violence. Shotokan training involves dedication.
Training is usually divided into three sections: Kihon or "basics", Kumite or "sparring", and Kata (forms or patterns of moves). Shotokan techniques in Kihon and Kata are characterised by deep, long stances which provide stability, powerful movements and also help strengthen the legs. Strength and power are often demonstrated instead of slower, more flowing motions. The Kumite techniques mirror these stances and movements at a basic level, but progress to being more "free" and flexible at a higher level. Funakoshi is said to have found the traditional martial arts (such as Sumo, Jujutsu, and Kenjutsu) to be too focused on combat, and he put more emphasis on health, breathing, releasing energy, and outstanding mind and body control.
His students went on to establish the Japan Karate Association. This was the first formal Shotokan Karate Association.
Master Funakoshi Gichin laid out the Twenty Precepts of Karate, which form the foundations of the art. Within these twenty principles, based heavily on Bushido and Zen, lies the philosophy of Shotokan.

  • Never forget: Karate begins and ends with respect.
  • There is no first attack in Karate.
  • Karate supports righteousness.
  • First understand yourself, then understand others.
  • The art of developing the mind is more important than the art of applying technique.
  • The mind needs to be freed.
  • Trouble is born of negligence/ignorance.
  • Do not think Karate belongs only in the Dojo.
  • Karate training requires a lifetime.
  • Transform everything into Karate; therein lies its exquisiteness.
  • Karate is like hot water, if you do not give it heat constantly, it will again become cold water.
  • Do not think that you have to win, rather think you do not have to lose.
  • Transform yourself according to the opponent.
  • The outcome of the fight depends on one's control.
  • Imagine one's arms and legs as swords.
  • Once you leave the shelter of home, there are a million enemies.
  • Postures are for the beginner; later they are natural positions.
  • Perform the Kata correctly; the real fight is a different matter.
  • Do not forget control of the dynamics of power, the elasticity of the body and the speed of the technique.
  • Apply the way of Karate to all things. Therein lies its beauty.

Today, Shotokan remains a very popular style worldwide. Keinosuke Enoeda was the JKA representative in the United Kingdom for many years, with his organisation, the KUGB 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 Mr Enoeda's KUGB. Since his death in 2003, the KUGB has continued as an independent organisation 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.

Shotokan Kata
Kata should be executed with the correct attitude first and foremost, if the Karate practitioner has an understanding of the Kata, each fast move will be executed with speed, power and intent. The Karate-ka will execute the technique as if their life depends on it! Kata is often described as a set sequence of Karate moves organised into a prearranged fight against imaginary opponents. The Kata consists of kicks, punches, sweeps, strikes, blocks and throws. Body movement in the various Kata includes, stepping, twisting, turning, dropping to the ground and jumping. When Nakayama Sensei formed the Japan Karate Association (JKA), he laid these 26 Kata down as the training Kata for the JKA Karate-ka.

  • Heian Shodan - Peaceful Mind, one.
  • Heian Nidan - Peaceful Mind, two.
  • Heian Sandan - Peaceful Mind, three.
  • Heian Yondan - Peaceful Mind, four.
  • Heian Godan - Peaceful Mind, five.
  • Tekki Shodan - Iron Horse, one.
  • Bassai Dai - to Penetrate a Fortress (Major).
  • Jion - Jion is the name of a temple, and also the name of a Buddhist Saint.
  • Enpi - Flight of the Swallow.
  • Kanku Dai - to Look at the Sky (Major).
  • Hangetsu - Half Moon.
  • Jitte - Ten Hands.
  • Gankaku - Crane on a Rock.
  • Tekki Nidan - Iron Horse, two.
  • Tekki Sandan - Iron Horse, three.
  • Nijushiho - Twenty-four Steps.
  • Chinte - Unusual Hands (Also rare hands or crazy hands).
  • Sochin - Tranquil Force.
  • Meikyo - Bright Mirror.
  • Unsu - Hands in a Cloud.
  • Bassai Sho - to Penetrate a Fortress (Minor).
  • Kanku Sho - to Look at the Sky (Minor).
  • Wankan - King's Crown.
  • Gojushiho Sho - Fifty-four Steps (Minor).
  • Gojushiho Dai - Fifty-four Steps (Major).
  • Ji'in - Love of Truth (Also the name of a Buddhist Saint).

Beginners are usually introduced to Kumite training with 'Gohon-Kumite' (five-step sparring) or 'Sanbon-Kumite' (three-step sparring). Two Karate-ka are required for the exercise. Once they pair up and bow, the attacking Karate-ka steps back into a Zenkutsu dachi (front stance) while executing a Gedan-barai (low block) and announces in a clear, audible fashion the attack.
The first type is designated 'Jodan' (high level), where they will subsequently execute a high Oi-zuki. Their partner must then react by stepping back and executing an Age-uke to block the attack. This is repeated until the fifth Oi-zuki, when the defender executes a minor counter in the form of a Gyakuzuki. The defender is expected to Kiai with their counter attack. That completes one sequence. The next step is for the Karate-ka to return to Yoi position (in some associations the counter-attacker moves forward to the Yoi position, in some backwards) and the opponent that was defending takes a turn at attacking, repeating the sequence above.
The other type of Gohon-Kumite is designated 'Chudan' (mid level). The differences are that Chudan level Oi-zuki are used by the attacker and Soto-uke blocks are used by the defender.
At intermediate level (usually above 5th kyu), Karate-ka are expected to learn 'Ippon-Kumite' (one step sparring). Though it is only one step, it is more advanced because it involves a greater variety of attacks and blocks. It also requires the defender to execute a minor counter in a timely fashion. Minor counters can be almost anything, including strikes, grapples and take-downs.
The next level of Kumite is the 'Jiyu Ippon-Kumite' (freestyle one step sparring). This is almost the same as Ippon-Kumite but requires the Karate-ka to be in motion. Practice in this is beneficial in improving Jiyu-Kumite (freestyle sparring) skills, and also provides an opportunity for practicing major counters (as opposed to minor counters).
Usually the last element of sparring to be introduced is Jiyu-Kumite (free sparring) where two participants are free to use any choice of Karate technique or combination attacks and the opponent is free to avoid, block and attack at will. Tradition in Shotokan Karate is that Jiyu-Kumite uses controlled contact to the opponent. Participants are encouraged to make contact with their opponent but to withdraw their attack after 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 healthy degree of safety for the participants. The use of throws and takedowns is permitted in free sparring, however, it is very unusual for fights to involve extended grappling or ground-wrestling as Shotokan practitioners are encouraged to finish a downed opponent with a punch or kick.
An additional method of training, which is usually introduced, for higher grades is Kaishu Ippon-Kumite. This starts in a similar manner to Jiyu Ippon-Kumite; one Karate-ka names the attack they intend to throw, attacks, and their partner blocks and counters their attack. Unlike Jiyu Ippon-Kumite, however, the original attacker must block their partner's counter-attack and strike back at them. This exercise is often considered more difficult than either Jiyu Ippon-Kumite or free sparring as participants cannot escape to a safe distance.

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