Shotokan was founded by Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957) in Tokyo in 1938. Funakoshi is considered to be the founder of modern karate. Born in Okinawa, he began to study karate with Yasutsune Azato, one of Okinawa’s greatest experts in the art.

It was in 1921, that Funakoshi first introduced Karate to Tokyo. Then in 1939, at nearly 70 years of age, he opened his own training hall. The dojo was called Shotokan after the pen name used by Funakoshi to sign poems written in his youth. Shotokan Karate is characterized by powerful linear techniques and deep strong stances.

The word Shotokan is composed of three kanji characters in Japanese.  The sho character is taken from the word matsu which means pine tree. To is the character for waves. Pine Waves is supposed to mean “the sound that pine trees make when the wind blows through their needles.” Some people also translate this to mean the waves that pine trees seem to make visually when bending in the wind. Master Funakoshi signed his works of calligraphy with the pen name Shoto. That is where the first part of the name of this type of karate came from. The word kan means building.  The name Shotokan comes from the world’s first karate dojo, which was constructed in 1939 by Funakoshi’s students. They placed a plaque over the door that said “Shotokan“, or ” The Hall of Pine Waves“, in honor of Funakoshi.  This first dojo was completely destroyed in an American bombing raid on Japan in 1945.



20 Precepts


Written by the Founder of Shotokan Karate-Do, Gichin Funakoshi 

1. Karate-do wa rei ni hajimari, rei ni owaru koto wo wasurna.

(Karate-do begins with courtesy and ends with courtesy.)

 2. Karate ni sente nashi.

(There is no first attack in karate.)

 3. Karate wa gi no tasuke.

(Karate is a great assistance to [auxilliary of] justice.)

 4. Mazu jiko wo shire, shikoshite tao wo shire.

(Know yourself first, and then others.)

 5. Gijutsu yori shinjutsu.

(Spirit first; techniques second.)

 6. Kokoro wa hanatan koto wo yosu.

(Always be ready to release your mind.)

 7. Wazawai wa getai ni shozu.

(Misfortune [accidents] always comes out of idleness [negligence].)

 8. Dojo nomino karate to omou na.

(Do not think that karate training is only in the dojo.)

 9. Karate no shugyo wa issho de aru.

(It will take your entire life to learn karate; there is no limit.)

 10. Arai-yuru mono wo karate-ka seyo, soko ni myo-mi ari.

(Put your everyday living into karate and you will find the ideal state of existence [myo].)

 11. Karate wa yu no goto shi taezu natsudo wo ataezareba moto no mizu ni kaeru.

(Karate is like hot water. If you do not give it heat constantly, it will again become cold water.)

 12. Katsu kangae wa motsu na makenu kangae wa hitsuyo.

(Do not think that you have to win. Rather, think that you do not have to lose.)

 13. Tekki ni yotte tenka seyo.

(Victory depends on your ability to distinguish vulnerable points from invulnerable ones.)

 14. Tattakai wa kyo-jutsu no soju ikan ni ari.

(The battle is according to how you maneuver guarded and unguarded. Move according to your opponent.)

 15. Hito no te ashi wo ken to omoe.

(Think of the hands and feet as swords.)

 16. Danshi mon wo izureba hyakuman no tekki ari.

(When you leave home, think that you have numerous opponents waiting for you. It is your behavior that invites trouble from them.)

 17. Kamae wa shoshinsha ni ato wa shizentai.

(Beginners must master low stance and posture; natural body position for advanced.)

 18. Kata wa tadashiku jissen wa betsu mono.

(Practicing a kata is one thing, and engaging in a real fight is another.)

 19. Chikara no kyojaku, karada no shinshuku, waza no kankyu wo wasaruna.

(Do not forget [1] strength and weakness of power, [2] stretching and contraction of the body, and [3] slowness and speed of techniques. Apply these correctly.)

 20. Tsune ni shinen kufu seyo.

(Always think and devise ways to live the precepts every day.)