What Is Shotokan Karate – Do?
The Shotokan style of Karate was developed by Master Gichin Funakosi. Gichin Funakosi was born in Shuri, Okinawa in 1868. As a boy, he was trained by two famous masters of that time. Each trained him in a different Okinawan martial art. From Yatasune Azato he learned Shuri-te. From Yatsune Itosu, he learned Naha-te. It would be the melding of these two styles that would one day become Shotokan karate.
Funakoshi-sensei is the man who introduced karate to Japan. In 1917 he was asked to perform his martial art at a physical education exhibition sponsored by the Ministry of Education. He was asked back again in 1922 for another exhibition. He was asked back a third time, but this was a special performance. He demonstrated his art for the emperor and the royal family! After this, Funakoshi-sensei decided to remain in Japan and teach and promote his art.
Gichin Funakoshi passed away in 1957 at the age of 88. Aside from creating Shotokan karate and introducing to Japan and the world, he also wrote the very book on the subject of karate, “Ryukyu Kempo: Karate-do”. He also wrote “Karate-Do Kyohan” – The Master Text, the “handbook” of Shotokan and he wrote his autobiography, “Karate-Do: My Way of Life”. These books and his art are a fitting legacy for this unassuming and gentle man.
Master Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan karate, laid out the Twenty Precepts of Karate (Niju kun), which are there as a guide for all karateka to follow and adhere to. These principles form the foundations Shotokan karate. These twenty principles were based heavily on Bushido and Zen.
The principles allude to notions of respect, humility, compassion, patience, awareness and both an inward and outward calmness.
Shotokan Nijū kun (Shotokan 20 Principles)
- Karate-do begins with Rei and ends with Rei. (Rei means courtesy / respect)
- There is no first strike in karate.
- Karate is an aid to justice.
- First know yourself then know others.
- Spirit comes first, technique second.
- Always be ready to set your mind free.
- Misfortune comes out of laziness accidents arise from negligence.
- Do not think that karate training is only in the dojo.
- It will take your entire life to learn karate, there is no limit.
- Put Karate into your everyday life any you will find its subtle secrets.
- Karate is like boiling water, without heat, it returns to its tepid state.
- Do not think that you have to win – rather that you do not have to lose.
- Make adjustments according to your opponent.
- The outcome of the battle depends on how you handle weakness and strength.
- Think of hands and feet as swords.
- When you leave home, there are a million enemies waiting for you.
- Beginners must master low stances and posture, natural body positions are for advanced students.
- Practice prescribed sets of techniques exactly; actual combat is another matter.
- Do not forget the employment of withdrawal of power, the extension or contraction of the body, the swift or leisurely application of technique.
- Be constantly mindful, diligent, and resourceful, in your pursuit of karatedo (the Way of karate).