Shotokan Karate Quick Overview
Shotokan-ryu founder Gichin Funakoshi (1868–1957)
Gichin Funakoshi had trained in two styles of Okinawan karate: Shorei-ryu and Shorin-ryu. He created a system that combined the two. His new system reflects the changes made in the art by Anko Itosu, including the Heian/Pinan kata series. Funakoshi changed the names of some of the katas.
In 1924, Funakoshi adopted the Kyu / Dan rank system and the uniform (keikogi) developed by Kano Jigoro, the founder of judo. Originally, karate had only three belt colors: white, brown, and black (with ranks within each). Master Gichin Funakoshi himself never awarded a rank higher than Godan (5th degree black belt/5th Dan).
Funakoshi, born in Okinawa, popularizing “karate do” through public demonstrations and promoting university karate clubs in Japan.
Shotokan was the name of the first official dojo built by Gichin Funakoshi, in 1936 at Mejiro.
Shoto, meaning “pine-waves” (the movement of pine needles when the wind blows through them). The Japanese kan means “house” or “hall”. In honor of their sensei, Funakoshi’s students created a sign reading shoto-kan, which they placed above the entrance of the hall where Funakoshi taught. Gichin Funakoshi never gave his system a name, just calling it karate.
The Japanese Shotokan Karate style and system is the father of the Korean Tang Soo Do and Taekwondo martial arts.