Shotokan Training

“The philosophy is based on integration of the hard (go) and the soft (ju) aspects of karate and life. The founder said, “Don’t hit others; don’t be hit by others; the point is to avoid strife.”


Shotokan was founded by Gichin Funakoshi (1896-1957) in Tokyo in 1938. Funakoshi is considered to be the founder of modern day karate. Born in Okinawa, he began to study karate with Yasutsune Azato, one of Okinawa’s greatest experts in the art. In the earliest stages the martial art was known simply as “Te” or “Tode” which mean “hand”. The Chinese character used to write Tode could also be pronounced “Kara” and the name Te was replaced with Karate-Jutsu or “Chinese hand art”. This was later changed to Karate-do by Gichin Funakoshi who adopted an alternative meaning for the Chinese character for “Kara”, “Empty”. From this point on the term Karate came to mean “Empty Hand” The Do in Karate-Do means “way” or “path”, and underscores the moral and spiritual elements of the discipline and philosophy of Karate.

In 1921, Funakoshi first introduced Karate to Tokyo. In 1936, at nearly 70 years of age, he opened his own training hall. The dojo was named Shotokan after the pen name he used when he signed the poems that he wrote in his youth. Shotokan Karate is characterized by powerful linear techniques and deep strong stances.

There are 26 Kata in Shotokan (15 basic and 11 advanced). All have “bunkai” or actual applications for all movements in them. They all start and end at the same place on the floor (embusen).”

I’ve just returned from a great training session in the dojo! I’m so motivated and feel the difference in my training…such improvement over the years.  There’s a degree of confidence tonight that is not typically there.  It is a wonderful feeling to be striving for these goals.

Bassai Dai, translated to mean ‘To Storm A Fortress’ is an extremely strong kata, and is a very popular kata for competition. Reason being that it is flashy enough to interest spectators, but powerful enough to feel good to perform. This kata, also called Passai in other styles, is an advancement from the Heian Series. The concept of this kata is to develop power intense and destructive enough to storm a fortress, and the opening technique has been interpreted by many as the breaking down of the fortress doors, signifying the fantastic levels of power produced by the karateka. Despite such impressive displays of power, this kata is commonly regarded as a Shorin-ryu kata, since it employs many fast and sharp techniques, with particular attention being paid to the precision of the techniques.

This kata introduces many new techniques including the opening attack, which represents the attack to the fortress or castle’s doors. It also introduces yama-tsuki or mountain or U punch. One element that makes this kata particularly complex is the movement and shifting of the feet. At one point, while performing shuto-uke, you step forward, but immediately retreat. Here, the kata has taken a relatively simple technique found in most of the Heian katas, but placed it in a scenario where it is harder to perform. Therefore, this factor, along with many others, means that this kata is valuable in the transition from a beginner to intermediate. For this reason, the kata is studied at brown belt, for it has many lessons to teach the developing karateka.

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