Hirano Ha Karate Do Association

What is Shotokan

Shotokan Karate was not originally conceived to represent a specific idea such as Goju-ryu (hard/soft style) or Wado-ryu (way of peace style) but taken from the founder Funakoshi Gichin’s (1868~1957) pen-name. He was a poet and scholar and signed his poetry “Shoto” (  ), a nom de plume which evokes Pine trees swaying in the breeze. “Kan” simply means “the house of”.

Funakoshi sensei is widely regarded as the father of modern karate and this is true in more ways than one. He was not only the first representative of Okinawa to introduce karate to mainland Japan in 1922 but was also highly instrumental in molding karate into a complete art form based on refined principles that combined both technical and spiritual development.

Funakoshi sensei encouraged relentless physical training but also introduced his deep philosophical ideals which blended perfectly with existing Japanese Budo arts such as Kendo and the emerging art of Aikido. He also proposed changing the Chinese written characters (kanji) of the art to read “Empty Hand” (  ) as opposed to “Chinese Hand” (  ). The ‘kanji’ of Karate with this new reading implied the Zen condition of emptiness and not merely that weapons were not utilized. Indeed to translate “kara” as “empty” does not define its fuller meaning which can range from representing the sky to evoking the void, in the sense that the Universe is a void.

The Shotokan Karate practiced at HKA today has undergone decades of evolution that can largely be attributed to Nakayama Masatoshi (1913~1987) who was something of a genius. His initiatives spread karate all over the world. Nakayama sensei brilliantly combined a modern open-minded willingness to adapt and enhance Shotokan Karate into a graceful, dynamic art that is both powerful and beautiful without compromising the traditional teachings of his teacher Funakoshi Gichin.