Shotokan History

The practice of Martial Arts began when a monk from India traveled to China about 1400 years ago to teach Buddhism.  He found his students unable to keep up with his strenuous training methods, so he taught them exercises to improve their physical condition.  These exercises spread throughout China and to other foreign cultures, including Okinawa.

In Okinawa a ban was placed on weapons and the exercises became an unarmed method of self defense that evolved into karate which means "open hand."  Karate spread eventually to Japan.  Then in 1917 Gichin Funakoshi - who had combined various karate styles into his own and had been giving public demonstrations for many years in Okinawa - was invited to demonstrate his karate in Japan.  He continued to spread his style of karate and in 1936 he built the Shotokan Dojo in Tokyo.

Gichin FunakoshiSensei Funakoshi believed that karate was for the improvement of both mind and body.  To that end he established five Dojo Kun (Dojo Rules):

  • One - Seek perfection of character
  • One - Be faithful and sincere
  • One - Cultivate the spirit of perseverance and endeavor
  • One - Respect others
  • One - Refrain from impetuous and violent behavior

He numbered each rule "One" because he felt that no rule was more important than any other.

Shotokan was eventually brought to the United States mainly by members of the US military who were stationed in Japan or Okinawa during WWII.  As these military members returned to their homes across the country, they opened Shotokan karate schools.

Over time, Shotokan has continued to evolve.  A number of organizations have been formed, including the Japan Karate Association (JKA) , with each one emphasizing slightly different aspects of the original karate style developed by Sensei Funakoshi.  Individual schools have also differentiated somewhat, with some emphasizing solid positioning and strength, while others focus more on adaptability, or various other things.  The Shotokan Karate Federation of Michigan has tended to embrace a more modernist view of Shotokan, placing great emphasis on a dynamic, momentum driven approach.