About Shotokan Karate Shotokan karate is the most popular style of traditional Japanese karate. Karate means “empty hand” in Japanese. Karate-do means “empty hand way.” The term “empty” is used in the same context as it is in Zen meditation, meaning that the mind of the karateka is in a reflective and clear state and thus free of fear and distraction. As such, through proper training the skilled karateka learns to react with a clear mind and without fear or hesitation in a self-defense or other stressful situation.
Karate was introduced to mainland Japan from Okinawa in 1922 by Master Gichin Funakoshi. Master Funakoshi had studied karate as a young man while living in Okinawa and was a college professor.
Today, karate-do is practiced as a martial art, sport, and proven method of self defense. Like other Japanese martial arts (“budo”), the ultimate aim of karate-do is the perfection of the character of its participants. Through training, karateka learn self-control, mental and physical self-discipline, and the development of highly effective self-defense and fighting techniques. As such, karate training can be an excellent means of attaining and maintaining physical and emotional fitness and self-discipline. Traditional karate training involves basic training (“kihon”), forms (“kata”), and sparring (“kumite”).
Japanese karate-do differs from Korean tae-kwon-do, Chinese wushu or kung-fu, and other martial arts because karate techniques are uniquely focused. This requires them to be performed with full mental concentration, proper speed, power, coordination, breathing, and body connection. A karate technique that is properly focused will have the practitioner’s entire body and mind behind it and it will have great force and effect on the target or opponent if contact is made. Karate techniques include punches, strikes, blocks, kicks, sweeps, throws, joint locks, jumps, etc. Karate competition is popular with many karateka and a number of karate organizations sponsor tournaments. In traditional karate tournaments, however, contact to the face and head is prohibited in kumite matches and all techniques must be properly controlled.
It generally takes three (3) to five (5) years of regular training under a qualified instructor to reach the level of first (1st) degree black belt (“dan”) in traditional Shotokan karate under the SKIF system. At that point, the karateka should have mastered the basics of karate and be ready to begin training at a more advanced level. However, under the SKIF system, karate training is considered a lifelong endeavor for those who wish to keep training. Thus, a practitioner can continue to train throughout his or her life and continue to develop skill, character, self-awareness, and understanding. As such, the first dan is really only a new beginning, and the serious practitioner may go well beyond that level and become a teacher or “sensei” after sufficient training and experience.
Shotokan Karate-do International Federation was established in 1978 by Soke Hirokazu Kanazawa, who had studied directly under Grand Master Gichin Funakoshi (widely acknowledged as the father of modern Karate) and Master Matsatoshi Nakayama (head of Japan Karate Association). SKIF, a government recognised Specific Non-profit Organisation in Japan, is now the world's largest Shotokan Karate association, with substantial membership in over 130 countries.
The philosophy of Shotokan Karate is based on the traditional Budo (martial arts) spirit of Karate, which seeks the perfection of character through hard training and discipline. SKIF also seeks the healthy mental and physical growth of youth, and the peaceful international exchange of friendship through training and competition.
Shotokan Karate-Do International Federation-United States of America ("SKIF-USA") is a private, not-for-profit, educational karate organization based in the United States of America. SKIF-USA was formed in 1998 and is affiliated directly with Shotokan Karate-Do International Federation ("SKIF"), based in Japan.
Soke Hirokazu Kanazawa was born in 1931 in Iwate prefecture, Japan. He began practising Karate as a student at Takushoku University and, after graduation, became an instructor for the Japan Karate Association (JKA). Kanazawa Soke earned many titles in competition, winning first place in kumite (sparring) at the first Japan Karate Championship in 1957, and taking top honours in both kumite and kata (forms) the following year.
Kanazawa Soke is one of the most renowned and respected Karate masters of all time. He was awarded Judan (10th Dan Black Belt - the highest possible Karate rank) by the International Martial Arts Federation (IMAF) in 2001. In 2012, the IMAF conferred upon Kanazawa Soke the title of Meijin (Grand Master) - only the 12th time that the title has been awarded - he is the only surviving Meijin.
Kanazawa Soke has visited Peak Performance many times since the begining of SKIF-USA. While he continues to teach at Honbu (SKIF Headquarters) in Japan, Kanazawa Soke has retired from international travel. In 2014, Kanazawa Soke formally transitioned leadership of the SKIF to Sensei Nobuaki Kanazawa (from that point on Kancho) and Sensei Manabu Murakami (from that point on Shuseki-Shihan).
Kanazawa Kancho July 2006
Kancho Nobuaki Kanazawa is the first son of Kanazawa Soke. He was born in 1972, and educated at Taisho University. Kanazawa Kancho has enjoyed much competition success, including SKIF World Champion in 2000 and SKIF All Japan Champion in 1996-2000. He holds the rank of Hachidan (8th Dan Black Belt) and is a frequent visitor to Peak Performance.
Shuseki-Shihan Manabu Murakami is the foremost student of Kanazawa Soke. He was born in 1966, and educated at Takushoku University. Murakami Shihan has enjoyed much competition success, including SKIF World Champion in 1988, 1991 and 1994. He holds the rank of Hachidan (8th Dan Black Belt) and has been a guest instructor at Peak Performance.
The Dojo Kun is a set of principles handed down to us by Master Funakoshi who was the founder of Shotokan Karate. These principles define how a student should approach his or her training in the dojo and life outside the dojo. If the student strives to apply the lessons learned from the Dojo Kun to his/her life, both on and off the floor, s/he will discover a rich and meaningful path to living in our world with peace and harmony.
SEEK PERFECTION OF CHARACTER
Of all the principles set forth in the Dojo Kun the most essential to the martial artist is to seek perfection of character. The other four principles tell us how to go about seeking perfection of character. This is a process that not only involves developing our physical self but developing our character from within. It is a daily process both in the dojo and outside of the dojo. Seeking perfection of character means to never stop learning, training, and growing to become strong and focused.
Be faithful means to be committed to everything you choose to do. This means putting out total effort all the time, in the dojo or outside the dojo. To be faithful means you are honorable to your commitments and obligations. It means being faithful to yourself and honoring what is best for you and others. When you have faith in yourself and others, this will lead to a mutual trust which leaves to peace. Being faithful is the first step towards perfecting one’s character.
ENDEAVOR TO EXCEL
Endeavor to excel means to try hard and do your best. Whether you are training, studying, performing duties in your job, gardening, cleaning or engaging in a relationship it is important to give it your all. To give less would be to cheat yourself and others of a complete experience. To give less you are not being faithful to yourself and thus not seeking perfection of character. Do everything to the best of your ability.
Respect for others means to listen and to value everyone’s experience and effort. The very foundation of martial artist is showing respect to other people and to value both teachers and students. Showing respect for others is a sign of humility and when one is humble one has an open mind to learn and grow. With humility and an open mind you will find that you can learn something from everyone and as you grow others can learn from you. Respect opens the world and mind to a vast array of possibilities for peace and harmony. Respect allows us to nurture and grow our character.
REFRAIN FROM VIOLENT BEHAVIOR
Refrain from violent behavior means you never do emotional or physical harm to another. Violence is the dark side of our world. As martial artists we strive to refrain from any action that would create anger or violence. Having a calm and quiet mind and spirit is the key to not having conflict or violence within our character. When we are in control of ourselves we can face violence with a calm and peaceful mind. We use our physical training as a last resort to defend ourselves. Kanazawa Soke teaches that through the study of karate we learn to fight so that we may never need to fight. Training martial arts is a journey and not an end—to develop a strong and focused character you need to apply these principles every day, inside the dojo and in your daily life.
1. Karate-do begins with courtesy and ends with rei.
2. There is no first strike in karate.
3. Karate is an aid to justice.
4. First know yourself before attempting to know others.
5. Spirit first, technique second.
6. Always be ready to release your mind.
7. Accidents arise from negligence.
8. Do not think that karate training is only in the dojo.
9. It will take your entire life to learn karate, there is no limit.
10. Put your everyday living into karate and you will find "Myo" (subtle secrets).
11. Karate is like boiling water, if you do not heat it constantly, it will cool.
12. Do not think that you have to win, think rather that you do not have to lose.
13. Victory depends on your ability to distinguish vulnerable points from invulnerable ones.
14. The out come of the battle depends on how you handle weakness and strength.
15. Think of your opponents hands and feet as swords.
16. When you leave home, think that you have numerous opponents waiting for you.
17. Beginners must master low stance and posture, natural body positions are for the advanced.
18. Practicing a kata exactly is one thing, engaging in a real fight is another.
19. Do not forget to correctly apply: strength and weakness of power, stretching and contraction of the body, and slowness and speed of techniques.
20. Always think and devise ways to live the precepts of karate-do every day.