|The style of karate practiced at the World
Traditional Karate Organization Honbu Dojo is
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
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 in the Honbu Dojo 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