The origins of Karate are not well understood. It is believed that the initiator could have been Daruma, who was the founder of Zen Buddhism. He started a type of training which contained both spiritual and physical methods when he introduced Buddhism into China. However whether this could be called karate or not is subject to debate. When Sho Shin the governor of Okinawa outlawed the carrying of weapons in the 16th Century the villagers looked to the Chinese fighting systems which they combined with their local methods in order to protect themselves and their families. This combination of the simple but effective Okinawan methods and the elaborate and philosophical Chinese methods could also be said to be the beginning of Karate.

However most people regard Master Funakoshi (1868-1957)  as being the developer of modern karate. Funakoshi was a physical education instructor in his native Okinawa when he was invited to demonstrate karate at the first National Athletic Exhibition held in Tokyo during the spring of 1922. Funakoshi was to remain in Japan teaching and developing his style of karate. The word karate is formed from the Japanese words Kara (empty) and Te (Hand), symbolizing that its practitioners - Karateka - are unarmed, but use their hands and feet as weapons

.Shotokan was the name of the first official dojo built by Gichin Funakoshi, in 1936[3] at Mejiro, and destroyed in 1945 as a result of an allied bombing. Shoto), meaning "pine-waves" (the movement of pine needles when the wind blows through them), was Funakoshi's pen-name, which he used in his poetic and philosophical writings and messages to his students. The Japanese kan  means "house" or "hall". In honor of their sensei, Funakoshi's students created a sign reading shoto-kan, which they placed above the entrance of the hall where Funakoshi taught. Gichin Funakoshi never gave his system a name, just calling it karate. Gichin Funakoshi had many students at the university clubs and outside dojos, who continued to teach karate after his death in 1957


Shotokan training is usually divided into three parts: kihon (basics), kata (forms or patterns of moves), and kumite (sparring). Techniques in kihon and kata are characterized by deep, long stances that provide stability, enable powerful movements, and strengthen the legs. Shotokan is regarded as a dynamic martial art as it develops anaerobic, powerful techniques as well as developing speed. Initially strength and power are demonstrated instead of slower, more flowing motions. Those who progress to brown and black belt level develop a much more fluid style that incorporates grappling, throwing and some aikido-like techniques, which can be found even in basic kata] Kumite (fighting) techniques are practised in the kihon and kata and developed from basic to advanced levels with an opponent. As the most widely practiced style, Shotokan is considered a traditional and influential form of karate do. Shotokan is the most widely practiced traditional style in the world.


Gichin Funakoshi laid out the Twenty Precepts of Karate,] (or Niju kun) which form the foundations of the art.. Within these twenty principles, based heavily on Bushido and Zen, lies the philosophy of Shotokan. The principles allude to notions of humility, respect, compassion, patience, and both an inward and outward calmness. It was Funakoshi's belief that through karate practice and observation of these 20 principles, the karateka would improve their person.

The Dojo kun lists five philosophical rules for training in the dojo; seek perfection of character, be faithful, endeavor , respect others, refrain from violent behavior. These rules are called the Five Maxims of Karate. The Dojo kun is usually posted on a wall in the dojo, and some shotokan clubs recite the Dojo kun at the beginning and/or end of each class to provide motivation and a context for further training.

Funakoshi also wrote: "The ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of the participant. 


We have outlined the translation of the 20 guiding principles of Karate below but you will find the meanings to these principles in the book itself. The word Hitotsu, meaning “one” or “first” is prepended to each rule to place it at the same level of importance as the others.

1. Do not forget that Karate-Do begins and ends with ‘rei’
1. There is no first strike in Karate
1. Karate stands on the side of justice
1. First know yourself and then others
1. Mentality over technique
1. The mind must be set free
1. Calamity springs from carelessness
1. Karate goes beyond the dojo
1. Karate is a lifelong pursuit
1. Apply the way of Karate to all things. Therein lies it’s beauty
1. Karate is like boiling water: without heat, it returns to it’s tepid state
1. Do not think of winning. Think rather of not losing
1. Make adjustment according to your opponent
1. The outcome of a battle depends on how one handles emptiness and fullness (weakness and strength)
1. Think of the opponent’s hands and feet as swords
1. When you step beyond your own gate, you face a million enemies
1. Kamae (Ready stance) is for beginners; later, one stands in shizentai (natural stance)
1. Perform kata exactly; Actual combat is another matter
1. Do not forget the employment or the withdraw of power, the extension or contraction of the body, the swift or leisurely application of technique
1. Be constantly mindful, diligent, and resourceful in your pursuit of the Way


Former UFC Light Heavyweight champion   Lyoto Machida holds a 3rd dan black belt in Shotokan karate, while his brother Shinzo holds a 4th dan and their father Yoshizo Machida holds a 7th dan and was head of the Japan Karate Association's Brazilian branch.

Action movie star Jean-Claude Van Damme holds a black belt in Shotokan and used the style when he competed in  full contact karate competitions in the 1970s and 1980s. Wesley Snipes has a 5th dan black belt in Shotokan. Actress Laura Vandervoort, star of Bitten also has a second dan in Shotokan. Actor and action movie star Michael Jai White is also a practitioner of and black belt in Shotokan alongside  Bear Grylls who is a second dan who trained with the KUGBand Karate World Champion Luca Valdesi  also practice the art

Last but certainly not least Terry O'Neill    8th dan KUGB instructor and filmography below

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