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Shotokan Karate


What is Shotokan Karate? In Japanese ‘karate’ means ‘empty hand’ in reference to the empty-handed nature of karate, but also that the student’s heart empty is of negative emotions. ‘Shotokan’ means ‘house of Shoto’ in Japanese. ‘Shoto’ was the pen-name of the founder of modern karate, Gichin Funikoshi, who introduced the art to Japan in the 1930’s.

Empty-handed martial art was developed in China, where the Japanese called it ‘chinte’ (Chinese hand). Chinte was introduced to the small island of Okinawa in the 17th century by Chinese soldiers, merchants, and diplomats.

The Okinawans made this empty-handed martial art their own. Each Okinawan district had its own style of karate, and its own masters. Traditionally each master had only a very few students whom he would train in his style of karate in secret.

The Japanese were impressed with the superior physique of the karateka (karate practioners) who were very strong and fast from years of hard training with their teachers. The Japanese asked the Okinawan karateka to train the Japanese soldiers in Karate. The karateka were asked in 1905 to develop karate training suitable for children to be taught throughout Okinawa.

Much of this public school training system is used in karate classes today in the United States and throughout the world. Karate was introduced to American soldiers after World War II, and to the United States.


Traditionally the Dojo Kun is recited by all the students at the end of a class. The Dojo Kun consists of five statements developed by the founder of modern karate:

  • Seek perfection of character (grow up to be a good person)
  • Be faithful (be faithful to your parents and yourself)
  • Endeavor (devote yourself to working hard)
  • Respect others (karate begins and ends with respect)
  • Refrain from violent behavior (karate is about harmony, not fighting)

The recitation is especially useful for children who have the opportunity to internalize these virtues at an early age.

Sensei Alex Ndem is a former member of the USA Shotokan National Karate Team and two time Karate world champion

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US Team Gold
2005 National Shotokan World Champions