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The Tiger and the Name

"The Birth of Shotokan and it's Symbol".

The names given to the various styles of martial arts found around the world are as varied as the people who created them. Each culture places it's own particular imprint on what is created within it's borders, and the art of Shotokan Karate was no different. It was founded by an Okinawan school teacher named Gichin Funakoshi, but it took its first official breath in Japan, where he opened his first dojo in Zoshigaya, Toshima Ward, in the Spring of 1936.

The name, Shotokan, however, came about as a result of events that took place in Master Funakoshi's youth. As a young man he would often walk into the hills and the pine forests and he would often listen to the sound of the pine trees rustling when the wind blew. In his book, Karate-do, My Way of Life he says, "to me the murmur was a kind of celestial music. 

Today the name Shotokan Karate is recognized world wide. Along with its name our style is also identified by a symbol, a Tiger surrounded by a circle. This design came about as the result of Master Funakoshi's meeting with the painter in Tokyo shortly after his arrival. His name was Hoan Kosugi, in fact it was he who encouraged Master Funakoshi to write a reference book on the subject of karate-do. This ultimately led to his first book "Ryukyu Kempo" being published by Bukyosha, in 1922.

The irregular appearance of the circle around the Tiger suggests that Hoan Kosugi drew it free hand and with one continuous stroke of his brush. As for the kanji found in the upper right hand corner, it is Hoan Kosugi's name. Why the Tiger was selected is not entirely clear, and while there are several theories, all seem speculation, such I will not elaborate on them here. Suffice to say that without either the name, Shotokan, or the symbol of the Tiger, our martial art would be greatly diminished. 

Remember: "The great virtues of karate are prudence and humility".