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Shotokai (松濤會 Shōtōkai?) is the organisation formed originally in 1930 by Gichin Funakoshi to teach and spread the art of karate.[1][2] The organization still exists and promotes a style of karate that adheres to Funakoshi's teachings, in particular the notion that competition is contrary to the essence of karate. Nowadays, the name also designates a formal practice method.


Shotokai is not an official style of karate. Shotokai is the name of the association launched by Gichin Funakoshi originally in 1930. The original name was Dai Nihon Karate-do Kenkyukai. The association is known in Japan as Dai Nihon Karate-do Shotokai since 1936.[2] Shotokan is the name of its Honbu Dojo (main practicing hall). Gichin Funakoshi's karate style is also known as Shotokan ryu.

The name derives from Shoto, the pen name which Funakoshi used to sign his poems, literally translated as "pine leaves". Kai means "group" or 'method'; therefore, Shotokai is translated as "Shoto's group" or "Shoto's method." Shotokai's most prominent masters are Gichin Funakoshi with his top students Giko (Yoshitaka) Funakoshi, Genshin (Motonobu) Hironishi, Tadao Okuyama and Shigeru Egami.

At Funakoshi's death in 1957, his students split into several factions: on one side was a group known as Nihon Karate Kyokai (Japan Karate Association, JKA) and on another side the Shotokai Association. One of the largest issues between them was the question of whether competitions were to be introduced or not.[1]

Although Shotokai is the name of Shotokan Karate association, it has a defined practice method widely known as Shotokai Karate. Shigeru Egami defined the broad outlines of the new way of practising that he developed after having, in a number of tests, discovered the inefficiency of the karate method at that time.

After years of research, Egami found an efficient way of striking by executing the movement in a relaxed state of mind and body. This is the basis of Shotokai. It focuses on suppleness and relaxation, as opposed to tenseness that generates force. Elaborating this basic idea, he suggested new forms of techniques and a new way of practising.

Shotokai refrains from competition because Gichin Funakoshi used to say that there are no contests in Karate. Master Egami wrote: "First of all, we must practise Karate like a combat technique and then, with time and experience, we will be able to understand a certain state of soul and will be able to open ourselves to the horizons of 'jita-ittai' (the union of one with the other) which lay beyond fighting. This is the principle of coexistence which enables us to live together in prosperity."

Shotokai is the keeper of Gichin Funakoshi's Karate heritage and has for example republished his books during the years. It has also kept the art of Shotokan Karate weaponry (primarily bo/kon in Japanese) in practice schedule.[3]

Master instructors[edit]

Gigō Funakoshi (1906–1945) Gichin's third son, also known as Yoshitaka Funakoshi or Waka Sensei (the young master).

Shigeru Egami (1912–1981) Shigeru Egami was the chief instructor of the Shotokan Dojo 1976-1981.[2]

Motonobu Hironishi (1913–1999) studied under Gichin and Yoshitaka. He was the president of the Shotokai 1962-1995.[2]

Jotaro Takagi (1927–) has been the chairman of the Shotokai in Tokyo since 1995.

Mitsusuke Harada (1928–) studied under Gichin and Yoshitaka Funakoshi He received his fifth dan from Gichin Funakoshi in 1956.[4]

Tetsuji Murakami (1927–1987)

Colin Reeve (1945 - Present) Originally from Newcastle upon Tyne, now living in South East England. A student of Mitsusuke Harada and Karate Practitioner of 45 years.

The style[edit]

Shotokai Karate differs much from Shotokan in that it emphasizes spiritual practice over competitive tournaments. The traditional kata are practiced in the same way as in other forms of karate, although Shotokai often emphasizes smooth, flowing movements rather than the sharp, snappy movements of other styles, which does not mean he is gentle but rather believe that an effective hand strike resides in decontraction. Kumite (sparring) in some Shotokai schools is practiced with full strength attacks, and is tightly controlled in terms of who is attacking and defending and the attacks that can be performed in order to reduce the chance of injury. The essence of Shoto-Kai is found in the technique called 'irimi'. Irimi is the ability to predict an opponent's intent and attack, thus catching the opponent very early. A seasoned practitioner can sense the opponent's intentions often before there is any visible movement, which is the ultimate fulfillment of Funakoshi's statement that 'there is no first attack' in karate. Irimi is a profound and distinguishing element of Shoto Kai practice.


  1. ^ a b Evans, J. K. (1988): "The battle for Olympic Karate recognition: WUKO vs. IAKF." Black Belt, 26(2):54–58.
  2. ^ a b c d The Official Homepage of Nihon Karate-do Shotokai
  3. ^ The Official Homepage of Nihon Karate-do Shotokai
  4. ^ Karate-do Shotokai: What is KDS? (c. 2009). Retrieved on 21 March 2010.