People have been fighting and killing each other since the times of Cain and Abel. People being ever curious and wanting to harness, focus, collect, and distribute their energy and knowledge, have tended to develop arts and sciences in many categories covering everything from the physical sciences, sex, wealth, and mathematics, to fighting.

Over time, each culture has seemed to develop its own martial art or science. Some examples of this would be karate, tae kwon do, Greco-roman wrestling, savate, boxing, and today we have mixed martial arts.

Legend has it that Bodidharma was travelling and came to the Shaolin temple to find the monks in terrible physical condition. He left the temple and went to the forest to meditate. While meditating he developed the animal styles of fighting and then passed these on to the Shaolin monks. The idea being that a sound body and mind go together. These animal styles went on to become the foundation of modern day martial arts.

The island of Okinawa was conquered and the peasants were forbidden to study martial arts or possess weapons. So the people who had martial knowledge studied in secret and developed weapons from their simple farm implements. The peasants had to be able to protect themselves from wild animals and outlaws. So they trained with the idea that each fist must become a mace and each hand must become a sword. This means they needed to be able kill or disable with one strike. They then passed their knowledge down through the generations.

Gichin Funakoshi is the man responsible for developing modern karate. He studied Shorin-ryu and Shorei-ryu in Okinawa. He combined the two styles and developed what he called karate. Karate comes from two words. Kara means empty and te means hand. So karate means empty hand. Karate- do means art of the empty hand, or the way of the empty hand.

Gichin Funakoshi
Gichin Funakoshi as a young man
Funakoshi demonstrating technique
Gichin Funakoshi gives a demonstration of technique

Funakoshi Shihan then moved to Japan bringing his art with him and passing it on to mainstream Japan. He was a writer, as well, and his pen name was Shoto which means pine waves. His students named the school or dojo Shoto-kan. Kan means hall or house. Shoto-kan means the hall of pine waves. Funakoshi Shihan's karate became Shotokan karate.

founder of shotokan
Founder of Shotokan Karate, Gichin Funakoshi

Funakoshi Shihan developed the dojo-kun which is five rules or precepts for the study of karate. These rules are the basis for many of the traditions and aura surrounding karate.

First. Seek perfection of character
First. Protect the way of the truth
First. Foster the spirit of effort
First. Respect the principles of etiquette and respect others
First. Guard against impetuous courage and refrain from violent behavior.

The dojokun were expanded to become the nijukun which means 20 rules or precepts for the study of karate.

1. Karate is not only dojo training.
2. Don't forget that Karate begins with a bow and ends with a bow.
3. In Karate, never attack first.
4. One who practices Karate must follow the way of justice
5. First you must know yourself. Then you can know others.
6. Spiritual development is paramount; technical skills are merely means to the end.
7. You must release your mind.
8. Misfortune comes out of laziness.
9. Karate is a lifelong training.
10. Put Karate into everything you do.
11. Karate is like hot water. If you do not give heat constantly it will again become cold.
12. Do not think you have to win. Think that you do not have to lose.
13. Victory depends on your ability to tell vulnerable points from invulnerable ones.
14. Move according to your opponent.
15. Consider your opponent's hands and legs as you would sharp swords.
16. When you leave home, think that millions of opponents are waiting for you.
17. Ready position for beginners and natural position for advanced students.
18. Kata is one thing. Engaging in a real fight is another.
19. Do not forget (1)strength and weakness of power, (2)expansion and contraction of the body, (3) slowness and speed of techniques.
20. Devise at all times.

Outside people have studied Shotokan and spread it throughout the world. There are many different styles of karate today. As each generation studies, develops, implements, and teaches their art, inevitably student and teacher will break with each other. When these breaks occur, a new style is born, and so from karate to Shotokan karate to Kihaku-ha Shotokan karate, karate develops and splinters only to start the cycle again.

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