Shihan Nakayama and Shihan Funakoshi
Shihan Nakayama and Shihan Funakoshi


Our Senseis, teachers, teach his style under the guidelines of the International Karate Daigaku (IKD).

Gichin Funakoshi’s pen name “Shoto” literally means ‘pine waves’, and today is synonymous with the tiger symbol and Shotokan Karate-do. But few people understand the relationship of Shoto to what is commonly known as the “Shotokan Tiger”. When Gichin Funokoshi was a young man, he enjoyed walking in solitude among the pine trees which surrounded his home town of Shuri.

After a hard day of teaching in the local school and several more hours of strenuous karate practice, he would often walk up Mount Torao and meditate among the pine trees.  Mount Torao is a very narrow, heavily wooded mountain which, when viewed from a distance, resembles a tiger’s tail. The name “Torao”in fact literally means “tiger’s tail”.


In later life, Funakoshi explained that the cool breezes which blew among the pines made the trees whisper like waves breaking on the shore. Thus, since he gained his greatest poetic inspirations while walking there, he chose the pen name of Shoto, “pine waves”.


The tiger which is commonly used as the symbol for Shotokan karate is a traditional Chinese design which implies that “the tiger never sleeps”. Symbolized in the Shotokan tiger, therefore, is the keen alertness of the wakeful tiger and the serenity of the peaceful mind which Gichin Funakoshi experienced while listening to the pine waves on Tiger’s Tail Mountain.


IKD - International Karate Daigaku
IKD - International Karate Daigaku

What is Karate?

“True karate is this: that in daily life one’s mind and body be trained and developed in a spirit of humility, and that in critical times, one be devoted utterly to the cause of justice.”  –Gichin Funakoshi

Karate can also be described as a martial art, or fighting method, involving a variety of techniques, including blocks, strikes, evasions, throws, and joint manipulations. Karate practice is divided into three aspects: kihon (basics), kata (forms), and kumite (sparring).

The word karate is a combination of two Japanese characters: kara ?, meaning empty, and te ?, meaning hand; thus, karate ?? means “empty hand.” Adding the suffix “-do” ? (pronounced “doe”), meaning “way,” i.e., karate-do ???, implies karate as a total way of life that goes well beyond the self-defense applications. In traditional karate-do, we always keep in mind that the true opponent is oneself.

Shotokan founder Gichin Funakoshi has said that “mind and technique become one in true karate.” We strive to make our physical techniques pure expressions of our mind’s intention, and to improve our mind’s focus by understanding the essence of the physical techniques. By polishing our karate practice we are polishing our own spirit or our own mentality. For example, eliminating weak and indecisive movements in our karate helps to eliminate weakness and indecision in our minds–and vice versa.

It is in this sense that karate becomes a way of life, as we try to become very strong but happy and peaceful people.