Shotokan is one of the most widely practiced karate styles in the world today. The style was founded by Gichin Funakoshi, a schoolteacher from Okinawa. Many consider him as the "Father of Modern Karate" for it was he who is credited with popularizing karate in mainland Japan. Gichin Funakoshi used the term karate-do, meaning "the way of karate," implying that karate was not just a skill to be used in combat but rather a way of life. He always reminded his students that the first purpose in the study of karate is "to nurture a sublime and humble spirit."
In 1922, Gichin Funakoshi established the first Japanese karate club in Tokyo. The first Shotokan dojo was built in 1936. His students named it the Shotokan, derived from his pen name Shoto, which means "pine waves." The word kan means "building" or "hall." So Shotokan literally means the "Hall of Pine Waves."
Shotokan tends to be a more traditional style than others, placing great emphasis on basic form, posture, and technique. It is characterized by low stances, large hip movements, and linear impact techniques. Shotokan stylists train to develop kime. Kime (focus) is defined as an explosive attack that focuses all of the body's energy at the moment of impact, creating the fastest and strongest technique possible. By practicing kime, one develops the ability of ikken hissatsu (one fist, certain kill), to kill an opponent using a single attack. Since practicing in this manner can develop very deadly techniques, the concept of sun dome, to stop a technique just before contact (one sun, about 3 cm), becomes very important. Hence, Shotokan practitioners strive to develop excellent control and Shotokan tournaments are never full contact.
Kata, or "forms," are the pre-arranged sequences of self-defense techniques that represent a karateka defending against several imaginary attackers. Although the kata are generally practiced without a partner, sometimes a partner can be used to demonstrate the actual purpose or meaning of the movements of the kata against an actual assailant. This is called "application training." Application training is usually referred to as bunkai, which means "analysis." Some instructors may choose to use the word oyo, which can more accurately be translated as "application." Shotokan places heavy emphasis on kata training. There are a total of 26 kata (25 excluding Jiin) representing the core of the Shotokan system.
Kumite, or "sparring," includes all of the combat training practiced with a partner. Kumite is usually divided into yakosoku kumite, which is sparring by announcement, and jiyu kumite, which is "free-sparring." Free-sparring can be dangerous and should only be practiced by students having a good level of control. Free-sparring competitions are won by points, not by knockout.
Traditional Shotokan practice consists of "3K karate" (kihon, kata, kumite). Kihon, or "basics," include all of the various punching, kicking, striking, and blocking techniques. This includes any drills involving movement into stances (any direction) as well as performing techniques on the spot.