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What is Shotokan?

Most martial arts, if not all, have one thing in common, they all result from a mixed Chinese and Indian culture.

Around the 6th century, a monk, known under the name of Bodhidharma, set up in the Shaolin Temple in China. He decided to teach techniques based upon breathing and the harmony between the mind and the body, combined with techniques aiming at reinforcing the body physically. His objective was to teach monks how to protect themselves during their numerous and dangerous trips.

His discipline, based on harmony, influenced the various fighting forms. After the legendary destruction of the Shaolin Temple, monks and fighting techniques dispersed throughout China. Hence, these techniques spread and evolved. Still today, we can read in some books about karate the name of SHAOLIN SU KEMPO that refers to their art.

Karate developed, notably around the 15th century, on the Okinawa Island, which most regular practitioners know at least by name. It was indeed at that time that the Island fell under Chinese rule. This resulted in an enrichment of the local fighting art, the ' Te ', due to an increase in sales exchanges and the contact with foreign countries. As China prohibited the use of weapons on the island, inhabitants developed weaponless fighting techniques. It is by the way the practice of workers' tools that led to fighting techniques with weapons that we know today in their most up-to-date forms (e.g. : nunchaku).

This banning was not lifted, even after the Japanese came to power in the 17th century. At that time, teaching was made orally, i.e. without any educational support. Techniques were worked on and taught on the basis of katas. This gave birth to the Karate ancestor, the ' To De '.

Mainly three villages developed various styles of karate :Tomari, Shuri and Naha. They gave birth respectively to Tomari-Te, Shuri-Te and Naha-Te.

The teaching of Karate, practised in utmost secrecy, took another form around the 20th century thanks to Master Itosu. Indeed, he introduced Karate in Okinawa's schools in parallel with the gymnastics course.

The history of the three villages is not useless as Master Gichin Funakoshi originated from Shuri. In 1922, he came to Japan to make a demonstration of Karate. At Master Kano's invitation (the creator of Judo), he presented his art to the Kodokan School. Later on, he created his own karate school, known under the name of Shotokan. The Shotokan School differed gradually from the Okinawa classical style, mainly because of the introduction of fighting techniques by Funakoshi's son, Yoshitaka.

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