Shotokan Karate

What is the club about?

We provide training for a range of abilities, from total beginners to advanced students. Our club practices Traditional Shotokan karate. Shotokan places emphasis on low stances, technique and speed. Karate is a great resource for developing fitness, flexibility and strength, together with the self-confidence and awareness that many martial arts bring. Although we study traditional karate, we also teach how to apply general self defence principles to present day life situations. Egham Karate Club have a number of instructors of varying experience. Senior Instructor David Austin is a 5th Dan Black Belt, qualified KUGB instructor and qualified KUGB Assessor. The club caters for all abilities and always has students of all levels training at all times. Gradings are organised on a regular basis, examined by one of the UK’s senior KUGB instructors Bob Poynton (8th Dan black belt).

Introduction to Shotokan Karate

Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan karate, stated that the ultimate aim of karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in perfection of character. In this way, karate may be described as an aesthetic course of self-discipline, leading to enlightenment. Literally, karate-do is the way of the empty hand. This includes the philosophical notion of emptying oneself of improper motives; not merely fighting without weapons. The principles of training go beyond technique and may be applied to ordinary life.

Karate training involves little instruction in philosophy. Students are expected to learn the underlying philosophical principles through hard work and much practice. By following the technical directions of the instructors, the example of the senior students and applying themselves completely to each technique, karate-ka will develop a deep understanding of both the technical and philosophical aspects of karate.

It is said that in karate there is no second chance. Karate-ka are taught to use each technique as if their lives depended upon its successful application. This concept is called ikken hissatsu in Japanese, literally to kill with one blow. However, the real meaning is that a karate-ka must be completely committed to each technique and must apply each technique with certainty, force, decisiveness and without regard to the possibility of failure.
Shotokan Karate is one of the four main schools of Karate in Japan. It is best characterised by its long and deep stances and its use of more linear movements. Shotokan Karate has little of the circular movements found in Okinawan styles of karate, nor does it have the body conditioning and supplementary training exercises typical for Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate. Shotokon Karate is considered by many a sports style of Karate, where tournaments and point-sparring are central to the art. Many exponents of Shotokan are displeased about the way Shotokan has been portrayed and would prefer that Shotokan becomes again the traditional, non-sports martial art as conceived by Funakoshi. Origin of Shotokan Karate: Japan Founder of Shotokan: Gichin Funakoshi (Originally an Okinawan Karate Instructor who moved to Japan)

Early History

Shotokan karate traces its roots to the islands of Okinawa, which now form part of Japan. An indigenous fighting system know as Okinawa-te (Okinawa hand) would eventually become karate (Chinese hand) and, finally, karate-do (the way of the empty hand).

Historically, Okinawa was an independent kingdom, but it was strongly influenced by Chinese culture. Okinawa established a tributary relationship with China, which allowed Okinawan martial artists to study in China (and to train with Chinese martial artists visiting Okinawa).

There were originally three styles of Okinawa-te, named for the towns where they were located: Shuri-te, Naha-te and Tomari-te. Shotokan karate is a modern Japanese style, descended from these traditional Okinawan style Unfortunately, the history of karate is somewhat incomplete and speculative. Until recently, karate was taught in secret and few records were maintained. During the period of secrecy, there would be no open discussion karate training, even within a family

Gichin Funakoshi is widely regarded as the father of modern karate and is certainly the father of Japanese karate. He was an Okinawan schoolteacher and an enthusiastic karate-ka. He began karate training in his childhood, primarily with Yasutsune Azato (1827-1906) and Yasutsune Itosu (1830-1915). Funakoshi was selected to give the first demonstrations of karate outside Okinawa. They occurred in 1916 (possibly 1917) and in 1922. His demonstrations were well received and there was much interest in the introduction of karate to Japan. Funakoshi remained in Japan after the second demonstration.

Initially, there were few students to support the only karate instructor in Japan. The 56 year old schoolteacher had to take odd jobs at the dormitory where he set up his temporary dojo. He worked as watchman, caretaker and gardener. To pay for his meals, he had to persuade the cook to take lessons.

Our style is called Shotokan as a tribute to Master Funakoshi, who used the pen-name Shoto on poetry and calligraphy. Shoto means waving pine. Funakoshi selected this name because he enjoyed hearing the sound of the wind through the pine trees as he took evening walks in Okinawa.

In 1936, Funakoshi built his first dojo in Tokyo. His students named it the Shotokan, meaning Shoto’s club. Funakoshi did not actually name his style of karate, but the name of the dojo came to be associated with the style itself.

Master Funakoshi died on 26 April 1957. During his lifetime, he trained many famous students, including Shigeru Egami, Masatoshi Nakayama, Keinosuke Enoeda, Tsutomu Oshima, Hidetaka Nishiyama and Teruyuki Okazaki.


Okinawa is an island south of Japan, situated in near equal distance between China and Japan. A secret indigenous weaponless martial art developed (called Te, ‘Hands’) that experienced strong chinese influences. Chinese sailors, traders and businessmen brought their martial art to Okinawa during their import/export business travels. In addition, many original Okinawan masters travelled to China to learn Chinese boxing (Ch’uan Fa, ‘The fist way’) directly from Chinese masters. Having aquired new skills, in particular what is nowadays referred to as White Crane Kung Fu, these masters would return to Okinawa and begin to teach an art that had both original Okinawan and also Chinese heritage. This new way of fighting was called To-De, ‘Chinese Hands’, to indicate the Chinese origin of many of the techniques.

In Okinawa, there were three villages that, although only few miles apart, each developed their own style of To-De. In the port town of Naha, Naha-Te developed. In the more aristocratic Shuri, the ancient capital of Okinawa, Shuri-Te developed, and further north in Tomari, Tomari-Te developed. This seemingly unlikely isolation has its foundation partly in the geographical location of these villages, with a river separating Naha in the south from Shuri and Tomari in the North, but also by its very different social classes, with business and commercial trade enterprises in Naha, the King and aristocracy in Shuri, and farmers and country people in Tomari. Okinawa has a long history of both chinese and japanese suppression that outlawed the possession of conventional weapons (such as swords). Thus, Okinawan martial arts developed a unique range of substitute weapons that in many cases were derived from farming tools. The use of these weapons is still practiced today in many Karate styles of Okinawan origin.

The Karate Uniform: Gi

Shortly after starting to learn Karate, the new student will want to purchase the appropriate uniform and look like everyone else in the class. The Gi is the traditional uniform of Karate, and its main purpose lies in its functionality. This applies to all of the Japanese and Okinawan Karate styles. Judo uniforms are also called Gi.

Why wear a Gi in Karate?

A Gi has the advantage that it is very robust and comfortable at the same time. It will survive a substantial amount of pulling, tearing and contact with the ground to a degree that other type of clothing cannot handle. Typically a Karate Gi comes with quite short sleeves and pants, so that you don’t get caught with your finger or trip over yourself. A Gi allows you great freedom of motion, which is required as in Karate you’ll kick and punch with both speed and power.