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About the SHOTOKAN school, Master OHSHIMA's method

Patrick MOTTET
Godan, Shihan SSK

Shotokan here, Shotokan there, how many federations and dojos flourish under this banner, offering everything and its opposite to bewildered beginners.

Beyond their differences, managers and experts agree on the definition of the term, and on the fact that no group has a monopoly on this famous school.

Meaning of Shotokan : Shotokan refers to Master Gichin Funakoshi, founder of modern karate-do, whose pen name was "Shoto". Literally, "Shoto" means "pine waves" and "kan" translates as "house".

Speaking of which, excerpt from a quote by Master Funakoshi: "...To achieve the mental peace that karate-do demands, the best way seemed to be to enjoy my solitude by listening to the wind rustle through the pines. As this became an important part of my life from an early age, I decided that no name could be better chosen to sign my poems. Over the years, this name became better known than the one my parents had given me, and I often realized that if I didn't write Shoto next to Funakoshi, people wouldn't know who I was. »

When, in 1936, a dojo was built in Tokyo, it was named Shotokan (the house of Shoto). This is how the term Shotokan, chosen to designate a dojo, came to be known as the expression of karate-do as conceived by Master Gichin Funakoshi.

Shotokan and its various currents : Destroyed by an air raid in 1945, the Shotokan dojo was never rebuilt. After the war, Master Funakoshi continued his teaching in the university dojos opened in the early 1930s. Many practitioners from various universities benefited from his courses and, from 1957 onwards, the date of Master Funakoshi's death, founded associations, federations and groups claiming Shotokan affiliation.

Master Tsutomu Ohshima's Shotokan : Born on August 6, 1930, Master Ohshima entered Tokyo's Waseda University in 1948, where he studied economics until 1953. He also studied karate-do directly under Master Funakoshi. In 1952, appointed captain of the Waseda University karate team, he invented the first competition rules. In 1955, he moved to California, where he founded the Shotokan Karate of America association. This was followed by France Shotokan, Canada Shotokan, Israel Shotokan, Morocco Shotokan, Spain Shotokan, Greece Shotokan, Germany Shotokan, Belgium Shotokan, Holland Shotokan, Japan Shotokan and Switzerland Shotokan, to name the larger of them.

For decades, Master Ohshima has strived not to change the training methods he received from Master Funakoshi. This orthodoxy is reflected in the English translation of his master's book "Karate-do Kyohan", to which he devoted some ten years.

Master Ohshima insists on a close relationship between seniors and juniors, with the former leading by example and mutual respect.

The special training is typical of Shotokan as transmitted by Master Ohshima. For four days, trainees follow an almost immutable program, training intensively for several hours a day, striving to surpass themselves and push back their limits. It's only at the end of the special course that candidates for the rank of black belt are allowed to sit the exam.

"Judging oneself severely", "winning against oneself", "eliminating mental blocks", "trying to do one's best" - these are just some of the leitmotifs used by Master Ohshima. It's also a way of seeking out man's authenticity.

Master Ohshima currently lives in Santa Barbara, California, close to the central dojo built by his students.

Patrick Mottet

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