We practice traditional Shotokan Karate Do. What this means is that we follow the teachings of Gichin Funakoshi, also known as the father of karate, and Budo the way of the warrior. The focus is on becoming better human beings rather than excelling in competitions or becoming the ultimate MMA fighter. Karate Do is more than just learning to defend yourself, it is a way of life.
The story of Shotokan tiger
Gichin Funakoshi has been called the father of karate and the leader of the Shotokan movement. Funakoshi Sensei not only practiced karate, but was also a poet who went by the pen name of Shoto which literally means waving pines in the breeze. The name Shoto kan was derived by some of Funakoshi Sensei’s students to name the dojo in which they practiced. The word kan means practice hall. The symbol of the tiger became attributed to Shotokan Karate after the work of an artist who illustrated a book cover on karate written by Gichin Funakoshi. Over time, Shotokan Karate was often referred to as tiger karate, though it had nothing to do with tigers or tiger like movements. In fact, the crane might have been more descriptive of Shotokan karate with the adoption of Crane like movements from Chinese arts into its katas.
The story of the lion guardians
Asiatic lions exist as a single population in India and were not native to China. Stories from traveling priests and traders filled the imagination of the Chinese emperor, who never seen a lion. The emperor had his artisans create a likeness based upon these stories and descriptions brought back from faraway lands. Eventually, legends of the lion being fierce protectors, warding off evil spirits grew. Artistic lion statues were placed in front of temples to protect them from evil spirits, much like gargoyles used in ancient churches. This tradition of using lion guardians traveled to Japan as well. It is very common place to see temples in both China and Japan protected by two lion guardians at the entrance.
The Story of Simba Dojo
We began our practice of karate in Kenya a small country on the African Continant. It is well known that tigers do not exist in the wilds of Africa! The most famous African animal, however, is the lion and it is the closest animal to a tiger on the continent. The Swahili word for lion is simba, while the Japanese word is shishi. Simba represents the heart of Africa where our study of karate began. The word has been made famous by the Disney film, The Lion King, here in America. Simba also represents family, protection, power, loyalty and strength which is how we describe our karate spirit. Thus we have it, Simba Dojo, guardians of the temple.
About the Japanese characters on our uniforms
Japanese use several different writing systems to communicate. Some writing systems are phonetic such as Katakana, Hiragona, and Romanji. Others are symbolic such as the use of Chinese symbols known in Japan as Kanji. We adopted two Kanji characters to represent Simba Dojo. The first character represents a lion (shishi), while the second represents the spirit or the divine (jin). These Kanji can be found on our website, uniforms and certificates. Katakana is meant to be used to write out foreign names, scientific terms or as highlights. Since it is phonetic system it can be used to write out your name on your uniform and is traditionally placed on the lower lapel of the jacket.