How often should I practice?
While everyone is different, we generally find that students benefit the most if they attend at least two practices a week. If time permits we encourage you to attend both practices every week. If possible, try doing some personal practice (10-15 minutes per day) at home during the rest of the week.
Can I still practice if I miss a class?
Yes! Almost everyone misses some practices sometimes. Try to find time to practice the movements you know on your own (even if its only 10 minutes a day) and then come back to class when you can. No matter how many classes you miss, you can come back to class at any time.
My body is stiff and out of shape — can I still practice?
Yes! One of the side benefits of our practice is that it is great exercise. Don’t try to do too much too soon—do the movements to the limit of your flexibility. Over time you will find your body becomes stronger and more flexible.
I have an injury or other health problem — can I still practice?
Yes! The movements in karate can be easily modified for different people. Before you start, discuss any injury or health problems with the instructor. We will make sure the movements are modified to accommodate you.
Are there any rules for how to behave in the dojo?
Yes! There are a number of rules we expect students to follow (Dojo Etiquette). Mostly these are common-sense rules to ensure everyone can practice in a safe and respectful environment.
I’ve practiced another style of karate or some other martial art — can I still practice Shotokan karate?
Yes! Of course, you may find we do some things differently than your old style. Naturally, we will expect you to do things our way (when in Rome, do as the Romans do). But we are more than happy to have people from other styles practice with us. Many of our most senior people came from other styles.
What does “karate” mean?
- Kara means “empty” and te means “hand”. Karate developed as a weaponless form of self-defense. Shotokan karate stresses mental and physical development.
- Do literally means “the way”, so karate-do translates to “the way of karate”. This means that if one practices seriously, karate can become not only an effective form of self-defense, but also a way of life.
Why does CSK only five dans (black belt levels)?
CSK has only five dans or levels of black belt. Other martial arts or styles of karate may have 10 dans or even more! This is due to a combination of history and modesty. When Master Funakoshi moved to Japan he decided to adopt the ranking system used by judo, which was well established. Judo had 10 levels of black belt. Master Funakoshi adopted a 5th degree black belt for himself, even though he was the Chief Instructor for Shotokan Karate. He was invited several times to apply for a higher rank but as some of the people judging him were his students, he saw no point in that. When he died he was still “only” a 5th dan. Mr. Ohshima was awarded a Godan or 5th dan by Master Funakoshi. Although Mr. Ohshima has also been invited to grade for higher dans, he has never considered adopting for himself a higher rank than had Master Funakoshi. Thus, we have only five dans. In the end it really doesn’t matter. By the time you are a 5th dan, you won’t care that another style has 10 dans.
How long does it take to become a black belt?
Everyone is different. Generally, new students can expect to progress to shodan (1st degree black belt) in about 4 years, assuming they practice regularly, attend Special Trainings, and attend black/brown Belt practices on a regular basis.
Who is Mr. Tsutomu Ohshima?
Mr. Tsutomu Ohshima is the Shihan (Chief Instructor) of Canada Shotokan Karate (CSK), and is also recognized as chief instructor of many other international Shotokan organizations. Mr. Ohshima’s branch of the Shotokan world has become known as Shotokan Ohshima Karate.
Mr. Ohshima was born on August 6, 1930, and by the age of five had already entered the disciplined and rigorous world of Japanese martial arts. Practicing daily, he pursued sumo wrestling from the age of five until he was fifteen; kendo (Japanese sword fighting) from the ages of eight to fifteen, and judo from the ages of nine to thirteen.
Mr. Ohshima’s distinguished association with Shotokan karate began at Waseda University, beginning in 1948. While he was there he trained directly under the style’s founder, Master Funakoshi, until 1953. His training was also influenced by his leading seniors, who were, in order of seniority:
- Hiroshi Noguchi, First Waseda Captain
- Shigeru Egami
- Toshio Kamata-Watanabe
- Tadao Okuyama
- Matsuo Shibuya
Kamata-Watanabe has honored Mr. Ohshima and Canada Shotokan Karate by visiting Canada to observe and instruct our members.
At the All-Japan Sandan Promotional in 1952, Master Funakoshi personally awarded Mr. Ohshima his sandan (third degree black belt) rank, while honouring him with the highest score of any participant. Also in 1952, he became the Captain of the Waseda University Karate Club, working with Master Funakoshi. In 1957 Mr. Ohshima also received his godan (fifth degree black belt) rank from Master Funakoshi, the highest rank awarded by Master Funakoshi and still the highest rank achievable in CSK.
It was also during 1952 that Mr. Ohshima innovated the judging system still used in modern day tournaments. However, for students wishing to participate, he cautions that tournaments should not be viewed as an expression of true karate itself.
Mr. Ohshima left Japan in 1955 to continue his studies at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where, in January 1956, he led his first U.S. practice. The first university karate club in the United States was founded by Mr. Ohshima, at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, CA, in 1957. In 1959 the Southern California Karate Association (SCKA) was founded, and for the next ten years the reputation and membership of the SCKA continued to grow. Many new dojos were started by Mr. Ohshima’s black belt instructors in California and across the nation. Thus the organization was renamed Shotokan Karate of America in 1969.
In 1970, upon invitation by Mr. Ohshima, Norman Welch (godan and president of CSK) was invited to attend special training with SKA although he currently was not a member. This turned out to be a life changing experience for Norman Welch, who then proceeded to join Ohshima Sensei’s group and subsequently founded CSK in the fall of 1972 along with Gene Malec and George Quessy.
What about the tiger logo?
The tiger was painted by the great Japanese artist, Hoan Kosugi, to honor Master Funakoshi who used it on the cover of his first book to symbolize strength and courage. The irregularity of the circle indicates that it was probably painted with one brush stroke. The characters by the tiger’s tail denote the name of the artist.
Who was Master Funakoshi?
Gichin Funakoshi is widely considered the primary “father” of modern karate due to his efforts to introduce the Okinawan art to mainland Japan, from where it spread to the rest of the world. Born in 1868, he began to study karate at the age of 11, and was a student of the two greatest masters of the time, Azato and Itosu. He grew so proficient that he was initiated into all the major styles of karate in Okinawa at the time. For Master Funakoshi, the word karate eventually took on a deeper and broader meaning through the synthesis of these many methods, becoming karate-do, literally the “way of karate,” or of the empty hand. Training in karate-do became an education for life itself.
Master Funakoshi was the first expert to introduce karate-do to mainland Japan. In 1916 he gave a demonstration to the Butokuden in Kyoto, Japan, which at that time was the official center of all martial arts. On March 6, 1921, the Crown Prince, who was later to become the Emperor of Japan, visited Okinawa and Master Funakoshi was asked to demonstrate karate. In the early spring of 1922 Master Funakoshi travelled to Tokyo to present his art at the First National Athletic Exhibition in Tokyo organized by the Ministry of Education. He was strongly urged by several eminent groups and individuals to remain in Japan, and indeed he never did return to Okinawa.
Master Funakoshi taught only one method, a total discipline, which represented a synthesis of Okinawan karate styles. This method became known as Shotokan, literally the clan or the house of Shoto, which was the Master’s pen name for his poetry, denoting the sound of the wind blowing through pines.
What exactly is “Special Training“?
In a basic sense, Special Training is a multi-day karate boot camp. This gives an opportunity for you to train with a large number of members of all ranks from many dojos in Canada and the US. Special Training is usually held in a large facility such as a private boarding school or camp where students live, eat, and train together. Separate sleeping quarters and bathrooms are provided for men and women. Special Training represents an opportunity for the serious karate student to advance him- or her-self both mentally and physically. A common rule of thumb is that one Special Training is equivalent to 6 months of regular practice.
The beginning student is allowed to attend Special Training with the consent of the instructor, based on physical condition and knowledge of kata, kihon, and kumite. You are mentally and physically STRONGER then you realize. We will safely push ourselves to our physical limits and thereby to strengthen our mentality, and to see ourselves with clearer eyes are the ultimate goals of this practice.