FUNAKOSHI Gichin Sensei (1868-1957)   Born in Okinawa in 1868, FUNAKOSHI Gichin started to practice Karate around 1879 with two Okinawa’s top masters of Shorei-ryu and Shorin-ryu. In 1922, invited to demonstrate Karate to the Emperor of Japan and the Japanese public, his demonstration was such a success that he decided to remain in Japan to teach and promote his art. Gichin Funakoshi passed away in 1957 at the age of 88. Aside from creating Shotokan Karate and introducing it to Japan and the world, this unassuming and gentle man also wrote books, among them "Karate-do: My Way of Life" and “The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate”.

The word Shotokan is composed of three kanji characters in Japanese. They are properly pronounced "show-toe-kahn." The SHO character is taken from the word matsu which means pine tree. TO is the character for waves. Pine Waves is supposed to mean "the sound that pine trees make when the wind blows through their needles." Some people also translate this to mean the waves that pine trees seem to make visually when bending in the wind. The character KAN means building. Why is this popular method of karate named this way? There is a story behind it.
The first karate teacher to arrive in Japan from Okinawa was Funakoshi Gichin. He stepped off the boat in 1922, and through the help of his Japanese sponsors, was supported as he gradually established himself first in Kyoto and then later in Tokyo. One of his other hobbies, besides karate, was the practice of Japanese calligraphy using a brush and parchment to create artistic writings like those you might see hanging on a wall in a Japanese restaurant today. Supposedly, Funakoshi signed his works with a pen name of Shoto. So, the word Shoto in Shotokan is a kind of nick-name for Funakoshi Gichin.During the late 1930’s, Funakoshi’s students built a rather large karate dojo for their teacher. Over the front door, one of them mounted a wooden plaque that said "SHOTOKAN." This meant that the building itself was the hall of Shoto, or basically, the Funakoshi Building.
Funakoshi’s students never referred to the karate that they practiced as Shotokan. Instead, they only used the word karate or karate-do to refer to their art. It was Japanese outside of Funakoshi’s circle who referred to his system as Shotokan. Since other instructors were naming their styles of karate things like Shito-Ryu, Wado-Ryu, or Goju-Ryu, it must have seemed strange that the other major style was just "karate," so they started referring to it as Shotokan Karate. This basically amounts to "The karate they do in the Shotokan." And that is how the style got its name.
Today, people who practice Shotokan in the West typically refer to it by that name, but the Japanese Shotokan practitioners usually do not use the word, and instead call it merely karate even today.
Unfortunately, those of you who might wish to visit and see the original Shotokan are out of luck. During World War II, an American bombing raid on Tokyo in 1945 annihilated the building, and it was never rebuilt. If you are interested in more history of Shotokan Karate, there cannot be a better resource than Harry Cook’s famous Shotokan Karate: A Precise History.Shotokan is not differentiated merely by tracing the people who taught the art to others. Shotokan methods are recognizable visually by linear, direct punching, blocking, and kicking from low stances. Shotokan emphasizes correct posture, correct joint alignment, and formality of basic technique above all else. The Shotokan expert is expected to perform using strictly defined basic techniques even under harsh conditions. Creativity and free-lancing are not rewarded by most Shotokan teachers. Basic techniques are defined to the last detail, and performing them properly is typically given the highest priority.
The general view of Shotokan experts seems to be that purity of raw technique is more important than almost anything else. The ideology is that one elegant technique mastered so completely that it is as natural as flipping a light switch will finish off the opponent quickly and efficiently. In situations where there are multiple opponents, such an ability is believed essential because there may not be time to throw more than one technique per opponent, and grappling and getting tangled up with your adversary when two others are also trying to harm you is probably unwise. Therefore, each karate technique is maximized at the expense of learning more complicated defenses in Shotokan training. Later, after technical execution development has begun to plateau after years of training, more complicated defenses can be uncovered from the kata.
When attacking, the Shotokan expert will drive directly forward with straight punches and kicks while sweeping at the ankles to unbalance the retreating opponent. Shotokan experts are familiar with other types of techniques, but they generally avoid them unless they feel secure in their superior firepower.
When attacked, Shotokan fighters tend to stand their ground, in my experience. They may shift one step to the side in order to flank the attacker, but the most common defense used is a pre-emptive strike against an incoming opponent. While Shotokan is simple, predictable, and lacking in a wide variety of motions, the few techniques are designed to be mastered to such a high degree of precision and ease of use that they become extremely effective