Shotokan Tiger Crest

Master Funakoshi's pen name Shoto, literally means "pine waves", and today is synonymous with the tiger symbol and Shotokan Karate-do. But few people understand the relationship of Shoto to what is commonly known as the Shotokan Tiger.

When Master Funakoshi was a young man, he enjoyed walking in solitude among the pine trees which surrounded his home of Shuri. After a hard day of teaching in the local school and several more hours of strenuous karate practice, he would often walk up Mt. Torao and meditate among the pine trees under the stars and bright moon. Mt. Torao is a very narrow, heavily wooded mountain which, when viewed from a distance, resembles a tiger's tail. The name Torao, in fact, literally means "tiger's tail".

In later life, Master Funakoshi explained that the cool breezes which blew among the pines on Mt. Torao made the trees whisper like waves breaking on the shore. Thus, since he gained his greatest poetic inspirations while walking among the gently blowing pine trees, he chose the pen name of Shoto, "pine waves".

The tiger which is commonly used as the symbol for Shotokan karate is a traditional Chinese design which implies that "the tiger never sleeps". Symbolized in the Shotokan tiger, therefore is the keen alertness of the wakeful tiger and the serenity of the peaceful mind which Master Funakoshi experienced while listening to the pine waves on Tiger's Tail Mountain.

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Courtesy JKAE

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