The Shotokan Tiger

iskf tiger II
When Master Gichin Funakoshi created our system of martial arts, he chose the tiger as the animal symbol to represent Shotokan. He chose it because it signified strength, power, and tenacity. Even today, it remains the emblem of our ISKF and many other Shotokan organizations.

But Gichin Funakoshi didn’t stop there. He had the tiger symbol drawn within a circle in order to show that the power of the tiger, much like the power of Shotokan, is contained. It indicates that we should never use this power on a whim. The power is only unleashed, or broken from the circle, in order to defend ourselves or others who can’t defend themselves from a violent attack.

The emblem comes from 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.

Our Shotokan Tiger has double meaning during our karate training, symbolizing a skilled karateka’s decisive attacks, and highlighting the nature of the true karate spirit.

So remember to be true to the emblem you wear on your gi when you train – be watchful, tenacious and strong!


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University of Idaho

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