Origins of Fudochi Karate

Description of Fudochi Shotokan Karate-Do

Karate, meaning empty (Kara) hand (Te), is a Japanese martial art that is practiced without the aid of weapons, and is suitable for both genders and all sizes, regardless of height and weight. Shotokan is a traditional style that develops both body and mind. Regular and disciplined training will increase co-ordination, strength and flexibility. Incorporation of Zen meditation will improve mental focus and self-control. This combination makes karate a very practical and applicable martial art, both for self-defence and competitive fighting.

Here Sensei Rick Jackson explains the meaning of the name of our martial art, Fudochi Shotokan Karate-Do:


Fudochi is a term borrowed from Zen Buddhism meaning immovable wisdom. It was first termed by the Zen priest Takuan who was famous for his teachings of Bushido (martial way). Although he himself never practiced any martial art, his realisation of 'self nature' enabled him to point the way and many famous Bushi (warrior) came to him for instruction; including, legend has it, Miyamoto Musashi the most famous of all Japanese swordsmen.

Immovable wisdom in the Zen context points directly to mind. Wisdom, here meaning truth and immovable, unchanging. Thus the mind, once seated in the realisation of its own truth, becomes immovable, changeless and eternal, knowing all phenomena to be mere reflections of itself. For example: water is still by nature, yet it moves. Waves have no self-existence, yet they are. Frozen, it is solid; heated it is steam. Yet never once does it stray from its original nature. So it is with mind. This mind can change its internal and external reflections constantly without once changing itself. This 'changeless nature of true mind' is the realisation of Fudochi and at once the alpha and the omega of the way of Bushido.


Shotokan denotes a particular way or style of executing the various physical components of karate and was the pen-name of our founder, Master Gichin Funakoshi. Originally from Okinawa, Master Funakoshi was instrumental in introducing karate to the Japanese and indeed is remembered as the father of Japanese karate-do. It was Master Funakoshi who changed the original character for Karate from "Chinese" hand to "empty" hand. And from within his group of students the Japanese Karate Association (J. K. A) was formed, which in turn spread the word of karate world-wide. Master Funakoshi was famous for his poems and examples of calligraphy; he would sign these works of Art with the name "Shoto" and hence the way of karate became known as Shoto's school (Kan).


Karate means empty (kara) hand (te), but this 'empty' is not in the relative sense as being opposite to 'full'. The Japanese character used by Master Funakoshi, to denote kara, means vacuity or void, so in this sense it has a far deeper meaning than at first appears. It is the female/yin aspect of mind, in itself passive or inactive, empty of being and non-being yet accommodating all function and phenomena. Like a mirror, reflecting all things that come before it completely and without bias. A famous saying states: "When you can drop the nothing you see in your empty hand, only then is it truly empty". In other words, although it reflects 'something' and 'nothing' as relative concepts of each other, it is neither in itself and cannot be found through the thought or word of conceptual reasoning. The principle of emptiness is form concealed and form is emptiness revealed. However this is just a picture; the true meaning of 'kara' has to be realised from within through the effort of practice.


Do (pronounced doe) means 'way' and, although the last word of our name, is really the beginning of our journey, for here it denotes the active/yang, or male, principle of mind reflected through physical function. This 'way' of karate, however, cannot be seen, heard, touched or imagined. What can be seen and heard are merely its traces. The ability to recognise what lies behind the traces is Fudochi.

Even though the Art of Karate is only a limited physical skill, its practice harmonises Yin and Yang until the dichotomy of mind and body, self and other, merge into one. Whosoever penetrates to its innermost essence brings themselves into harmony with the Great Way. If karate practice does not finally lead its practitioners to this intuitive comprehension of true mind, then it is useless!

As a mirror's polished surface reflects all that stands before it and a quiet valley carries even the smallest sounds, so must the student of Karate-Do render himself empty of wicked and selfish thoughts in an effort to react appropriately toward anything he may encounter.
Master Gichin Funakoshi

This is the meaning of Fudochi Karate-Do.

Shotokan Karate Martial Arts Ying Yang Meditation Sensei Rick Jackson 8th DAN founder of Fudochi Karate
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