Shotokan was the name of the first official dojo built by Gichin Funakoshi, in 1936 at Mejiro, and destroyed in 1945 due to an allied bombing. Shoto (松濤, Shōtō), meaning "pine-waves" (the movement of pine needles when the wind blows through them), was Funakoshi's pen-name, which he used in his poetic and philosophical writings and messages to his students. The Japanese kan (館, kan) means "house" or "hall." In honor of their sensei, Funakoshi's students created a sign reading shōtō-kan, which they placed above the entrance of the hall where Funakoshi taught. Gichin Funakoshi never gave his system a name, just calling it karate.

Gichin Funakoshi is the founder of Shotokan, perhaps the most widely known karate style, and is known as a "father of modern karate." Following the teachings of Anko Itosu and Anko Asato, he was one of the Okinawan karate masters who introduced karate to the Japanese mainland in 1922. He taught karate at various Japanese universities and became honorary head of the Japan Karate Association upon its establishment in 1949.

Gichin Funakoshi

November 10, 1868 – April 26, 1957

The symbol with the tiger inside the circle is the Tora no Maki, or the Tiger Roll. This drawing was created by a Japanese man named Hoan Kosugi, a friend and student of Gichin Funakoshi. He was reportedly instrumental in convincing Funakoshi to teach karate in Japan. He also was the man who first convinced Funakoshi to write his knowledge of karate into a book, and promised him that if he would, he would design the book and make a painting for the cover. He drew it specifically to illustrate the cover of Funakoshi’s book Karate-do Kyohan. Kosugi is thought to be as crucial as Kano in convincing Funakoshi to stay in Japan to teach karate. The character up in the top-right quadrant of the circle is part of the artist’s signature.