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Shotokan Karate was brought to Finland in 1975 by Sensei Willy J. Ortiz, who started teaching the martial art in Pori. Six years later he founded the Finnish Shotokan Karate-do Federation. The Federation is a part of the Japan Karate Association (J.K.A.), and in 1998 it became a member of the Finnish Karate Federation.

As its name implies, the style of karate taught is the traditional Shotokan, which is based on old martial arts practised on the island of Okinawa, and was created by Sensei Gichin Funakoshi. The teaching in clubs belonging to the Federation is a combination of old and new. Especially for lower grades, basic techniques and basic kata are emphasized. However, students are introduced to kumite quite early on, and participation in competitions is encouraged.

The teaching is very thorough - you are expected not only to know your techniques, but understand the application of kata. Especially senior grades need also to have an understanding of the history and philosophy of karate. Training is physically demanding, but it is fair. The lower grades may be pushed hard, but they are not expected to learn everything at once. The higher your grade, the more is expected of you. One of the good things about the style of teaching is that generally all coloured belts from yellow to black train together, so the lower grades have a chance to learn things they might not be taught at other clubs and learn from the example of more experienced students. The teaching is generally of good quality, and the leading sensei of the Federation, Willy J. Ortiz, is one of the highest-ranking karateka anywhere, as he has obtained a 7th dan black belt.

The Federation has karate clubs in Tampere, Pori, Nakkila and Tuusula. Sensei Ortiz usually teaches classes at Tampereen Shotokan.

This is based on my own experience of training at Tampereen Shotokan, and on the JKA Finland website, www.jkafinland.org. It has been four years since I trained karate in Finland, but I doubt much has changed since then.

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