Kosugi Hoan


In my book review of Karate Jutsu, there is mention of “Hoan sketches”, that appear in 1922 Ryukyu Kenpo Toudi, but were replaced in a later publication with photographs of Funakoshi performing the moves. If you are intruiged about these sketches and are perhaps wondering who or what “Hoan” is, read on!

Hoan Signature

“Hoan” refers to Kosugi Hoan, and this painter contributed far more than providing Funakoshi with sketches for his 1922 “Ryukyu Kempo publication. Not only did Kosugi Hoan also design the now famous shotokan tiger logo, he is actually credited with persuading Funakoshi that he should produce a karate reference manual – a manual that infact turned into Ryukyu Kempo!


Kosugi Hoan was actually born Kosugi Kunitaro, in 1881 in Nikko. When he moved to Tokyo he changed his name again and was known as Kosugi Misei.

Kosugi Hoan

Latterly he eventually changed his name back to Kosugi Hoan, moving to Akakura, Niigata-ken before passing away at the age of 82.


Kosugi was known throughout Japan for his many oil paintings, watercolor paintings and rough sketches. In the karate world though, he was one of funakoshi’s students, but it is his Shotokan Tiger that most are familiar with. It became synonymous with Funakoshi publications and a graphical representation for Shotokan Karate.

Why did Kosugi decide to paint a tiger for Funakoshi’s landmark karate book? Again we have to remember that it was Kosugi who helped influence Funakoshi to pen his first karate instruction manual, an official document of some stature, something Kosugi Hoan was very proud of. In Japan a document such as this is referred to as “Tora No Maki”. Another meaning for Tora, is Tiger – and thus, the Shotokan Tiger was born.

Eventually the tiger appeared on the cover of Karate Do Kyohan.

Shotokan Tiger

Comments (3)

Rod ButlerOctober 5th, 2008 at 11:10 am

A nice informative description of the history of the ‘Shotokan Tiger’. I wonder whether the original image – although created for the book cover, was designed as a woodblock stamp to also be used as an imprint for various documents etc. Looking again with fresh eyes at the picture, it looks so much like a woodblock design………do you have any further information regarding the original ‘commission’?

adminOctober 5th, 2008 at 11:48 am

Hi Rod, thanks for the feedback, nice to see a “known” name posting here.

I agree it looks more like a woodblock design than a traditional brush stroke design, I will continue my research into this.

SHAMEEROctober 25th, 2008 at 1:18 pm


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