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The symbol that is synonymous with Okinawan karate worldwide is the original coat-of-arms of the royal Sho family of Ryukyu, the "Hidari-gomon", found to be used extensively in dojo and association emblems. It was in use generations prior to being adopted by many karate dojo and associations as their official symbol.

There is an artifact pointing to King Shō Toku: Shō Toku, the last king of the 1st Shō Dynasty, was overthrown by King Shō En, 1st king of the 2nd Shō Dynasty in the late 1400's. Shō Toku‘s surviving retainers were buried in the “Tomb of the Hundred Anji”, located behind a hill in the village of Unten in Nakijin, northern Okinawa. Upon a part of a wooden coffin discovered there, the oldest instance of the “mitsu domoe mon” (三つ巴紋, “Three commas crest”) was found, worked out in golden color. It’s called “hidari-gomon” (左御紋) in the case of Ryūkyū, meaning “left-turning honorable crest”. And this is the same (basically) as the Hachiman crest.

Hidari-gomon image

Hidari-gomon, the coat-of-arms of the Royal Sho family of the Ryukyu Kingdom.

Dojo Mon image

Our dojo crest consists of an outer area where we have the kanji for "RyuKyu Karate Kobudo". Ryukyu is the old name for Okinawa. On the lower portion we have the name of our dojo. The inner ring is interpreted as symbolizing a "circle of a family (Wa)", within our dojo we have a feeling that all our members are part of the dojo family (kazoku). We then have the leaves circling the hidari-gomon in the center, which symbolizes the continuing growth and development in our training.

The Hidari-gomon, we see as being a representation of the roots of our Karate, Okinawa. It has many intepritations but one explanation that was particularly interesting to me was the Okinawan folktale where they interpret the "Hidari-gomon" as representing loyalty, heroism, and altruism to a proud island people and their descendants. They believe it to be expressed through a past full of struggle and hardship, but also a willingness to face the difficulties ahead no matter what the cost. These virtues can be seen in our dojo today. There are times when hard training and attendance can be difficult, but with dedication and perseverance these difficulties can be overcome too.

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