Shotokan (松濤館 Shōtōkan?), or Shoto for short, is the colloquial term used to describe the fighting style used by characters such as Ryu, Ken Masters, Akuma, Gouken, Sakura Kasugano, Dan Hibiki, and Sean Matsuda.
Origin of the term
Capcom USA originally referred to the fighting style as "Shotokan", despite it bearing little resemblance to the real-life discipline of the same name (especially the special moves used from the style); in fact, Makoto's Rindo-kan style shares the most similarities to actual Shotokan karate.
As a result, characters in other fighting games that have movesets similar to Ryu (i.e. characters that more or less have an anti-air uppercut, a projectile, and an advancing kick move) are referred by fans to as "shotos", and usually take on the role of the main character. Examples include Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia from SNK's Art of Fighting series, Makoto Mizoguchi from Data East's Fighter's History series, and Sho Kamui from Visco's Breakers, with all four using some variant of karate.
Shoto characters generally serve as the base point for various fighting games, having a well-rounded moveset that teaches the fundamentals of the game to newcomers. Many later titles often diverge from the exact template for their protagonists, such as Kyo Kusanagi replacing his Yami Barai projectile for his iconic Aragami chain punch, or Sol Badguy's moveset gradually diverging to include a plethora of other moves to focus on a hard hitting grappler power and speed based playstyle. Regardless, the combination of a projectile, anti-air, and forward-moving attack remain staples of many fighting game protagonists to this day.
Hideo Shimazu's own fighting style, Shimazu-style Karate, closely resemble the nameless fighting style used by the "Shoto" characters.
Internally, "shotos" are referred to as "kompachi" characters, short for compatible.
Canonically the assassination art, or ansatsuken, was created by Goutetsu. In crossover's & spin-off's, it's stated to be founded in Japan during the feudal age (according to Ryu's victory quote against Guile in the Japanese version of Capcom vs. SNK 2 and Zero's pre-battle dialogue in the Japanese version of SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos). The style used by Ryu, Ken, Gouken and Akuma is rooted in this very art, which is energized by the Satsui no Hado (殺意の波動 Satsui no Hadō?, lit. "Surge of Murderous Intent"), an evil energy that awakens within a warrior who has embraced the dark and violent aspects of their art, or else possesses an intense, inhumane rage.
Gouken, who only wanted to embrace the peaceful and spiritual aspect of the art, developed a sublimated variation of the same martial art style by removing the Satsui no Hado from its techniques before passing down his version of the art to Ryu and Ken, so no one would have to suffer from the negative aspects of the art. Later installments revealed that Gouken's form of art used is known as the Mu no Ken, and the inspiring powers to replace the Satsui no Hado's killing potential are that of the Hado no Chikara, a flow of ki allowing one to embrace necessary violence but out of a purpose, and the Power of Nothingness, a state of mind to flow with the world and follow into the natural destination of one's life.
While Ryu and Ken follow the same martial arts discipline, as the Street Fighter series evolved, the differences between the two characters was portrayed by their attacks: Ryu focused on technique, while Ken opted for stylish unpredictability.
There are two philosophical approaches to Karate, and Japanese martial arts in general: dō (道? lit. "path/way") and jutsu (術? lit. "method/technique"). One is more for personal development (as in judo) and the other is more for practical application (as in jujutsu).
Ryu focuses more on the jutsu (or "Hado") principle of his fighting style, which translates to him being very skilled with his usage of ki. Ryu also does most of his damage via single strikes, and he has the most concentrated Hadoken between him and Ken. His mastery is evident by his possession of the most variants of the Hadoken throughout the series, as well as his ability to harness the power of pure energy (often manifesting as electricity).
Ken's style, focused on the dō, is naturally more reflective of his personality, and is fittingly fierce; most of his attacks focus on multi-hitting strikes, particularly his Shoryuken. Where Ryu has a more "electric" affinity, Ken's personal development of the style gives him an affinity to fire, most evident in his heavy Shoryuken among other moves.
Though they share similarities within their movesets and backstories, characters such as Sakura, Sean, and Gouken are not considered to be true shotos, with Sean lacking an orthodox projectile, Sakura lacking a proper invincible anti-air special move, and Gouken lacking various other options that most shotos have, such as a special-cancellable Crouching Medium Kick, and meterless Shoryuken.
Criticism in gameplay
Due to their well-rounded options and simplicity, shotos are almost always beginner-friendly characters, and subsequently have a very high playerbase online. However, this simple design also leads to new players utilizing an equally simple gameplan of throwing projectiles from a distance and responding with an invincible anti-air, ignoring combos, mechanics and characters entirely. As a result, online shoto players are looked down upon as being utter newcomers with no knowledge of the game's deeper mechanics, particularly in lower online ranks.
- He is also well versed in martial arts using sticks and weapons, and laid the foundation for the assassination fist used by Ryu and Ken.(棒術や武器を利用した格闘技にも精通しており、リュウやケンが使用する暗殺拳の基礎を作った。) from Character picture book 027: Todoroki
- "My techniques are from a martial style built during the feudal age. However, I will never use them to take the life of another!" (俺の技も戦国の世で築かれた流派。 だが、決して人を殺めるためには使わない！ Ore no waza mo sengoku no yo de kizuka reta ryūha. Daga, keshite hito o ayameru tame ni wa tsukawanai!?)
- "That person is Gouki. He is a master of an assassination art dating back to the feudal age" (その人は豪鬼。 戦国時代から伝わる暗殺拳の使い手ね Sono hito wa Gōki. Sengoku Jidai kara tsutawaru ansatsuken no tsukaite ne?)
- All About Capcom Head-to-Head Fighting Game 1987-2000, Encyclopedia entries on Gouki, Gouken and Goutetsu on page 311 ISBN 4885546761