What Is A Shoto? Explaining A Common Misconception In Fighting Games

Things have been crazy recently in the Fighting Game Community, and the word Shoto has been tossed around left and right frequently. We can thank Smash Bros. players for this topic surfacing, though.

It seems that for some reason, they dislike when Smash adds characters from traditional fighting games to the roster. And now they think that any character that comes from a Fighting Game is a Shoto.

Well, they're wrong. However, what made them use this term? And, more importantly, what is a shoto?

What Is A Shoto?

what is a shoto

A Shoto is a Fighting Game Character Stereotype that is used to define a character with special moves that mirror Ryu's Hadouken, Shoryuken, and Tatsumaki Senpuu Kyaku.

In other words, a character that has a fireball, a flying anti-air, and a physical attack that travels forward is often considered a Shoto. Some versions of those attacks might not be perfect copies of the original, but they are usually very much alike in visuals, function, or both.

Let's take this slowly, though. This is a long discussion, and we should tackle every single aspect of it before going to the conclusion.

Where Does The Term Shoto Come From?

Shoto is short for Shotokan. When Street Fighter reached the Western Market, Capcom USA decided to declare, for whatever reason, that Ryu's fighting style is Shotokan Karate. It isn't. In fact, the name of his Martial Art is never mentioned.

All that is known about Ryu and Ken's Martial Art is that it is based on some sort of Ansatsuken, a Japanese term for "Assassin's Fist," which is how they call a martial technique that is meant to kill.

Since many of us, Arcade Kids, grew up with the western version of Street Fighter, we have known Boxer as Balrog, the Spanish Ninja as Vega, and Ryu's martial art as Shotokan. It just got ingrained in our minds that way.

So, when a new character showed up and used similar special moves as Ryu and Ken, we referred to them as "Another Shotokan Karate Fighter," or simply "another Shoto."

So when Akuma showed up with his fireball, a flying uppercut, and a spinning kick that made him move forward, the first triad of shoto characters was defined.

Considering that Street Fighter is one of the best fighting games franchises of all time, it isn't surprising that one of its stereotypes would show up in other games. As a consequence, the slang that defines Ryu and Ken also defines all the similar characters from their franchise and others.

From Shotokan To Shoto

As mentioned above, the term Shotokan would soon stop being used to define more characters. Shoto was slowly becoming a unique term, and it happened due to many other fighting games coming into existence. With more games, we had more Ryu clones.

For instance, Ryo Sakazaki, who practices Kyokugenryu Karate, was soon defined as Shoto due to possessing a flying uppercut, a fireball, and a kick attack that travels forward. For some reason, many protagonists of several different fighting games had would fall into this archetype. Although there are noticeable exceptions, like Terry Bogard from the Fatal Fury games.

With time, the word Shoto was associated with those three moves and disassociated from Shotokan Karate. Shoto became a term for characters who shared those special moves or moves that worked very similarly.

What Other Characters Are Shotos or Shoto-Clones?

Here Are Some Examples Of Shoto Characters:

  • Hanzo and Fumma from World Heroes
  • Gran from Granblue Fantasy Versus
  • Haohmaru from Samurai Showdown
  • Hideo Shimazu from Rival Schools
  • Hotaru from Garou: Mark of the Wolves
  • Ryo Sakazaki from Art of Fighting
  • Ky Kiske from Guilty Gear Strive
  • Makoto Mizoguchi from Fighter's History
  • Mario and Luigi from Super Smash Bros

I hope this article was enough for you to understand what is a shoto in the Fighting Games context. Now you know that Kazuya is definitely not a Shoto. For more information on fighting games such as Guilty Gear Strive or Street Fighter, check out our articles here at GamesAtlas! 


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