When asked to preside over the first public karate demonstration in Japan Sensei Funakoshi was prompted to write a book about it. This was to be the first karate book ever written. The man who pushed Funakoshi to write the book was an artist name Hoan Kosugi. It was decided that if Funakoshi wrote the book, Kosugi would design the cover.
In Japanese, "Tora no Maki" is the official written document of an art. Funakoshi's book would be the "Tora no Maki" of karate. "Tora" also means "tiger". It was this similarity that caused Kosugi to decide to use a tiger as the artwork he would put on the cover of the book.
I have heard some give the reason for the elongated curling tiger's tale as resembling the Ryukyu islands but this is not the case. It was said that when Funakoshi wanted to be alone and to relax, he would go for walks on Mt. Torao. "Torao" means "tiger's tail" and the mountain was named such because it resembled a tiger's tail. Thus, he decided to choose the tiger as his art's symbol. The tiger would symbolize two aspects of his art, strength and power (of the tiger itself) and peace of mind (as Funakoshi attained when walking on the mountain).
It as also been said that the tiger is a symbol of knowledge. “Scienta Verae Opes” was my old school motto meaning " Knowledge is true wealth” and who can argue with that. Considering the balance, guile, cunning, speed and strength a tiger needs to catch it's prey - what an ideal animal for us to try and emulate.
The Kosugi tiger faces left yet the CFTS tiger faces right. This is not an accident. When the Federation was formed we decided to be traditional yet progressive so we wanted a forward looking tiger which also made us unique from all other Shotokan associations.