The different styles / systems of Karate: Part-I, The earliest systems

Discussion in 'Karate' started by Manila-X, Feb 11, 2013.

  1. Manila-X

    Manila-X OSU!

    My purpose to writing this article is due to my interest and fascination in the various diversity of styles and systems within Okinawan Karate ever since I first took up Shotokan back in 2001.

    Since there are many systems of karate, I decided to break it by parts starting with this one which covers some of the earliest systems of Karate that developed from the traditional Okinawan fighting arts such as Shuri-te and Naha-te.

    Here are some of the earliest systems and styles of karate that is widely practiced today,


    Shorin-Ryu (小林流)

    Origin: Okinawa (Ryukyu Kingdom)
    Founded: 1928
    Founder: Choshin Chibana (1868 1957)
    Ancestor Schools: Shuri-te
    Techniques: Primarily soft techniques
    Stance: Natural
    Known practitioners: Sokon "Bushi" Matsumura - the father of Okinawan Karate, Machu Higa, Shugoro Nakazato

    I - About Shorin-Ryu

    Developed by Choshin Chibana, a top student of Anko Itosu, the grandmaster of Shuri-te. This is the term given to the martial arts practiced in Shuri, the old capital-city of The Ryukyu Kingdom.

    The term itself means "Shaolin Style" in The Okinawan language. The name is an honor to the Chinese Shaolin roots and to differentiate this style from other styles based on the teachings of Anko Itosu.

    II - The System

    Shorin-Ryu is the combination of elements from the traditional Shuri-Te but synthesized with Chibana's knowledge on both The Okinawan and various Chinese martial arts that he learned during this travels.

    Thus it's techniques are primarily soft and emphasize on circular movements, natural breathing and stances.

    The system is also known for it's punching techniques of almost vertical, slightly canted to the inside, with the largest knuckle of the fore finger (third from the tip) in vertical alignment with the second knuckle of the pinky finger.

    III - Kata


    The rest are based on the original katas of Shuri-Te which includes ITOSU PASSAI, MATSUMURA PASSAI, KUSHANKU DAI, KUSHANKU SHO, CHINTO and GOJUSHIHO

    [ame=""]SHORIN RYU SEIBUKAN KARATE - YouTube[/ame]

    Research Sources - Wikipedia, Home World Oshukai Federation (UK)


    Shotokan (松濤館)

    Origin: Japan, Okinawa
    Founded: 1939
    Founder: Gichin Funakoshi (1868 1957), Yoshitaka Funakoshi (1906 1945)
    Ancestor Schools: Shorei-Ryu, Shorin-Ryu
    Techniques: Primarily hard techniques as well as soft
    Stance: Deep (beginner), natural (advanced)
    Known practitioners: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Wesley Snipes, Michael Jai White, Lyoto Machida.


    1) Seek perfection of character
    2) Be faithful
    3) Endeavor to excel
    4) Respect others
    5) Refrain from violent behavior

    I - About Shotokan

    This is the system developed by Gichin Funakoshi who is said to be The Father of Modern Karate.

    It is actually the name of Funakoshi's official dojo in Toshima-Ku in Tokyo, Japan. But unfortunately was destroyed from Allied bombing during WWII. The name Shotokan combines Funakoshi's pen name shoto meaning "pine-waves" and kan meaning "hall" The students made a sign in front of the entrance hall where Funakoshi taught and was read "shoto-kan" in honor of him.

    Funakoshi was trained in the Okinawan styles of both ShMrei-ryk and ShMrin-ryk and made a simpler system by combining the two. He never gave his system a name and instead called it by the name that best identifies this fighting style which is Karate meaning "empty hand".

    II - The System

    Shotokan emphasize on strength and power as with it's hard and external style and low stances especially for those who have began training at this art as well as intermediates with lower kyus. Softer and more fluid styles are developed to those who have progressed to brown-belt followed by black-belt and have incorporated other techniques including some grappling and Aikido-like movements.

    Other than style and technique, Funakoshi also created philosophical thoughts on Shotokan based on Bushido and Zen. This is the 20 principles which includes humility, respect, compassion, patience, and both an inward and outward calmness. These principles help improve the character of the practitioner especially those who observe and practice such.

    III - Kata

    Shotokan Karate has 27 katas but most practice 26 of it. This includes, Taikyoku shodan, Heian shodan, Heian nidan, Heian sandan, Heian yondan , Heian godan, Bassai dai, Jion, Empi, Kanku dai, Hangetsu, Jitte (SAbK), Gankaku, Tekki shodan, Tekki nidan, Tekki sandan, Nijkshiho, Chinte (sÕbK), Sochin, Meikyo/Rohai, Unsu, Bassai sho, Kanku sho, Wankan, Gojkshiho sho , Gojkshiho dai, and Ji'in.

    [ame=""]Gichin Funakoshi - 1924 Vintage Footage - YouTube[/ame]

    Research Sources - Wikipedia****o_ryu.gif

    ****o-Ryu (糸東流)

    Origin: Japan
    Founded: 1931
    Founder: Kenwa Mabuni (1889 1952)
    Ancestor Schools: Shorin-Ryu
    Techniques: Both hard and soft
    Stance: Deep / Natural
    Known practitioners: Tadashi Hashimoto, Fumio Demura, Seth Petruzelli

    I - About ****o-Ryu

    Okinawan born Kenwa Mabuni was trained in the traditional Ryukyan martial art of Shuri-te under Anko Itosu. Mabuni also trained in Naha-te under Kanryo Higaonna who also developed the karate system of Goju-Ryu. In fact it was Goju-Ryu's founder, Chojun Miyagi who introduced Mabuni to Grandmaster Itosu.

    Other than being trained with these two main teachers, Mabuni also trained with various martial arts teachers including one who is a master in the traditional Chinese arts.

    The name ****o-Ryu is an honor to two main teachers who trained Mabuni in the traditional Okinawan martial arts. It was formed by taking the first Kanji characters of his two main teachers and combining it.

    II - The System

    It was originally called Hanko-Ryu meaning "half-hard style". The name was changed to dedicate Mabuni's system to his two main teachers.

    As with the former name, the system has a half hard style which is influenced by the traditional Okinawan art of Shuri-te which include physical strength and long powerful stances.

    The other half is influenced by the soft style of Naha-te including breathing power, circular and eight-direction movements.

    ****o-Ryu is a fast style but both powerful and artistic.

    Mabuni also developed Uke no go gensoku (受けの五原則), the five rules of defense which is emphasized in this system of karate.

    These are,

    - 落花 (rakka, "falling petals"). The art of blocking with such force and precision as to completely destroy the opponent's attacking motion. Examples of rakka are the most well-known blocks, such as gedan-barai (下段払い) or soto-uke (外受け).

    -流水 (ryūsui, "running water"). The art of flowing around the attacker's motion, and through it, soft blocking. Examples are nagashi-uke (流し受け) and osae-uke (押さえ受け).

    -屈伸 (kusshin, "elasticity"). This is the art of bouncing back, storing energy while recoiling from the opponent's attack, changing or lowering stance only to immediately unwind and counterattack. Classic examples are stance transitions zenkutsu (前屈立ち) to kōkutsu (後屈立ち) and moto-dachi (基立ち) to nekoashi-dachi (猫足立ち).

    -転位 (ten'i, "transposition"). Ten'i is the utilization of all eight directions of movement, most importantly stepping away from the line of attack.

    -反撃 (hangeki, "counterattack"). A hangeki defense is an attack which at the same time deflects the opponent's attack before it can reach the defender.

    Examples of this are various kinds of tsuki-uke (突き受け), including yama-tsuki (山突き).

    III - Kata

    ****o-Ryu is known for having many forms of kata in it's system. There are 40 to 60 forms of kata and much time is spend on it.

    Some of the basic katas include, Shihosanshiki, Junino Kata, Pinan Shodan, Pinan Nidan, Pinan Sandan, Pinan Yondan, Pinan Godan, Wankan, Ji'in, Jitte
    and Jion

    [ame=""]Karate- ****o Ryu - 1993 Rare Documentary - YouTube[/ame]

    Research Sources - Wikipedia, Seito ****o Ryu Karatedo


    Goju-Ryu (剛柔流)

    Origin: Okinawa
    Founded: 1930
    Founder: Chojun Miyagi (1888 1953)
    Ancestor Schools: Naha-te, Shaolin Nam Pai Chuan, Fujian White Crane
    Techniques: Both hard and soft
    Stance: Deep / Natural
    Known practitioners: Ron van Clief

    I - About Goju Ryu

    This is one of the main traditional styles of Okinawan Karate, Goju-Ryu is a combination of both hard and soft styles as the name itself with "go-no" meaning hard and "ju-no" meaning soft.

    Developed by Kanryo Higashionna, an Okinawan who studied the traditional Okinawa martial art of Shuri-te as well as various traditional Chinese martial arts.

    This fusion was then called Naha-te due to the fact that he was a native of Naha, now the capital of Okinawa.

    The founder of the school of Goju-Ryu, Chojun Miyagi was Higashionna's most prominent student and has trained with him for 15 years.

    Miyagi himself gave the name to the current system coming from a "line" in a poem Hakku Kenpo, which means: "The eight laws of the fist".

    II - The System

    As the name itself, Goju-Ryu combines both the hard and soft styles of both traditional Okinawan and Chinese martial arts. The hard styles of "go" includes closed hand techniques or straight linear attacks while the soft styles of "ju" include open hand techniques and circular movements. This is not limited to striking but also blocking and various grappling techniques including locks and takedowns.

    Other than techniques, Goju-Ryu also has it's philosophical aspects in which Miyagi believed in the development of one's character, including one's body, mind and spirituality is the ultimate aim of Karate-do.

    III - Kata

    There are 12 "core" kata techniques in Goju-Ryu which includes gekisai (dai ichi & dai ni), saifa, seiyunchin, seisan, saipai, shisochin, sanseiru, kururunfa, sanchin, tensho, and suparenpai.

    It is a requirement for it's students to learn these forms of kata before reaching sandan.

    Katas perform in Goju-Ryu emphasizes in breathing correctly especially Sanchin.

    [ame=""]Morio Higaonna Power Training of Goju-Ryu - YouTube[/ame]

    Research Sources - Wikipedia


    Wado-Ryu (和道流)

    Origin: Japan
    Founded: 1938
    Founder: Hironori Otsuka (1892 1982)
    Ancestor Schools: Shindo Yoshin-ryu, Shotokan, Motobu-ryu
    Techniques: Primarily soft
    Stance: Natural
    Known practitioners: Tatsuo Suzuki

    I - About Wado-Ryu

    One of the few systems of Karate with a strong influence of Jujitsu. That is because it's founder Hironori Otsuka was trained in various forms of Jujitsu particularly Shindo Yoshin-ryu.

    It was until meeting Shotokan founder Gichin Funakoshi when he trained in Okinawan karate and in which he later on merged with Shindo Yoshin-ryu after their split with other Okinawan masters.

    This merge became the system of Wado-Ryu.

    The name itself comes in three parts, Wa meaning "harmony", Do meaning "way" and Ryu meaning "style" and in which this system emphasize that yielding is sometimes more effective than brute strength.

    II - The System

    A hybrid system, Wado-Ryu has it's influence from both Shotokan Karate and Shindo Yoshin-ryu Jujitsu.

    The core of this system is "body-management" or known through the term Tai Sabaki by moving both the attacker and defender out of harm's way.

    This is done by "moving along" than "moving against", or harmony rather than physical strength.

    Applications of technique, kata and stances are based on Tai Sabaki as with movement through the balls of the feet rather than the heel.

    Such applications work well on it's Jujitsu techniques and contrast with the low stance and linear movements in which Shotokan developed after the split.

    III - Kata

    Otsuka originally declared nine official katas in Wado-Ryu including Pinan Shodan, Pinan Nidan, Pinan Sandan, Pinan Yodan, Pinan Godan, Kushanku, Naihanchi, Seishan and Chinto.

    These nine forms were recorded in his book on Wado Ryu but Otsuka also taught other forms of kata though was not mentioned in his book nor provide any information on it's performance.

    Other than the mentioned kata, additional ones include, The Taikyoku series, Bassai, Rohai, Niseishi, Wanshu, Jion and Jitte

    Additional ones include Ten-No basic drills developed by Gichin Funakoshi's son, Gigo and Suparinpei, which is discarded by Otsuka but is still taught by some Wado-Ryu instructors.

    Due to it's Jujitsu heritage, Wado-Ryu also has "dual kata" in which one acts as the attacker while the other is the defender.

    These are,

    Yakusoku Kihon Kumite: consists of 10 fundamental techniques of attack against combination attacks (combinations of kicks and punches), influenced by jujutsu body movements.

    Kumite Gata: consists of 10 - 24 varietal techniques (depending on the organization) of attack emphasizing Katamae (pinning) and Kuzushi (breaking balance) and multiple strikes.

    Ohyo Kumite: consists of various techniques of attack, incorporating Karate blocks, kicks and strikes with jujutsu throws and body movements. This is a specialty of Tatsuo Suzuki Hanshi's W.I.K.F organization.

    Idori no Kata: consists of 5 10 techniques (depending on the organization) of seated self-defense, influenced by jujutsu throwing and joint-locking techniques.

    Tantodori no Kata: consists of 7 10 techniques (depending on the organization) of defenses against knife attacks, influenced by jujutsu body movements, throwing, and joint-locking techniques.

    Shinken Shirahadori: consists of 5-10 (depending on organization) techniques of defenses against sword attacks, influenced by jujutsu body movements, throwing, and joint-locking techniques.

    [ame=""]Wado Karate Techniques by Tatsuo Suzuki Sensei - YouTube[/ame]

    Research Sources - Wikipedia
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2013
  2. Manila-X

    Manila-X OSU!

    Other than the mentioned systems above, there are other systems that developed during that era but were not as wide-spread nor has the influence compared the styles earlier mentioned.

    Another is that, these styles are not listed within The World Karate Federation including Shorin-Ryu which was mentioned earlier.


    Uechi-Ryu (上地流)

    Origin: Okinawa
    Founded: 1933
    Founder: Kanbun Uechi (1877–1948)
    Ancestor Schools: Pangai-noon Kung Fu
    Techniques: Half hard, half soft
    Stance: Mainly natural
    Known practitioners:

    I - About Uechi-Ryu

    This is a system that was developed from various Traditional Chinese Martial Arts such as Pangai-noon Kung Fu.

    Meaning "Uechi's Style", it's founder Kanbun Uechi, then 20 years old studied Pangai-noon (half hard, half soft) during his time in Fuzhou, China's Fujian Province under Shu Shiwa.

    Uechi then opened his own martial art school in Nanjing after studying for 10 years but because one of his students killed his neighbor from a technique he learned in class, Uechi decided to stop teaching and headed back to Okinawa.

    Upon his return, Uechi worked as a janitor where he met his co-worker, Ryuyu Tomoyose. After convincing Tomoyose on how to defend himself from multiple attacks, Tomoyose persuaded Uechi to teach again.

    Both decided to move to Japan and with the help of Tomoyose, Uechi set up his school Pangainun-Ryu Todi-jutsu (パンガイヌーン流唐手術) in Wakayama back in 1925. But it was in 1940 when his Okinawan students renamed it Uechi-Ryu Karatejutsu (上地流空手術) in honor of their master.

    II - The System

    With it's strong connection with Nanpa Shorin-ken and Pangai-noon Kung Fu, Uechi-Ryu shares a similar foundation with the Traditional Okinawan Martial Art of Naha-Te and then Goju-Ryu despite their separate development.

    And as with Kung-Fu from The Fujian Province, this system of karate show circular motion of movement for both striking and blocking.

    This style is based on the movements of 3 animals particularly The Tiger, Crane and The Dragon.

    III - Kata

    Uechi-Ryu has 8 forms of kata, one of the least in any system of Traditional Karate.

    These are,

    Sanchin (三戦): Literally translated as "three fights/conflicts". From the kanji for "three" and 戦う ("to fight/to struggle"?). Usually interpreted as three Modes/Conflicts: Mind, Body and Spirit). An alternate interpretation is "Three Challenges" being those of softness, timing, and power.

    Kanshiwa (完子和): A combination of the first kanji in Kanbun's name, and the last two kanji (if written in Chinese order) of Shu Shiwa's [Japanese pronunciation] name.) This kata teaches the new student the concept of harnessing natural strength through the use of primarily tiger-style techniques.Also known as Kanshabu.

    Kanshu (完周): A combination of the first kanji in Kanbun's name, and the kanji for Shu Shiwa's family name (Shu) [see previous note on pronunciation]. This kata is also known as Daini Seisan (第二十三).) This kata teaches the concept of precision in timing through using crane techniques.

    Seichin (十戦): Literally translated it means "10 fights/conflicts")or a combination between two other katas- Seisan and Sanchin. An alternate meaning interprets the name phonetically and then it translates as "Spirit Challenge", implying that it teaches the concept of soft whip-like motion. This form uses whip-like dragon-style techniques.

    Seisan (十三): Literally translated, it means "13". Usually interpreted as "Thirteen modes of attack and defense" or "13 positions to attack/defend from".) An alternate meaning is simply "13th Room Kata", being the form synthesised in the 13th room of Shaolin, using individual techniques taught in the previous training rooms. This kata combines the "Three Challenges" concept, and the student can go back and recognize and further develop those elements in the previous forms.

    Seiryu (十六): Along the lines of the others, literally translated this means simply "16". This kata teaches the concept of stability since the four consecutive Dragon techniques in rotation call for a strong sense of balance.

    Kanchin (完戦): A combination of Kanbun's first kanji and "fight". The first kanji of Kanbun, Kanei, and Kanmei are the same. Since this was created by Kanei Uechi from fighting techniques he favored from his father's training, the name is considered to mean "Kanei's Challenge", or "Kanei's Fight". This form teaches the practitioner the concept of making defensive movements at one stroke (called "ikkyoodo"—all at one stroke).

    Sanseiryu (三十六): Means simply "36". Usually interpreted as "thirty-six modes of attack and defense" or "36 positions to attack/defend from."). It can also mean "36th Room Kata" as it is made from techniques taught individually in the previous 35 rooms (or previous 12 rooms in three rotations). Shu Shiwa was also known as "The 36th Room Priest" according to the 1977 Uechi-Ryu Kyohon (Techniques Book). This final kata combines all the previous concepts to pre-empt the attack.

    The additional katas were developed by Uechi himself though Sanchin, Seisan, and Sanseirui come from Pangai-noon.

    [ame=""]Kiyohide Shinjo. Uechi-ryu karate. - YouTube[/ame]

    Research Sources - IUKF
  3. Manila-X

    Manila-X OSU!

    A family tree on the history of various Karate systems plus other Japanese, Chinese and Okinawan martial arts,

  4. John Titchen

    John Titchen Still Learning Supporter

    That is a terrible family tree. Highly inaccurate at most stages. What's mind-blowing is they've put the head of their own association, Kanazawa, as a Shotokai practitioner instead of Shotokan.
  5. Daikagetora

    Daikagetora New Member

    Even with inaccurate data it is easy to see how, like in any human en-devours, circumstances and personalities are behind the rich story of karate. I study Karate when I was 12. Continue to work for many years into other Budo arts. After so many years I never imagine that the circle will turn. My former karate sensei( now in his 80's), asked me to continue the system forward. As a result I decided to write a book about the system. During the research phase, the things I discover about our lineage were extraordinary. So it is not a surprise to me that you have found so many stories.

Share This Page