Shotokan-ryu Karate

Shotokan (松濤館流, Shōtōkan-ryū) is a style of karate, developed from various martial arts by Gichin Funakoshi (1868–1957) and his son Gigo (Yoshitaka) Funakoshi (1906–1945). Gichin was born in Okinawa and is widely credited with popularizing karate through a series of public demonstrations, and by promoting the development of university karate clubs.
Funakoshi had many students at the university clubs and outside dojos, who continued to teach karate after his death in 1957. However, internal disagreements (in particular the notion that competition is contrary to the essence of karate) led to the creation of different organizations—including an initial split between the Japan Karate Association (headed by Masatoshi Nakayama) and the Shotokai (headed by Motonobu Hironishi and Shigeru Egami), followed by many others—so that today there is no single "Shotokan school", although they all bear Funakoshi's influence. Being one of the first and biggest styles, Shotokan is considered a traditional and influential form of karate.

Shotokan was the name of the first official dojo built by Funakoshi, in 1939 at Mejiro, and destroyed in 1945 as a result of an allied bombing. Shoto (松濤), meaning "pine-waves" (the movement of pine needles when the wind blows through them), was Funakoshi's pen-name, which he used in his poetic and philosophical writings and messages to his students. The Japanese kan (館) means "house" or "hall". In honour of their sensei, Funakoshi's students created a sign reading shōtō-kan which was placed above the entrance of the hall where Funakoshi taught.
Gichin Funakoshi had trained in both of the popular styles of Okinawan karate of the time: Shōrei-ryū and Shōrin-ryū. After years of study in both styles, Funakoshi created a simpler style that combined the ideals of the two. He never named his style, however, always referring to it simply as "karate." Funakoshi's karate reflects the changes made in the art by Ankō Itosu, including the Heian/Pinan kata series. Funakoshi changed the names of some of the kata in an effort to make the Okinawan kata names easier to pronounce in the Japanese Honshū dialect.
In 1924, Funakoshi adopted the Kyū / Dan rank system and the uniform (keikogi) developed by Kano Jigoro, the founder of judo. This system uses colored belts to indicate rank. Originally, karate had only three belt colors: white, brown, and black (with ranks within each). The original belt system, still used by many Shotokan schools, is:
8th rising to 4th kyū: white
3rd rising to 1st kyū: brown
1st and higher dan: black
Funakoshi awarded the first 1st dan (初段; shodan) Shotokan karate ranks to Tokuda, Hironori Ōtsuka (Otsuka), Akiba, Shimizu, Hirose, Makoto Gima, and Shinyō Kasuya on 10 April 1924.

Written by Conrad Howard — November 21, 2012

Wado Ryu

Wado-Ryu Karate is a Japanese martial art founded by Hironori Ohtsuka Sensei in 1934. Ohtsuka Sensei developed Wado-Ryu after studying the Samurai martial art of Jiu-jitsu, and Shotokan (another style of Karate). This combination, according to Ohstuka Sensei, is a softer, more natural means of self-protection.

When Wado Instructors are asked to describe the essence of their style of karate to new beginners, or to any prospective initiate, or just to the curious bystander, they have a tendency to give the familiar stock reply. "Wado is a blend of Okinawan karate and Japanese Jujutsu". When pressed further, explanations tend to dry up. 
Even the authors of the official literature fall back on the easily available but sketchy profiles of Hironori Ohtsuka founder creator of Wado Ryu Karate-Do. There always seems to be an assumption that western students of Wado karate will fill in the gaps for themselves, and these gaps are often cultural gaps. I am certain that students in the west have a tendency to regurgitate "facts" and take them to be truths. 
The historical facts behind the creation of what we now practice as Wado karate are generally thin, particularly when we consider that here is a style/school of karate that was only officially created about sixty two years ago and whose founder died in 1982. This historical information is our joint martial cultural heritage and warrants serious study. The following information barely scratches the surface of a very complicated series of circumstances; of a collision of cultures, historical epochs and meetings of remarkable men. 
Hironori Ohtsuka founder of Wado Ryu Karate-Do first came into direct contact with Okinawan Karate upon his introduction to Okinawan master Gichin Funakoshi in 1922 and parted ways with Funakoshi in 1935. By any standards this is a remarkably short time to master the principles of Okinawan Shorin Ryu karate (later transformed into what we know as Shotokan karate). 
Although Ohtsuka Sensei never claimed to have mastered the system and by his own admission felt a need to amplify his knowledge of kata and other technical aspects by learning from other Okinawan masters, namely Kenwa Mabuni and Choki Motobu. It must be remembered that Ohtsuka Sensei did have a peerless background in traditional Japanese martial arts, and it was this background that undoubtedly enabled Ohtsuka to be receptive to the Okinawan principles of combat and to absorb the techniques of karate. (It would be interesting to speculate if Funakoshi saw 29-year-old Hironori Ohtsuka, master of Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu, as instrumental in helping him to create a toehold for what was in some quarters considered a foreign art within the hierarchy of the ultra nationalistic Japanese martial arts community.) 
What do we know about Hironori Ohtsuka and his achievements in the traditional Japanese martial arts before his meeting with Funakoshi? 
Before we explore Ohtsuka Sensei's pedigree in this area, it is worth looking briefly at traditional Japanese Jujutsu.

History of Karate

The history of Karate is full of uncertainty and mythology. It has been suggested that 1,500 years ago a young buddhist monk (Bodhidharma) invented a method of self-defense that was possibly the original form of Karate during the 5th or 6th Century AD. Travelling from India to China through the Himalayas, he used his hands to defend himself against wild life and hostile natives. His religion prevented him from carrying (and using) weapons. Once in China, he blended in with the local residents, and developed a system of exercises and physical techniques of Yoga, which consisted of stretching postures and deep breathing. Eventually, his system developed into a very strong martial art that gave those who practiced it, strength and confidence.

Prior to Bodhidharma's system, there were many other forms of well established fighting systems. It is therefore very difficult to know with certainty whether his system was in fact the one that gave birth to Karate as the martial art humanity came to know in the 20th century. It may be that his system was only one of the many systems that contributed to the development of Karate.
These martial arts (including Bodhidharma) were transferred from place to place by merchants. Okinawa, an island between Japan and Taiwan, was one of the places that benefited in this way from travelling merchants.
Okinawans, at that point in time, were known to practice an ancient Chinese martial art called Chuan-Fa (the precursor of Kung Fu), and another fighting system called "Tode".
The combination of these fighting systems became a unique breed called Okinawa-te (or just "Te", which means "hand"). The original Te consisted of punches, kicks and jumps, as well as blocking techniques. 
No doubt, there was a system in place. However, it wasn't until a guy called Sokon Matsumura put together a collection of prescribed moves, that Karate started resembling the martial art we know at present. The moves were called "Kata".
The history of Karate known to us, tells us that Okinawans used this system out of necessity.  As the island was also constantly invaded by foreign miliatry forces, who forbade possession of weapons, Okinawans continued practicing their empty-handed fighting system.

From then on, several styles of Karate branched out from the original system. 
The word "Ryu" means "Style". 
Thus, for instance, the style developed in the sity of Shuri, became Shuri-Te (Remember the "Te"?), and eventually became Shorin-Ryu. (Shorin is the Japanase word for Shaolin, which suggest that Shorin-Ryu is a direct descendant of Bodhidharma's system).
Wikipedia has a more thorough outline of the history of karate.

You can also find a very good summary at the Karate International website which offers a very detailed history of karate.

Today there are four main styles of karate-do in Japan:
Goju-ryu, Shito-ryu, Shotokan, and Wado-ryu:

Goju-ryu developed out of Naha-te, its popularity primarily due to the success of Kanryo Higaonna (1853-1915). Higaonna opened a dojo in Naha using eight forms brought from China. His best student, Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953) later founded Goju-ryu, 'hard soft way' in 1930. In Goju-ryu much emphasis is placed on combining soft circular blocking techniques with quick strong counter attacks delivered in rapid succession.

Shito-ryu was founded by Kenwa Mabuni (1889-1952) in 1928 and was influenced directly by both Naha-te and Shuri-te. The name Shito is constructively derived from the combination of the Japanese characters of Mabuni's teachers' names - Ankoh Itosu and Kanryo Higaonna. Shito-ryu schools use a large number of kata, about fifty, and is characterized by an emphasis on power in the execution of techniques.

Shôtôkan-ryû - Shotokan was founded by Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957) in Tokyo in 1938. Funakoshi is considered to be the founder of modern karate. Born in Okinawa, he began to study karate with Yasutsune Azato, one of Okinawa's greatest experts in the art. In 1921 Funakoshi first introduced Karate to Tokyo. In 1936, at nearly 70 years of age, he opened his own training hall. The dojo was called Shotokan after the pen name used by Funakoshi to sign poems written in his youth. Shotokan Karate is characterized by powerful linear techniques and deep strong stances.

Wado-ryu, 'way of harmony', founded in 1939 is a system of karate developed from jujitsu and karate by Hienori Otsuka as taught by one of his instructors, Gichin Funakoshi. This style of karate combines basic movements of jujitsu with techniques of evasion, putting a strong emphasis on softness and the way of harmony or spiritual discipline.

Written by Conrad Howard — November 21, 2012

Goju-Ryu Karate

Okinawa Goju-Ryu Karate is unique in the world of martial arts.  Where other schools of Karate have divided and detached into splinter groups, Goju-Ryu has remained the closest to the original teachings of its two main contributors.  This page deals largely with the general history that effected all Okinawan and ultimately Japanese Karate.

Follow the links below to get a more defined history of Okinawa Goju-Ryu.
Kanryo Higaonna (Higashionna) 
Chojun Miyagi (founder of Goju-Ryu Karate) 
Ei'ichi Miyazato 
Goju-Ryu Kata 

Goju Ryu Karate History 

Okinawa Goju-Ryu Karate is very well defined in its history and lineage.  From the teachers of Chinese Kempo master RuRuKo to Kanryo Higa(shi)onna (1853-1915), to his successor and most devoted student Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953), the founder of Goju-Ryu Karate, to his most devoted student, elected successor, and founder of the JUNDOKAN Ei'ichi Miyazato (1922-1999), to its present chairman Koshin Iha, Okinawa Goju-Ryu has remained largely unchanged from its original Chinese combative roots .

Because of Okinawa Goju-Ryu's 400 years of traceable, unbroken history, in 1998 the Dai Nippon Butokukai, the society that governs all Japanese and Okinawan martial arts in Japan, recognized Okinawa Goju-Ryu as the ONLY form of Karate, Japanese or Okinawan, as an ancient martial art. Placing Goju-Ryu alongside other Japanese arts like jujutsu and  kenjutsu, which have lineages of over 900 years, is a huge accomplishment.  Secondly, since Karate is Okinawan by birth, such an honor by Japanese society makes that distinction that much more impressive.

Goju-Ryu's history is a culmination of the native "te" arts of Okinawa which date back over 1000 years, the introduction of Chinese kempo into the Okinawa te arts in around 1372 and the direct study by Higaonna Sensei and Miyagi Sensei in China.  Since Okinawa was an annexed tributary state of China until the last part of the 19th century, hundreds of envoys and delegations, both Chinese and Okinawan, were dispatched to Okinawa and China.  This rapidly increased the spread of Chinese arts into the Okinawan culture.

In 1477, King Sho Shin proclaimed a ban on all weapons by peasants and nobility alike.  This ban was an attempt to put down any rebellious activities and secure his rule of the Ryukyus.  In addition, he ordered all members of nobility to live within the confines of Shuri Castle where he could keep an eye on any potential throne seekers.  Except by palace nobility, this began the secret practice of the martial arts, both empty handed and weapons, by the common people in Okinawa.

The Satsuma Samurai Clan, after being exiled from Japan, invaded Okinawa and stormed Shuri Castle.  The Okinawan king and family were taken to Japan where they were kept as political prisoners.  Okinawa became a puppet state of the Satsuma Clan and Japan, being forced to keep a false loyalty with the Chinese Emperor as to maintain economic and political ties.  It is a misconception that the Okinawans and the Japanese Samurai battled each other. The Samurai depended on the Okinawans for food, labor and other goods.  Therefore, they protected the Okinawans from bandits, piracy, looting, etc. and in return the Okinawans gave a form of devotion and loyalty.

The abolishment of the Samurai class wearing the sword and top-knot, marked by the downfall of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the beginning of the Mejii Restoration Era in 1868, brought Japan and Okinawa out of the age of fuedalism and into "democracy".  The Mejii Era focused on promoting education and etiquette to increase morality, nationalism and Japaneseness.  The new society eagerly endorsed sports and recreation to advance these new virtues to which modern martial arts were born.   The secret practices of Ryukyu Kempo (toudi-jutsu) was no longer necessary and began to emerge openy as a means to preserve and propagate Okinawan culture.  Demonstrations for the Royalty of Okinawa and Japan helped bring about an acceptance by the Japanese people.

At the turn of this century, Okinawan Karate began to mold in accordance with Japanese society. This helped ensure its acceptance by the influential Japanese martial society and secure Karate's continued practice and growth.   Karate was introduced into the school systems in Okinawa and underwent some radical innovations with the emphasis shifting from self-defense to physical fitness. The more dangerous moves and their applications were taken out and thus began a new tradition. This radical change represented the end of what was once a complex and lethal form of self-defense.

Originally, the idoegrams for Karate meant "China Hand", with the first character pronounced "tou" or "kara" representing China's Tang dynasty(618-907).  This demonstrates the strong ties that Okinawa had with China.  1905 was the first time the present terminology for "kara", meaning "empty" or "void", was used.  However, this definiton does not refer to a "weaponless" art as most intend.  Herein, "kara" comes to represent a deeper, spiritual embodiment of more than just the physical aspect of martial arts training.  Through diligent physical, mental and moral development, the Karate practitioner is unlimited or "void of limits" in their abilities to accomplish the most difficult of tasks.

The suffix "-do", as used in judo, kendo, aikido and other arts, means "way" or "path" (pronounced "dao" in Chinese), was added making Karate-Do another avenue by which the Japanese could teach and spread harmony through physical exercise and organized sports.  An attempt to organize all Okinawan Karate styles into a single colaboration through shared terminology of technique and "public" kata was interrupted by WWII.  Most of the Shuri-te and Tomari-te schools (Shoryn-Ryu) had begun the transition, but Goju-Ryu had not been affected by the disintergration and re-organization process.

There are many schools of Karate in the world today, all of which can trace their roots back to Okinawa.  However, at the turn of the century there existed three distinct teaching styles, each of which was referenced by the name of the city or region in which it was practiced.   Though not proper named styles, they were Tomari-te, Shuri-te and Naha-te.  The Tomari-te and Shuri-te styles unified to become known as Shorin-Ryu, which has splintered into scores of other styles including Shotokan, Wado-Ryu, Isshin-Ryu, Kiyoshinkai, TaeKwonDo and TangSooDo.   The Naha-te styles, namely Goju-Ryu and Uechi-Ryu, have remained the closest to their original forms.

The naming of Goju-Ryu came more by accident than by design.  Shinzato Jin'an, who was Miyagi's senior student, gave a public demonstration while in Japan.  When asked what this unique style of self-defense was called, he could not answer as the Okinawan masters used no defined terms to identify their arts into styles as the Japanese had done for centuries.  Upon his return to Okinawa, he discussed with Miyagi what had transpired and Miyagi decided it was necessary to have a name for his art in order to cooperate with other Japanese martial arts and to identify his unique style.   He was the first of the Okinawan masters to officially name his art and have it registered with the Dai Nippon Butokukai.  Although he named his art Goju-Ryu, he seldom used the name nor did he raise any signs using it. "Go" can mean hard, explosive, resiliant, impenetrable (Yang in Chinese) or  and "Ju" means soft, yeilding , pliant, malleable (Yin in Chinese).  Though there are much deeper meanings, Goju-Ryu literally means the "Hard and Soft School".  This but only one example of Miyagi's exertion to maintain the Chinese origins of his art and reverence for his teachers.

Written by Conrad Howard — November 21, 2012

Shito-Ryu Karate

Karate originated as a martial art thousands of years ago and was brought to Japan from China, Taiwan and Okinawa. Many of the famous Karate-ka, or Bushi, as they were known in Okinawa, experimented and developed their skills in such provinces as Shuri, Naha and Tomari. But unlike Judo and Kendo, Karate was a secret art, unknown to the general public. There was no fixed system until approximately 1907, when Yasutsune Itosu of Shuri and Kanryo Higaonna of Naha -- both of whom are regarded today as two of the most influential teachers of Okinawan Karate -- gained a good following for both of their own special styles. 

Kenwa Mabuni, who had studied under both Master Yasutsune Itosu and Master Kanryo Higaonna, devised the Shito-Ryu system. Born in 1889, Mabuni was the 17th generation son of a famous samurai named Onigusuki. Mabuni was keenly aware of the accomplishments of his brave ancestors and, wanting to overcome poor health, began intensive karate training at the age of 13. He also studied weapon techniques of the Bo, Sai, Tonfa, Kama, and Nunchaku.

After learning from other masters like Master Aragaki and Master Matsumura and by mixing the teaching of Master Itosu and Master Higaonna, he developed a new system, originally named 'HANKO RYU' (Half-Hard style), but later changed it to reflect the deep respect he felt towards his two great masters and called his new system Shito-Ryu. (The Japanese government's martial arts sanctioning organization, the Dai Nippon Butoku-Kai, began to demand the different groups applying for membership, be more specific in the description of their Karate systems, and pressured them to name their systems).

The name 'Shito' is the combination of 'shi'  and 'to' , the two first characters of the names of Master Itosu  and Master Higaonna .

In 1929, Master Mabuni made a permanent move to Osaka to teach at universities and police departments. Over the next few years, Master Mabuni dedicated himself to the further development and promotion of Shito-Ryu Karate-do in the Osaka area. He was faced with an extremely difficult task due to the unwillingness of the population to accept him or this strange looking system of self defence, resembling an ancient 'Okinawan-Fist Dance'. In order to bring Shito-Ryu to the general public's attention, Master Mabuni would perform many demonstrations where he would break bricks and boards to show the power of karate. Continually trying to gain acceptance of his art, Master Kenwa Mabuni would give free instruction at various police stations across western Japan.

Shito Ryu Karate-do became more accepted after this time, and Master Mabuni began to teach many students at his home and at many Universities that were forming clubs. Among his many students was his son Kenzo Mabuni, Kosei Kuniba (founder of Seishin Kai), Chojiro Tani (founder of Tani-ha Shukokai), Ryusho Sakagami (founder of Itosu-Kai), Yoshiaki Tsujikawa, Ken Sakio, Jun-ichi Inoue, Manzo Iwata, Toshiyuki Imanishi, Tokio Hisatomi and Ryusei Tomoyori. At first he taught his own students pure Shuri-te, then pure Naha-te, but he also gave instruction in other master's styles.

In Japan, Shotokan-Ryu, Wado-Ryu, Goju-Ryu and Shito-Ryu are the four main styles of Karate. Shito-Ryu is the style that preserves most of the original Shuri-te techniques, compared with other styles such as Shotokan and Wado. It also preserves original Naha-te techniques together with Goju, although each style places emphasis on different points. Technically, Shuri-te and Tomari-te have rather fast and straight movements, while Naha-te has circular and supple movements.

Master Mabuni died in his 64th year on May 23rd 1952, but his system remains one of the four major styles in Japan.


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