As a martial artist I was always attracted by other Karate styles and the philosophies behind them. After started practice of martial arts in my youth with Shotokan Karate, I fall in love with this way o life and I was fast interested in other styles. As a result I took Judo lessons, Krav Maga and I did practiced Goju-ryu for a very short time. Out of the three Judo was the hardest for me, being the most different from what I practice everyday. I enjoyed the breathing force and natural tall stances of Goju-Ryu and I was impressed by Krav Maga dynamic drills. Too bad the last one doesn’t have any philosophy behind it!
I hope that in time I will have the change to try other styles and see the differences and similarities between then and Shotokan Karate. I’m really looking into Aikido, Tae Kwon Doo and a full contact Karate style like Kyokushin. My aim is not to gain belts and neither to compete in tournaments, but just to see, try and adapt myself to different concepts and situations specific to each style.
Apart from this, one of my curiosities over the time was why there are so many Karate styles and what differences are between them. After some research I managed to pull out the major Japanese and Okinawan Karate Styles along with their particularities. I hope that in the future I can write more in detail about each style, but until there below I put a short description about each style and what makes them stand out from the others.
A direct descendent of Tode, this style was founded by Tsuyoshi Chitose in 1946. The name translates as 1,000 year old Chinese style and is very similar to Shorin-ryu and Shorei-ryu. From my search the exact number of Katas ware around 15, not including the Kihon Kata and Bo Kihon/Kata. The number varies depending on schools and federations. Chito-ryu is mainly known for the fast rotation, tension and relaxation of the lower body, which drive the upper body. Chito-ryu is considered a Japanese style as Tsuyoshi Chitose was in living in Kumamato, Japan while he founded and developed it. However is subject of debates since Tsuyoshi Chitose was awarded his by the Okinawan Federation with the ranks of Judan in 1958. He was awarded again, later in 1968 with the rank of Hanshi. Chito-ryu is one of the most popular Karate style in Canada.
Derived from white crane Chinese style and Shuri Te, Goju Ryu was born in Okinawa in the 30′. Chojun Miyagi is known as the founder of Goju-ryu, however, Higaonna Kanryo played an important part in the hitory of Goju-ryu, being also one of the teachers of Chojun Miyagi. Okinawan Karate style Goju-ryu features both hard and soft techniques with a strong emphasis on breathing. It has many direct and circulat techniques and puts a strong emphasis on breathing. It has just 12 Katas with Sanchin and Tensho staying at the core of Goju-ryu. All katas put a strong accent on correct breathing. Chojun Miyagi believed that the aim of Karate is to build character, conquer the human misery and find spiritual freedom. Along Shotokan, Wado-ryu and Kyokushin, to name just a few, Goju-ryu is on of the most popular Karate styles.
Not as old or popular as other Karate schools, Gosoku-Ryu has his roots in Goju-ryu and Shotokan Karate. In his literal meaning Gosoku-ryu is translated as hard and fast, combining both the strength of Shotokan and the speed of Goju-ryu. Mainly characterized by fast circular hand techniques and fast footwork, Gosoku-ryu is truly a unique style. The footwork is based on the switching of the position of feet an hips in a circular line putting all the power of the body in every move. Founded by Takayuki Kubota, Gosoku-ryu is a Japanese Karate school and has 46 Katas including both weapon and empty hand Katas.
Belonging to the Okinawan school, Isshin-ryu a mix of Shorin-ryu, Goju-Ryu and Kobudo, being translate as one heart way. Isshin-ryu has a variety of techniques including throws, joint locks, ground fight and weapons. Founded by Tatsuo Shimabuku, Isshin-ryu was originally found under a different name. The current name was given my Shimabaku Sensei in 1971. Isshin-ryu has 15 katas with Sunsu being the most representative Kata. Out of the 15 complete Kata list, 3 are bo Kata, 3 Sai Kata, and 1 Tonfa Kata. Among the master who influenced Tasuo Simabaku the most notable are Shinko Ganeko, Chojun Miyagi and Choki Motobu.
Founded by the late Masutatsu Oyama, Kyokushin is one of the most popular Karate styles. Although born in Korea, it seams that Masutatsu Oyama gave Japan on the greatest treasure of all. Created around 1950, with influences from Shotokan and Goju-ryu, Kyokushin Karate is one of the hardest Karate styles. Unlike many Karate styles, Kyokushin is a full contact style. Kyokushin Karate has 23 Katas plus another 6 ura Katas. Ura Katas are similar to the non ura Katas. The difference is that the ura Katas has spins when turning. One of the most unique features of the Kyokushin Karate is the 100 man Kumite. The challenge is test of mental and physical endurance which consist in 100 consecutive fights with different opponents. Each round has between one minute and half to two minutes. The challenge was first invented and tested by Oyama. He completed the challenge with 3 occasions. The test is so difficult that the number of people to complete the challenge is under 20.
Another Karate school which descends from Goju-ryu and is another style belonging to the Japanese syles, although its strongly related to Okinawa. Among his roots we can also find Shuri-te and Shito Ryu. This is one of the styles with a high number of Katas, with over 40 Katas belonging to Shukokai Karate. Meaning the way for all, Shukokai was founded by Chojiro Tani in the late 1940′. The first Shokubai Dojo was opened in 1946 at a dojo in Kobe. Shokokai uses tall natural stances, and double hip movement which makes it one of the hard-hitting Karate styles.
Belonging both to Japanese and Okinawan styles, Shindo jinene-ryu was founded by Yashuhiro Konishi in 1933. It is one of the few Karate styles that has roots in all the 3 Okinawan Te schools: Shuri, Naha and Tomari-te, with strong influences from Shotokan and Shito-ryu. Its uses both natural and deep stances and includes elements from Aikido, Jujitsu and Kendo. There are rumors that is counts over 60 Katas, although from my research I could only found around 50.
Founded in the 1930s by Sensei Kenwa Mabuni, Shito-ryu is mix between several styles in a attempt to unite the diverse roots of Karate. It has both physical strength and powerful long stances of the Shuri-Te derivated styles such as Shotokan and Shorin-ryu on one side, but also the breathing power and hard/soft characteristics of the Naha-Te styles, such as Goju-ryu and Uechi-ryu. Strong and fast, Shito-ryu emphasizes on a strong defense. One of the main characteristics of this style is represented by the five rules of defense (Uke no go gensoku) developed my Kenwa Mabuni itself. With over 80 Katas, Shito-ryu is one of the richest styles from point of view.
Based on the Okinawan styles of Shuri-Te, Shorin-ryu is one of the modern major Karate styles in Okinawa. The birth date of Shorin-ryu is still uncertain with some people claiming that Shorin-ryu was founded in 1933 while others suggest that the style is much older with Chibana just naming the style in 1933 as prior to 1900 styles didn’t had names in Okinawa. However, one thing is sure, Chibana didn’t invent all the components of the style, many belonging to the old styles of Shuri-Te.
Shorin-ryu is characterized by natural stances, breathing and circular movement. Fast and fluid movement along with flexible positions is another characteristic of Shorin-ryu. But maybe the most particular for this is style is represented by the way punches are executed with the punches being slightly canted inside instead of horizontal of vertical punches
Maybe the most popular Karate style, Shotokan was founded by Sensei Gichin Funakoshi who is widely credited for popularizing Karate. With origins on the Naha school, Shotokan is characterized by long stances and linear movement. Shotokan Karate has 25 Katas, with many of them having the name changed using the Japanese version over the Okinawan one.
Named after its founder, Kanbum Uechi, Uechi-ryu is literally translated as the school of Uechi. Having both hard and soft elements, Uechi-ryu has his roots in the southern style of Chinese kung fu named Pangan-noon. Ueki-ryu only teaches 8 Katas with the most representative being Sanchin, Seisan and Sanseirui. Uechi-ryu imitates the movement of three animals: dragon, tiger and crane, and is one of the hardest Karta styles putting strong emphasizes on build a iron body. This is achieved through the use of hojo undo or specific partner exercises.
A Japanese form of Karate, Wado-ryu was found by Hironori Osuka who was a direct student of Gichin Funakoshi. Fast and fluid, Wado-ryu is a hybrid of Shotokan Karate and Jujitsu, being often de subject of discutions regarding his place in the world of martial arts, with some people considering that Wado-ryu is more a Jujitsu style rather than a Karate style. Apart from that another thing that makes Wado-ryu stand out from other Karate styles is the number of black belt ranks. Unlike many other Karate styles that use the 10 rank belt sistem Wado-ryu only has 8 ranks for the black belt.