Styles of karate

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The four earliest karate styles developed in Japan are Shotokan, Wado-ryu, Shito-ryu, and Goju-ryu.1 The first three styles find their origins in the Shuri region of Okinawa whilst Goju-ryu finds its origins in the Naha province.

Shuri Karate is vastly different from Naha Karate, so that "they have very little in common, except for their uniform ...". There is almost no overlap in kata between Shuri Karate and Naha Karate. It should be mentioned however, that Shito-ryu could be regarded as a blend of Shuri and Naha Karate as its kata incorporate both Shuri and Naha kata.2

When it comes to individual styles, Shotokan involves long, deep stances and powerful techniques. Shito-ryu, on the other hand, uses more upright stances and stresses speed rather than power in its techniques. Wado-ryu too employs shorter, more natural stances and the style is characterised by the emphasis on body shifting to avoid attacks. Kyokushin, a hard style, involves breaking and full contact, knockdown sparring as part of its training.3 Goju-ryu, which is a form of Naha Karate, places emphasis on Sanchin kata and its rooted Sanchin stance, and it features grappling and close-range techniques.4

The table contains a comparison of karate styles. Some of the distinguishing features are listed, such as lineage, general form of stances, and number of kata. However, the differences attributed to "style" are often a reflection of the disposition and preference of the teaching instructor (i.e. there are softer and harder schools of each style, some schools focus little on kata while others emphasise it, some will add or remove certain kata, etc.).


Origin Derived from Hard/soft Stances Representative kata # of kata
Chitō-ryū Okinawa Shōrei-ryūor Naha-te, Shōrin-ryū 70 percent hard, 30 percent soft techniques natural stride (beginner), shorter/narrower (advanced) Shi Ho Hai, Seisan, Ro Hai Sho, Niseishi, Bassai, Chinto, Sochin, Tenshin, Ro Hai Dai, Sanshiryu, Ryushan, Kusanku, Sanchin 15 kata not including kihon and Bo kihon/kata
Gōjū-ryū Okinawa Fujian White Crane both deep/natural Sanchin, Tensho, Gekisai Dai, Seipai, Saifa 12
Gosoku-ryū Japan Gōjū-ryū, Shotokan 50 percent hard, 50 percent soft techniques deep (beginner), natural (advanced) Gosoku, Rikyu, Denko Getsu, Tamashi 46 including weapons kata
Isshin-ryū Okinawa Gōjū-ryū, Shōrin-ryū, Kobudō both, primarily hard natural Sunsu 15 including weapons kata
Kyokushin Japan Shotokan, Gōjū-ryū Hardest techniques natural 5 Pinan, Kanku, Tensho, Garyu 23 (+ ura)
Ryūei-ryū Okinawa Naha-te, Chinese martial arts natural Anan, Paiku, Heiku, Pachu, Ohan, Paiho, Niseishi about 16
Shindō jinen-ryū Japan and Okinawa primarily Shuri-te like Shitō-ryū, but also Naha-te and Tomari-te both deep/natural Shimpa, Taisabaki 1-3, Sunakake no Kon More than 60 counting all kobudo kata
Shitō-ryū Japan and Okinawa Shōrin-ryū, Naha-te, Shuri-te. both deep/natural Pinan, Bassai Dai, Seienchin, Saifa, Rōhai, Nipaipo more than 80
Shōrin-ryū Okinawa Shuri-te, Tomari-te, Chinese martial arts both, primarily soft natural Pinan, Naihanchi, Fukyu 21
Shotokan Japan and Okinawa Shōrei-ryū, Shōrin-ryū Primarily hard techniques as well as soft techniques deep (beginner), natural (advanced) 5 Heian, Jion, Kanku Dai, Bassai Dai, Sochin etc. 26 + additional
Shuri-ryū Okinawa Shuri-te, Hsing-yi both deep/natural Wunsu, O-Naihanchi, Sanchin 15
Uechi-ryū Okinawa Pangai-noon Kung Fu half hard, half soft mainly natural Sanchin, Seisan, Sanseirui 8
Wado-ryū Japan and Okinawa Yoshin-ryu Jujitsu and Shotokan both, primarily soft mainly natural Pinan, Kushanku, Seishan, Chintō, Wanshu, Jitte and Niseishi 15 (one hidden)
Yōshūkai Japan and Okinawa Chitō-ryū 60 percent hard, 40 percent soft techniques deep (beginner), natural (advanced) Seisan, Bassai, Yoshu, San Shi Ryu 18

See also


  1. ^ Corcoran, John and Farkas, Emil. Martial Arts. Traditions, History, People. Gallery Books, 1983, p. 49.
  2. ^ Clayton, Bruce D. Shotokan's Secret, The Hidden Truth Behind Karate's Fighting Origins. Black Belt Communications LLC, 2004, p. 97 & 153.
  3. ^ Kara-te Magazine. Special Collector's Edition - Kara-te, History, Masters, Traditions, Philosophy. Blitz Publications, p. 27, 45, 39 & 67.
  4. ^ Clayton, Bruce D. Shotokan's Secret, The Hidden Truth Behind Karate's Fighting Origins. Black Belt Communications LLC, 2004, p. 96 & 97.


  • Karate-do Kyohan, written by Gichin Funakoshi translated by Tsutomu Oshima

External links