Karate has evolved from its traditional roots in kung fu to a worldwide martial art. The style of karate that is right for you and your kids is something most don’t pay much attention to. Much fewer are inundated with the rich history of karate.
Regardless, it is worth discussing the strengths of each school of karate to get your money’s worth and to see if the discipline and philosophy of your karate school is the right fit for you.
Karate: The origins
Karate, literally meaning “empty hand” was developed by Buddhist monks in Okinawa. During the 1300s, the region, formerly known as the Ryukyu kingdom, heavily traded with the Fujian region of China. Families migrated into Okinawa with the wish to foster a cross-cultural exchange. But things turned south when the kingdom was assimilated into the rest of Japan and all weapons barred from use.
To counteract these policies, the Okinawan “Te” and the Chinese “Kenpo” had fused together to form karate. In the 18th century, lines between karate were very wishy-washy and as such, schools of karate were basically the towns the karateka originated from – Shuri, Naha and Tomari. Shuri-te and Naha-te had exploded in popularity with their strong powerful stances, and focus on form and technique respectively.
Each school had passed their teachings down to those who have continuously developed their art through time, improving on the work of their masters and enabling the acquisition of strength and knowledge to their pupils. The beauty of karate and the student-sensei relationship is that it is certainly possible to track this chain back to those Okinawan monks who built the foundations of karate.
Styles of Karate
Shito-ryu was one of the older schools created with the intent to defend oneself. Staying true to the old Okinawan tradition. The success and effectiveness of this style and its successors can be attributed to the work of Kenwa Mabuni. Shito-ryu is fast, intense, artistic and diverse. It calls upon the practitioner’s strength from the Shuri-te school, and circular movements from the Naha-te school. These days, the style is primarily practiced in Osaka.
At the time, nearly every other branch of karate was closeted away and kept within its generations due to jealousy. Mabuni protested that karate was to be opened to all who seeked it with integrity, hence his attempts to popularize the school and karate as a whole have given the world a glimpse into the art.
Shotokan, a form derived from the Shuri school, and a contemporary of Shito-ryu by Gichin Funakoshi was the many popular schools today that trace their influences back to.
Shoto refers to the swift and nimble movements of the pine needles rustling in the wind, a pen name for Funakoshi’s philosophy and poetry. This style has managed to stick to its roots and keep a core, concise philosophy without being influenced by other forms as much as other styles.
Shukokai karate was made for hard-hitting fighting dynamics. Building upon Shito-ryu’s foundations, it features kata that require mobility and balance, with emphasis on impact training, Shukokai is well known for its powerful punching and kicking techniques.
Founded by one of Mabuni’s (Shito-ryu) most senior disciples Chojiro Tani, it was also known as Tani-ha Shitō-ryū as he was dubbed as Mabuni’s successor. But Tani in tandem with other skilled martial artist, managed to make Shukokai the next evolution to Shito-ryu.
Kobe Osaka began with Sensei Tommy Morris, the first black belt holder in Scotland. Ever since 1965, over 100,000 students can be traced back to him and his teaching. He founded Kobe Osaka International in 1991 which works with many schools around the world accrediting black belts and developing standards for quality instruction. The Kobe Osaka school pickups where Shukokai left off and all its progeny styles draws upon their Shukokai influences through the KOI organization.
The Kimekai Style
Kimekai’s motto is to show the “proper-way” to its new generation of martial artists. Drawing upon elements from Goju-ryu and Shito-ryu, the Kimekai style carefully developed by our founder, Sensei Marco Mazzanti marries old-school, give-it-your-all discipline with modern pragmatic teaching methods.
Kimekai is heavily involved and accredited with KOI; allowing their athletes to achieve worldwide recognition and quality instruction. Kimekai maintains strong emphasis on self-defense, kata (sequence of moves to be used), deep powerful stances and kumite (sparring). Hence, practitioners of the style are people you would want to respect.
Unlike other schools, Kimekai focuses on form and effective techniques rather than brute strength, therefore this school is open to all those who wish to dedicate themselves to the fighting art. This philosophy of “focusing energy and intent” transcends the body and becomes a fight between the intellect and wits.