Shotokan 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, including those at Keio, Waseda, Hitotsubashi (Shodai), Takushoku, Chuo, Gakushuin, and Hosei.
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 training is usually divided into three parts: kihon (basics), kata (forms or patterns of moves), and kumite (sparring). Techniques in kihon and kata are characterized by deep, long stances that provide stability, enable powerful movements, and strengthen the legs. Shotokan is often regarded as a ‘hard’ and ‘external’ martial art because it is taught that way to beginners and coloured belts to develop strong basic techniques and stances. Initially strength and power are demonstrated instead of slower, more flowing motions. Those who progress to brown and black belt level develop a much more fluid style that incorporates grappling and some aikido-like techniques, which can be found in the black belt katas. Kumite techniques mirror these stances and movements at a basic level, but are less structured, with a focus instead on speed and efficiency.
Shitō-ryū is a form of karate that was founded in 1931 by Kenwa Mabuni. Shitō-ryū is a combination style, which attempts to unite the diverse roots of karate. On one hand, Shitō-ryū has the physical strength and long powerful stances of Shuri-te derived styles, such as Shorin-ryū and Shotokan, on the other hand Shitō-ryū has circular and eight-directional movements, breathing power, hard and soft characteristics of Naha-te and Tomari-te styles, such as Gōjū-ryū . Shitō-ryū is extremely fast, but still can be artistic and powerful. In addition, Shitō-ryū formalizes and emphasizes the five rules of defense, developed by Kenwa Mabuni, and known as Uke no go gensoku, Uke no go genri or Uke no go ho.
Wadō-ryū is a karate style; three organizations now teach the Wadō-ryū style: the Japan Karate-dō Federation Wadōkai, the Wadōryū Karatedō Renmei, and the Wadō Kokusai Karatedō Renmei (abbreviated to Wadō Kokusai; also known as the Wadō International Karatedō Federation [WIKF]).
The name Wadō-ryū has three parts: Wa, dō, and ryū. Wa means “harmony,” dō means “way,” and ryū means “style.” Harmony should not be interpreted as pacifism; it is simply the acknowledgment that yielding is sometimes more effective than brute strength.
From one point of view, Wadō-ryū might be considered a style of jūjutsu rather than karate. It should be noted that Hironori Ōtsuka embraced Shotokan and was its chief instructor for a time. When Ōtsuka first registered his school with the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai in 1938, the style was called “Shinshu Wadō-ryū Karate-Jūjutsu,” a name that reflects its hybrid character. Ōtsuka was a licensed Shindō Yōshin-ryū practitioner and a student of Yōshin-ryū when he first met the Okinawan karate master Gichin Funakoshi. After having learned from Funakoshi, and after their split, with Okinawan masters such as Kenwa Mabuni and Motobu Chōki, Ōtsuka merged Shindō Yōshin-ryū with Okinawan karate. The result of Ōtsuka’s efforts is Wadō-ryū Karate.
To the untrained observer, Wadō-ryū might look similar to other styles of karate, such as Shōtōkan. Most of the underlying principles, however, were derived from Shindō Yōshin-ryū an atemi waza focused style of JuJitsu. A block in Wadō may look much like a block in Shōtōkan, but they are executed from different perspectives.
A key principle in Wadō-ryū is that of tai sabaki (often incorrectly referred to as ‘evasion’). The Japanese term can be translated as “body-management,” and refers to body manipulation so as to move the defender as well as the attacker out of harm’s way. The way to achieve this is to ‘move along’ rather than to ‘move against’—or harmony rather than physical strength. Modern karate competition tends to transform Wadō-ryū away from its roots towards a new generic karate that appeals more to the demands of both spectators and competitors.
Wadō-ryū moves from the balls of the foot rather than the heel, which affects the delivery of almost every technique, the stances and the kata.It works well with the jūjutsu applications that Wadō retains and improves the tai sabaki that is a core of Wadō training and application in comparison to the “low stances and long attacks, linear chained techniques” that typify the way Shōtōkan developed after the split.
Gōjū-ryu,(Japanese for “hard-soft style”) is one of the main traditional Okinawan styles of karate, featuring a combination of hard and soft techniques. Both principles, hard and soft, come from the famous martial arts book Bubishi (Chinese: wu bei ji), used by Okinawan masters during the 19th and 20th centuries. Go which means hard, refers to closed hand techniques or straight linear attacks; Ju which means soft, refers to open hand techniques and circular movements.
Major emphasis is given to breathing correctly in all of the katas but particularly in the Sanchin kata which is one of two core katas of this style. The second kata is called Tensho, meant to teach the student about the soft (ju) style of the system. Gōjū-ryū practices methods that include body strengthening and conditioning, its basic approach to fighting (distance, stickiness, power generation, etc.), and partner drills. Gōjū-ryū incorporates both circular and linear movements into its curriculum. Gōjū-ryū combines hard striking attacks such as kicks and close hand punches with softer open hand circular techniques for attacking, blocking, and controlling the opponent, including locks, grappling, takedowns and throws.
Miyagi believed that “the ultimate aim of karate-do was to build character, conquer human misery, and find spiritual freedom”.He stated that it was important to balance training for self-defense with “training the mind, or cultivating the precept karate-do ni sente nashi (‘there is no first strike in karate’)”; he also emphasized the importance of “cultivating intellect before strength”.
Miyagi chose the name Goju-ryu (“go” meaning “hard” and “ju” meaning “soft”), to emphasize that his style integrated both “hard” and “soft” styles. Goju applies not just to karate, but to life in general; only hardness or only softness will not enable one to deal effectively with the fluctuations of life. When blocking, the body is soft and inhaling; when striking, the body is hard and exhaling.