Kenpō (拳法) is the name of several Japanese martial arts. The word kenpō is a Japanese translation of the Chinese word “quán fǎ“. This term is also sometimes transliterated as “kempo“, as a result of applying Traditional Hepburn romanization, but failing to use a macron to indicate the long vowel. The generic nature of the term combined with its widespread, cross-cultural adoption in the martial arts community has led to many divergent definitions.
Karate is a martial art developed in the Ryukyu Islands in what is now Okinawa, Japan. It developed from the indigenous martial arts of Ryukyu Islands (called te (手?), literally “hand”; tii in Okinawan) under the influence of Chinese martial arts, particularly to that of the Fujian White Crane. Karate is a striking art using punching, kicking, knee strikes, elbow strikes and open hand techniques such as knife-hands, spear-hands, and palm-heel strikes. In some styles, grappling, throws, joint locks, restraints, and vital point strikes are also taught. A karate practitioner is called a karateka.
Although Karate is not widely used in mixed martial arts, it has been effective for some MMA practitioners. Various styles of karate are practiced: Chuck Liddell, Frank Mir and Stephen Thompson are known for Kenpo Karate. Lyoto Machida and John Makdessi practice Shotokan. Bas Rutten and Georges St-Pierre train in Kyokushin. These are just some of the few MMA fighters that have karate in their training curriculum.
Styles of Karate
Chitō-ryū (千唐流) is a style of karate founded by Tsuyoshi Chitose (千歳 强直 Chitose Tsuyoshi?), (1898 – 1984). The name of the style translates as: chi (千) – 1,000; tō (唐) – China; ryū (流) – style, school, “1,000 year old Chinese style.” The character tō (唐) refers to the Tang Dynasty of China. The style was officially founded in 1946.
Chitō-ryū is generally classified as a Japanese style because Chitose formulated and founded Chitō-ryū principally while living in Kumamoto, Japan. However, some modern practitioners feel it is better categorized as an Okinawan style given that its roots and techniques are firmly grounded in and derived from traditional Okinawan Tōde (唐手). This belief is warranted since the style’s founder, Tsuyoshi Chitose, received first the rank of Judan, in 1958, and then the rank of Hanshi, in 1968, from the Zen Okinawa Karate Kobudo Rengo Kai (All Okinawa Union of Karate-do and Kobu-do).
Gōjū-ryū (剛柔流), (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 used by Okinawan masters during the 19th and 20th centuries, the Bubiji (Chinese: 武備志; pinyin: Wǔbèi Zhì). Gō, which means hard, refers to closed hand techniques or straight linear attacks; jū, which means soft, refers to open hand techniques and circular movements. Gōjū-ryū incorporates both circular and linear movements into its curriculum, combining 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.
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 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.
Gosoku-ryū ( 剛速流) is a style of Karate which was founded by Takayuki Kubota. Gosoku stands for hard and fast, which suggests a combination of techniques both from the fast and dynamic Shotokan style as well as from the strength-focused Gōjū-ryū style.
Isshin-Ryu (一心流 Isshin-ryū) is a style of Okinawan karate founded by Tatsuo Shimabuku (島袋 龍夫) and named by him on 15 January 1956. Isshin-Ryū karate is largely a synthesis of Shorin-ryū karate, Gojū-ryū karate, and kobudō. The name means, literally, “one heart way”. As of 1989 there were 336 branches of Isshin-ryū throughout the world (as recorded by the IWKA), most of which are concentrated in the United States.
Kyokushin (極真) is a style of stand-up, full contact karate, founded in 1964 by Korean-Japanese Masutatsu Oyama (大山倍達 Ōyama Masutatsu) who was born under the name Choi Young-Eui. 최영의. Kyokushin is Japanese for “the ultimate truth.” Kyokushin is rooted in a philosophy of self-improvement, discipline and hard training. Its full contact style has had international appeal (practitioners have over the last 40+ years numbered more than 12 million).
Ryuei-ryu (劉衛流 Ryūei-ryū) is an Okinawan style of karate. It was originally a family style of the Nakaima family of Naha and is now one of the internationally recognized Okinawan karate styles. It is practiced in the United States, Argentina, Venezuela, Europe, and Okinawa.
Shindo Jinen Ryu (神道自然流) is a form of karate that was founded in 1933 by Yasuhiro Konishi (康弘小西 Konishi Yasuhiro?).
Shitō-ryū (糸東流) is a form of karate that was founded in 1931 by Kenwa Mabuni (摩文仁 賢和 Mabuni Kenwa).
Shōrin-ryū (小林流 , little forest way), is one of the major modern Okinawan martial arts and is one of the oldest styles of karate. It was named by Choshin Chibana in 1933, but the system itself is much older. “Shōrin” is the Okinawan language pronunciation of Shaolin (小林) as in the Shaolin Temple of China. “Ryu” means “style”. Shōrin-ryū combines elements of the traditional Okinawan fighting styles of Shuri-te.
Shotokan (松濤館 Shōtōkan) 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 do” 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.
As the most widely practiced style, Shotokan is considered a traditional and influential form of karate do.
Shuri-ryū (首里流) karate, is an eclectic martial arts system developed by Robert Trias (1923–1989), the first person to teach karate in the mainland United States, who opened the first dojo in 1946 in Phoenix, Arizona. Later in 1948 he formed the first karate association in the U.S., the United States Karate Association (USKA). The USKA became one of the largest karate associations in the country; its membership included almost all of the early top karate instructors. The style of Shuri-ryū is taught in the United States, parts of Europe, and South America and is related to other Trias styles of karate such as Shōrei-Gōjū-ryū, Shōrei-ryū, and Shōrei-kai.
Uechi-ryu (上地流 Uechi-ryū) is a traditional style of Okinawan karate. Uechi-ryū means “Style of Uechi” or “School of Uechi”. Originally called Pangai-noon, which translates to English as “half-hard, half-soft”, the style was renamed Uechi-ryū after the founder of the style, Kanbun Uechi, an Okinawan who went to Fuzhou in Fujian Province, China to study martial arts and Chinese medicine when he was 19 years old.
Wadō-ryū (和道流) is a karate style; three organizations now teach the Wadō-ryū style: the Japan Karate-dō Federation Wadōkai (abbreviated to Wadōkai; “Zen Nihon Karate-dō Renmei Wadokai” in Japan), the Wadōryū Karatedō Renmei, and the Wadō Kokusai Karatedō Renmei (abbreviated to Wadō Kokusai; also known as the Wadō International Karatedō Federation [WIKF]).
Yoshukai (養秀会 Yōshūkai) karate is a branch discipline of the Japanese/Okinawan martial art, Karate–dō, or “Way of the Empty Hand.” The three kanji (Japanese symbols) that make up the word Yoshukai literally translated mean “Training Hall of Continued Improvement.” However, the standardized English translation is “Striving for Excellence.” Yoshukai Karate has been featured in Black Belt Magazine.