Shotokan Karate: The 4 Strengths of the World’s Most Popular Style

By Jesse | 65 Comments

Some Shotokan Karate dude once told me I was a “style-basher”.

You know, one of those ignoramuses who goes around loudly declaring how all other styles of Karate suck (except his/her own style, of course).

I was appalled.

“Me? A style-basher?! Omigosh!”, I thought. Sure, I had indeed remarked that I found it hard to extract natural and practical self-defense techniques from the traditional style of Shotokan, but… a style-basher? Me? No way!

See, I have always used these weird analogies, similes and metaphors for better understanding Karate. You might have come across them in some of my previous posts. Anyway, for the sake of this post, I’d like to reintroduce one such analogy right now, very quickly.

Imagine an apple tree.

The tree of Karate.

The roots are, obviously, found in China, Taiwan, Siam and other Southeast Asian areas from where indigenous combative techniques were brought to this tiny island called Okinawa (in the Ryukyuan archipelago) during hundreds of year, eventually culminating in a very unique coctail of fighting arts later to be distilled (through a Japanese filter) into what we today call Karate.

So, the base of the tree is Okinawa then, because that’s where the roots converge.

From here on, the tree grows like crazy. Sure, the base of the trunk gets a bit wider too, but most of the growth lies in its height (get it?).

Eventually, as the tree matures, branches even start appearing. Some are thick, some are thin (get it?). Some are situated lower down on the tree, some are higher (again, get it?). There’s more to be said about this, but let’s stop here. Just keep this image of an apple tree in your head and I’m satisfied, mmkay?

Now, as a Karate Nerd™, you only have one real responsibility when it comes to this tree.

You need to take care of it.

Examine it. Nurture it. Sometimes repair it. Make it grow. Protect it. Water it. Remove bugs. Trim it. And such.

The goal?

Just as with any regular ol’ apple tree, of course.

Make those juicy apples appear!

Get it?

So, for me to neglect perhaps the most prominent branch (Shotokan) of this Karate tree is just ridiculous (remember, on every big branch there are smaller branches growing). If you have an apple tree, you simply can’t afford to ignore one of the most fruitful branches of the tree, can you?

Certainly not.

So, here’s what I want to do today: I want to briefly outline what I personally believe are some of the main advantages (pros) when it comes to Shotokan Karate. The impopular negative aspects of the style (i.e. lack of pragmatic self-defense, stressful for joints and lower back, bad bunkai etc.) will be left to you style-bashers for today. Because, although every branch on a tree has some flaws (damn termites!), the branch exists for a reason… or else it would have been cut away.

So, with those words being said, here’s what I believe are the four universal strengths of Shotokan Karate:

#1. It’s global. Like, scary “World Domination”-type global

Visit basically any country in the world, no matter how tiny or weird, and the chances are of epic proportions that you will find a local Shotokan dojo around the corner. The style of Shotokan is most likely the ultimate style for a backpacker, hippie or secret agent (and other people who travel a lot) since you can practise it almost anywhere on the planet.

And the greatest part of it all? It looks very much alike. Everywhere.

Meaning, there isn’t too much discrepancy between Shotokan schools in general (details there are plenty of, though!). Japanese terms, stances, basic techniques, basic kata and sparring is pretty easy to tag along with everywhere. And all of this thanks to a bunch of Japanese youngsters who were sent like missionaries around the world during the last decades to spread the word of Shotokan!

A Shotokan style reverse punch is a Shotokan style reverse punch no matter where in the world you go.

And that’s awesome.

#2: “Biiiig movement make stroooong samurai!” [imagine a Japanese voice]

It can’t be denied that the movements of Shotokan are exaggerated.

Deep stances? Make that extra deep, with some deep-sauce on top! High kicks? Make that super high, with some… [I sense a drug related joke in there somewhere, but there might be children reading]. You get the point. Long punches, big steps, deep stances, high kicks and loud yells is what Shotokan is all about.

If you want to become good at Shotokan, you can never, never, cheat.

Ever.

Which is exactly why people who have done any of the other three most popular Japanese styles (Goju-ryu, Wado-ryu or Shito-ryu) have a really hard time adapting to Shotokan because they are so used to small and narrow movements!

On the flip side, a Shotokan stylist will have an easier time adapting to other styles, as it is just a matter of shrinking the techniques a bit (well, it’s about much more than that actually, but you gotta start somewhere). Easy peasy, compared to expanding everything.

So what’s so good about big techniques? Well, you get more actual training for the same bucks, and it looks way nicer in tournaments and demos. Especially if you’re a big guy.

[Note: I once tried performing a whole Shotokan kata, I think it was Gojushiho Dai. My left thigh still hasn't fully recovered, and I still don't know why people didn't warn me!]

#3: The Wonderful “Shut-Up-And-Train”-Mentality

Historically, Shotokan Karate has been taught to Westerners by Japanese masters who were sent here to destroy us teach us. Sure, the same can be said of a few other styles too (Shito-ryu springs to mind), but not to the same extent. With most other styles of Karate, Westerners went themselves to Japan instead, learnt some basic Karate and then came back to teach their fellow citizens.

This has huge implications.

See… a Japanese dude will teach the Japanese way. A Westerner will not.

Meaning, Shotokan often has an unequalled dojo culture, rarely matched by any other Karate style, when it comes to two things:

  1. Shutting up.
  2. And training.

Which is a beautiful thing.

I mean, that’s why you go to the dojo in the first place, right? To simply 1) shut up, and 2) train for a while! Thus, when it comes to discipline and dojo etiquette, correct training mentality and a never-give-up attitude, Shotokan is the way to go.

Sometimes it can get a bit militaristic though, depending entirely on the sensei.

Obviously, not everyone are into that.

But if you are, more power to you.

#4: Historical Gems & Curious Facts

So yeah, Shotokan is mainstream. No doubt about it.

But even though something is mainstream, there’s always bound to be strange stuff going on behind the curtains. And believe me when I say that Shotokan has tons of interesting learnings and strange historical gems going on!

Ever seen the Shotokan kata Wankan, or Sochin? Why are they so different from all other styles’ Wankan or Sochin? And what’s up with those bunny hops at the end of Chinte? And is it true that the names of Gojushiho Sho and Dai were switched in order to not embarrass a famous sensei who mixed them up at a tournament? And what about Kobudo? Did Funakoshi Gichin really know the bo kata Tenryu no Kon? What about sai? There’s plenty of pictures where he’s holding them! And let’s not forget the old chi-ishi training tool, almost only seen in Goju-ryu today!

See?

Shotokan Karate has an abundance of fun and interesting historical/technical gems that are just waiting for people to explore!

(Of course, you would have to be a bit of a nerd to appreciate this point…)

_________________

And that, ladies and germs, concludes my brief breakdown of the four main strengths of Shotokan Karate.

Agree or disagree?

At the end of the day, Shotokan’s dynamic, no-nonsense, straightforward Karate-do style sends a clear message to all the other styles out there: Even though it might not be the perfect style for all occasions (every branch of the tree has its weak and strong points), a lot of people can benefit from tapping into the knowledge of its four main strengths presented above.

Also, I’m not a style-basher.

End of story.

About the author

is a self-titled Karate Nerd™, best-selling martial arts writer, unreasonably handsome elite athlete, autodidact, karatepreneur and carrot cake aficionado. He really thinks you should become a Karate Nerd™ too.

65 Comments

  1. Luis

    January 20, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    I agree with what you say, that a shotokan can adapt easily to any other style, more than any other style can adapt to shotokan. I once made a trade with a shito ryu friend, he taught me seienchin and I taught him sochin, I didn’t have half the issues with the positions he had with sochin dachi, being the ankles what hurt him most, even thou he said he liked that kata. I really like shotokan, and it’s wonderfull to look it from the perspective of a “style foreigner” who happens to be a Karate Nerd (TM) and can see the forest for the trees.

  2. Everest

    January 20, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    Haha jesse that’s the most lukewarm article I think I have seen you write!
    They do good business and other styles struggle to copy them.lol
    You ailment list was just as long as the pros!

  3. Phil

    January 20, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Hey Jesse… liked that article. Anyway, me doubt the practibility of shotokan too though I’m already just a beginner. Anyway, sometimes you gotta stick with things especially like when there are’n any other-style dojos around. That happens to be the case to me but I’m pretty optimistic that you can squeeze out a good share of self defense even out of shotokan if you just commit to it and do your best

    • Ken

      July 8, 2012 at 6:29 pm

      Always remember though the long stances and such are for training, kumite is much shorter. I will be up front I am a shotokan karateka lol. If you look at the niju kun it actually says that is pretty much that same way, long low stance for begainers, short high stance for expert lol. Just thought I’d add my two cents.

      • Cinzia

        November 28, 2012 at 8:56 pm

        I was about to quote that precept too. XD

  4. Joshua

    January 20, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    “SHOTOKAN IS THE ONE TRUE STYLE.”

    - Kaitlyn H.

    • Kait

      January 21, 2012 at 10:56 pm

      You’re hilarious.

    • PNG Warrior

      July 27, 2012 at 7:04 am

      According to the great Funakoshi, styles are irrelevant. In his book, Karate-d?: My Way of Live, he explicitly states that the diverging into different schools i.e., Shotokan, Kyokushin, Goju-ryu, Shorin-ryu etc. is a problem that besets modern Karate-d?. He strongly objected to such classifications and believed Karate as one.

      • Dean

        November 17, 2013 at 1:12 am

        I think he is wrong. Granted, the effectiveness of a style is only as good as the practitioner him- or herself, but the style of karate one has been practicing can make a major difference in basically every way.

  5. Boban Alempijevic

    January 20, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    OSSU!

  6. diego romero

    January 20, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    shoto’s cool, but you need to know where to look to find the good stuff. often, this will not be the shotokan dojo, which is where you learn and train the shotokan. outside of the dojo though, go nuts and you’ll find a plethora of interesting gems in the kihon and some of the kata.

  7. John

    January 20, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    The picture of Funakoshi seated with weaponry is particularly interesting. What happened to kobujutsu in Shotokan anyway? It’s largely absent from most curricula today…so much so that I have had to seek out another dojo that teaches a different style entirely to get instruction. Was kobujutsu forgotten, suppressed, or simply neglected in favour of other aspects?

    Regards.

    • Jesse

      January 21, 2012 at 2:32 am

      Not only Shotokan, but early Shito-ryu had a plethora of Kobujutsu/Kobudo, mainly thanks to Taira Shinken. As to why it fell out of use, you’ll have to check out one of my old Kobudo articles. The answer is there somewhere :)

      • Daniel

        January 23, 2012 at 11:51 pm

        By the way… Any info about this?
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIDJ9bBQnfQ&feature=related

        Presented as a bo kata invented by Yoshitaka Funakoshi. I’ve never heard of it before.

      • Ken

        July 8, 2012 at 6:32 pm

        Howdy, As for the weapons I had read some where that basically Nakayama “hid” the weapons from the Allies saying that karate was just a sport like boxing, and had no weapons, I could be wrong and would not be surprised if I was.

  8. warrioress

    January 20, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    If these are the greatest strengths of Shotokan, then I may as well go and drown myself! (I’m a Shotokan practitioner)

    • Jesse

      January 21, 2012 at 2:28 am

      Assuming I understand what you mean, try to read the article thinking “relative” (not “absolute”) instead. Clarification: “Shotokan Karate: The 4 Main Strengths That Set The World’s Most Popular Style Apart From Most Other Styles. Get it? ;) If not, happy drowning!

      • warrioress

        January 21, 2012 at 6:54 pm

        Hmm. Actually I do get it. Thanks for clearing that up.

  9. Michael Casinha

    January 21, 2012 at 1:00 am

    Jesse san, you can never appease everyone, but your honesty finds a clear path to the truth.

    As a Shotokan stylist for over 30 years, my own research found a very simple answer to the Shotkan popularity and dissemination throughout the world. A pre and post war Japan was still a militaristic society and in so being the teacher’s word was law. Teaching a simple method of fighting to the masses did away with all the complexities of other styles. 1. Stand here like this, 2. Take your fist in this position, 3. Accelerate your body, arm and fist from point A to point B, and 4. Do that 10K times a day and anyone can learn how to cause damage to another person. Adults, children and elderly could all do it. Now try and apply Okinawa Te (Goju, Shorin) close range tactics, hmmm, not quite as straight forward.

    Now take these Shotokan teaching approaches and disseminate them to a world that just come out of war and is use to following orders and you have a perfect formula for mass dissemination.

    I believe every system, every style has lessons to teach and all roads lead to the same destination.

    Just this humble Karate Nerd’s 2 cents worth….

  10. diego romero

    January 21, 2012 at 1:32 am

    michael also speaks the truth. shotokan has perhaps the simplest and most direct approach to power generation possible (when teachers aren’t skimping on the impact training, at least), and a base approach that basically boils down to “punch the other guy really hard”, of which i approve with great pleasure :D.

    • Jesse

      January 21, 2012 at 2:29 am

      Until you meet Lucio Maurino…

      • diego romero

        January 21, 2012 at 3:52 am

        suddenly shoto-SCIENCE!

      • Benjamin

        April 27, 2012 at 8:28 am

        I LOL’d so hard just now I have to spend the next 30 minutes wiping coffee off my keyboard :/

      • Cinzia

        November 28, 2012 at 9:03 pm

        I freaking LOVE Lucio Maurino Sensei!
        Ehm…in a strictly karate-related way. Don’t get me wrong. XD

      • Cinzia

        November 28, 2012 at 9:14 pm

        Wanna know something fun? I’m a shoto-girl, and people keep telling me shotokan is too “masculine” and i should switch to something more delicate-looking like shito ryu. Now, even if I’m very curious and appealed by shito ryu, which i plan on exploring once i become a black belt…isn’t it the dumbest reason to switch style you ever heard (or read, in the specific)

  11. Larry Gilliland

    January 21, 2012 at 6:49 am

    For me I see parallels in the development and global spread of Tang Soo Do (Korean “karate”). Very well put Jesse-san.

  12. jamonco

    January 21, 2012 at 7:19 am

    loved the “biiig moves makes stroong samurai” part, hilarious :)

  13. DDominador N. Caballero, Jr.

    January 21, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Jesse san, your right, Okinawa is the MAIN roots of a Karate Tree, there are thin, thick, low & high branches. Now the roots spread Worldwide, it’s depend on how the sensei teach his style, the students will always follows the instruction, no matter how long or how short they are practicing Karatedo, the most important is deep understanding of the Art. In every Karate style there is weaker and good part. The trend now in this Generation is to become Flexible, many Practitioners wants to learn other Karate Kata style so that they can compare the differences and to participate in Competition, like for example the WKF, according to their Rules they are allow the Main 4 Karate style to play in Kata, namely: Goju-Ryu, Shito-Ryu, Shotokan and Wado-Ryu, but the Shorin-Ryu and other style is not included, so this is the reason why thousands of Karate practitioners wants to learn other Karate Kata style. Just keep training, don’t say that your style is the best, it depends on the sensei and practitioners understanding. Keep moving, keep practicing, I believe that Perfection of Kata is like this way ” Only you can improve yourself by constant and proper training, complete and right repetition is the Key for Mastery”.

    • Rolan

      January 22, 2012 at 5:36 am

      i agree with mr caballero…it doesn’t really matter what style of karate or martial arts that a person does. styles are means to an end but not the end itself… there is no such thing as the best style. each person is different and so one has to find his own way..OSSU!!

      mr caballero was my sensei when i studied shorin-ryu karate. i then switched to shotokan style, but still i look up to him as my sensei and friend.. we may have different styles but the same KARATE-DO..OSSU!!

  14. Rui Paulo Sanguinheira Diogo

    January 21, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    I guess that all Shotokan practicioners (so this includes me) should realize that their “style” is not a martial art anymore but a mere sport with a limited set of “simplified” techniques. Already Gichin Funakoshi and his son changed the taught karate that way. And it was done on purpose as Gichin Funakoshi already mentions it in 1922:
    “Likewise, in times past swordmanship was taught only through kata since a shiai, whether using real swords or wooden swords, was always fought at the risk of one’s life. Subsequently, today’s face masks and wrist guards were developed, and although this brought about a certain amount of degradation of kendo, it allowed it to become that much closer to a sport rather than a martial art. With continuing research it is not unfeasible that as in judo or kendo our karate, too, might incorporate a grading system through the adaptation of protective gear and the banning of attacks to vital points. In fact, I believe that it is important to move in that direction.”
    I also recommend reading Koss Yokota’s book “Shotokan Myths” because many of the myths are debunked as such. Jesse is also right with the “Biiiig movement make stroooong samurai!”-thing. And I would even add: If something “looks” strong or even “feels” strong while doing it then it dosn’t mean that it is strong – even less if you “feel” the strength because if you feel it then you are absorbing the energy instead of transfering it.
    Oh, and I think this applies most certainly on other styles that compete in the same or similar manner… ;)

    • Daniel

      January 25, 2012 at 10:58 am

      “If something “looks” strong or even “feels” strong while doing it then it dosn’t mean that it is strong – even less if you “feel” the strength because if you feel it then you are absorbing the energy instead of transfering it.”

      +1! But it’s not easy to realize this… People love hurting themselves… ;)

  15. Dan

    January 21, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    Training Shotokan, I do biiig stances, yes, but the part were you shut up and keep punching like nuts is what I like the most. Maybe because of my distaste for long educational speeches, but the whole simplicity of the training is what makes me come back every time, in the end. Not the self-defense (even tough it’s awesome to know you can poke someone’s eye so fast they’ll think the lights went out) or the makawara, my eternal love. “Left leg, zenkutsu-dachi, go! Now, gyaku-tzuki, go! Your elbows are too wide… That’s better. (an hour later…) Alright, turn to me. Oss.” Somehow, that minimal dialogue makes etiquette inside the dojo get to a whole new level. And, if you think about it, with proper etiquette, you can already solve most conflicts in life. =D

    • Ken

      July 8, 2012 at 6:40 pm

      I hear Zekutsudachi Geidan barai migi mai in my sleep lol.

      • Vasili Vasilievich

        August 19, 2012 at 4:04 am

        haaha :-D i too do hear that in my sleep

  16. Mike Noga

    January 22, 2012 at 12:45 am

    You should do something on the strengths of other styles every once in a while. For example, I’m thinking of studying Matsumura Shorin-Ryu. What are the strengths of that style?

  17. Leo

    January 22, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    You should devide between how Shotokan is usually practised or what is Shotokan-labeled and what it actually does contain. Small and narrow movements, pragmatic self-defense, a benefit for joints and lower back, excellent bunkai -this is also Shotokan and I don’t love to see the myth spread it wouldn’t be.

  18. NewBudo (Frik Willemse)

    January 23, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Jesse-san, once again a great article! I have to fully agree with you on all 4 points. I did Shotokan karate for 21 years before I discovered the total awesomeness of Okinawan Shorin-Ryu karate!
    I believe that karate must be effective and practical. One of my students work as a Correctional Services Officer. He has been training with me for just over a year now. Just last week he was attacked by a convicted criminal. His first reaction was: opening sequence of Naihanchin Shodan! Not “kezami-tsuki followed by gyaku-tsuki”!
    He succesfully defended himself against a dangerous criminal.
    So, I am not a style-basher either, I just live in the real world (on a small patch called South Africa) where karate must mean more than a full trophy case and scoring points.
    Keep it real guys! One day your life might depend on it.
    Regards.

  19. Szilard

    January 23, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    I would add one more point to your list of “strengths of shito-ryu”:
    #5 lots of kata, and all of them available on youtube videos from various angles performed by lots of different masters.

  20. Gerry

    January 23, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    I studied Shokokan up to the 3kyu level about 30 years ago, then two years ago this month started self training in Shotokan again. With the freedom of defining bunkai myself I’ve found many techniques in kata are very relevent to self defense. I’ve used Ian Abernethy’s books and his approach of interpreting many techniques from a grappling standpoint and apply spins in kata as throws for example. After two years I’ve come to the conclusion that my interest in karate isn’t limited to Shotokan, but it is the basis for my study since my self education is kata based. Karate is what you make of it -- my desire is purely from a self defense mind set and I believe with proper interpretation of technique based on desired outcome Shotokan is a vry well rounded martial art.

  21. Martial Arts

    January 25, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    Hi Jesse,

    interesting article, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Dojo

  22. Rae Leggett

    January 25, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    Shotokan certainly removed a lot of depth from the syllabus…but the same time thats something that made the style very accessible to the public.

    And, after Shodan, theres really nothing keeping you from adding that depth back into your training. I think of Shotokan as “generic” karate -- you can take it anywhere.

    Go to seminars and pick up some kobujutsu. You like bunkai? Look at the older forms from Shito-ryu and Shorin-ryu. Self defense? Theres really nothing new in a Krav Maga seminar; it’s just a different method of training.

    We’re all just branches of the same tree; and when you look up close, all the branches start to look alike.

  23. Ed

    January 27, 2012 at 9:19 am

    This is going to cause a real stir but what the hell. I believe that Shotokan is a japanese interruptation of karate from Okinawa brought in after the cast system was stopped and gave the common person a belief that he could defend himself. Is it really karate? No it is a martial art like aikido, taekwondo or muay tai. There are a lot of difference between tradition okinawan karate and shotokan, the biggest divergence occurred when Funakoshi allowed his students to dictate the style. He didn’t want the big stance or movements but allowed it to creep in because the students believed that they were doing it better that way. No one in free style fighting gets any of the big stances or goes through the big arm motions so why train yourself to do that in a kata. Does it really matter if shotokan is called Karate or something else, that is everyone choice but I think that it is significantly different and believe that it would be comparable to calling an American English because he speaks english.
    Everyone needs to learn their style, try new things and develop themselves into their individual style. If you are good at what you do, then people will come and learn your style. Enjoy the learning and make it your own!!

  24. elC

    February 7, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    Har!
    I’m a Shotokan practicioner, and I can tell you that there’s a big difference between Shotokan and -- Shotokan.
    I started in the US with Ohshima Sensei’s interpretation of Shotokan, and it is great. Coming back to Germany I found that there are only 2 Ohshima Shotokan dojos in the country, compared to thousands of JKA-Shotokan dojos. So my search for a good JKA-Shotokan dojo began, and after having checked 5 dojos or so (I practiced for 2 years with JKA-shotos), I ended up in a Krav Maga club. There are rumors that there are good JKA dojos, but not where I live. So it’s Krav Maga twice per week, plus a few evenings kata in the basement, plus visiting the german Ohshima-Shotokan dojos every few months.

  25. Raddon

    February 13, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    I think seeing as relatively few people take up any form of martial art these days for the sole reason of practical close-quarters fighting, Shotokan’s popularity can be mainly attributed to it’s aesthetic & indeed athletic appeal, as was mentioned in the article. If you’re lucky, after training in another karate style like shito or goju for years you’ll eventually learn a kata with a front snap kick in it. Shotokan however offers a multitude of athletic kicks, jumps, complex combinations and impressive body shifting that just isn’t found as readily in more conservative styles. This is of course because karate is a sport for many people now, and as with all sports, the more fun and exciting it is, for both practitioners as well as spectators, the more it will flourish, and shotokan is the karate style that has embraced this attitude the most.

    • Ørjan

      February 15, 2012 at 10:30 am

      I guess this goes a long way explaining Taekwondo`s popularity too:-)

      • Raddon

        February 20, 2012 at 2:24 am

        Exactly! It’s no accident that Taekwondo is rivalling Karate these days for which is the most popular martial art, as the sheer fun & aesthetic appeal of it is evident. Obviously, some people prefer their martial arts to be an art-form rather than a sport which is fine, but purely on sporting merits I think martial arts are generally moving in the right direction (though I will admit, there ARE still some bad things, and dare I say it, that the answers to some of those things could in fact be found in some of the more old-fashioned elements of martial arts)

  26. Frank Fink

    February 14, 2012 at 9:02 am

    Jesse. I was recently turned on to your site by a student. She knew I would enjoy your insight and humor. She also guessed (correctly) that I would agree with your viewpoints. Like most humans, I enjoy being vendicated by reading commentary that bolsters opinions I already hold. I must admit, however, that I am occasionally challenged by some of your articles to reconsider some of my convictions and prior held beliefs. This is where the true value of what you do lies. It stretches my already fairly open mind and causes me to grow. Thank you. Now, I think I’ll go change my email address to somerhing a bit more humble.

  27. kairu

    March 9, 2012 at 10:19 am

    I began my journey into the martial arts with Shotokan and agree with every point you have made here. I was lucky to have Andrew Holmes as my Sensei. He was definitely a shut up and train old school Shotokan kind of guy. From back when there was no Kumite in the Dojo. You used to just do lots of Kata and hoped it served you right, which I am sure was fine when ever one else was training the same way.

    Since I started branching out of Shotokan and into other styles of karate and martial arts I have found Shotokan has served me quite well. The only style that I have not found transitioning into easy has been Judo but Kyokushin, Kudo, Aikido, Wing Chun and MMA have all been positively influenced by my Shotokan experiences.

    I have also found the long range high impact striking style very effective in the few self defense scenarios I have been unfortunate enough to experience. Shotokan has always served me well but that does not mean it is not with out faults, anyways lets not style bash today.

  28. Jamal

    March 25, 2012 at 10:36 am

    Very nice

  29. Phil Clairet

    April 13, 2012 at 3:14 am

    Jesse, have you thought of writing a book or something? Your knowledge seems to be so much deeper than the articles you post on your website…

    Just a thought!

    • Jesse

      April 13, 2012 at 1:32 pm

      Phil-san, in fact I have: http://www.thekaratecode.com is the book website, featuring a bunch of living Karate legends sharing their wisdom in “The Karate Code”. I have tons of more books in my head, but Father Time is a sneaky bastard… ;) For the record; those I plan on writing mostly myself, rather than relying on epic Okinawn masters though.

  30. foursquaregoof

    June 21, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    jesse…since i moved to sf, the closest GOOD shito-ryu (closest to my ryuei-ryu roots)dojo is like 40miles away… :(. my sensei back home recommended me go to her long time friend. they have some solid kumite which i like. but guess what. they is shotokan. i think this is the best dojo in the area to train at and i really don’t want to stop training entirely. it is so hard to transition. only been there a day. i’m confident i can do it, but i am so afraid i will forget my muscle memory for ryuei-ryu stances and *gasp* katas. btw, i loved the last added bit in your article “also, i’m not a style-basher” lol. wish me luck!

    • Jesse

      June 22, 2012 at 12:39 am

      Euey-san! That’s really cool -- see it as a new learning opportunity! Remember, sometimes you need to climb another mountain to see your own mountain better. I have no doubt that you will be perfectly fine -your roots will always be there. And if not, well, then Oliver will just have to ‘ground n pound’ them back into you! ;)

    • helene

      October 3, 2012 at 2:44 am

      Hello there, and thanks for your post. The (relocating) happens often and has also happened to me. If you are open to the prospect (and for lack of opportunity) may I suggest Goju school, or at least the Goju network in the Bay Area?

      There are legitimate practitioners from the non Goju systems, who travel from the peninsula and points even further south for the benefit of reputable Goju training. Utilize the BART system, the public transit is amazing in the SF and outlying areas!

      I would also offer the likely network of Goju schools provide a check and balance for continuity and symmetry between the Goju schools. While Goju is not my ryu, I have visited a couple schools and was very pleased with the dissemination/transmission of the material that simply is not ryu-specific. Why not utilize the tools available during your stay? You will certainly add a depth to your own training in any case. Visit, and be a gracious Guest. Measure your opportunity to ask carefully, but do ask and most importantly, listen!

      IF you seek a deeper understanding or environment that suits your taste, then all the searching is time well spent. There is no penalty evoked during your search to be sure…you simply need to remember what attracted you to the training in the first place.

      No one wants you to abandon your roots, but relish the opportunity to always learn more about your art with a beginner’s eye.

      -And remember to leave your previous ranking at the door! (get it?) ;-)

      Take care!

  31. mirza imtiaz ali baig

    February 6, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Dear sir

    I really apprecied to you becouse i got a good information about shotokan and other martial arts.
    I have one Q- that is i holding black belt 3rd dan
    from Okinawa martial arts so i want change my style
    Okinawa to Shotokan what is your saggetion and requarement plz give me your oppenion.

    THANK YOU

  32. shankar

    September 30, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    Hi I agree what you said about shotokan karate. By the way which style of karate are you Okinawan I bet.

  33. shankar

    December 8, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    By the way,
    you forgot that we practice the kihon enough to render anyone sick of it for years and in study of attack and defense we are really simple(If you think that’s a weakness then you should read a book called “Brutal Simplicity of Thought”

  34. Nicole

    January 6, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    OSU, I’m shotokan karate-ka, I know see the beauty of Shotokan, Thank you, OSU!

  35. Nicole

    February 10, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    well I wouldn’t sy that it would be much easier for shotokan practitioners to get into lower stance, in fact once(I’m sotokan) my sensei asked us to perform a very basic shito-ryu kata, I find my self hard to get up for lo stances

  36. Dani'yal

    March 31, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    Jesse, do you think that Shotokan and Goju Ryu can be done at the same time? Because I really like both…

    • Nicole

      April 1, 2014 at 4:11 pm

      well, I’m not Jesse but… yes, you can, if you see those professionals, most of them practice at least two or more styles, its gonna be hard (like things will always be) but its not impossible :)

      • Daniyal-San

        April 1, 2014 at 4:18 pm

        Thanks Nicole. I can assure you that almost everyone is my senior. Just recently started Goju Ryu with OGKK. And I am very happy to have found a JKA Shotokan school here in Cape Town.

        I have been a victim of a McDojo about ten years ago. Then as the years progressed, did many other arts. But came back to Karate because I know authentic Karate is very real and very good.

        • Nicole

          April 1, 2014 at 4:39 pm

          ahh, then its good if you start karate, I haven’t been in karate long as well, 1 and a half years :) just a heads up.. shotokan might be a little different from goju-ryu, other than the obvious(stances, etc.)you might wanna pay attention to the little details maybe how they punch and all that, how they apply blocks etc.
          I’m a shotokan practitioner but I hv never practice goju-ryu before, but as I know, all styles have different ways of doing things, so yeah… have fun!

  37. Daniyal

    April 1, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    I am looking forward to it. I am unmarried so I need to fill my nights with some hard fitness and training. And I love MA. Always have. JKA Shotokan has raw power and brute force, but still elegant and graceful. I like that. Goju is more internal. So it’s kinda like Shaolin one day, and Tai Chi the next. LOL

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