Styles of Karate (pt.2) – by Kanken Toyama

Here is the second part of the article on “the styles of Karate”, written by Kanken Toyama (1888-1966).

If you haven’t read part one, please do so.

Here we go, part two!

They say that Shorin-ryu came from the Shorin-ji Kenpo system and Shorei-ryu came from the Shorei-ji Kenpo system. These ancient styles of Shorin-ji Kenpo and Shorei-ji Kenpo are usually described as if they were still in existence, but there is no firm fact or evidence to substantiate this.

They say that Dharma [Daruma/Bodhidharma] built the foundation of the Shorin-ji [more commonly known as the Shaolin] temple about one thousand years ago when Buddhism was introduced into China and a number of Buddhist scriptures were written describing their martial art. There is also a Shorei-ji temple but the location and history of the temple is presently unknown.

The above mentioned traditions [Shorin-ji ryu and Shorei-ji ryu] have no relation in the present day in either form or substance. Further, the result of study and analysis concerning the fistic and kicking techniques revealed that the above methods were basically the same! There is very little difference in the position of the open hand or fist in the above mentioned methods. This difference can also be considered natural, based on the methods of training and of the steady progress one makes during training. In brief, all Kenpo [methods of the fist] have almost the same “form” and purpose as does modern day Karate.

The next styles that we will discuss will be the Goju-ryu and Shito-ryu, but they are almost the same. In the strictest classification of these styles, Goju-ryu is included in Shito-ryu. It can also be said that the name Shito-ryu was devised by using the combination of the initials of Anko Itosu and Kanryo Higaonna who were Shuri-te and Naha-te experts, respectively, and are considered as the ones who brought Karate out of its veil of secrecy and into the modern light.

(I, the author, must state that both Shishu Sensei [Itosu] and Toona Sensei [Higaonna] were my master teachers). Goju-ryu came from the combination of Go-jutsu (using the [hard] techniques of thrusting, piercing, chopping and kicking) and Ju-jutsu (using the [soft] techniques of knocking down, pushing, twisting and arresting).

About ten years ago, I spoke with Mr. Kenwa Mabuni [founder of Shito-ryu] who identified his Karate-style as Shito-ryu. I then asked him about his ideology concerning the meaning of Shito-ryu. His answer was very simple and he stated two reasons. He stated that:

  • People need and want the feeling of belonging or identifying with something and;
  • That by having a special name of such and such style met that need.

Mr. Mabuni further identified his style as a mixture of Shuri-te and Naha-te and is almost the same as mine. My method of karate is the consolidation of the following experts’ karate styles: Sokon Matsumura the Bushi [warrior], Ankoh Itosu and Kanryo Higaonna. In other words, it is the real, orthodox Karate of Okinawa.

In conclusion, let me explain about Goju-ryu. My good friend, Mr. Chojun Miyagi [founder of Goju-ryu] is the same age as I am. He is a real man of character and his martial art is excellent. He was cut out to be a Karate-man. He was an outstanding trainee of Mr. Kanryo Higaonna and mastered the Naha-te style of Karate. I asked him about his ideology concerning the meaning of Goju-ryu when I spoke with him at the Naha Commercial School in October of 1936. He explained to me that he wanted to express the whole nature of Karate in as simple terms as possible for those people who had no true knowledge or understanding of karate.

Mr. Miyagi stated that all techniques of karate consisted of two methods such as Go-jutsu and Ju-jutsu (explained in the preceding paragraphs). Boxing is a kind of Go-jutsu and Judo is a kind of Ju-jutsu. Some people think that Karate consists of only Go-jutsu techniques but this way of thinking is incorrect. The name Goju-ryu of Mr. Chojun Miyagi tells its own story.

You may state with a real understanding that there is no “ryu” [styles] in Karate but that everything can be united into the orthodox Karate (orthodox Karate is the Karate based on self-perfection while traditional Karate is based on self-protection).

Recently, some Karate-men have used funny and strange sounding names for their own styles of Karate. A Karate-man of this kind does not have a real understanding or knowledge of the orthodox Karate, or he has no confidence in his ability as a Karate-man. He uses these funny sounding names for his own style of Karate as an evasive answer when he has a hard time demonstrating a very difficult technique or even an incomplete one.

I (Kanken Toyama, the author of this article) have been teaching all the “styles” of the orthodox Karate which has already been explained in the preceding paragraphs. I have also been teaching Ubo-kenpo and Ruda-kenpo from Taiwan and China, techniques of Self-Defense for females, Bo-jutsu, Sai-jutsu, Nunchaku-jutsu and Tuifa-jutsu at my Shudokan training hall. In other words, I have been teaching all the techniques of the orthodox Karate of Okinawa.


    OSHU !! karate is a big tree the importance are the roots. it is the reason kata start and finished on the same spots. we all play the same music fur elyse by beethoven but we all put a little of ourself in it. karate is the same. your organization karate music paiting ect is always limited by the own limitation or your own teacher. please keep training always ... a good class is from meditation 15 minutes warm up 30 minutes katas 30 minutes bunkai 30 minutes zen meditation 15 minutes shower and reading another 30 minutes bun bu fuku or ken zen ichinyo.. be a man of honor never betray your teacher or org. be the best you can be !!! andrey ...
  • Jesse-san, Meanwhile, in Sweden, Morio Higaonna is having a Goju Ruy camp. Interview in DN below for your etnertainment.
  • Hey! I heard some rumors about that... Will read! :) Thanks!
  • Andi
    Cool! :O)
  • Francisco
    Well, that is why karate is a process of understanding oneself and one's uke. I appreciate being able to absorb the perspectives of such karate legends and thank you greatly for making it available. Whenever I have been able to have conversations outside the dojo, after much training surely, with my seniors, such as Sensei Eihachi Ota or Sensei Fumio Demura, I get a sense of timelessness and selflessness they derive from practicing the art. Like Demura sensei always tells me, "sport karate has its place in the youth and to provide attention to the art, but orthodox karate is for life". Thank you
  • James
    Kanken Toyama was the man who created my style of karate known as shudokan in the u.s and doshinkan everywhere else. It just surprises me to see a post about him when nobody ever gives our style any credit or has even heard of it.
  • Hi James, Yes, Kanken Toyama and his Shudokan isn't very famous. Not even in Japan or Okinawa actually. Would be interesting to see the kata of Shudokan some day!
    • Here is a video of my teacher and a fellow student, performing Shudokan versions of Pyungahn Yi Dan and Pyungahn Oh Dan, back in the 1960's in South Korea.
    • It happens that when I was a child (1980’s), I practiced Shudokan and at the time it was just Karate, didn’t know of styles so I took it for granted, and left when I was around 11, and in the past 2 years I was able to connect with my Sensei at the time, now he is retired, but found the Mexican Shudokan Association and I’m trying to get in touch with them for the same reasons, nostalgic and to show some kata demonstrations and comparison, now I’m fully immersed in Shito Ryu, but seeking for knowledge from the past. Kind of curious how I’ve been somewhat linkage with Anko Itosu without even knowing
  • James
    Yeah you may go your whole life without ever seeing a kyoku kata, but there's one video of choshin on youtube done by sandan zach gonzales at the ozawa cup international tournament. Shudokan stylists don't learn their styles kata until they reach sankyu so i've only learned 5 of the 12 shudokan kata. If you want more info on how to see our kata or if you want a list reply back and i may send videos in the late future.
  • Jesse, I assume you train under Shihan Mack? Are you one of his students that lived in Japan?
  • Hi Steven, Don't know who Shihan Mack is, sorry! But I lived in Japan...!
  • James
    shihan mack is the authority on shudokan karate in the entire world. He lives in Yakima Washington USA.
  • Connor
    This rocks! I also practice Shudokan Karate and I never knew a lot of this stuff! I didn't realize you studied Shudokan history or I would have been way more obsessed with your site. =P Thanks Jesse! -Connor H. P.S. If all goes well, I will be taking a trip with my sister and her husband to Okinawa winter 2012. Have any tips?
  • Ives
    We train a kata form Kanken Toyama's lineage via Kaku Chitose who studied under Toyama. It's Wangshu-no-kata. It's a nice in addition to our Seiken Shukumine kata.
    • Christian
      Can someone tell me who is Kiaku Chitose?
  • Jerry
    Actually it's Hanshi Mack. His school is in Yakima. But he has nearly 30 schools throughout the northwest. He and his students work closely with Hanshi's from toyama's original school.
  • Jesse, My Instructor, Michio Koyasu, was a student of Kanken Toyama and serve on the All Japan Karate-Do Federation Board of Directors when it stood up as an operational organization. Koyasu Sensei relocated from Tokyo in 1950 to Matsuura, Japan and then subsequently to Sasebo, Japan. I studied with Koyasu Sensei as a young sailor in Sasebo.

Leave a comment