Schools of Karate

There are a wide variety of Karate styles now in use. You have hybrid styles and more traditional styles.

Ultimately Karate descended from 3 areas of Okinawan (a group of islands south west of Japan, conquered by the Japanese but retained this culture and language). These are Naha Te, Tomari Te and Shuri Te. Over time these styles would merge into each other. So there are some style which feature Kata which others don’t.

Shuri Te developed into Shorin Ryu, Shotokan Ryu, Matobu Ryu, Shito Ryu. These styles tend to be more linear and agressive in both attack and defence. These styles again feature upright stances apart fron Shotokan which feature deeper stances. Kata such as Rohai, Passai, Jion and Kusanku. This style was used to protect the Okinawan kings and queens as this was the old capital, so evolved to be more aggressive and to deal with threats quickly and effective. Basically taking the fight to the threat and ending it as quickly as possible hence the linear aggressive natute.

Naha Te developed into mainly Goju Ryu and Uechi Ryu. These styles have stayed closer to their roots and feature more circle blocks / parries mixed with hard agressive strikes and grappling. These styles feature more upright stances and kata like Tensho, Sanchin and Saifa. This area used to be a merchant port and as a result had chinese families living there.

Tomari Te developed into Wado Ryu, Matsubayashi Ryu and Motobu Ryu. Its worth noting that some styles of Karate have origins in both Tomari te and Shuri Te so will feature katas from each families. Eg if a style does Passai and Naihanchi then it has these origins. This style features Kata such as Naihanchi, Wanshu and Seisan.


Japanese Karate tends to be more aggressive and linear in nature and deep stances. They tend to fight at a more medium range where the strikes can cause more damage. They tend to be more in and out.

Okinawan Karate is more fluid and uses a lot of circular movements for blocking, parrying and grappling. Along with hard linear strikes. They feature more pressue points and fighting at close range, as well as all the nasty stuff. They also condition the body and weapons. Using Makinawara to train the hards and other methods.

Examples of Karate styles

Shorin Ryu – Okinawan Karate

Shotokan Ryu – Modified Shorin Ryu – Japanese Karate. Has deep stances and is very linear with hard blocks and strikes that are powerful and damaging.

Wado Ryu – Shotokan & Jujitsu mixed together – Japanese Karate. Due to its Jujitsu background uses alot of evasion and redirection of attacks. As well as strong and well developed grappling. It strikes tend to be more well placed to targeted areas and are light.

Goju Ryu – Okinawan Karate. Uses alot of body conditioning. It also mixes hard striking with soft blocking, parrying and grappling. A feature of this style is that it mixes hard and soft together (Goju means Hard Soft and this is influenced by Chinese martial arts). So features a hard strike to a soft area and a soft defence to a hard area for example.

Uechi Ryu – Okinawan Karate – like Goju features heavy body conditioning to deliver deadly strikes and effective blocks. It targers vunerable areas so kicks to the knees or hips whilst pulling on the opponents wrists for example.

Kyuoshinkan (excus the spelling) – Shotokan, Goju, Kickboxing all mixed together – Japanese Karate. Feature full contact sparring but disallowes punches to the head when full contact sparring occurs in training.