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Karate Styles

Karate Do
The various karate styles can be confusing to most people outside the martial arts domain.

In short, all "traditional" karate styles are based on Okinawan fighting arts dating back centuries.

However not everyone does things quite the same way. We are not all identical in stature, suppleness and speed.

Not all rugby players play the same way. Light and fast players are wingers; slower, heavier players are in the scrum.

As different karate masters developed their own skills some favoured quick movements, others preferred utilising their natural strength.

It is human nature to practise what you are good at more than what you are not so good at, so over time different schools evolved slightly different emphasis based on the preferences of their senior instructors.

The core techniques are the same - a side kick is a side kick - what differs between the styles is subtle differences in how they are performed. A side kick can be done as a thrusting or as a snapping kick. It can also be done as a kick with the foot edge or with the heel. One style will prefer a heel thrust, another a foot edge snap! Most good black belts will be able to do all variations, but, again, have their own personal preferences.

Some styles are renowned for their physical strength (Shotokan and Kyokushinkai), others for development of explosive power (Shukokai) and some for evasive moments and fast counters (Wado Ryu).

Some differences between styles are obvious, others more subtle.

Different karate groups have different belt colours for their student grades - some have beginners wear a red belt, others have beginners wear a white belt. Some practice traditional oriental weapons such as sword, staff and flails... others don't.

The bottom line is that the differences between traditional styles are relatively insignificant.

What is a lot more interesting is what they have in common and the similarities in core techniques and goals.



Samurai Karate teaches the traditional style of Okinawan Karate called Shukokai (Way For All) which has evolved from careful analysis of the dynamics and principles of traditional karate.

The lineage of Shukokai can be considered a direct descendant of it's parent style, Shito Ryu - founded by Soke Kenwa Mabuni (1890-1952).

Mabuni lived in Osaka until 1952, devoting his life to promoting his Shito-Ryu Karate. It was during this lifetime that one of his students, Chojiro Tani was to further refine the style, into Shukokai Karate.

Upon receiving his Menko (Teachers Certificate) from Kenwa Mabuni, Chojiro Tani began teaching Tani-Ha Shito Ryu at his own club. He proudly hung a wood carved sign above the entrance which said Shukokai - "Way for All".

Being a direct descendent of Shito-Ryu, Shukokai inherits the characteristics of both the Naha-te and Shuri-te styles of Okinawan Karate. While Shukokai shares many of the same punches, kicks, and blocks found in other popular styles of Karate, it is in how these are executed that sets Shukokai apart.

Using the study of body mechanics Shukokai promotes the delivery of the greatest impact with the least amount of effort.


Sandokai translates as Three (San) Way (Do) School (Kai). The name indicates that it focusses equally on the three main aspects of traditional karate Kihon (training drills), Kata (forms) and Kumite (fighting).

Primarily a traditional Wado Ryu Karate based system, Sandokai also incorporates elements of Goju Ryu and Shotokan Karate at a higher level in their syllabus.

Though not intended to do so, Sandokai has developed over the years into a distinct style or system of Karate in it's own right.

A key concept in Sandokai is that you should always be open to new and/or alternative avenues of knowledge and the higher grades are encouraged to extend their martial arts knowledge beyond the confines of the set syllabus.


The Penwith Kakougan Ryu group of clubs is an eclectic style based on a contemporary amalgum of Shotokan, Bujinkai and Wado Ryu.

Though much of the training is heavily influenced by traditional karate, Kakougan Ryu also incorporates modern Sport Science and Self Defence knowledge.

Okinawan weapons training is available for the more experienced students. Katas and Bunkai (applications) and Ippon Kumite (blocks and counters) are taught in The Sai (3 prong trunchion), the Bo (Long staff) and the Jo (short staff).

Weapons training is an interesting addition to karate and helps broaden martial arts knowledge.


Zen Shin Do is based on the Goju Ryu system of Karate.

Incorporating the fluidity of Kung Fu, it was founded by Sensei Jon Alexander during the 1970s. Sensei Jon trained for many years in Japan and studied various martial arts including Goju Ryu and Wado Ryu Karate. He extracted key elements from each style which formed the cornerstones on which the Zen Shin Do style of Karate is based.

At one stage there were over 50 clubs that practised Zen Shin Do in the UK, one of these being the Truro Karate Academy.

In 1982 a Shotokan club opened up in Truro. Eventually the two clubs merged in 1985 with the Dojo (training hall) based at the Truro City Boys Club.

Ultimately, the styles are unimportant.

If you enjoy the training and develop as a person then that is all that matters!