Monday, January 23, 2012

Old style karate, top 12 ways it differs from modern karate.

“Hoping to see Karate included in the physical education taught in our public schools, I revised the kata to make them as simple as possible. Times change, the world changes, and obviously the martial arts must change too. The Karate that high school students practice today is not the same Karate that was practiced even as recently as ten years ago, and it is a long way indeed from the Karate I learned when I was a child in Okinawa.
-- Funakoshi Gichen

When In first created this blog, I promised an article on what makes “old style” karate different from modern karate. Well now that I’ve sat down to outline this article; I realize that it would not be possible to do the topic justice with a single post. So I’ve decided to create a short post mentioning the top dozen differences (as I see them). I hopefully will get around to discussing all of these as I continue to post on this blog. 

Very few dojos actually incorporate all 12, but I feel that those schools which include a majority are firmly in the “old style” category.

Motobu Choki doing a tuidi technique from Naihanchi Shodan (locking the right elbow while trapping a left punch)

1) Focus on close range techniques and tactics (which in turn necessarily creates an emphasis on limb control and/or trapping, low-line kicking, and so on)

2) Emphasis on special qualities which often are expressed by somewhat rare Okinawan terminology (muchimi, chinkuchi, gyame, muchi, gamaku, etc) 
3) Body Conditioning (kotekitae, iron sand palm, makiwara training etc)
4) Tenshin / tai-sabaki (evasive body motion/ body-rotation, sophisticated footwork) 
5) Hojo-undo / kigu-undo (supplementary training especially functional strength training using special implements)
6) Tuidi (aka gyakute or karamidi etc ie joint-wrenching and joint-locking)
7) Use of sensitivity drills (kakie, sticky hands, Okinawan versions of "Hubud" etc)

8) Techniques not are “squared off” or enlarged for aesthetic reasons

9) Use of unusual (typically very small) striking surfaces
10) Medical knowledge (bone setting, kautsu, herbal medicine, moxa, cupping, tsubo massage etc.)

11) Kokyu-ho / kiko (breathing methodologies, qigong type training)

12) Chibudi / kyusho (study of anatomical weakness and exploiting body-reactions)

I realize different people may come up with completely different lists. These are what I consider the main differences. If you have differences you would like to add please leave comments


  1. ...hello,
    I came here from youtube.
    I bookmarked your blog to read when I get more time.

    -I live in Uruguay, and with mainly Argentina and then Brazil possibly we had here (and still have more or less) in S America, better Japanese Karate and Aikido/jiu jitsu masters than in USA due to WWII and the inmigrants.

    I know and of course you know too, that some senseis teach some of those points to certain students.

    -the other thing that comes to mind is that Japanese Karate leaves (except small more familiar ryus)in hands of sensei Nakayama. This and the necessity of Japan to open to the world and have something to teach us that they (as goverment) were proud, forced to "accommodate", adapt Karate to a more "user friendly" act.
    This is very patent in Spain..there the Karate is truly a sport, also in USA I think that is really a sport too, but Im not sure.

    -In 2008 or so, I went to, I think the last seminar by sensei Nishiyama, and I tell you that could be better, better for the students who have been practicing for years and are good like Justo Gomez, however, he teached things that other sensei with less dan can teached and nothing about lot of things this man obviously saw and know.
    Then, after the seminar, in the street, Nishiyama and the interpreter smoking very quiet...I thought about all those years living in the western USA society converted this man in a more "businessman" facet (aspect) than in a sensei avid to pass his knowledge (or the Karate).
    But may be I was wrong and was a bad day for him..

    -Im only an enthusiast so may be Im not very clever and cannot see the whole thing.


  2. Are you the man in the video ?

    I was considered okinawa karate is far from different with modern karate (e.g shotokan). But the more information I research about it, the more respect I pay for it.

    I wish I could have an opportunity, I will practice it to my whole life.

    I'm living in Vietnam.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Yes, I am the man in the video. Thank you for offering your thoughts on the topic.

  3. I also found out that modern karate even kyokushin are far from complete, they just use the muscle and movement, but they lack of inner strength (i.e qi-gong...) and many other...

  4. That is a lot of differences; i look forward to reading about each one.

  5. It 's all very simple when you are more massive than your opponent, like in the video. compliments. Who knows if in contrast with a small size could have been doing all those gyrations.
    Learn to respect the kyukushin, beating them are true.
    Differences between Okinawa and the modern schools, there are not any, just because someone speaks Sino / Japanese does not mean he does karate. He leads and do not talk. Konoscere the kyusho what's coming when you punched in the face or with knives. We are serious it all goes well in the gym, in a controlled environment, the reality is very different from when karate was used in Japan, why do not you ossono diffferenze between modern schools and new, why do not tally with the modern reality.

  6. Practical techniques, a selection of original kata with realistic bunkai and most important the spirit. WEFairbairn demonstrated that just 10 techniques were the difference between kill r be killed