Somewhat generic term used for Japanese and Okinawan fighting arts.
Karate is a term that either means "Chinese hand" or "Empty hand" depending
on which Japanese or Chinese characters you use to write it. The Okinawan Karates
could be said to have started in the 1600s when Chinese practitioners of various
Kung Fu styles mixed and trained with local adherents of an art called "te" (meaning
"hand") which was a very rough, very simple fighting style similar to Western
boxing. These arts generally developed into close-range, hard, external styles.
In the late 19th century Gichin Funakoshi trained under several of the great
Okinawan Karate masters (Itosu, Azato) as well as working with Jigoro Kano (see
Judo) and Japanese Kendo masters (see Kendo). Influenced by these elements, he
created a new style of Karate. This he introduced into Japan in the first decade
of the 20th century and thus to the world. The Japanese Karates (or what most
people refer to when they say "karate") are of this branch.
Okinawan Karate styles tend to be hard and external. In defense they tend to
be circular, and in offense linear. Okinawan karate styles tend to place more
emphasis on rigorous physical conditioning than the Japanese styles. Japanese
styles tend to have longer, more stylistic movements and to be higher commitment.
They also tend to be linear in movement, offense, and defense.
Both tend to be high commitment, and tend to emphasize kicks and punches, and
a strong offense as a good defense.
This differs widely but most of the Karate styles emphasize a fairly equal
measure of basic technique training (repitition of a particular technique), sparring,
and forms. Forms, or kata, as they are called, are stylized patterns of attacks
and defenses done in sequence for training purposes.
- Here is a more complete list (complements of Howard High) in which Okinawan
and Japanese styles are mixed.
||Shito-Ryu (Kuniba Ha)
||Shito-Ryu (Motobu Ha)
||Kyu Shin Ryu
Wado-Ryu was founded by Hironori Ohtsuka around the 1920s. Ohtsuka studied
Jujutsu for many years before becoming a student of Gichin Funakoshi. Considered
by some to be Funakoshi's most brilliant student, Ohtsuka combined the movements
of Jujutsu with the striking techniques of Okinawan Karate. After the death of
Ohtsuka in the early 1980s, the style split into two factions: Wado Kai, headed
by Ohtsuka's senior students; and Wado Ryu, headed by Ohtsuka's son, Jiro. Both
factions continue to preserve most of the basic elements of the style.
Uechi-ryu Karate, although it has become one of the main Okinawan martial arts
and absorbed many of the traditional Okinawan karate training methods and approaches,
is historically, and to some extent technically quite separate. The "Uechi" of
Uechi-ryu commemorates Uechi Kanbun, an Okinawan who went to Fuzhou, the capital
city of Fujian province in China in 1897 to avoid being drafted into the Japanese
army. There he studied under master Zhou Zihe for ten years, finally opening his
own school, one of the few non-Chinese who ventured to do so at the time. The
man responisble for bringing Uechi-ryu to the US is George Mattson.
Uechi-ryu, unlike the other forms of Okinawan and Japanese karate mentioned
in the FAQ, is only a few decades removed from its Chinese origins. Although it
has absorbed quite a bit of Okinawan influence and evolved closer to such styles
as Okinawan Goju-ryu over those decades, it still retains its original Chinese
flavor, both in its technique and in the culture of the dojo. It is a "half-hard,
half-soft" style very similar to such southern Chinese styles as Fukienese Crane
(as still practiced in the Chinese communities of Malaysia), Taiwanese Golden
Eagle, and even Wing Chun. Conditioning the body for both attack and defense is
a common characteristic of both Okinawan karate and southern Shaolin "street"
styles, and as such is an important part of Uechi training. There is a strong
internal component to the practice, including focused breathing and tensioning
exercises similar to Chinese Qigong. Uechi, following its Chinese Crane heritage,
emphasizes circular blocks, low snap kicks, infighting (coordinating footwork
with grabs, locks, throws, and sweeps), and short, rapid hand traps and attacks
(not unlike Wing Chun).
(Contributors: Howard S. High, Avron Boretz, Izar Tarandach, Richard