Okinawan Karate Styles

Okinawan Karate Styles, Origin, and Differences

At their core, the techniques of Okinawan Karate come from a combination of Japanese and Chinese martial arts.

However, compared to conventional karate, its syntax and movements are completely different. Upon first glance, you might wonder why exactly this sounds like dancing.

So, what are the types of Okinawan karate styles? Okinawan karate is famous for its unique style called “shorin-ryu”, which literally means “old school style”.

However, Okinawan karate has many other styles too. One of these styles is “kobudo”, which is a mix of karate and weapons training.

Another style is called “karate shorin-ryu,”  which is a mix of karate and shorin-ryu. “Ryukyu kobudo” is a style unique to Okinawa.

It is a combination of Okinawan folk dance and karate techniques, and is world-renowned. Another style is “awase.”

Awase is a mixture of karate and sumo wrestling techniques, and was developed to help Okinawans defend themselves against sumo wrestlers who were invading Okinawa.

Finally, the “shorin-ryu karate-do” style is based on karate and shorin-ryu karate techniques.

In addition to these styles, Okinawan karate has many other styles too.

The Origin of Okinawan Karate

Karate is an ancient martial art originating in Okinawa, Japan.

It has a rich history dating back to the 14th century. It started out as a fighting style that combined wrestling, boxing, and using weapons as a way to defend oneself.

Later, it evolved into a sport and became a competitive sport in Japan. In Okinawa, karate is a way of life; it’s been integrated into everyday activities.

Karate became a popular sport at the beginning of the 20th century, and Japanese immigrants brought it to Hawaii.

Then, in 1922, Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan karate, introduced karate to Japan. Funakoshi’s version of karate was an organized sport that involved rules that limited the use of techniques that could break an opponent’s bones or severely injure them.

In the post-World War II era, karate became recognized as a sport in Japan and became popular in the United States.

Today, karate is practiced all over the world. In 1991, the International Karate Federation (IKF) was formed by a group of international karate organizations.

The IKF changed its name from the International Karate Association in 2013. Today, there are over 300 million karate practitioners in the world.

Okinawan Karate

Okinawan karate emphasizes becoming a true martial artist through strict discipline and self-development.

Its basic karate form is called the “kihon” or “basics” form.

Karate teaches its practitioners the value of self-discipline and respect for others.

Karate basics also state the importance of practicing with a positive attitude while having fun at the same time.

This shows that, unlike other combat sports like boxing or kickboxing, where people use physical force to hurt their opponents, the goal of martial arts training is not to hurt people, but to protect yourself and your loved ones.

It teaches its students the value of respect for others; for example, bowing to the instructor and the seniors before the start of a class is a sign of respect.

Traditional Karate Vs. Modern Okinawan Karate

Karate originated in Okinawa, Japan, more than 500 years ago. It is one of the oldest martial arts in the world and is practiced worldwide by millions of people. Karate is based on traditional Okinawan values such as respect, humility, and discipline.

Here are a few characteristics of modern Okinawan karate:

  • A mix of hard and soft techniques – Karate uses a combination of hard and soft techniques. Hard techniques include punches, kicks, and blocks, while soft techniques include wrist breaks, pressure points, and joint locks. Hard techniques are more powerful but require more skill to execute properly. Soft techniques are safer and easier to learn, but less powerful.
  • A philosophy for life – Karate is a philosophy for life. Karate teaches its practitioners respect, humility, and discipline. Karate also aims to develop the individual’s self-awareness and self-control.
  • A focus on the power – Karate focuses on developing the power of the body through ki (internal energy). Karate aims to connect the mind and the body, enabling practitioners to channel their ki through their hands.
  • A focus on self-defense – Karate teaches self-defense techniques that enable practitioners to defend themselves if necessary.
  • A focus on teamwork – Karate also teaches its practitioners to work together in teams. Team members support each other and develop a sense of brotherhood.

Okinawan Karate Styles

Shorin Ryu

Shorin Ryu is derived directly from ancient Shuri castle, which is located on the southern coast of Japan’s island of Kyushu.

Shorin Ryu built the Shaolin Temple in China in the 13th century; hence its name, with Shorin meaning “Shaolin” in Japanese and Ryu meaning “school” or “style.”

It is a contemporary style of karate that incorporates hard styles like Shotokan, Goju-Ryu, and Chinese martial arts with soft styles like Aikido, Tai Chi Chuan, and some Kobudo.

It features 18 katas in formal competition forms; with White Crane being the most important one; it is said to have over 500 years of history behind it.

Okinawan Shorin Ryu Karate contains the following moves: block, punch, kick, elbow strike, knee strike, open hand strike, clinches/grappling technique, take-downs.

Uechi Ryu

Uechi Ryu is believed to have originated in China but was developed on Okinawa Island.

This style was named after Kanbun Uechi, who introduced it to mainland Japan in the 1900s.

The Chinese martial arts technique “Kung Fu” was initially incorporated into the style, but later it was replaced with ‘Kenpo’.

This art form comprises just eight basic moves: punch, kick, elbow strike, knee strike, open hand strike, and take-downs/grappling technique.

Shito Ryu

Shito Ryu is a fighting art based on Chinese Kenpo and Kyukui Fudo Jutsu, a synthesis of Chinese and Japanese martial arts.

Kenwa Mabuni started teaching the style in Japan in the 1930s after studying various arts, including Shotokan, Goju-Ryu, and Shuri-te under Gichin Funakoshi.

It is the most technical of all karate styles and comprises just ten basic movements – block, punch, kick, elbow/knee/open hand strikes, take-downs/grapp.

Before teaching it to his son Minoru in 1957, Kewa Mabuni studied and practiced the martial art for sixty years.

Because this style focuses mostly on upper-body techniques, it uses fewer kicks than other forms of karate.

This style has over 90 katas, which are divided into “kata,” or “forms,” and “bunkai,” or “applications.”

Shito Ryu, like Goju Ryu, emphasizes circular motions.

Goju Ryu

Goju-Ryu is an Okinawan style of karate that was made famous by Chojun Miyagi during the 1950s of the last century.

This style combines harsh and powerful strikes with soft and flexible movements.

Kanryo Higaonna, the man who started Goju Ryu, was a skilled Kendo and Jujutsu fighter.

Higaonna and his successor, Chojun Miyagi, combined these arts with Chinese Kung Fu to create the ultimate fighting system.

Famous Masters of Okinawan Karate

Kanbun Uechi

Kanbun Uechi established this fighting art in Tokyo in the 1920s.

Uechi was one of the few Okinawans to have been able to travel to Japan to study the various fighting styles that evolved in the country.

He returned to his birthplace and started teaching his art to a handful of students.

Anko Itosu

Anko Itosu is known all over the world as the founder of Shotokan karate.

He was born in Shuri, in Naha Prefecture, on Okinawa Island, in the year 1879.

He was a pioneer in introducing and teaching Karate outside his homeland of Japan.

Kenwa Mabuni

Kenwa Mabuni is another well-known master of Karate from Japan.

He was one of the few who were fortunate enough to study under Gichin Funakoshi, who was one of the pioneers of modern karate.

He was born in Shuri and started his training at the tender age of five under the tutelage of Master Choki Motobu.

Kenwa made his fighting style by putting together the ways of fighting from Shorinji-ryu, Shuri-te, Shito-ryu, and Kung Fu.

His style is still practiced today by a number of enthusiasts around the world.

Kanryo Higaonna

Kanryo Higaonna established the style of “Goju-ryu” in the late nineteenth century.

People in Okinawa think of him as one of the most skilled martial artists who ever lived there.

To this day, current Okinawan martial arts practitioners follow his footsteps to learn their art from authentic masters in Japan.

In 1876, Higaonna traveled all the way to Tokyo to further his studies under Tsunetane Kubose of the Te school.

He returned to Okinawa and mainland Japan to spread his art.

What Are the Differences Between Okinawan and Japanese Karate?

The styles of karate differ depending on the country in which they are practiced.

The Okinawan style of Karate is different from the Japanese style. Japanese Karate comes from the Chinese system of Kung Fu, while Okinawan Karate comes from the art of Kenpo, which is a form of unarmed combat.

Okinawan Karate focuses on self-defense and striking techniques, whereas Japanese Karate focuses on katas and forms.

Okinawan Karate also places more emphasis on ground fighting, whereas Japanese Karate is more agile and acrobatic.

Okinawan Karate emphasizes katas, whereas Japanese Karate focuses on fighting techniques.

Okinawan Karate emphasizes kicks and strikes, whereas Japanese Karate emphasizes blocks and punches.

Okinawan Karate emphasizes self-defense, whereas Japanese Karate emphasizes tournaments.

Best Okinawan Karate Books

History and Tradition Of Okinawan Karate By Hokama Tetsuhiro

This book talks about the history of Okinawan karate and how it has changed over time.

It also reflects the new ways and techniques of modern-day Karate.

The Essence Of Karate-Do By Shoshin Nagamine

Master Nagamine’s outstanding book provides exceptional insights into the world of karate and his teachings.

The book’s pictures are really inspiring for the reader, motivating them to practice the moves at home.

Karate-Do By Gichin Funakoshi

Gichin Funakoshi, the author of this timeless classic, is the founder of Shotokan karate.

This book is his autobiography. In it, he talks in detail about the different parts of karate-do and the discipline it takes to do it well.

Is Okinawan Karate Effective?

Goju-Ryu karate is a great way to protect yourself because it has many different strikes that can be used against attackers of any height or size.

It is one of the major original styles of karate, making it one of the most sought after forms of martial arts in the present day world.

What Is the Most Difficult Karate Style?

Kyokushin karate is the style that is most difficult to master because of the high level of intensity required to perform it.

Kyokushin only uses the fists to attack an opponent, while most other forms use both the hands and feet. This means that the person practicing this difficult form needs to have very strong hands.

It encourages a hard training plan that includes high kicks and hard training drills to get the body ready to do these kinds of physical moves easily.

How Many Katas Are in Okinawan Karate?

Karate is teaching Kata (form) we have four types: Pinan Shodan, Pinan Nidan, Pinan Sandan, and Pinan Yondan.

Our Shorin-ryu karate system has 15 classic kata, but you do not have to learn all of them.


Okinawan karate styles are unique because they incorporate many different fighting styles from around the world.

This gives them an edge over karate styles from other countries because they learn different tactics that can be used in different situations.

For example, Okinawan karate styles teach their students to use kicks and punches effectively.

They also teach them to use powerful blocks, jabs, and punches. Overall, Okinawan karate styles teach their students to be successful fighters.

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