Here is a no-nonsense introduction to karate, void of mysticism and lies.
Origin of karate
On the island of Okinawa, the landlords of the Ryukyu kingdom were enamored with China. These landlords would use the income from their vassals’ labor to study Chinese culture, including chinese martial arts. At the time, the martial art practiced in Okinawa was called tō-te (Japanese: 唐手, English: Chinese hand).
When the Ryukyu kingdom was conquered by Japan and became the Okinawan prefecture of Japan, all the landlords lost their status and were forced to work as farmers. All the ex-landlords had left was the knowledge and skills they had learned when they used to be landlords. These ex-landlords kept practicing martial arts, while they couldn’t study Chinese martial arts as they used to, they would still learn from travelers that reached the island, these travelers were not always Chinese but also Korean and Thai. Thus, with time, the Okinawan martial arts evolved independently from Chinese martial arts
Tō-te was a complete martial art and included striking, grappling and weapon techniques. At the time there were no formal styles and masters did not own any gym: if an individual wanted to learn something, he would have had to go and ask another individual personally. Everyone in Okinawa learned from each other this way. Each individual would learn different techniques, depending on who they trained with and their personal preferences, but everything was considered tō-te.
When Jigorō Kanō (治五郎 嘉納), the founder of Kodokan Judo, visited the island, 3 tō-te experts from Okinawa were tasked to present their tō-te to the visitor. However, because of the political situation of the time, the name tō-te would not have been welcomed, so the tō-te presented by these 3 experts was instead presented as a martial art of Okinawan origin and each expert presented their “style” with a name given after the location where these experts came from (Naha-te, Tomari-te and Shuri-te). Jigorō Kanō was impressed by tō-te and talked about it to the heads of the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai (Japanese: 大日本武徳会, English: Greater Japan Martial Virtue Society).
When boxing arrived in Japan, there was fascination with that fighting sport: the most well-known Japanese martial arts at the time were those that did not include striking techniques. The Dai Nippon Butoku Kai believed that tō-te looked like a Japanese alternative to boxing, during the period of nationalism they decided to change the name of tō-te to karate (Japanese: 空手, English: Empty Hand), in order to claim karate as a Japanese martial art. The Dai Nippon Butoku Kai also founded the first modern karate styles, by forcing the three Okinawan masters to choose names for their karate in order to standardize them. This is when karate became an incomplete martial art: to compete with boxing as a fighting sport it was stripped of all grappling and weapon techniques. All techniques and stances left were named by the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai during this process.
Choi Yeong-eui (최영의), also known as Masutatsu Ōyama (Japanese: 大山 倍達, English: Big Mountain), a Korean immigrant to Japan, founded Kyokushin (Japanese: 極真, English: Ultimate Truth) karate after world war 2. Ōyama was displeased with how karate became more akin to a dance and how karate practitioners were weak and couldn’t fight. His karate gained reputation of being "the strongest karate": training sessions were so tough that students injured themselves often and there was a high rate of dropouts.
Differences between kakutō karate and the more traditional styles
Kakutō karate (Japanese: 格闘空手, English: fighting karate) is karate that focuses on fighting. Compared to traditional karate, it does not prioritize conservation of the tradition but encourages change.
Noguchi Osamu (修野口) founded Kickboxing, a fighting sport evolved from Kyokushin karate with the aim of being a japanese alternative to Muay Thai.
Yoshiji Soeno (義二添野) founded Shidōkan (士道館), a form of kakutō karate evolved from Kyokushin karate, known as the "triathlon of martial arts". Competition matches are built of 3 rounds: the first round utilizes Kyokushin rules with the addition of standing grappling techniques, the second round utilizes Kickboxing rules, the third round utilizes MMA rules.
Takashi Azuma (孝東) founded Kūdō (空道), a form of kakutō karate evolved from Kyokushin karate and including Judo, boxing and Muay Thai techniques.
About Shisakuteki karate
Shisakuteki (Japanese: 思索的, English: contemplative) is the name I gave to the karate I teach my students. It is not the name of any organization, it is just a name I came up with so that I can easily refer to it in my thoughts and notes. The martial arts that I have practiced the most and which shaped Shisakuteki karate are Judo, Kenshinjuku (Japanese: 拳眞塾) founded by Masayoshi Takaku (Japanese: 高久昌義) and Tomoi.
It is a form of kakutō karate, its objective is to provide a relatively small subset of techniques that would allow one person to be able to fight by striking and grappling. Learning the scientific principles of sport sciences is integral to Shisakuteki karate. Philosophy is also introduced with the purpose of supporting personal growth. The hope is that Shisakuteki karate can provide a strong base for practitioners to learn more and build their own fighting style.
Striking techniques are from Tomoi and Kenshinjuku while grappling techniques are a subset of Judo. Fighting practice is done with Tomoi and MMA rules.
I believe that to be a well-rounded martial artist one should not be ignorant of grappling. By observing competitions that utilize Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts the following conclusion should be obvious: if a fighter does not know how to grapple, he will most likely lose the fight. Even if a fighter does not want to grapple, deeper knowledge of standing grappling techniques help the martial artist avoid being put on the ground, and basic knowledge of ground grappling help the martial artist get back up on his feet from the ground.
For health concerns it is not recommended to engage in a professional fighting career, however at least one amateur match is recommended to healthy and prepared individuals, to understand what fighting is really like.
Concepts and method
One should have the intention of exhausting the opponent and displaying strength and conditioning superiority, as well as mental strength superiority: rather than stepping back, kicking the opponent away is always preferred. Defensive techniques should inflict damage and leave the opponent without will to attack. When strikes are received, no signs of pain shall be shown in order to make the opponent’s attacks seem ineffective.
The number of techniques in Shisakuteki karate are relatively few and basic, each of them has to be mastered.
What is Tomoi?
Tomoi is a Malaysian martial art that developed from ancient Thai martial arts, at the time known simply as "muay". While Tomoi is often mistaken for the Malaysian name of Muay Thai, the two martial arts are similar but are historically different: in the north of Malaysia, muay was known as Toi Muay, the art evolved independently in Malaysia and the name eventually became Tomoi.
A notable difference between Muay Thai and Tomoi is the music: fighters do not fight light in the first round, the music changes in speed and intensity to match the fighters’ performance. Another difference is in the techniques and movement that the fighters use: in Tomoi, fighting styles focusing on knee and elbow strikes are not considered "ugly", strength and conditioning of the fighters is seen as a positive quality and utilizing one such superiority is a welcomed tactic.
Tomoi was banned in Kelantan, the Malaysian state where Tomoi is most prevalent, for 15 years from 1990 to 2005. The sport was found to be "un-Islamic": that is because, just like Muay Thai, it includes ritual dancing (that salutes Buddha, Dharma, the sangha of monks and the spirit of the ring), clothing that do not cover the aurat, tattoo and superstition traditions. Tomoi had also gained the reputation of being a violent practice on the surface while operating as gambling dens underneath. In order to circumvent the ban on Tomoi, many Malaysian people from Kelantan started calling it Muay Thai or even just kickboxing to distance it from Malaysian culture and instead paint it as an international sport originating from Thailand.
After the ban was lifted, the Kelantan government attempted to erase Tomoi by strictly regulating the practice: all matches must be approved by the Kelantan Boxing Association, which prohibits ritual dancing and replaces it with Quranic prayers, prohibits women from going onto the ring to fight or coach, and forces men to wear a t-shirt and shorts that cover the navel and reach below the knees. The Kelantan Boxing Association also requires all athletes to record all the training sessions performed in a logbook which can be inspected at any time. Furthermore, all Tomoi events must have three teams, one of which must represent Thailand. No betting was allowed, female spectators must be separated from male spectators and the name was changed to "Moi Kelate" (English: Kelantan boxing).
The Kelantan government has pushed the narrative that Tomoi is a rural cultural practice that has to be left behind, because there is no space for such tradition in a Malaysia with islamic morals. More claims from the Kelantan government’s narrative are that Tomoi does not contribute positively to the growth and development of the country’s economy, and that Tomoi has a high mortality rate.
While these claims and regulations are not welcomed by most Tomoi practitioners, the large amount of islamic people living in the country believe and support them. These regulations have been adopted in some other states such as Kuala Lumpur. As a result, many Malaysian people nowadays refer to Tomoi as Muay Thai, kickboxing or boxing. Older Malaysian people still call it Tomoi but it causes confusion even within Malaysia.
What is Judo?
Jigorō Kanō was a jiu-jitsu (Japanese: 柔術, English: yielding art) practitioner, he founded Judo (Japanese: 柔道, English: yielding way) in 1882 as the Kodokan (Japanese: 講道館, English: place for expounding the way) and advertised it as a physical, mental and moral pedagogy system, in an era when public opinion of jiu-jitsu was at an all-times low. Judo is a subset of jiu-jitsu and it was meant to focus on maximum efficiency and minimum effort.
Judo is now divided in 4 major branches: olympic Judo (AKA sports Judo), Kodokan Judo, Kosen Judo (Japanese: 高專柔道, English: college of technology yielding way) and brazilian jiu-jitsu. Olympic Judo focuses on only a subset of techniques for the scope of competition within a ruleset optimized to maximize public attention to the sport. Kodokan Judo teaches the philosophy as well as those techniques that are part of Judo but have little or no success in competition due to the restrictive ruleset. Kosen Judo started in opposition to the Kodokan and olympic Judo’s ruleset and instead allows practitioners to fight more on the ground. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is very similar to Kosen Judo but developed in Brasil after Judo was introduced by Mitsuyo Maeda (Japanese: 前田光世) to Carlos Gracie.
- Critical thinking
- Sports nutrition
- Strength and conditioning
- Theory and methodology of training
- Sports physiology
- Motor control and learning
- Sports psychology
Critical thinking is taught with the objective of allowing the student to evaluate the information that he is exposed to and to provide some sort of judgement framework to utilize when learning new information.
Learning what the macronutrients are and how they affect sport performance and health provides the student with the understanding on how to manage his nutrition to maximize recovery and positive training outcomes.
Strength and conditioning theory is introduced to provide the understanding of what exercises to do in order to improve the performance of specific movements: the principles (specificity, progression, overload, adaptation, and reversibility) together with basic anatomy, sport physiology and biomechanics grant the student the ability to choose what to train, how to train and how to plan training.
Sports psychology helps the student understand how to manage his anxiety and arousal. Together with knowledge of basic motor control and learning principles, it allows the student to correctly set goals for his training outcomes and also eventually help him become a good teacher and coach for himself and for others.
As the above information says, only the basics are taught. For more in-depth information I recommend reading the books in my reference library.
Following is the list of all the techniques that are officially part of Shisakuteki karate
Stance and guard
- Conventional fighting stance (and transitions)
- Conventional guard (and trasitions)
- Ashi sabaki (Japanese: 足さばき, English: foot movement AKA stepping and shifting)
- Tai sabaki (Japanese: 体さばき, English: body movement AKA pivoting)
- Head movement
- Straight (and cross)
- Front elbow
- Horizontal elbow
- Diagonal elbow
- Downward elbow
- Front kick (snapping and push kick)
- Roundhouse kick (including snapping and chopping variations)
- Axe kick
- Back kick
- Front knee
- Horizontal knee
- Diagonal knee
- Vertical side knee
- Double collar tie
- Single collar tie
- Reverse single collar tie
- Single overhook
- Single underhook
Nage-waza (投げ技, English: throwing techniques)
- Morote-gari (Japanese: 双手刈, English: two-hand reap, AKA double leg takedown)
- Kuchiki-taoshi (Japanese: 朽木倒, English: single leg takedown)
- Kibisu-gaeshi (Japanese: 踵返, English: one-hand reversal, AKA ankle pick)
- Deashi-harai (Japanese: 出足払, English: forward foot sweep)
- Okuri-ashi-harai (Japanese: 送足払, English: foot sweep)
- Harai-tsurikomi-ashi (Japanese: 払釣込足, English: lift-pull foot sweep)
- Sasae-tsurikomi-ashi (Japanese: 支釣込足, English: propping and drawing ankle throw)
- Osoto-gari (Japanese: 大外刈, English: major outer reap)
- Ouchi-gari (Japanese: 大内刈, English: major inner reap)
- Kosoto-gari (Japanese: 小外刈, English: small outer reap)
- Kouchi-gari (Japanese: 小内刈, English: small inner reap)
- Seoi-nage (Japanese: 背負投, English: shoulder throw)
- Ippon-seoi-nage (Japanese: 一本背負投, English: one arm shoulder throw)
- Harai-goshi (Japanese: 払腰, English: sweeping hip throw)
- Uchi-mata (Japanese: 内股, English inner-thigh throw)
- Kosoto-gake (Japanese: 小外掛, English: minor outer hook)
- Osoto-guruma (Japanese: 大外車, English: major outer wheel)
- Osoto-otoshi (Japanese: 大外落, English: major outer drop)
Katame-waza (固技, English: grappling techniques)
- Kuzure-kesa-gatame (Japanese: 崩袈裟固, English: broken scarf hold)
- Kata-gatame (Japanese: 肩固, English: shoulder hold, AKA arm triangle choke)
- Kami-shiho-gatame (Japanese: 上四方固, English: north south hold)
- Kuzure-kami-shiho-gatame (Japanese: 崩上四方固, English: broken upper four-quarter hold)
- Yoko-shiho-gatame (Japanese: 横四方固, English: side four quarter hold)
- Tate-shiho-gatame (Japanese: 縦四方固, English: vertical four-quarter hold)
- Kesa-gatame (Japanese: 袈裟固, English: scarf hold)
- Uki-gatame (Japanese: 浮固, English: knee-on-stomach hold)
- Ura-gatame (Japanese: 裹固, English: back hold)
- Ushiro-kesa-gatame (Japanese: 後袈裟固, English: rear scarf hold)
- Hadaka-jime (Japanese: 裸絞, English: naked choke, AKA guillotine choke from the front, rear naked choke from the back)
- Do-jime (Japanese: 胴絞, English: trunk lock)
- Sankaku-jime (Japanese: 三角絞, English: triangular choke, AKA triangle choke)
- Ude-garami (Japanese: 腕緘, English: arm entanglement, AKA americana)
- Ude-hishigi-juji-gatame (Japanese: 腕挫十字固, English: arm lock using cross hold, AKA armbar)
- Ude-hishigi-ude-gatame (Japanese: 腕挫腕固, English: arm lock using arm hold)
- Ude-hishigi-hiza-gatame (Japanese: 腕挫膝固, English: arm lock using knee hold)
- Ude-hishigi-ashi-gatame (Japanese: 腕挫脚固, English: arm lock using foot hold)
- Ude-hishigi-sankaku-gatame (Japanese: 腕挫三角固, English: arm lock using triangle hold)
- Ashi-garami (Japanese: 足緘, English: leg entanglement, AKA heel hook)
- Ashi-hishigi (Japanese: 足挫, English: achilles ankle lock, AKA foot lock)
Does the world need anotehr style of karate?
First and foremost: I do not claim that I am any good. I am not affiliated with any organization and Shisakuteki karate is not an organization. I gave this style a name to make it easier for me to refer to it in my thoughts and notes. It is more a teaching system than it is a style.
I do not award belts nor grades. I do not believe they mean anything, they are just a source of frustration for everybody involved. The system of belts and degrees is in place primarily to manage affiliated gyms and instructors, because Shisakuteki karate is not an organization it does not need such a system.
Why is there such a heavy emphasis on athleticism in Shisakuteki karate?
Many martial artists believe and sell the idea that their martial art allow weak people to fight and win against much stronger opponents. That may be true only if the opponent is not trained in any martial art, but martial arts are not magic: their objective is to grant technical efficiency to a fighter, making the fighter more efficient.
Technical efficiency is only one part of the equation, strength and conditioning of the fighter is just as important. The stronger and more fit fighter will always win against opponents of similar technical efficiency. Hitting harder, moving faster and for longer, grants great advantage that should not be underestimated.
Why these specific throws and grapples and not include others?
The techniques included are the most utilized in the MMA context, and most of the nage-waza are easily performed in a clinch hold typical of Tomoi. Throwing and grappling techniques that require wearing clothing such as a gi with its strong fabric and easy-to-grab lapel are not included. Sutemi-waza (Japanese: 捨身技, English: sacrifice techniques) are also not included.
Why do you use japanese names for throws and grapples?
Because if any student wants to communicate with other Judo practitioners, they will be able to do so without problems.
This is a lot, but is this all I need to know?
It is important to know that there are many different stances, guards, movement, striking and grappling techniques, all of which can work, some of which are essential for competition within a specific ruleset. For example, with MMA rules it is important to be proficient at fighting in different stances and to transition between them quickly.
It is also important to know that there are just as many (and more) techniques that do not work. Learning more from other sources is encouraged, however one should be aware of certain gyms AKA McDojos.
McDojos are schools or gyms where people are deceived and exploited.
How to recognize a mcdojo? Not all mcdojos are the same, but here are warning signs:
- No touch knockouts
- Mislabeling techniques (out of ignorance or out of marketing, even good athletes and coaches can mislabel a technique by mistake)
- Shady business practices
- Most practitioners are new, there is a lack of experienced practitioners. Some inexperienced practitioners are ranked surprisingly high and teach to newcomers themselves
- Ranks are bought with money and time instead of effort and quality training
- Unsafe training practices. Practitioners are often injured during training
- The practice never or rarely involves sparring
- The instructor does not spar with you even when you kindly ask
- The instructor is lying about his rank or fight record
- Cult-like behavior. The instructor behaves like he is above everyone else, he has all the answers and is never wrong. Psychological and physical punishment
- Competition or practice outside of the school is discouraged or prohibited
- There are "cancellation fees" for quitting the school and other unreasonable fees
Where to learn more?
- Learn more about striking by practicing boxing, Muay Thai, Kun Khmer, Lethwei, Taekwondo, Kickboxing and other full contact karate.
- Learn more about grappling by practicing freestyle wrestling, Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
- Learn more about the scientific principles and phylosophy by referring to the books in my reference library.