Karate for Women in Seattle - Feminist Karate Union
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Upcoming Events:


January 3 - Winter term begins at Thurgood Marshall Elementary


January 8 - Winter term begins at Fairmount Park Elementary


January 9 - Winter term begins at Cascadia Elementary


January 20 - 14th Annual Kick-A-Thon


February 23-25 - AWMAI Conference, San Diego CA


April 19 - Karate 101 for Women begins


April 22: 47th Annual Spring Demo at Miller Community Center


July 19 - Karate 101 for Women begins


July 19-22 - NWMAF Special Training, Naperville IL


August 17-20 - PAWMA Camp, Camp Loma Mar, CA


Sept 20: Karate 101 for Women begins



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Four Major Karate Styles


by Alicia Crowley (essay for shodan test)

The martial art called karate has four major, traditional styles. These are Shito-ryu, Shotokan, Goju-ryu and Wado-ryu. Although all four styles of karate involve strikes including punching, kicking, knee and elbow strikes and open-handed techniques, each style has distinguishing characteristics.

Shito-ryu karate was founded by Kenwa Mabuni, who began training at the age of thirteen with the master Shishu Itosu. Mabuni worked hard and studied assiduously under Itosu for several years. When he was twenty, Mabuni was introduced to Sensei Kanryo Higaonna by his friend Chojun Miyagi, the founder of Goju-ryu, and began to study under Higaonna as well. Both of these teachers taught a "hard-soft" style of Okinawan karate, although their styles and techniques had marked differences. Itosu's Shuri-te emphasized straight and powerful techniques. Higaonna's Naha-te used circular motions and shorter fighting methods. Today, Shito-ryu emphasizes both hard and soft techniques.

Historically, karate had been passed from one generation to the next as a well guarded secret. Mabuni broke with this tradition, believing karate should be available to all honorable students. He moved to Osaka in 1927 to spread karate on the mainland. Popularizing karate in Japan was a long and arduous task, but as a fulltime karate instructor, Mabuni succeeded in forming the Dai-Nihon Karate-Do Kai organization in 1931, and the popularity grew from there. He taught a "half-hard style" that he called Hanko-ryu. Eventually he and his contemporaries named their art "Karate." Mabuni renamed his own style "shito-ryu" in honor of his two teachers, Itosu and Higaonna. He combined the first kanji character in their names: "shi" is the alternate ideogram for the "ito" of Itosu and "to" is the alternate ideogram of the "higa" in Higaonna.

Mabuni Sensei put a lot of emphasis on kata. Shito-ryu has many more katas than other karate styles, largely due to Mabuni's tutelage under both Itosu (learning the Shuri kata) and Higaonna (the Naha kata). Mabuni also emphasized kata bunkai, which teaches practitioners the meaning of the kata. He taught that understanding the application of the katas was vital, and the practice of bunkai led to the ability to aply karate techniques to free-sparring.

Mabuni combined his traditional foundation with a vision that karate could be an international martial art form. The combined influences of both Itosu and Higaonna continue to be central to Shito-ryu today.

The traditional style called Shotokan was developed from a variety of martial arts by Gichin Funakoshi. Funakoshi often gets credit for bringing karate from Okinawa to mainland Japan, although Mabuni and Motobu taught karate in Japan before Funakoshi arrived. He was born in Shuri, Okinawa in 1868 and began studying karate as a teenager from Yasutsune Azato, a renouned karate master. Azato introduced him to Itosu, and from the two masters he learned the art of Shuri-te. In 1922, Funakoshi traveled to Tokyo, where he chose to begin his quest to spread karate throughout Japan.

Shotokan has stable techniques and powerful movements due to deep, long stances. Shotokan emphasizes strength and power over slower, flowing movement. This style is considered to be "hard" and "external." Funakoshi stressed the importance of health, breathing, energy release and the integration of mind-body control. He had a very distinct teaching style. He focussed much of his teaching on ettiquet and that karate should never be used, even as a last resort for self-defense. He concentrated on hardening and toughening all parts of the body and stressed the importance of kata over kumite. He above all taught kata, and that kumite should not be practiced until kata was completely mastered.

Goju-ryu is another of the four traditional styles of karate. Goju-ryu combines hard and soft techniques. This style features linear striking kicks and punches as well as "softer" circling movements such as locks, grappling, takedowns, and throws. While breathing correctly is very important in all karate styles, Goju-ryu takes breath control to a more acute awareness.

Goju-ryu was founded by Chojun Miyagi, born on April 25, 1888. He began studying under Kanryo Higaonna at age fourteen, and became one of Higaonna's most determined and enthusiastic students. After Higaonna’s death in 1915, Miyagi trained in China for several years, then returned to Okinawa, where he began teaching Higaonna’s style of Naha-te. He dedicated his life to karate and making Naha-te as recognized and respected in Okinawa and the mainland as the highly regarded martial arts in Japan at the time, judo and kendo.

Miyagi adhered to the teachings of his master, Higaonna, though he transformed the Naha-te style into a practice that could be easily taught to anyone, including children. In this way, he made the art accessible to the general public, which made its popularity and practice grow. Chojun Miyagi was strict in his karate instruction, but he also had a very affectionate teaching style. He treated his students lovingly and with great respect and taught them to be humble. He taught that as you become stronger you should strive to embody your gentler side.

The traditional style of karate called Wado-ryu is influenced by both karate and jujutsu. The name Wado means "harmony,"(wa), and "way" (do). Although some of the techniques in Wado-ryu may appear to be similar to other styles, the underlying principles are not always the same. "Harmony" in Wado-ryu implies that yielding can be more effective than brute strength.

Wado-ryu was founded by Hironori Otsuka, born in Shimodate City, Ibaragi Prefecture, Japan on June 1, 1892. His great uncle, Chojiro Ibashi, a samurai warrior, began training him in jujutsu when he was five years of age. When Otsuka was thirteen, he began training in Shindo Yoshin-ryu, a jujutsu style, under Tasusaburo Nakayama (1870 - 1933). In his early life, Otsuka trained in other styles of jujutsu, but was not able to commit himself to marial arts full-time. In 1922, he began training in karate-do under Gichin Funakoshi, founder of Shotokan, who had just relocated to Tokyo. Eventually Otsuka also trained with the masters Mabuni and Motobu. Through his friendship with Funakoshi, Otsuka began to see ways of applying his jujutsu techniques to karate.

Otsuka's teaching style was different from the other founders. Unlike Funakoshi Sensei, he believed that kata, which was the only thing that was concentrated on, was not adequate for the understanding of realistic fighting situations. He believed that more kumite was neccessary for training and competition. On Apil 1, 1934, Otsuka opened his own school of Wado-ryu, integrating Shindo Ysohin-ryu and other jujutsu styles with Okinawan karate. Otsuka also stressed the spiritual aspect of karate in his teachings. He believed that Wado-ryu was chiefly a spiritual practice, and he taught not only physical fighting techniques, but mastering the path of peace and harmony as well. After Otsuka's death on January 29, 1982, Wado-ryu was split into four schools with varying teaching styles.

Each of these four styles of karate has its own philosophy, unique history and corresponding distinguishing characteristics. Yet they are similar in many ways. Firmly rooted in Okinawa, they all share a common vision of expanding the art of karate to the larger world.