The Oka Ryo Shito Ryu Karate


History and background of Shito Ryu Karate


By Naco Scotia

Shito-ryu is one of the four major styles of the World Karate Federation, which is the world governing body for Karate today. It was founded by Kenwa Mabuni (1887-1952), an Okinawan born descended of so called "Bushi" (warrior) class. During his time, the martial arts (Okinawa-te) was known according to the village where it was practiced : Shuri-te (the hand of Shuri), Naha-te and Tomari-te. Mabuni learned Shuri-te from Ankoh Itosu (1830-1915) who was a student of Sokon Matsumura (1792-1887), forefather of Shorin-ryu, and Naha-te from Kanryu Higashionna (1853-1915) who mainly studied Kempo in China's Fukien province under Liu Liu Kung. Mabuni Also learned several empty hand kata and Kobudo (weapon) kata from Arakaki (1840-1918) and some white crane Kung Fu forms from Woo Yin Gue, a chinese tea merchant in Okinawa.

After Gichin Funakoshi introduced "Karate" to Japan in 1922, Kenwa Mabuni, travelled several times to Japan trying to spread his knowledge of Okinawa-te. He finally moved to Osaka in the late 20's and started to teach Karate when the Butokukai, which was the governing body for martial arts in Japan at that time, started registration for all Karate schools. Master Mabuni named his style "Hanko-ryu (half-hard style), which he later changed to "Shito-ryu" sometime in the1930's in honor of his two foremost teachers, Itosu and Higashionna. The first kanji character in 'Itosu' sounds like 'Shi' and the first kanji in 'Higashionna' sounds like 'to'. 'Ryu' stands for 'style' or 'way of doing').

It may be noted that Ankoh Itosu and Kanryu Higashionna are the two most important names in the history of modern Karate-do as the Shotokan founder Gichin Funakoshi (1886-1957) was a student of Itosu, Azato. The Goju-ryu founder Chojun Miagi (1888-1953) was also a student of Kenryu Higashionna. The other styles included in the four major style of Modern Japanese Karate are, Shotokan-ryu, Goju-ryu and Wado-ryu), Wado-ryu was founded by Hironori Ohtsuka (1892-1982) who studied under Shotokan under master Funakoshi.

Kenwa Mabuni

Master Mabuni, the founder of Shito-ryu Karate, died in Osaka, Japan in May, 1952 at age 64 leaving his name and art in every heart of each Shito-ryu Karate-ka.

Special thanks to Noca Scotia for providing information about the history of Shito Ryu Karate.

Shito Ryu Style Desciption

In it's appearance Shito-ryu basically can be seen as a combination of Shotokan-like and Goju-like karate. Shotokan, which came from Shorin-ryu (from Shuri-te), utilizes long linear stances and physical power and Goju-ryu, which came from Shorei-ryu (from Naha-te and Tomari-te) utilizes up and down stances and internal breathing power (hard and soft techniques). Shito-ryu adopted both principles from Shorin-ryu and Shorei-ryu. Shito-ryu is fast, but still powerful and artistic. It incorporates the powerful Shuri-te kata like Naifanchin and Bassai, the hard and soft Naha-te kata like Sanchin and Kururunfa, and the artistic Chinese white crane kata like Nipaipo and Paipuren.

Shito-ryu is broad, still distinct. It emphasizes very much on Kihon (basics) at the beginning, but for a senior Shito-ryu student, quality and quantity run together. Shito-ryu contains all the eighteen Shorin-ryu kata, all the sixteen Shorei-ryu kata, the Chinese white crane kata, plus the kata devised by Master Mabuni himself from his broad knowledge and experiences, a total of more than sixty kata (depending on the organization).

Moreover, the special charateristic of Shito-ryu which distinguish it from other school is that, Shito-ryu lives together with Ko-budo (weapon arts) and sometimes Iaido (sword-drawing-arts). The Kihon, Kumite, Karate kata, Ko-budo Kata, Iaido kata and the principles & messages behind them made the treasury of Shito-ryu so magnetic and demanding that Shito-ryu deserves a life-long dedication to practice and perfect.

Shito Ryu's five principals of self defence

1. Teni

Taisabaki (footwork). Shifting or turning quickly out of the opponent's way.

2. Ryusui

Soft blocking. Redirecting a strong attack with a circular or deflecting parry.

3. Raka

Hard blocking. Striking an off-center or indirect attack with sudden maximum power.

4. Hangeki

Defense as attack. A good defense is offense.

5. Kushin

Springing. A reflexive, darting "out and in" kind of body shifting from any angle.

Kumite Tactics

by Seiji Nishimura


Sensei Seiji Nishimura coached the Japanese National Team thatcompeted in the 1994 International Goodwill Championships. A distinguished athlete himself, Sensei Nishimura earned the title of Kumite World Champion in the 1982 World Championships held in Taiwan. Sensei Nishimura is a Wado-Ryu Practitioner and teaches at Fukuoka University in Japan.

Mental Attitude

When fighting in Kumite, you must have confidence at all times. Confidence develops from constant practice. Overcome your flaws, sharpening your techniques in which after years of practice you will achieve a state where you can perform your best at all times. Your confidence will also come from having self-control and most important, a strong desire to win. Especially in an international tournament, prepare yourself for the rules, a large audience, and for the referees so you can relax and face your opponent. This requires a strong mind which does not necessarily come with experience. It requires an ability to judge your opponent without mistake and by having faith in yourself. Practicing like the others will not accomplish anything. You have to develop your own technique which fits you, eventually to create your own style of Karate.

Tactic #1: When your opponent is attacking, coming within range is your chance!

It is unavoidable not to have your protection weaken when attacking. Therefore, take advantage of that and counter at the moment. always stay one step ahead of your opponent. Know your distance and timing.

Note: Never wait for your opponent to attack. You must move forward, forcing your opponent to attack or you'll never have the opportunity to counter. Don't block to retreat and then counter; block to counter immediately or your timing won't be right!

Tactic #2: Attack with high speed aggressively and persistently!

Single techniques are easily "read" by your opponent. Therefore, use feints and sweeps and attack without pause until the referee stops you. Attacking from the side is effective especially against a larger opponent.

Note: It is very important to maintain your opponent within your range. Intimidate him with speed and spirit, using your aggressive attack to weaken his guard so you can attack him from within.

Tactic #3: Use your footwork to prevent your opponent's specialty!

Moving into your technique from a stationary position predicts your movement for your opponent. If you're moving, you can move smoothly into your technique without losing any valuable time. For these reasons, it is very important to develop footwork that's fit for you. Next, know your opponent's best technique so you can prevent his using it. You can do this either by having a strong guard around the region of attack (if his specialty is upper kick, constantly protect your upper body); or lure him into using that technique, and counter when he attacks. By making your opponent's favorite technique useless, you will have destroyed his fighting potential. When you can manipulate your opponent, by moving one step ahead of him, you will always win.

Note: Footwork requires strong leg muscles and stability. When attacking persistently, it is most effective to use a combination of Jodan and Chudan.

Tactic #4: Make your body memorize the basic attacking pattern!

Create a basic attacking pattern which is most effective for you. Keep practicing that pattern so it will occur spontaneously.

Note: For use during tournaments, you need not know so many patterns. If you can add a few techniques to your pattern as the situation demands, you will need to know 5 to 10 patterns to be a champion.

Tactic #5: Never pass up opportunities to take advantage of your opponent's error!

It is very important to score whenever your opponent makes an error. If your opponent blunders his sweep and you don't make a move, you are only thinking about how to block or retreat. You have to have more confidence and concentration. Even a well-trained opponent makes one or two mistakes in a match so you have to take advantage of that. As a matter of fact, one who can create a situation in which his opponent blunders, will be the champion.

Note: It is common to see participants who start aggressively and soon tire during the last half of the match. It is absolutely necessary to have enough stamina to be able to move with full power during all three minutes of your match.