Okinawan Karate-Do

Karate-Do (the Way of Karate) is an "Art" for self improvement, it is not a "Sport". Karate-Do is my passion and core interest. If your sole goal is self defense or Close Quarter Combat then I advise studying William Ewart Fairbairn's Fighting System. I have a BLOG in which I post items which may be of interest to others with a fascination for Martial Arts and history. As Martial Arts enthusiasts we often forget that its origin is in combat. Okinawa Karate differs in many ways from Japanese Karate which is more militarized and formal.

Traditional Karate-Do and the Bushi arts follow the ethics of the philosophies of the region; a mix of Buddhist, Shinto & The Tao. All these philosophies regard ego as the enemy of enlightenment and something to be "let go". We all have it in our nature so we must recognise it is there and try to eliminate it from our practise and meditations.

My Own Training

I started training Karate in 1971. It was Japanese Karate that came to the UK in the late 1950's and early '60s. I had trained in some Shotokan previously at 18 and Judo from the age of 14. When I started Tai Chi Chuan (Taiqiquan) around 1974 in London with Chee Soo I suddenly twigged what Karate was about! Tai Chi had the fluidity my karate training lacked! When I first saw Okinawan Karate I could see much of what I had been doing in Tai Chi embedded in that karate culture. (More on Tai Chi Chuan) . Japanese Karate has many differences to the original Okinawan practices.
These may not be obvious to the beginner but basics such as longer stances whereas Okinawa styles are more upright. This is NOT sport Karate, but the Art of Karate-do. I would like to help you dip your toes in those waters!

Karate-do originally from Okinawa, is the "way of the empty hand". It was known as "ti, or te" then "Tode" with the Chinese element. The name extended to Kara-te which originally translated to "Chinese Hand" due to the influence of Southern China Shaolin Temple arts of Fujian Province. Also with monks who fled to Fukien Province (AKA Taiwan) due to persecution. By later changing the Kanji but not the sound Karate became "empty hand". Classical Fighting Arts Magazine focuses on traditional arts of Okinawa. You may want to contact them and subscribe today! The cover photo to the right I am having my Shiko Dachi stance corrected by Sensei Zenpo Shimabukuro 10th Dan, head of Seibukan style and President of the Rengokai.

"Traditional Karate" is a much misused term.

For a great analysis please read Okinawa Karate by Mark Bishop and Christopher Clarke's "Okinawan Karate : A History of styles and masters". As Clarke points out it is more important to know what Karate is NOT.
It is NOT:
  • - Large dojos with lines of students
  • - Strict curricula where katas are learned and "mimed" to get a new colored belt
  • - Tournament fighting and sparring
  • - Outrageous claims of being a "Master" or "Grand Master" of any style
  • - Claims to teach, at vast expense, some "secret" technique.
There were no "styles" before the late 19th Century but the ways of different teachers who may give their "way" a name. The Karate Gi came from Jigaro Kano, founder of Judo who recommended both Gis and colored belts to Gichin Funakoshi in 1930 for his Japanese Karate schools. Otherwise Karateka trained in what was ever handy, usually loin cloths because of the heat and humidity. Today, for me, changing into a Gi to train has a real meaning and assists in achieving the correct mental state.

Modern Karate came about in the 20th Century. Prior to that teachers had small groups of students and often only one or two. They taught in back yards and wherever else they could get privacy. They may know 3 or 4 kata in which they trained heavily for many years that they became ingrained.
It is said that when Funakoshi Gichin went to Japan he knew only a few kata, probably just 3 or 4. His Shotokan Style now has 26 Kata in its syllabus and it is impossible to "know" all 26 that they become part of you.

In Karate there is a Kata (form) that features in many styles, called SANCHIN. The translation of Sanchin is “three battles” but it means much more than that. A hard & soft Kata originating from Chinese Qigong it is intended to forge Mind, Body & Spirit into one. The Kanji for SANCHIN is shown here. In early Karate Sanchin would be taught to the beginner who would do little else, other than body conditioning, for 3 to 5 years or more until deemed “ready”.

Modern life drives us to “win” all the time. People buy self improvement books and attend seminars all about “winning”. Karate is the antithesis of “Winning”. Karate is about “NOT LOSING”!
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Karate-Do is not about contest but the development of body, mind and spirit in the code of Bushido "Way of the Warrior". Karate-do is an Art which develops character and confidence and a Zen mind. Karate-do is a life journey and learning never ends (see photo gallery) more.....

The photo left is of Patrick performing a Spear Hand strike (Nukite) in a Kata at the Rengokai Symposium.

After over 40 years my personal view on those who call themselves MASTER is that they have lost their way. In the photo here are three true Masters but they do not think they are Masters!
  • Sensei Zenpo Shimabukuro 10th Dan Seibukan Shorin Ryu President of the Rengokai,
  • Sensei Morio Higaonna 10th Dan Goju Ryu and President of the IOGKF
  • Sensei Seisho Itakazu 10th Dan Uechi Ryu and 9th Dan Matayoshi Kobudo (Weapons).
When you know everything, you are a Master, when you THINK you know everything you are lost! In Buddhism there is a saying ”If you meet the Buddha on the road, KILL HIM!” We all lose our way from time to time.

The videos below are a “must watch” about Okinawan Karate.

The Spirit of Karate

The History of Okinawan Karate

More on Karate-do from the Okinawa Official Website and in Christopher Clarke's "Okinawan Karate : A History of styles and masters".

Please Contact me or link on Facebook

Patrick is a member of:

- The karatekenkyukai
Hokubei Karate-do Shihankai (Japanese Karate Masters of America)

A principle of Karate is to remove fear. The Kanji to the right means "The way of No Fear" which describes my approach to Karate-Do

Martial Arts in Cheyenne, Wyoming USA
My Business website PDA Consulting