Variations of Karate

There are several different styles of Karate which are practiced around the world:

Shotokan Karate

Shotokan is the variation of Karate that was taken from Okinawa to Japan by the renowned master, Gichin Funakoshi. Translated as ‘hall of Shoto’ (Funakoshi’s pen name), Shotokan refers to the public Karate school that Funakoshi established in Japan in 1939.

Shotokan is probably the most established style of traditional Karate and places emphasis on using the whole body to deliver kicks, punches and blocks. It is marked by driving stances which enable the karateka to put maximum power into their technique.


Developed by Japanese native Hironori Ohtsuka, Wado Ryu was the first style of Karate to bring an element of attack into the art form. Ohtsuka spent many years as a Grand Master of Jujitsu before being introduced to Funakoshi at the 1922 sports festival in Tokyo. Ohtsuka was attracted to the philosophy and techniques of Karate but believed that it lacked attacking techniques. Ohtsuko developed Kumite which applied Kihon and Kata techniques to sparring and, in 1934, Wado Ryu was recognised as an independent Karate style.


Drawing on martial art techniques dating back 2000 years, Goju-Ryu has been influenced by Chinese tradition more than any other style of Karate. Translated as ‘hard and positive’ (Go) and ‘soft and negative’ (Ju), Goju-Ryu places emphasis upon the harmony between the hard fighting spirit and the soft beauty of dance, believing that each element equalizes the other to become one with the universe.


Virtually unknown in Europe, Shorin-Ryu is practiced most widely in America and Eastern Asia. Regarded as the most direct ancestor of modern Japanese Karate, Shorin originally drew on influences from the ancient Chinese art of Sil Lum Loa (Chinese temple method). It was founded by Sokon Matsumura, warrior and bodyguard to the king of Okinawa, who fused traditional Okinawa martial arts traditions with Chinese fighting techniques.


Developed by Master Kenewa Mabuni, Shito-Ryu draws on elements from the Shuri-te and Naha-te styles of Karate which originated in the towns of Shuri and Naha in Okinawa. Mabuni combined the two styles and brought in techniques he had learnt from other masters. Shito-Ryu is unique in preserving most of the traditional Shuri-te techniques, which are characterised by fast, straight movements.