GKR – Karate’s special blend

Purists may argue that the different styles of karate should stay as they are separate and distinct, but just like coffee beans, sometimes mixing them comes up with something better than the sum of its parts. GKR karate is a composite of two different styles – Keishinkan and Goju Kai, each of which can trace a route back to the birth of karate in Okinawa.

Kancho’s history

Kancho Sullivan with one of his Keishinkan instructors and Tino Ceberano (right) in 1969

Kancho’s earliest karate teachers; Merv Oakley and Tino Ceberano; were both practitioners of Goju Kai, and both men trained directly under Gogen Yamaguchi, Goju Kai’s founder. Gogen Yamaguchi was a student of Goju Ryu, one of the big four traditional karate styles, and he even trained briefly directly under Chojun Miyagi, Goju Ryu’s founder.

After moving around the World a bit, Kancho then took up a Malaysian karate style called Budokan, a derivative of Keishinkan. Kancho then trained directly in Keishinkan. Although neither Budokan, nor Keishinkan are derivatives of Shotokan, having followed a completely separate lineage back to the pioneers of modern karate, they do share more in common with that style than any other, including its kata syllabus.



Funakoshi conditioning his fist with a makiwara

Shotokan history

Shotokan was formalised and named under Gichin Funakoshi, the man considered to be the father of modern karate. Funakoshi in fact, resisted calling his karate by any name other than karate - in his eyes all karate was the same thing. Ironically, he appears to have ignored the fact that at the time when he was popularising karate, there were at least two philosophically opposed styles co-existing – the “soft” style that became Goju and Shito Ryu; and the “hard” style that became Shotokan. The seeds of Wado Ryu also existed at this time, which Funakoshi did recognise, but appears uncharacteristically, to have been quite scathing about in his autobiography, “Karate Do – My way of life”.

Anko Itosu (also called Yasutsune Itosu) was the teacher of both Shotokan's founder Gichin Funakoshi, and Keishikan's founder, Kanken Toyoma, so it males sense that there are a lot of commonalities between the styles.

The soft style (sometimes called Naha te, after the district of Okinawa where it was supposedly practiced) bore a close resemblance to its ancient Chinese origin. It was fused with the local styles, of tegumi (a form of wrestling) and te. The hard style (sometimes called Shuri te) most likely had similar Chinese origins hundreds of years ago, but through necessity had been transformed into something very different and deadly. This destructive form was a relatively modern creation unique to Okinawa – perhaps unique even to just those charged with military security in the royal Shuri castle.

Funakoshi primarily learned karate under Yasutsune Itosu and

Yasutsune Azato, both of whom were (among other things) unofficial royal bodyguards in the court of the Okinawan puppet kings. For long-standing political reasons, Okinawans – even royal bodyguards – were not permitted to carry weapons. As a result they developed a system of karate that followed the principle “ikken hisatsu “ - one hit, one kill. They couldn’t afford the luxury of long drawn-out battles when they were protecting the king or the kingdom, possibly against multiple armed assailants.

The founder of Budokan was taught his karate by a Keishinkan master, Masanao Takazawa, who was in turn taught by the very first Keishinkan master, Kanken Toyoma. Toyoma also learned primarily under Funakoshi’s instructor Yasutsune Itosu. Thus, the hard style karate that Funakoshi learned was very similar to the karate that was passed to Kancho via the Keishinkan/Keishinkan lineage.


This photo of Shuri Castle was taken in 1937: after the era of the Okinawan kings, but it still gives you an idea what it might have been like training in unarmed combat to protect the king.


Gogen Yamaguchi was renowned for his prodigious martial arts skill.
Goju history

On the other side of the equation is Goju Kai, which is an offshoot of Goju Ryu. Gogen Yamaguchi trained in Goju Ryu, and he also trained very briefly under the direct tutelage of its founder; Okinawan master Chojun Miyagi. Yamaguchi was eventually authorised to act as Goju ambassador to Japan, where he subsequently established Goju Kai, considered to be Japanese Goju. In 1950 after just 20 years of Goju training, Yamaguchi was awarded a 10th dan black belt.

Chojun Miyagi learned a style of karate dubbed Naha te, or “soft style” karate. This style traces a relatively unchanged lineage back to White Crane Quan Fa (translated into Japanese as Kenpo), a popular and ancient type of Chinese kung fu.

It is suggested that because this style had been developed by Buddhist monks who believed in karma and cosmic pay-back for your actions, it was developed around the principle of doing minimal harm to others in the course of avoiding personal injury. As a result, many of the techniques are circular, and tend towards compliance rather than destruction; in other words they are “soft”. Interestingly, Goju actually means “hard soft”. According to Sensei George Andrews of the Okinawan Traditional Goju Ryu Association, Miyagi actually meant this as a reference to hard training and self discipline, coupled with softness of temperament, and not as is commonly thought, an explanation of the contrast between hard and soft techniques.

Style characteristics

Both the hard and soft styles have proven effectiveness in their own way, but each is to a certain extent, suited to different circumstances, and follows different intents. Each has its own katas, which are immediately distinguishable by the stances, the shape of the movements, and the way that the practitioner moves.

As a collector of kata since 1964, 1984 Kancho picked the kata he liked from each style to create GKR. The end result is a fusion of both styles which provides far greater breadth and usefulness than either style provides alone.

Keishinkan

One hit one kill - a great strategy in a fight for your life; not so appropriate in dealing with drunks and bullies.

This is Shotokan master Hirokazu Kanazawa.

Keishinkan is a very linear hard style. It uses straight lines and high speed to do maximum damage. In his book, Shotokan’s Secret, Bruce Clayton surmises that it was Sokon Matsumura (b1797) who first made the startling connection between speed and damage – namely that the amount of kinetic energy is squared relative to an increase in speed (i.e. double your speed, quadruple your kinetic energy;  triple your speed, increase your kinetic energy by nine! Thus, one derives a far greater result in terms of effectiveness by moving faster, than by adding mass in the form of hip-action or even weight and muscle.

Linear karate uses blocks that move at near right angles to intercept the attacker, depending upon speed and conditioned limbs, rather than finesse to stop an attack.  Just look at the use of smashing blocks such as soto uke, gedan barai  and shuto uke in Bassai Dai, Empi and Kanku Dai. Each of these blocks tends to intercept the attacker’s limb at right angles, bashing the limb away from its path by sheer force alone. Mas Oyama, the founder of the Kyokushin Kai full contact karate style, and a former Shotokan exponent, was reknowned for breaking the limbs of those whom he blocked!

In hard style karate, attacks, blocks and counters all tend to be in a straight line; that being the fastest way from A to B. Practitioners are taught to fight at the furthest possible distance, and responses are quick and brutal, often depending upon extremely agile and fast body movement and footwork to evade incoming attacks. It does not use low stances for combat, although its kata often use greatly exaggerated stances (due to the adverse influence of Funakoshi’s schools syllabus, and the generally detrimental impact of competition kata on karate realism). Its basic stances: zenkutsu dachi, kokutsu dachi are kiba dachi, are quite rigid.

Modern interpreters have suggested that the katas contain a lot of grappling, and those that preceded Satunushi Sakugawa (b1733) almost certainly would have done. However, kata that were developed in Shuri since Sakugawa’s time as an imperial bodyguard in Okinawa, as well as those that were adapted to fit the job by him and his successors, were almost certainly not intended to practice grappling as this is contrary to the way in which unarmed bodyguards would wish to fight armed or multiple opponents. Bruce Clayton goes so far as to say that Shuri te (hard style karate forged in the Shuri imperial district of Okinawa) was primarily intended for daylight fighting, where good visibility was favourable to the use of linear strikes.

Goju Kai

Goju founder, Chojun Miyagi (shown here left) believed in softness of character. His philosophy is unlikely to have included lots of killing.
Goju is the complete opposite. It’s full of very circular blocks, and it’s a flowing style. It believes in redirection of energy rather meeting force with force. Its blocks often roll back towards and past the defender, unbalancing and opening the attacker up and exposing him to counter attack. An important principle within the style is kake. Although the word literally means “hooking”, it is also used to describe the system of ”sticking hands”, whereby the hands are used to control and ensnare.

Goju is primarily a close-quarters style, with a great emphasis on grappling and controlling, using body weight to unbalance, and applying nerve strikes and joint locks. Classic examples of grappling are the double block/kick sequence in Saifa, the bearhug escapes in Seiunchin, and the turning arm bar in Sepai. Goju also believes in delivering very powerful strikes, although perhaps not to the same targets as in Keishinkan. It uses subtle stances such as shiko dachi, sanchin dachi, and nekoashi dachi, all of which are very practical and natural to use. It is suggested that Chinese White Crane style, which is a very close ancestor of Goju Ryu, had many moves invented for night-fighting, which was apparently the time when most ordinary people were likely to be attacked. Thus staying in close contact to a hard-to-see opponent would enable a defender who was attuned to the energy and weight shifting of an opponent’s body to fight more effectively.

At first glance, Goju and Shotokan appear to be incompatible with each other because they are competing philosophies. They differ on the range that attacks should be intercepted. They differ in the way that attacks should be prevented from landing. They differ on how to deal with close attackers. They even differ on principles of how, or indeed whether, to try to avoid attacks. However, a recent commentator profoundly observed that Shotokan was fantastic karate to learn up to the early black belt dan grades, but Goju’s sophistication was then a better pursuit for the continued lifetime practice of karate. I can see a great deal of truth in that statement.

According to Bruce Clayton, one of the underlying understandings behind Goju Ryu, is the fact that if you’re going to try to subdue, rather destroy any opponent, you’re likely to get hit a lot more often. Why? Because it’s really difficult to control the movements of even a relatively small person who doesn’t want to be controlled! If you don’t believe me, try picking up a small child or even a dog that doesn’t want to be carried and see how difficult it is...

Both Funakoshi and Miyagi (shown here overseeing a class) were gentle, honorable men who believed in non-violence, but perhaps Funakoshi's lineage meant his style was less suited to such a philosophy.

Because soft style practitioners are going to get hit more frequently, they need to be physically tougher. Goju Ryu practitioners spend a lot of time on strength and body conditioning, and nowhere is this better epitomised than in their Sanchin kata. This slow, powerful kata is primarily designed to develop muscle and toughen the body against blows. Some Goju Ryu practitioners would consider it fundamental, and on a par with basics in terms of its importance because it prepares their bodies to withstand the rigours of their fighting style. It used to be part of the GKR syllabus, but was dropped relatively early in our existence. It is likely that practice of Sanchin kata (and particularly the testing phase of its practice, which involved punching and otherwise striking practitioners to test their muscle tension) was incompatible with GKR’s “Karate for Everyone” philosophy, which steers away from excessive contact and body toughening.

Recently, we have seen an ever-increasing Goju-fication of GKR – especially its katas, so I would not be surprised to see Sanchin integrated into our kata system by 2014, although probably not with the brutal testing practiced in some Goju clubs.

GKR

So does GKR prefer to align itself more closely with the hard style karate practiced by Shotokan? This requires conditioning of the body and fists towards fast, extremely powerful strikes. Thus, it’s vital to be relaxed, explosive, with stances that favour quick, easy movement. In most Shotokan clubs, they do conditioning, bag work, makiwara striking, and many other exercises that will appropriately condition the body. You will find some GKR classes where some of these things are practiced, but they are not practiced as a universal norm. Again, whilst you can see the benefit in training by hitting things, many practitioners do not want calloused knuckles, or the risk of injuries. Indeed, the martial arts world in general is being increasingly legislated by the government, and it seems possible; likely even, that the days of such physical practice will be prohibited in the UK.

Both Goju Ryu and Shotokan are well developed and effective fighting systems with very specific strategies for everything they do. However, each has a somewhat single-track view of self-defence, that excludes other sometimes superior tactical choices.

GKR is not constrained by such stylistic limitations, so we are free to take the best from each style in order to make our system stronger. For example, many traditional Goju practitioners frown upon tournament kumite, claiming that they want to focus only upon “real” self defence. However, the fast evasion and movement of a tournament fighter can better help in subduing an attacker.

Stances are literally and metaphorically, the foundation of any karate style. Starting from the ground up, GKR has the best of both worlds when it comes to stances. Each style has many unique stances, each of which is well suited to a particular purpose. I can’t imagine doing a style that doesn’t have shiko dachi, or kokutsu dachi, or hangetsu dachi, or nekoashi dachi – it would be like having half the tools in my toolbox stolen! Just look at the benefits:

Stance

Function

Goju Kai

Keishinkan/ Budokan

Zenkutsu dachi

A long, stable stance for delivering powerful forwards motion, or resisting attacks

Y

Y

Kiba dachi

A broad sidewise stance for launching side kicks, and minimising your body profile

Y

Shiko dachi

A broad stance for lowering weight, giving stability in attack (particularly when flanking an opponent), penetrating beneath an opponent’s guard, or as a preparation for lifting

Y

Sanchin dachi

A rooted, highly mobile stance that offers groin protection and hip rotation

Y

Kokutsu dachi

A backward weighted stance that is good for pulling an opponent backwards, blocking in retreat, or out-of-reach preloading for transition to a forwards attack

Y

Nekoashi dachi

A great stance for kick preparation both in retreat or as a static threat, and can also be used to stamp on pressure points on the top of the foot

Y

Koko zenkutsu dachi/ Gyaku zenkutsu dachi/ Kokutsu dachi (Goju version)

An excellent stance for driving backwards strongly and safe of accidental head butts, especially after a groin strike. Used in Empi and Sepai. Y Y
Hangetsu dachi A good stance for evasion, firm grounding, and hip rotation. A good basis for throwing or grappling. Y

Nowhere is the benefits of fusing two styles more evident in GKR, than when you closely examine our kata syllabus:

GKR katas (in grade order)

Needed for this Grade

Shotokan

Goju Ryu

8th kyu yellow belt

Taikyoku shodan (1st kata)

7th kyu orange belt

Taikyoku nidan (2nd kata)

6th kyu green belt & 5th kyu blue belt

Saifa

4th kyu red belt & 3rd kyu brown belt

Bassai Dai

2nd kyu brown with 1 tag

Seiunchin

1st kyu brown with 2 tags

Empi

Shodan ho provisional black belt

Sanseru

Shodan ho provisional black belt and 1st dan

Sepai

1st dan black belt

Hangetsu

2nd dan black belt

Karurunfa

2nd dan black belt

Kanku Dai

3rd dan black belt

Shisochin

3rd dan black belt

Kanku Sho

4th dan black belt

Seisan

4th dan black belt

Sochin

Katas that may become part of the future GKR grading syllabus

Shotokan

Goju Ryu

None Sanchin

Suparimpei

Kancho kata one – A kata created by Kancho

Nikante – A kata created by Kancho, mostly in the Goju style

The value of kata within GKR

I’ve always felt that the early katas in the Goju system (Gekisai Dai Ichi and Gekisai Dai Ni), were ridiculously complicated given the martial competence of the students learning them. They have sweeps, mawashi uke blocks, and a large variety of stances. Rather than promoting the pursuit of competence and understanding, they promote a pattern learning mentality. GKR’s syllabus is far more logical. In fact, if you look at GKR’s kata syllabus, whether by luck or design, it provides a near-perfect progression of skills from white to black belt.

Kata

Skills

Taigyoku shodan

Develops basic movement. Teaches you how to coordinate hands and feet. Teaches the fundamentals of timing. Teaches rudiments of deriving power from your stance.

Taigyoku nidan

Introduces the concept of combinations. Teaches hip movement via reverse arm punching. Teaches how to avoid telegraphing strikes by maintaining an even height. Introduces the most fundamental kick in karate.

Saifa

Just when students are thinking power, power, power, this kata introduces the concept of softness and flow. Also a fundamental introduction to close-quarters fighting.

Bassai dai

A lot of reverse arm techniques means that Bassai is a great kata for emphasising the value of hip-movement. Its linear form and Shotokan origins also emphasise the concepts of speed and power in attack. Also introduces low-level side kicks as a practical defensive tool.

Seiunchin

This kata has more shiko dachi in it than any other, and uses it to break the opponent’s balance. It’s a great one for practicing posture, and learning the value of a lowered centre of gravity. It also repeatedly demonstrates the ideas of evasion, either by moving off-line, or by retreating.

Empi

Fast and very demanding. As we approach black belt, it reminds us that, along with technique and sophistication, karate is still a physical art that requires physical capabilities.

Sanseru

The beginning could be considered as “Sanchin Lite”, emphasising body hardening, muscle tension, and rootedness to the floor. It develops posture and breathing. This is a very aggressive kata, with a lot of forwards attacking moves in, teaching the concept of penetration and the value of an attacking game-plan.

Sepai

All grappling. Teaches how to cope with opponents who have moved in past Shotokan striking distance. Starts close, and gets closer. Demonstrates many ways to deal with opponents who are nose to nose with you. Like an advanced version of Saifa.

Hangetsu

Back to basics! An unusual stance used in many situations teaches the value of consistency. The broad, rooted stance is good for hip rotation, whilst the slowness makes this almost a Shotokan version of Sanchin. Many combinations ensure that you can use your fundamentals.

Three different katas - three different groin strikes - three ways of avoiding the involuntary reaction of the opponent. It's fascinating to see how different katas resolve the same situation.

The katas of these two widely contrasting styles each provide many repeated solutions to the same attacks, be they shoulder grabs, bear hugs, wrist grabs, or punches. Even within the same style, there are often three or four different answers to the same attack. Sometimes (depending upon your bunkai interpretation), the same attack is resolved in more than one way in the same kata.

I’ve often talked about the illusive martial state called “unconscious competence”, which is closely linked to the concept of “mushin no shin” – mind of no mind. This is a condition whereby a martial artist no longer has to think about what to do – rather, his body automatically does the right thing, leaving the mind free to concentrate on other issues, or in the case of mushin, on nothing at all. In order to achieve unconscious competence, one needs a single, practiced and instinctive response to a single situation, because when there are choices of response, the conscious brain needs to make a decision about which of the responses – each of which may be equally effective – you prefer.

Having multiple solutions to the same attack would seem to directly contradict this principle, yet it’s hard to believe that the masters were not aware of the dangers of reducing response time by offering too many choices.

If the variables of that situation change even slightly – a faster attack, a slightly different angle, a different striking surface – then the response may differ entirely. Furthermore, differences between the physiology of attacker and defender (taller, smaller, stronger, faster) all make a significant difference upon the choice of defence or counter. Thus it may be that the katas contain a comprehensive library of permutations that account for many common variables.

The trick is, to recognise the strengths of each solution, and realise that although some may be unlikely to be called upon, you cannot know in advance the nature of an attack, or the relative physiology of the attacker. Thus, melding the combat systems of two styles increases the likelihood that you will have an effective solution to a given attack (albeit at the possible risk of decreasing unconscious competence).

Elements of both katas (say Empi’s strike and evade tactics, or Saifa’s repeated principle of unbalancing the opponent) are being fused within GKR to provide a valuable new style that does indeed create a composite that takes the most useful principles of both.

Karate should be a personal journey. Initially, due to the student’s lack of experience, a one-size fits all approach is adopted to learn the basics, but karate should increasingly be tailored to the philosophy, needs, and physiology of each student. So intermixing of two styles offers students greater choice to truly produce karate that is right for them. The trick is to understand that what you are taught in class is simply a guide to your options, not a command about you what you must do. Just like an apprentice carpenter may learn many skills in carpentry school, it is up to him what to make with the those skills. Similarly, you need to think about what you are learning, and aim towards mastery of every technique. Then, when you are competent, you must consider and understand what bits you can most effectively use, and what is unsuitable for you.










By merging the key katas of two different systems, GKR provides a wider range of solutions to different situations.

Detailed comparison of the characteristics of GKR’s two core styles

Keishinkan/Budokan

Goju Kai

Strikes

Fast, devastatingly powerful blows to vital areas

Powerful, to  physiological weak points

Blocks

Fast, linear, bone on bone, with smashing force

Harmonious, circular blocking that redirects opponent’s attacks

Kicks

Increasingly showy, with risky high-level kicks, and slower round and hook kicks.

Mostly functional and lower level. Front, side and crescent primarily.

Grappling

As a last resort – longer range techniques preferred

Lots and lots of grappling. A fundamental principle of Goju.

Nerve strikes

Used to disable

Used as an aid to compliance

Movement

Very fast, light, evasive, rarely allowing opponent to be in counter-attacking position

Slower, heavy, with much unbalancing of opponent. Often very close to opponent.

Stances

Highly mobile, with exaggerated finishing stances

Heavy, rooted, powerful foundations for grappling. Except for shiko dachi, Goju stances tend to be smaller than Shotokan ones.

Conditioning

Work on knuckles, shoulders and joints, and leg strength for movement. Body must be strong enough to deliver powerful blows.

Total all body conditioning combining both strength and the ability to take blows. Work on grip.

Fighting intent

Pre-emption

Counter-attack and subdue

Kata form

Right angles, linear, direct movement. Evade and strike.

Diagonals, indirect attacks, lots of grappling. Evade and get in.

Kata stances

Zenkutsu dachi, Kokutsu dachi, Kiba dachi, Hangetsu dachi, Fudo dachi

Zenkutsu dachi, Shiko dachi, Sanchin dachi, Nekoashi dachi

Benefits

Short decisive fights, attacker does not get to hit you much

Minimal injury to assailant, legally and morally supportable, multi-purpose

Disadvantages

Worse in close, morally questionable, harder to justify legally, requires higher athletic ability

Requires higher technical skill level,  sub-optimal attacking strategy, requires greater physical conditioning and takes longer to achieve effective competence

Although Okinawa is tiny, it's not too small for different martial philosophies to exist alongside each other.

Click to look at a larger map.

Afterword

It has been argued that Shuri-te and Naha-te were essentially one and the same thing. The two places were, after all, just three miles apart. It is a compelling argument if you take the viewpoint that there was only a single source of influence for the martial artists in this area, and that they all practiced together, and shared ideas together.

However, it is clear that this was not the case. In his autobiography, Gichin Funukoshi says of his teacher, “Azato had highly detailed information about all karate experts living in Okinawa at the time, which included not only such mundane facts as their names and addresses, but also intelligence about their abilities and their special skills and techniques.” Now maintaining a dossier on nearby martial artists doesn’t sound like that actions of a man who knew or regularly trained with all of these people. Given that Azato was apparently one of the foremost experts on Okinawa at that time, his actions seem contradictory to the single style theory. Furthermore, if these other people had special skills and techniques, it doesn’t sound as though all of the karateka in Okinawa were practicing the same art. Funakoshi might be referring to increased mastery in some areas of the same style (maybe one was a good kicker, or a master of evasion), but it doesn’t sound like it.

Funakoshi also derides as nonsense, stories of martial artists who performed grip-strengthening exercises, which is one of the practice regimes of Naha te, a style in which seizing was a vital part. Funakoshi is also derisive of karate schools that include throws. It’s clear then, that whilst Funakoshi is dismissive of these alternatives, that they did exist somewhere within his proximity. It’s entirely plausible to conclude that there may in fact have been distinctly separate schools of thought on Okinawa. After all, within one mile of my home, there are Wado Ryu, Shotokan, GKR, Jujijitsu, Judo, Kendo, Mantis Kung Fu, Kick boxing and freestyle combat schools. I am highly interested in martial arts, yet I have only the very, very most peripheral knowledge in what most of them does.

Furthermore, if you consider that Shuri-te, which subsequently developed into Shotokan and Keishinkan, was practiced by an upper class elite (the peichin), in a highly class-oriented society, it is almost inconceivable that these men would practice alongside the working classes living in Naha or  Tomari.

It has been reasonably suggested that the working classes had neither the interest, the time, nor the energy to practice self defence. This may be true, but consider this; all of the karate masters of the time had full time jobs as well!

I think on balance of probability, it is entirely likely, that whilst modern karate may possibly have been originally inspired primarily (but by no means exclusively) by a single source (Chinese White Crane kung fu), that different teachers of the same era took it in different directions. Those with an interest in self defence, or strong Buddhist beliefs may well have retained its more pacifist intent, whilst those who found themselves fighting for their lives pushed it in more aggressive directions.

Over recent decades, modern Goju and Shotokan have in many ways re-converged, or at least moved towards common ground, after more than 100 years apart. This has largely been caused by a softening of Shotokan’s lethality, instigated by Funakoshi and progressively re-enforced by modern instructors’ teaching, and an ever-more competition-oriented syllabus. At the same time, Goju also has moved towards the middle ground. Its strikes have become harder and more direct, and thanks to the introduction of such training techniques as jiu kumite (brought in by Yamaguchi), the art has itself developed a broader base of practice than simple self-defence constrained by Buddhist morality.

Notes

GKR has a direct lineage to the birth of karate.
Click the picture to see more detail.

Unravelling the history of karate is incredibly difficult. We know some of the key players, but it’s virtually impossible to know exactly who learned what from whom, or precisely how each person modified what they learned. For long periods of Okinawan history, open practice of martial arts was forbidden, so an air of secrecy shrouded its existence. Some people claim that katas were fused with local folk dances, and that martial arts practice was limited entirely to the practice of a single kata. Other sources suggest that in addition to native defensive and civil arts, influences were brought in on trade boats; by visiting diplomats, and even by shipwrecked sailors! For a while, Okinawa revered anything Chinese, and in modern Japan, Okinawans seem to be considered like country bumpkins, and their contribution to karate is downplayed.

Add to this the lack of written records, and the destruction of many that did exist (along with some noted practitioners) during the second world war, and I believe that it is virtually impossible to say with absolute certainty how karate was shaped. In the absence of hard facts, one can only look at the available evidence and extrapolate plausible interpretations, which is what I have done in writing this article. Some may disagree, and if you have more compelling explanations, I would love to hear them. Regardless of your views, I hope that this article may stimulate you to consider how you can use GKR’s unique blend to get the best from your karate.