If you are someone who is a martial arts enthusiast, you must surely know about Karate as a martial art form. Regularly practising martial arts offers you physical and mental health benefits. If you are aiming for a full-body aerobic workout or improving balance or building muscles, martial arts can be a great option for you. 

Karate is a martial art form that is widely practised around the world. Just like many other martial arts types, Karate is highly popular not only as a martial art form but also as a way of learning self-defence. What is not commonly known about Karate, the Japanese martial art form is that it has different styles. If you are curious to know what these different Karate styles are and want to know more about Karate, this article is just for you. In this article, we will be looking at all the different styles of Karate in detail and also identify which style is right for you. 


To begin with let us know about Karate, its origin and its history in brief. Karate is an Asian martial art discipline. Contrary to popular belief, Karate did not originate in mainland Japan. Karate finds its origin in the Ryukyu Kingdom where this martial arts form was developed from the indigenous martial arts of the Ryukyu Kingdom under the influence of Chinese martial arts. Karate originated about 500 years ago on the island of Okinawa when the ruling King had banned weapons on his island. Hand-to-hand combat techniques were then used by people to defend themselves. 

This martial art form finally reached the Japanese mainland in the earth 20th century. The basic form of Karate was brought from Okinawa to Japan by Gichin Funakoshi. He was the first known Okinawan Karate master. The Japan Karate Association was established in 1949. With movies and shows that were made in the 60s and 70s, this martial art form gained more popularity across the globe. 

Karate is a striking art. This martial art involves the using kicking, punching and striking with the knees or elbows. There are also open-handed techniques like spear hand, knife hands and palm-heel strikes. Physical toughness, timing, tactics and spirit are extremely important in Karate. A person who practices or performs this martial art is known as a karateka.

Karate is constantly evolving as a form of martial art. This is also why Karate is considered to be a living thing and not just a martial arts form. In the following sections of this article, we will be looking at the types of Karate styles and knowing the same in detail. 

4 Major Types Of Karate

From the previous sections in this article, you do have some idea that there are different styles of performing Karate. What are the different types of Karate and what is the difference between them? Karate and all its different styles find their roots in either Japan or Okinawa or both these places. The difference between the various Karate styles lies in how the styles were developed. 

If the question is how many styles of Karate are there in the world, the answer would go on to list over 75 different styles. Of these, there are 4 major types of Karate, that we will be discussing in this section. These styles namely, Shotokan-Ryu, Shito-Ryu, Goju-Ryu and Wado-Ryu are the main Karate styles and are also very popular. Let us take a look at these styles to understand them better. 


Let us begin with one of the most well-known types of Karate around the world. Shotokan Karate was developed in Tokyo by the Father of Modern Karate- Gichin Funakoshi. This is one of the main Karate styles that includes very strong and linear techniques. This Karate style has 70% hard techniques and 30% soft movements. The Shotokan Karate kata is 26 in number and these must all be learnt by the students. In this form of Karate, the beginner stances tend to be deep and these become longer as the student advances. The focus here is on speed, form, balance and breathing while the student performs the various techniques. 


Next is one of the most popular forms of Karate in West Japan- Shito Ryu. This style was founded by Kenwa Mabuni in 1934 and is very much influenced by the Okinawan Karate Styles. Short and low stances, similar to those of sumo wrestlers are employed in this style of Karate. This style is quite kata heavy compared to Shotokan-Ryu and the number here goes up to 94. Shito-Ryu is the style with the most number of kata and the students who practice this style are encouraged to string the movements from the kata together. 


Goju-Ryu is a style of Karate that we are sure you have seen in action. If you have watched the movie ‘The Karate Kid’ you will have some idea of this Karate style. Based on the Okinawan Karate Styles that were already influenced by Kung Fu and Chinese martial arts, this style also has a very heavy influence from Fujian White Crane. There are only 12 kata in Goju-Ryu and the movements in this style are more circular. The stances are deep and natural. The literal meaning of Goju is hard-soft and this style is a mix of both hard and soft techniques. Goju-Ryu was founded by Chojun Miyagi around 1930.


Established in 1939 by Hironori Otsuka, Wado-Ryu is another Karate style that is one of the main types of this martial art. The term literally translates to ‘the way of harmony’ and there is a very strong emphasis on peacefulness and harmony of mind. The students of this style have to learn 15 kata and the stances tend to be mostly natural. This style of Karate is different from the other styles that involve powerful attacks. In this style, the practitioners seek to evade blows by learning to shift their bodies in order to avoid or reduce the impact of blows. Strikes are only incorporated as a counter-attack in this style. Jujitsu-style techniques are also a part of Wado-Ryu.

What Does The Japanese Word Ryu Mean?

Looking at the names of the different styles of Karate, you must be wondering what the Japanese word Ryu means. It is the word common to the names of the different Karate styles. Let us understand what the term means. The word Ryu in Japanese has various different meanings. Ryu means style, type, form, school, system, etc. It is used mostly as a suffix like it is used after the name of each style. Another word ‘ryuha’ also means school or school of thought. All the different Japanese martial arts can be differentiated into various ryuha. 

Other Types Of Karate

In the previous sections of this article, we looked at the 4 major types of Karate and also understood what Ryu means. There are also many other styles that are not the most popular ones but are still commonly practised. These styles are mixes of the 4 main types or just offshoots of a single style. In this section, we will introduce you to the other Karate styles so that you can understand them before you find the right style for yourself. 


To begin with we have Kyokushin-Ryu which is influenced by Shotokan-Ryu and Goju-Ryu. Despite the influence of Goju-Ryu, this is an extremely hard style and in the sporting arena, it is a fairly brutal form. This is why Kyokushin-Ryu is also known as Japanese full-contact Karate or knockdown Karate. There are 23 Kata and 8 ura Kata in this style and the stances are mostly natural. Potentially permanently damaging blows are allowed in this style. Students are not encouraged to pull their punches, unlike the other sparring matches in different styles of Karate. 


Based on Okinawan Karate styles, this type mixes Goju-Ryu with Shorin-Ryu and Kubodo. All of these are Okinawan martial arts. Isshin-Ryu has 15 Kata and the stances are mostly natural. 


Blending Kung-Fu with Okinawan martial arts, Uechi-Ryu is a style of Karate with an equal mix of hard and soft techniques. This style was developed in the early 1900s by Kanbun Uechi. There are only 8 Kata to learn in this style. 


This is a type of Karate that mixes Okinawan style with Chinese martial arts. Shorin-Ryu also involves both hard and soft techniques but the fast and hard techniques are more dominant. The stances in this style are always natural and there are 21 Kata. 

Shindo Jinen-Ryu

Shindo Jinen-Ryu is a style of Karate that mixes Okinawan and Japanese Karate styles. The stances of this style are deep and natural. The number of Karate Kata in this style, including all the various types and sub-categories, goes up to 60. 

Shukokai Ryu

Shukokai Ryu is a mix of Shito-Ryu and Goju-Ryu. The balance of hard and soft techniques in this style is 60% and 40%. There are 44 Kata for the students to learn and the stances in this style are always natural. 

Gosoku Ryu

This is another style of Karate that mixes the techniques of Shotokan-Ryu and Goju-Ryu. There is a mix of both hard and soft techniques in this style and there are 44 Kata that also include weapon ones, that must be learned by the students. For beginners, the stances are deep but they gradually become more natural as the student advances. 


This type of Karate also finds its roots in Okinawa. Shuri-Ryu was established by blending Okinawan martial arts with Xing Yi Quan which is a Chinese martial art form. There are only 15 Kata for the students in this style. This style involves both hard and soft techniques and it also makes use of deep and natural stances. 


The last style of Karate on our list, Chito-Ryu is a mix of Shorin-Ryu and Okinawan martial arts. The stances in this style are always natural and there are only 15 Kata. There is a mix of hard and soft techniques in this style of Karate but unlike the other styles, the focus in this style is on the soft techniques. 

Which Karate Type Is Ideal For You?

We have now shared with you the details of 13 different Karate styles. If you are looking forward to starting your martial arts journey, you must be keen to know which style is right for you and what kind of Karate classes you must start taking in order to start learning and practising regularly. It can be fair to say that there is no one style that is perfect for everyone. The style of Karate that you wish to practise will very much depend on what your requirement is and what your end goal is. This will help you choose a style that involves the movements and techniques for you. To find your ideal style, you can either research more online or just get in touch with your local Karate school to know more. 


We have now reached the end of this article on the types of Karate styles. We have discussed 13 styles of this martial art form. We have also looked at a brief history of Karate, where it originated and how the different forms of this martial art were established. In the end, we have also discussed which style is right for you. We hope that this article has helped you understand and know the different styles of Karate better and also identify the style that is right for you. 


We have discussed the different types of Karate in this article. There might be some more questions that you have regarding this martial art form. In this section, we will be answering some of the most commonly asked questions related to Karate and its different forms. 

  1. What Karate style is the most powerful?

Shotokan-Ryu is the most powerful style of Karate. This style employs powerful and linear strikes. 

  1.  Who started Karate?

Gichin Funakoshi, who is the father of modern Karate founded Shotokan-Ryu which is the most popular style of this martial art form. He introduced Karate to mainland Japan. 

  1.  How often should I practice Karate?

As a new student or a hobbyist, you should train around 2 to 4 times a week for 1 to 3 hours. 

  1.  How old should a child be before starting Karate?

Children as young as 7 years of age can start practising Karate. 

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