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Goju-Ryu and Shorin-Ryu Connection: Part 6

The question is not whether a style of Karate is internal or external, soft or hard, Goju-Ryu or Shorin-Ryu. In the end, any style will lead to proficiency in hard, soft, and the transitions between the two. Styles may approach this from different directions. One style may emphasize hard and move toward the soft. Another may do just the opposite. But in the end, they will be very similar.

For example, a beginner in Shorin-Ryu might move in a manner that is very stiff and hard. The same could be said of a beginner in Goju-Ryu. But you cannot find a truly advanced instructor of either style who moves in such a manner. I am not talking about rank. It might be possible (even easy) to find people with a high rank who move like beginners. However, anyone who is truly advanced will have learned to move in an integrated manner. Period.

If Shorin-Ryu is a victim of anything, it is of its own success. What did Itosu Sensei have to do when he spearheaded the effort to introduce Karate to the Okinawan school system? Of course, he had to simplify things.

Last night I was speaking to some of my students. I mentioned that it would be much easier for me to teach them Karate without koshi and body dynamics. I could probably teach them a great deal in 4 years without koshi. But then they would be blocked by limits much sooner. There is a natural limit to how fast a person can move and how much power he can generate using ordinary, linear mechanics.

To set higher limits, koshi is necessary, especially as we reach our 40s, 50s, and beyond.

If I was going to teach a student for just 3 months, it would not make sense to teach koshi. But if I was going to teach a student for his lifetime (or at least mine), it would not make sense to teach him without it!

Do you think that Itosu Sensei was overly concerned about body mechanics when he (and his students such as Kentsu Yabu and Chomo Hanashiro) taught children in the public schools? How long did he have the students -- perhaps a few years. They were not on the same level as his personal students. They were taught so that they would get into a minimal level of conditioning and learn some discipline. It was Karate-lite.

Was it much different when Funakoshi Sensei basically introduced this same type of simplified Karate to the Japanese mainland university system? The students were older and stronger, but still casual when compared to the private students who would train at the sensei's home in Okinawa.

Recently I read about limited efforts to introduce Karate to the Japanese military. Limited is the right word. Given severe time contraints and the need for immediate results, training was limited to basic punching and kicking. I highly doubt that koshi was emphasized.

Shorin-Ryu and its derivatives suffer from their own success, the processes that caused them to be simplified. Don't get me wrong. I am sure that there were skilled and accomplished instructors who understood and had mastered body dynamics -- but did they have the time and forum to teach this?

Choki Motobu Sensei is an interesting case. Unlike Funakoshi Sensei, he kept his classes small. The emphasis seems to have been on practical applications -- the same way that Karate was taught privately in Okinawa. Shotokan is a great success. Until recently, few people realized that Motobu-Ryu still exisits and is taught by Motobu Sensei's son, Chosei, in Osaka.

When Karate is simplified or streamlined, the first thing to go is a longterm, concentrated, progressive approach to body dynamics -- the process of generating and transferring power, and moving using the "whole body". Karate becomes punch and kick. Where is the advantage in that?


Charles C. Goodin