Types of Karate

Types of Karate (Guide)

Karate is a widely practiced martial art with various styles and disciplines. From traditional forms to competitive techniques, Karate offers a diverse range of options for practitioners of all levels. Whether you’re interested in self-defense or exploring the martial arts world, understanding the different types of Karate is essential.

Key Takeaways:

  • There are multiple styles of Karate, including Goju-ryu, Shotokan-ryu, Wado-ryu, and Shito-ryu.
  • Each style has its unique techniques and characteristics, making them distinct disciplines within the world of Karate.
  • Karate offers a belt ranking system that signifies progression and skill level.
  • Some Karate styles focus more on self-defense techniques, while others emphasize competitive aspects.
  • Understanding the differences between Karate styles can help you choose the right one based on your goals and preferences.

Karate Basics

Karate is a martial art that originated in Japan in the 17th century. It focuses on a belt ranking system, mental strength, coordination, and respect. In Karate, students learn various kicks and punches, as well as defensive blocks. The art emphasizes self-defense and teaches students to use their bodies as weapons, rather than relying on manmade weapons.

The belt ranking system in Karate signifies the progression of a student’s skills and knowledge. It starts with a white belt for beginners and progresses through various colors, such as yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, brown, and finally black belt, which represents mastery. Each belt level comes with its own set of requirements and techniques to master.

Mental strength is a crucial aspect of Karate training. Students learn to develop discipline, focus, and perseverance. This mental fortitude helps them overcome challenges on and off the training floor. Coordination is also essential in Karate, as practitioners must execute precise movements and strikes with fluidity and accuracy.

Respect is a core value in Karate. Practitioners show respect to their instructors, fellow students, and the art itself. Respect for oneself is also emphasized, as Karate is seen as a path to personal growth and self-improvement. Through consistent practice and dedication, students can develop physical and mental discipline while gaining confidence and self-esteem.

“Karate is not about fighting; it is about building character.”
– Gichin Funakoshi

Karate Styles

In the world of karate, there are four main styles that have gained recognition and popularity: Goju-ryu, Shotokan-ryu, Wado-ryu, and Shito-ryu. These styles were founded by renowned karate masters who have left a lasting impact on the martial arts community.

Goju-ryu, established by Chojun Miyagi, focuses on formidable counter-strike movements and utilizes soft and circular blocks. It also emphasizes breathing power and includes a variety of stances that showcase the unique characteristics of this style.

Shotokan-ryu, created by Gichin Funakoshi, is known for its wide stances and linear methods. Practitioners of Shotokan-ryu deliver powerful strikes using their hands, elbows, knees, and feet. This style has gained popularity worldwide and is widely practiced.

Wado-ryu, an offshoot of Shotokan-ryu, was founded by Hienori Otsuka. It emphasizes the harmony of movements and incorporates fluid forms. This style distinguishes itself with shorter stances, which contribute to its unique approach to karate.

Shito-ryu, established by Kenwa Mabuni, places a high emphasis on technique and accuracy in strikes. Students of Shito-ryu learn fifty katas, which are predetermined moves for both attack and defense. This style requires physical strength and strong stances to execute the moves effectively.

Karate Styles Chart

Style Founder Distinctive Techniques
Goju-ryu Chojun Miyagi Formidable counter-strike movements, soft and circular blocks, breathing power
Shotokan-ryu Gichin Funakoshi Wide stances, linear methods, powerful strikes
Wado-ryu Hienori Otsuka Harmony of movements, fluid forms, shorter stances
Shito-ryu Kenwa Mabuni Technique and accuracy, fifty katas, physical strength

Each karate style has its own distinguishing features and techniques, allowing practitioners to explore the art of karate from different perspectives. Despite their differences, these styles share the core tenets of karate: discipline, respect, and self-improvement.

When choosing a karate style, it’s important to consider your goals and personal preferences. Whether you’re interested in the powerful strikes of Shotokan-ryu, the fluid movements of Wado-ryu, the counter-strike techniques of Goju-ryu, or the emphasis on technique in Shito-ryu, there is a karate style that will resonate with you. Explore the rich diversity of karate styles, find a reputable dojo, and embark on a journey of self-discovery and personal growth through the practice of karate.


Goju-ryu is a Karate style that traces its roots back to Chojun Miyagi, a student of Kanryo Higaonna. Established in 1930, Goju-ryu incorporates unique elements such as counter-strike movements, soft and circular blocks, and breathing power. These distinguishing characteristics set Goju-ryu apart from other Karate styles.

One of the core principles of Goju-ryu is the concept of utilizing both hard and soft techniques. This can be seen in the variety of stances employed by practitioners. The style emphasizes the importance of maintaining a strong foundation while executing fluid movements, allowing for maximum effectiveness in self-defense situations.

In Goju-ryu, breathing power plays a crucial role. Practitioners are taught to regulate their breathing, coordinating it with their movements to generate power and maintain focus. This breath control technique, known as “ibuki,” enhances the strength and impact of strikes, making them more potent.

The Differences Between Karate Styles

While Goju-ryu focuses on the integration of hard and soft techniques, other Karate styles have their own unique characteristics. Shotokan-ryu, for example, emphasizes linear methods and wider stances, enabling practitioners to deliver powerful strikes with their hands, elbows, knees, and feet. In contrast, Wado-ryu places an emphasis on the harmony of movements and incorporates shorter stances. Shito-ryu, on the other hand, emphasizes precise and accurate strikes, with students learning a wide range of katas.

Karate Style Main Characteristics
Goju-ryu Combination of hard and soft techniques, circular blocks, breathing power
Shotokan-ryu Linear methods, wide stances, powerful strikes
Wado-ryu Harmony of movements, shorter stances
Shito-ryu Precise strikes, wide range of katas

“Goju-ryu is more than just a martial art, it is a way of life. The integration of hard and soft techniques allows practitioners to adapt to various situations, both in combat and in daily life. By focusing on breathing power and maintaining a strong foundation, Goju-ryu teaches us the importance of discipline and self-control.” – Sensei Hiroshi Yamamoto


Shotokan-ryu is a popular Karate style that was developed by Gichin Funakoshi. Funakoshi studied Karate in Okinawa and later brought the art to Tokyo, where he established Shotokan-ryu in 1938. This style gained widespread recognition and popularity, both in Japan and internationally.

Shotokan-ryu is known for its wide stances and linear methods of movement. Practitioners of this style focus on delivering powerful strikes using their hands, elbows, knees, and feet. The techniques in Shotokan-ryu are characterized by their efficiency and precision, making it a formidable style in both self-defense and competition.

One of the defining features of Shotokan-ryu is its emphasis on kata, which are predetermined forms or patterns of movements. Through the practice of kata, students learn to perfect their techniques, improve their physical strength, and develop mental discipline. This combination of physical and mental training has contributed to the popularity and longevity of Shotokan-ryu as a Karate style.

“The ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants.” – Gichin Funakoshi

Table: Comparison of Shotokan-ryu, Goju-ryu, and Wado-ryu

Aspect Shotokan-ryu Goju-ryu Wado-ryu
Origins Okinawa, Japan Okinawa, Japan Okinawa, Japan
Founder Gichin Funakoshi Chojun Miyagi Hienori Otsuka
Stances Wide Low and compact Shorter
Methods Linear Circular and soft Harmonious
Emphasis Powerful strikes Balance and breathing Movement and evasion
Popularity High High Moderate


Wado-ryu is a Karate style that originated as an offshoot of Shotokan-ryu. Created by Hienori Otsuka in 1939, Wado-ryu focuses on the harmony of movements and embodies a fluid form of Karate. One of the distinguishing features of Wado-ryu is the emphasis on shorter stances compared to other Karate styles, allowing practitioners to move quickly and efficiently.

Harmony of Movements

In Wado-ryu, practitioners strive to achieve a harmonious flow between techniques and movements. This style places a strong emphasis on blending, redirecting, and avoiding attacks rather than relying solely on powerful strikes. The goal is to move in a way that allows practitioners to evade and neutralize their opponents’ attacks while simultaneously executing effective counter techniques.

Wado-ryu’s emphasis on harmony of movements makes it similar to the martial art jujitsu. Practitioners learn to use their opponent’s momentum and energy against them, utilizing techniques such as redirection, joint locks, and throws. By focusing on fluidity and adaptability, Wado-ryu enables practitioners to effectively defend themselves in real-life situations.

Shorter Stances

Another notable aspect of Wado-ryu is the use of shorter stances compared to other Karate styles. This allows practitioners to maintain a lower center of gravity, enhancing their stability and agility. Shorter stances enable quicker transitions between techniques, making Wado-ryu well-suited for close-quarter combat and rapid strikes.

By utilizing shorter stances, Wado-ryu practitioners can generate power and speed, delivering fast and precise strikes in rapid succession. This emphasis on speed and agility makes Wado-ryu an effective style for self-defense and close-quarters combat situations.

Table: Comparison of Wado-ryu and Shotokan-ryu

Aspect Wado-ryu Shotokan-ryu
Stance Length Shorter stances Longer stances
Emphasis Harmony of movements and fluidity Powerful strikes and linear methods
Application Close-quarter combat and rapid strikes Strong and powerful techniques
Origin Offshoot of Shotokan-ryu Created by Gichin Funakoshi

Table: A comparison between Wado-ryu and Shotokan-ryu, highlighting the differences in stance length, emphasis, application, and origin.

Overall, Wado-ryu is a dynamic and fluid style of Karate that places emphasis on the harmony of movements and shorter stances. Its focus on fluidity, adaptability, and quick transitions makes it an effective choice for close-quarter combat and self-defense. By blending techniques with agility, practitioners of Wado-ryu can effectively neutralize their opponents while remaining agile and stable.

Shito-ryu: The Art of Accurate Strikes and Strong Stances

Shito-ryu is a revered Karate style created by Kenwa Mabuni in 1928. This style places a strong emphasis on precise technique and accurate strikes. Practitioners of Shito-ryu learn fifty katas, which are predetermined sequences of movements that encompass both offensive and defensive techniques. The rigorous training in Shito-ryu requires physical strength and mastery of strong stances to execute these moves with precision and effectiveness.

One of the distinguishing features of Shito-ryu is its focus on accuracy in striking. Students of this style learn to deliver strikes with pinpoint precision, honing their technique to hit vital points on the opponent’s body. This emphasis on accuracy not only enhances the practitioner’s effectiveness in self-defense situations but also instills discipline and concentration.

In addition to its emphasis on technique, Shito-ryu places great importance on strong stances. Proper stances serve as the foundation for executing powerful techniques, allowing practitioners to generate maximum force and stability. Through consistent training in Shito-ryu, students develop a solid base and learn to maintain balance and control in various combat situations.

Shito-ryu: Table of Key Characteristics

Feature Description
Founder Kenwa Mabuni
Year Established 1928
Focus Accurate Strikes, Technique
Katas Fifty
Training Emphasis Physical Strength, Strong Stances

Shito-ryu, with its emphasis on technique, accurate strikes, and strong stances, has earned a reputation as a formidable Karate style. Its focus on precise execution and physical strength makes it a popular choice for those seeking to master the art of Karate and develop self-discipline, mental fortitude, and self-confidence.

Other Types of Karate

In addition to the four main Karate styles, there are several other types that hold equal importance and respect within the Karate community. These styles have their own unique characteristics, techniques, and histories, contributing to the rich diversity of Karate.


Shorinji-ryu is a style of Karate known for its focus on both physical and mental development. It emphasizes the development of strong character, discipline, and respect. This style incorporates a combination of striking techniques, self-defense, and kata, or predetermined forms of movement. Shorinji-ryu practitioners are known for their precision and speed in executing techniques.


Kyokushin-ryu, founded by Masutatsu Oyama, is a full-contact Karate style that places a strong emphasis on physical conditioning and practical self-defense. It is known for its intense training methods, including rigorous physical conditioning exercises, sparring, and breaking techniques. Kyokushin-ryu fighters are recognized for their strength, endurance, and indomitable spirit.


Shorin-ryu is a traditional Okinawan Karate style that focuses on speed, agility, and the development of precise techniques. It incorporates both hard and soft techniques, using a combination of powerful strikes and fluid movements. Shorin-ryu practitioners also learn to utilize distance and timing to their advantage in combat situations.


Uechi-ryu is a style of Karate that originated in Okinawa and was developed by Kanbun Uechi. It is characterized by its strong stances, emphasizing stability and rootedness. Uechi-ryu incorporates powerful strikes, joint locks, and grappling techniques. Practitioners of Uechi-ryu focus on cultivating physical and mental strength, as well as a deep understanding of self-defense principles.


Isshin-ryu, founded by Tatsuo Shimabuku, is a Karate style that combines elements of Shorin-ryu and Goju-ryu. It emphasizes quick and powerful movements, aiming for maximum efficiency in self-defense situations. Isshin-ryu practitioners also place great importance on balance and coordination, utilizing fluid transitions between techniques.

Each of these Karate styles has its own unique contributions to the history, community, and practice of Karate. Whether you choose one of the four main styles or explore the other types, the teachings and values of Karate will guide you on a journey of self-improvement, discipline, and respect.


When it comes to choosing a Karate style, there are several factors to consider. First and foremost, find a dojo that aligns with your training objectives and provides proper techniques instruction. A reputable dojo will offer structured lessons that cater to your specific goals, whether it be self-improvement, self-defense, or competition.

Karate, originating from Okinawa, Japan, is more than just a sport. It teaches valuable lessons beyond physical techniques. The mental fortitude gained through Karate training can be applied in all aspects of life, promoting discipline, focus, and resilience.

Additionally, Karate’s moral teachings are an integral part of the practice. Respect, both for oneself and others, is emphasized in every training session. This not only creates a welcoming and supportive community within the dojo but also cultivates a sense of integrity and humility outside of it.


What are the different styles of Karate?

The four main styles of Karate are Goju-ryu, Shotokan-ryu, Wado-ryu, and Shito-ryu. However, there are also other styles such as Shorinji-ryu, Kyokushin-ryu, Shorin-ryu, Uechi-ryu, Isshin-ryu, and more.

What is the belt ranking system in Karate?

Karate uses a belt ranking system to indicate a practitioner’s level of skill and experience. The belts range from white (beginner) to black (mastery), with various colored belts in between to signify progress.

What are the basic principles of Karate?

Karate emphasizes mental strength, coordination, and respect. It teaches various kicks, punches, and defensive blocks, with a focus on self-defense and using the body as a weapon.

Who established the Goju-ryu style of Karate?

Goju-ryu was established by Chojun Miyagi in 1930. He was a student of Kanryo Higaonna and developed this style to incorporate counter-strike movements, soft and circular blocks, and breathing power.

Who created the Shotokan-ryu style of Karate?

Shotokan-ryu was created by Gichin Funakoshi himself. Funakoshi studied in Okinawa and later established Shotokan-ryu in Tokyo in 1938. This style is characterized by wide stances and linear methods for powerful strikes.

What distinguishes Wado-ryu from other Karate styles?

Wado-ryu is an offshoot of Shotokan-ryu created by Hienori Otsuka. It emphasizes the harmony of movements and is similar to the martial art jujitsu. Wado-ryu uses shorter stances as a way of distinguishing itself.

What is the focus of Shito-ryu Karate?

Shito-ryu, created by Kenwa Mabuni in 1928, places a high emphasis on technique and accuracy in its strikes. Students learn fifty katas and must demonstrate physical strength and strong stances to perform the moves accurately.

Are there other types of Karate besides the main styles?

Yes, besides the four main Karate styles, there are other types such as Shorinji-ryu, Kyokushin-ryu, Shorin-ryu, Uechi-ryu, Isshin-ryu, and more. These styles have their own unique characteristics and techniques.

How do I choose the right Karate style for me?

When choosing a Karate style, it’s important to find one that resonates with you and matches your training objectives, whether it’s self-improvement, self-defense, or competition. Look for a reputable dojo that teaches the techniques associated with your chosen style.

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