The 13 main types of Karate

Karate seems to be alive. Karate started in the early 1900s, but it has been around for hundreds of years before that.

Some of the moves that modern Karateka do are the same as those done by ancient martial artists, but some of the techniques have been completely changed. Even the basic style of Karate that Gichin Funakoshi brought from Okinawa to Japan has changed.

What Are the Styles of Karate?

What do we mean when we say “different Karate styles” instead of “different martial arts styles”? Both Shotokan Karate and Wado-ryu are types of Karate, but they are very different from each other. But Tae Kwon Do, which looks a lot like Karate, is not the same thing as Karate.

How many different ways can you do karate?

Even though there are more than 75 different styles of Karate, only four of them are widely known.

1. Shotokan-ryu

Shotokan Karate is one of the most well-known kinds of Karate in the world. Gichin Funakoshi, who is known as the Father of Modern Karate, made it up in Tokyo.

Shotokan techniques are very strong and straight, which is different from the fluid, circular movements of Kung Fu. The art as a whole is made up of about 70% hard techniques and 30% soft movements.

As they do techniques, students are taught to pay attention to their speed, form, balance, and breathing. Beginners tend to take deep stances that get longer as they learn more.

Students must learn 26 katas in this style.

2. Shito-ry

Shotokan is more well-known around the world, but Shito-ryu is the most common style of Karate in West Japan. The style was started by Kenwa Mabuni in 1934. It is based on Okinawan Karate styles.

The style uses short, low stances that look a lot like what Sumo wrestlers do. It also uses a lot of kata. It is the Karate style with the most kata, with 94. Students are told to put together the moves from the kata as they practise self-defense.

3. Goju-ryu

If you’ve seen The Karate Kid, you’ve already seen Goju-ryu in action. This is the way Daniel learns to fight from the fictional character Mr. Miyagi.

The style is based on Okinawan Karate, which was heavily influenced by Chinese Kung Fu and martial arts hundreds of years ago. A Chinese martial art called Fujian White Crane is also a big part of it.

The real Chojun Miyagi, who started the Goju-ryu style of Karate around 1930, was the model for his character.

The name of the art shows that the style is a more balanced mix of hard and soft techniques. In Japanese, “Goju” means “hard-soft” in English.

Shotokan Karate moves very straight, but many Goju-ryu moves are more circular. (“Wax on, wax off.”)

Only 12 kata are used in this style, and the stances are deep and natural.

4. Wado-ryu

Hironori Otsuka started Wado-ryu, which means “the way of harmony” in Japanese. He did this in 1939. Harmony and peace of mind are given a lot of attention.

Most styles of Karate focus on strong attacks, but in Wado, the goal is to avoid getting hit. Students learn how to move their bodies to avoid or lessen the effects of blows. They also learn how to use blows as a counterattack.

Wado is different from most other Karate styles because it also uses Jujitsu moves like joint locks and throws. Most of the positions are natural, and each student learns 15 kata.

How do you say Ryu in Japanese?

You may have noticed that all of the styles’ names include the Japanese word “Ryu.” What does Ryu stand for?

“Ryu” can mean style, school, system, type, form, and so on in Japanese. Most of the time, it comes at the end of a Kanji word, like here after the names of the styles.

The word “ryuha” means “school” or “school of thought” when it stands alone. There are a lot of different ryuha in Japanese martial arts.

Different kinds of karate

So far, we’ve talked about Karate’s four main styles. But even though these are the most well-known types of Karate, they are not the only ones.

Other styles that have become popular are mostly a combination of these four or a spinoff of one of them.

Let’s look at them quickly here.

1. Kyokushin-ryu

Kyokushin Karate is a mix of Shotokan and Goju-ryu techniques. But even though Goju-ryu has influenced it, it is known as a very hard style.

It is also a very rough form of Karate that is used in sports. It is called Japanese full-contact Karate or knockdown Karate. Kyokushin students are not told to pull their punches during sparring like students of other Karate styles are. Instead, they are encouraged to throw blows that could cause permanent damage.

There are 23 Kata and 8 ura Kata. Most of the positions are natural.


Isshin-ryu is mostly based on Karate styles from Okinawa. It combines Okinawan martial arts like Goju-ryu, Shorin-ryu, and Kobudo.

Most of the stances are natural, and there are 15 kata, some of which use weapons.

3. Uechi-ryu

The Uechi-ryu style of Karate is a combination of Kung Fu and Okinawan martial arts. There are both hard and soft ways to do things.

Students might be happy to hear that Uechi-ryu only has 8 kata to learn. Kata fans, on the other hand, will have to look elsewhere to find a challenge.

Kanbun Uechi came up with this style in the early 1900s on the island of Okinawa.


Shorin-ryu is another style of martial arts that comes from Okinawa and China. It uses both hard and soft techniques. But hard-and-fast methods tend to be the norm.

Students always use natural stances, and they learn 21 kata.

5. Shindo Jinen-ryu

This style is a steady blend of Okinawan and Japanese Karate styles. So, it uses both deep and natural stances. There are more than 60 different kinds of kata and subcategories that students learn.

6. Shukokai Ryu

This style of Karate combines Shito-ryu and Goju-ryu. It keeps a balance between hard and soft techniques, about 60% hard and 40% soft.

Practitioners always stand in their natural positions, and students can learn 44 kata.

7. Gosoku Ryu

Gosoku-ryu is a style of Karate from Japan that uses moves from both Shotokan and Goju-ryu. There are both hard and soft ways to do things.

Beginners are often taught how to take deep stances. As they get better, they use more natural stances.

This style has 46 Kata, which is a pretty big number, and some of them use weapons.

8. Shuri-ryu

Shuri-ryu comes from Okinawa as well. It was made by combining Okinawan martial arts with Xing Yi Quan, which is a Chinese art. There are both hard and soft moves in this style, and both deep and natural stances are used. Students learn 15 kata in all.

9. Chito-ry

Chito-ryu is a martial art that is a mix of Shorin-ryu and Okinawan styles. There is a mix of hard and soft techniques in the style. But, unlike most other kinds of karate, it focuses on soft moves instead of hard ones.

There are 15 kata, and the stances are always natural.

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