Shūkōkai (“Way for All”) is a traditional style of Okinawan karate, that evolved from careful analysis of the dynamics and principles of traditional karate. It is considered a direct descendant of its parent style, Shito Ryu.
Shito Ryu Karate is accredited to Soke Kenwa Mabuni (1890-1952). Mabuni, like many of the old karate masters, was descended from the Okinawan warrior class, or bushi. Mabuni family members had served Okinawan lords for hundreds of years.
At 13, Mabuni became a student of Yasutsune “Ankou” Itosu (1830-1915). Itosu taught Okinawan Shuri-Te and was credited as the master who developed the Pinan Kata and was instrumental in organising early karate into the Okinawan school system. Itosu himself was a student of one of Okinawa’s most famous karate masters, Sokon Matsumura (1792-1887), the forefather of Shorin-Ryu.
During his teens, Mabuni also studied under Kanryo Higa(ashi)onna (1853-1915), a teacher of Naha-Te, a particularly Chinese influenced karate style. Mabuni was introduced to Higaonna by his friend, Chojun Miyagi (who went on to become the founder of Goju-Ryu karate).
At this time, Mabuni was a highly respected police officer, and often visited Japan following Funakoshi’s introduction of karate there in 1922. In 1929, Mabuni relocated permanently to Osaka. Just after he took up residence there, the governing body for martial arts in Japan, the Butokukai, enforced that all karate schools should officially register by their style name. Initially, Mabuni named his style Hanko, meaning “half-hard”, but by the early 1930s, he was using the name Shito-Ryu.
Mabuni lived in Osaka until 1952, devoting his life to promoting his Shito-Ryu Karate. It was during this lifetime that one of his students, Chojiro Tani was to further refine the style, into Shūkōkai Karate.
Chōjirō Tani was born in Kobe, Japan in 1921, and started studying karate during high school at the Gojo School of Karate. He then furthered his studies under Miyagi Chōjun, the founder of Gojū-ryū style, while a student at the Doshisha University in Kyoto. After a few months, Miyagi Chōjun returned to Okinawa and the founder of Shitō-ryū, Kenwa Mabuni took over the teaching. Upon graduating from university, Tani began learning Shuri-te and then Shitō-ryū from Mabuni as well. After many years of training under Mabuni and becoming one of his most senior students, Tani received his Menko (Teachers Certificate) and became the head of Shitō-ryū, enabling him to use the name Tani-ha Shitoryu.
He began teaching at his own Dojo in 1946, over which proudly hung a wood carved sign above the entrance which said Shukokai – “Way for All”. He also organised clubs in Kyoto University and Osaka College of Economics, Tottiro University and Kobe University Medical School.
Chōjirō Tani designed Shūkōkai around the study of body mechanics, is very fast due to its relatively high stance aiding mobility, and is known for the double hip twist, which maximises the force of its strikes; making it one of the most hard-hitting Karate styles. The Martial Arts Commission of Great Britain has also stated in its Official Handbook that:
“Shūkōkai punches are the strongest to be found in Karate”
Sensei Kimura [L] and Sensei Tani [R]
Outside of Japan, Tani’s style spread mainly in Europe (Kofukan International). One of Tani’s most senior students Shigeru Kimura, left Japan in 1965 to teach Shukokai in Africa and then the United States, whilst Yoshinao Nambu continued to teach in Europe. When Sensei Tani retired as Chief Technical Director he appointed Shigeru Kimura, 9th Dan, (1941—1995) as his successor.
Sensei Kimura had won the World All-Styles Championship when only 21 years of age and had twice been the All-Japan Champion before retiring from active competition. Sensei Kimura established a reputation of master level Shukokai Karate throughout the world.
Shigeru Kimura developed Shukokai even further, emphasizing its power and strength; and was regarded as an expert on the style. He continued to teach after travelling to Europe, before settling in the United States in 1970 at the age of 29, where he taught at Yonezuka’s Cranford dojo for two years; creating the first Shukokai World Tournament in 1981. Sensei Kimura died in 1995 of a heart attack at the age of 54. Shortly after Tani died on 11 January 1998.
While Shūkōkai shares many of the same punches, kicks, and blocks found in other popular styles of Karate, it is in how these are executed that sets Shūkōkai apart. Sensei Tani and Sensei Kimura made their greatest contributions to the style by continually refining each technique to the highest degree, essentially re-defining the basics that had been practised for centuries.
Both made the study of body mechanics their primary focus with the end result being the delivery of the greatest impact with the least amount of effort. Another defining characteristic is that each technique must be combat effective. Sensei Kimura believed that a technique, no matter how powerful, was useless if it could not be delivered under combat situations.
His philosophy was that the outcome of a confrontation should be decided in a single technique, “one hit, one kill”, which was the traditional way of the Samurai. This drove him to continually modify and test his technique throughout the course of his life with the end result being the traditional, yet combat effective style of Karate we call Shūkōkai.
Ever wonder where martial arts began? Thank at look at The History of Karate!