Knockdown Karate History

(Originally published at Martialtalk)

Fighter in the Wind

This article was originally written by Martin H for The reason why I reblog this is because of the MMA influence applied to some of the styles.

Kyokushinkai Kan
Kyokushin is a style of stand-up, full contact karate, founded in 1964 by Korean Masutatsu Oyama who was born under the name Choi Young-Eui. Kyokushin is Japanese for “the ultimate truth.” Kyokushin is rooted in a philosophy of self-improvement, discipline and hard training.

Kyokushin is the base for all the mentioned styles.

Ashihara Karate
Hideyuki Ashihara split off from kyokushin in 1979 to focus on a slightly more circular footwork system. Not something that you can’t find in kyokushin aswell, but certanly Ashihara put much more focus on it. Ashihara karate allows a bit more grabs & throws than kyokushin (when nowadays do not allow grabbing for any reason). He also removed the trad katas and created new more “fighting looking” ones. Two of the guys that followed him was Joko Ninomiya and Kazuyoshi Ishii -both famous fighters in kyokushin.

Seidokaikan Karate
Kazuyoshi Ishii broke with Ashihara 1980, only a few months after the split from kyokushin, and formed Seidokaikan. The main difference from kyokushin is that in the finals of Seidokakan tournaments, extension rounds are fought with boxing gloves and kickboxing rules. He also founded K-1, which grew out of Seidokaikan challenge events.

Enshin Karate
Joko Ninomiya stayed with Ashihara as the #2 man until 1988, when he broke away and created Enshin. Enshin focus even more on the circular footwork than Ashihara karate, and use the same type of fighting-looking katas (but has not the same ones). There are a lot of grabbing and throwing in Enshin competitions. The main Enshin event is the Sabaki challenge in USA.

Seido Juku Karate
Tadashi Nakamura left Kyokushin in 1976. He founded Seido Juku, which has been discussed in several posts in this thread.

The most significant difference from Kyokushin is a decreased focus on bare-knuckle knockdown competition in favor of more semi-contact training.


Other similar styles

World Oyama Karate
World Oyama karate was created by Shigeru Oyama (no blood relation to Masutatsu Oyama — the founder of Kyokushin). Shigeru was a top profile in Kyokushin but left in 1981. World Oyama is very similar to Kyokushin. A few katas, a new technique here & there and another order in which they are taught.

Shidokan Karate
Shidokan karate was founded by Yoshiji Soeno, a top Kyokushin fighter, in 1981. Shidokan is very similar to Kyokushin in technique and kata, but has added elements from other sources (mostly Judo and Muay Thai). They regularly fight in kickboxing and MMA events, and has a triathlon tournament format where they fight several round with changing rules. First round Kyokushin rules, second round Muay Thai rules, last round MMA rules.

There are differences in technique between the styles (and the different organizations in each style). But it really is not much, and you will find just as much differences between different dojo´s of the same style in different parts of the world.

It is more about the different personal modifications of guys who was once taught the same thing, than about fundemental differences in formal style. Enshin and Ashihara has throws in the grading system, where Kyokushin world Oyama and seidokaikan has them outside the formal grading system, but that is about it.


Mixed Budo styles

Kudo Newaza

Kudo Daido Juku
Daido Juku was founded in 1981 by Azuma Takashi. Takashi was asked to developed new more realistic rules for Kyokushin, but when his new “kudo” rules was ready, Oyama thought that knockdown had spread too much and could not be replaced. So Takashi requested and received permission to leave and found a new style (making it one of few friendly splits in Kyokushin history) to use the rules.

Daido Juku Kudo is a mix of Kyokushin and Judo — with more recent Muay Thai and BJJ influences. Daido Juku competitions are closer to MMA in feel, but the knockdown karate roots are obvious.

Kudo for MMA
Azuma created a martial art with various offensive and defensive tactics, creating his own mixed martial art. The advantage of training in Kudo are :

– Strikes, like elbows to the head, knees, kicks and head butts are allowed in Kudo. It provides a good base for training in striking, as well as being prepared to defend against the variety of strikes that are common in mixed martial arts fighting.

– The art also includes throws and takedowns, to be used in combination with strikes, which is very similar to MMA fights.

– Kudo also integrates wrestling into the training, so practitioners are familiar with ground fighting techniques, like positional control and submissions.

The only difference with a mixed martial arts fight would be the use of protective gear in Kudo. The protective headgear used in Kudo is to ensure safety, but that doesn’t reduce the number of knockouts in tournaments.

Kudo is a traditional mixed martial art. And with the amalgamation of so many different disciplines of martial arts, it provides an effective ground for training in MMA.

Seiwakai Karate
Seiwakai karate was founded by the famous Brazilian Kyokushin fighter Ademir DaCosta in the late 90's. Apart from fighting trad knockdown karate internally, they are heavily involved in Brazilian MMA and Chute Boxe — with great success as I hear.

Odo Karate
Sato juku (actually that is the name of the Org. the style is called Odo karate). Created by the first Kyokushin world champion Katsuaki Sato. Their version of knockdown allows for 2 points rewarded for technically perfect techniques that DO NOT contact (while still allowing 1 point for a temporary stun and 3 points/win for knockdown/knockout) — to encourage more technique and less “slugging”.

Kyokushin Budo Kai
Founded by Jon Bluming, who was expelled from Kyokushin in the late 60's. He was also a high ranking Judoka, and his style is a mix of the two. Basically you start with knockdown karate standup, but allows takedowns/throws and Judo newaza.

Byakuren is an offshot from Shorinji kempo. The founder was expelled from Shorinji after he entered Kyokushin tournaments to test his skills. It is basically Shorinji kempo heavily adapted to traditional knockdown competition rules. While the basics are not from Kyokushin, the fighting looks identical and the rules are identical to trad Kyokushin knockdown rules. They work closely with the Shinkyokushin faction of kyokushin and often compete in Shinkyokushin tournaments.

Tsu Shin Gen
Tsu Shin Gen was founded by David Cook (born in the US, living in Sweden). He started out in Kyokushin, continued in Ashihara and has now founded TSG, which is a happy mix of Karate, Kickboxing and MMA. It is large in Eastern Europe.

Zendokai is a recent offshot from Daido juku created by Takashi Ozawa in 1999. Basically it is MMA karate. They are involved in a lot of japanese MMA events. This Zendokai so far exist only in japan and some eastern asian countries. Do NOT confuse it with the Australian Zendokai created by Bob Jones — there is no relation and few similarities.

Wajutsu Keishukai
Wajutsu Keishukai is an offshot from Daido Juku created in 1987 with strong Judo influences. Although more of a chain of MMA gyms (and one of the most successful MMA gym chains in Japan) and not karate nowadays.

Koi Karate
Koi karate is a bunch of crazy Russians. Originally founded by a Kyokushin trained army close combat specialist (who also trained in knife fighting techniques which is now taught in the style) they now fights basically no rules bare-knuckle MMA. As part of their grading they have to place (at least 3rd place) in full contact martial art events of other organizations. The higher the grade, the higher the level the tournament.

There are so many more. Some are descended from Kyokushin, others are just influenced by it but is not actually related.

Shurenkan, Mumonkai, Toshinkai, Shinaido, Shinbukan, Kenshinkan, World Miura Karate, Gyakushin. The list goes on and on and never seem to end. Ranging from decent sized international organizations to a mere handful of dojos.


Then there are pure competition organizations like Shinkarate (literally “new karate”). A Japanese umbrella organization for Karate dojos fighting “gloved karate” (a popular amateur sport that is growing fast in Japan). Basically a variation of Kyokushin knockdown but with boxing gloves and head-punches.

Shinkarate has been a major source of new Japanese k-1 fighters recently. Junichi Sawayashiki (who lost big to Peter Aerts in the first round of the 2007 K-1 final) being the most well known, but Shinkarate is not a style organization, and there are many small independent dojos — each with its own style, attached to it (most are formerly Kyokushin or related, but many are from other lineages entirely).

Shinkarate calls their tournaments (all amateur -there is no pro league. Gloved karate guys going Pro do kickboxing) K-2 to K-5 (yes they have bought the rights to the names from k-1). K2 is the full rules using only boxing gloves. K-3 is the “suited up” version with chest protector, helmet and shin guard. K-4 is youth rules with lighter contact and Helmet (no chest protector or shinguard) and k-5 is the young children version (marshmallow-man protection, lower contact).

There are a few other gloved-karate organizations, but Shinkarate is by far the largest.


Then you got the traditional full contact forms of karate.

Irikumi is the traditional fighting from Goju-ryu karate from before the days of no/light contact point karate. Now sadly all but forgotten in most of Goju-ryu, Irikumi is continuous fighting using gloves — either full contact or semi contact depending on the purpose of the sparring (test of skill or test of toughness). Very similar to Shinkarate K-2 rules. Irikumi was actually what Oyama, the founder of Gyokushin did when he was a Goju-ryu student under the Japanese Goju-ryu legend Gogen Yamagushi.

Bogu kumite is the traditional Okinawan form of fighting used in different variations in many styles. Basically it is full contact but using a lot of padding (somewhat similar to Shinkarate k-3 rules). Originally they used Kendo armor and helmets, but nowadays they thankfully have more suitable protection. Usually it is continuous fighting, but some styles stop after each hit to hand out points like in point karate.