There are lots of Karate styles, but they boil down to three main systems. Here is how the three systems came to be.
Chinese Kung Fu/Karate ~ Pan Gai Noon
Pan Gai Noon (half hard half soft) was a Chinese style back in the early part of the last century. This style had roots in Shaolin, and was taught predominately in the Fukien province of China by various monks.
A Japanese fellow named Kanbun Uechi went to China, presumably to study and possibly help in the family shipping business.
In China he sought out schools of the martial arts, and ended up studying Pan Gai Noon.
After studying for several years, he opened up his own school of martial arts, making him possibly the first Japanese to teach Martial arts in china.
During a dispute over a border, one of his students struck a man. One punch, one kill. Kanbun Uechi felt responsible for this episode, and so gave up the martial arts and returned to Japan.
For 17 years he refused to teach martial arts, but, finally, a friend managed to get him to ‘open his fists,’ and the world received a true blessing in this true and original martial art.
Pan Gai Noon would become known as Uechi Ryu, and it would become one of the three main karate influences of the world.
Japanese Karate ~ Kang Duk Won
Kang Duk Won means ‘House for Espousing Virtue.’
A Korean fellow named Byung In Joon had studied Kung Fu for years. Finally, his family sent him away for advanced schooling.
While at school, he was forced into a fight with several Japanese Karate students, and managed to defeat them all without harming any!
This was an incredible feat, and it wasn’t long before he met the fellow who was teaching Karate. And here’s where it gets interesting.
The Karate Instructor was named Kanken Toyama, and he was not taught by Gichin Funakoshi…he did not teach a Japanese version of Karate. He was Gichin Funakoshi’s classmate! And he taught a more true and original version of Karate.
Toyama and Joon decided to trade martial arts, and it wasn’t long before Joon was the head instructor of Toyama’s Karate class!
Joon eventually went home, and he was instrumental in starting the original Karate Kwans (houses of instruction) in Korea. These kwans would eventually become Taekwondo.
Thus, Byung In Joon was instrumental in passing along original Karate, as studied by the Imperial Palace guards of THREE nations: Okinawa, Japan, and Korea.
Further, he was one fo the original founders of Taekwondo!
Joon is obviously a pivotal person in the development of Karate, and his art is called Kang Duk Won.
The Kang Duk Won is a pure form of Karate which resulted in most of the major Japanese Karate systems. This includes Shotokan, Kyokushin, Isshin Ryu, Shito Ryu, Wado Ryu, and more.
If you want to get to the truth of any of these systems, you need to examine them before they were influenced by the Japanese, and that means you need to examine the forms and techniques of the Kang Duk won.
Whooping Crane Gung Fu ~ Goju Ryu
Goju Ryu (hard soft style) Karate was likely descended from Whooping Crane Gung Fu. Whooping Crane was tuaght in the Fukien province of China.
Taught in Fukien, it was considered sister to the Shaolin style called Pan Gai noon. Thus, there are a couple of forms (sanction and seisan) that are common to both martial arts.
It was Kanro Higaonna who brought these forms back to China.
Master Higaonna would later send a young fellow name of Chojun Miyagi (now you know where the name of the teacher in the original Karate Kid came from!) to China, and Miyagi would study such martial arts as Shaolin and Pa Kua Chang.
Miyagi would found the official Goju Ryu system, and his method would include forms taught to him by Higaonno, and the softer and more subtle influences of Shaolin and Pa Kua Chang.
After Miyagi, came Gogen ‘The Cat’ Yamaguchi, who would spread Goju Ryu Karate to the entire world.
Those are the three main types of Karate. And, there is some overlap between Uechi Ryu and Goju Ryu.
Thus, if you really want to master Karate, you should study Matrix Karate, then the three main styles. But…you should study them in the right order.
This page is about Karate Styles.