Isshin Shorinji Ryu Study Guides and Historical Documents

Here are handouts that I received from my instructor, Hanshi Tom Heriaud, when I was starting out. You might find them helpful. You can download and print them as PDFs or read them below.

They will introduce new students to many concepts and terminology we use in class. We provide hard copies to students when we formally recognize them as white belts.

They will answer most of the questions on our written tests.

A couple of things to know before reading them: They were probably written by the soke, or founder, of the system we’re learning. Our soke is Robert Murphy, and the style or system he created is called Isshin Shorinji Ryu.

Soke Murphy trained under Hanshi Don Nagle with a man named James Chapman. Shihan Chapman taught Hanshi Heriaud.

The handouts probably were revised slightly by Soke Murphy’s students and descendants, or in places miscopied during the days before digital technology. I’ve made a few corrections to typos and grammar myself but have tried to make no material changes to Soke Murphy’s texts.

The handouts were written about 1971 and reflected some of that time’s best scholarship into the martial arts. We’ve learned a lot about karate and its history since then, however, and now know that some of the information these handouts contain is not accurate. (For example, “Origins and History” asserts that Sokon Matsumura was the teacher of both Itosu and Higaonna, though we now know that Higaonna did not study under Matsumura.)

Other items—in particular, those exhorting the conditioning of knuckles—retain questionable validity, and in any event those younger than eighteen should not engage in that type of training because it can cause permanent damage to growing bones and joints.

But I’m posting these anyway because (1) They are part of our heritage, showing one point from which our martial art has evolved; and (2) A lot of valuable, still-accurate information remains in the texts.

In addition, the PDF contains “Observations,” by the late Charles Cusumano, one of the first two people Soke Murphy promoted to shihan in Isshin Shorinji Ryu. Think of “Observations” as a foundational document of our system—a powerful statement of purpose and our values. Meant to address the misbehavior of a specific student that Soke Murphy banished from his dojo, Shihan Cusumano’s essay applies equally to anyone who would refuse to accept the responsibilities that must accompany our training.

Soke Murphy continued to make changes to his vision of Isshin Shorinji Ryu until his death in 2007. Some of his students and descendants followed his direction. For many reasons, the style as others envisioned it evolved in other directions. For example, as Hanshi Heriaud did for his students, I’ve changed some of the belt requirements for mine. The system will continue to evolve to address new ideas and information.

Table of Contents


We have placed our Isshin Shorinji Ryu Okinawa Te Belt Requirements on our About Us page.

Chapter One: Okinawa-Te

Origins and Purpose

Okinawa-Te (Karate) was developed through the assimilation and modification of Chuan-fa (Chinese fist arts) by the Okinawans, and incorporation of these with existing fighting methods previously adapted from various Asian martial arts.

Among the various Chuan-fa styles, the one that had the greatest impact on the development of both Chinese and Okinawan fist technique was Shaolin-szu Gung-fu.

This system is thought to have been based on a series of exercises taught by Bodhi Dharma, the Twenty-eighth Patriarch of Buddhism under Sakyamuni, and founder of the Ch’an Sect, commonly known as Zen Buddhism. This system was further expanded and developed by the warrior monks of Shaolin Monastery.

The original concepts taught by Bodhi Dharma were contained in two volumes on Indian military arts, the I Chin Ching and Hsien Sui Ching, which he brought with him when he journeyed to China in the sixth century A.D.

These principles combined with the existing “Five Animal Forms” became the Shaolin-szu Gung-fu system. Although other Chuan-fa existed before the Shaolin-szu system, it was this system which became most widely practiced. Its growth, in part, can be paralleled by and attributed to the spread of the Ch’an Sect’s teachings.

There were two schools of thought concerning individual combat, the External or Hardfist school, noted for aggressive attack technique, and the Internal school, noted for fluid defensive technique and non-aggressive philosophy. The Shaolin-szu Gung-fu originally was of the former type.

As the art spread, it also changed. Lifestyles, terrain, and other military arts were fused with the original by various masters in their travels. Two distinct styles evolved. The Northern style emphasized the use of leg techniques and the Southern style emphasized the use of hand techniques.

There is no way to determine when the Chuan-fa systems were imported to Okinawa. The Okinawans were under the cultural influence of China for some four-hundred years before the Japanese invasion in 1609, and paid tribute to the Ming rulers (1368 to 1644) during which time trade and the exchange of ideas and methods flourished.

What we do know is that in 1429 Lord Syo Hasshi succeeded in uniting the three Kingdoms of Okinawa by force, and that the military arts were highly regarded at that time. It can be assumed that both the Northern and Southern styles reached Okinawa, but it was the Southern style that found favor. This presents the possibility that Chuan-fa may have reached Okinawa during the period of Mongol rule (1260 to 1368).

During the (Northern) Sung Dynasty the capital of China was Kai-feng in Ronan province, but with the conquest of Northern China by the Chin Tartars in 1127 the capital was moved south to Hang Chou in Chekiang province, and so began the Southern Sung Dynasty. In 1205 Genghis Khan began his ruthless campaigns, which led to the establishment of the Yuan Dynasty (1260 to 1368) under Kublai Khan, and complete rule over north and south with the overthrow of the Sung accomplished in 1279.

Shaolin-szu Gung-fu, almost from its inception, became associated with political and self-defense societies, and in fact it was political pressure that caused the dispersion of the monks and the eventual decline of the Shaolin Monastery. During the early Yuan period, while the Sung controlled Southern China, the Hanlin-ji monastery, considered by some to be the second Shaolin-szu, where Chuan-fa was practiced, amassed 150,000 warriors and rose against Yuan rule. The rebellion was unsuccessful and the warriors were scattered. It is highly possible that as the Mongols drove south and finally conquered the Southern Sung capital, which was close to the sea, many Chuan-fa experts sought sanctuary in other lands, one of which was Okinawa. Whatever the case, the facts on the migration of early Chuan-fa will remain vague.

On Okinawa, “Shaolin-szu Chuan-fa” was called by its Japanese equivalent, “Shorinji Kenpo.” It is impossible to state exactly when Shorinji Kenpo became Okinawa-Te, but over the years the techniques took on Okinawan characteristics and were completely transformed, retaining little resemblance to the original Chinese forms.

A Te-like form was being practiced during the first demilitarization period (1430 to 1525). It is believed that this was the original import undergoing its first stage of revision. But it was during the second demilitarization period, beginning with the Japanese invasion by the Satsuma Clan in 1609, that Okinawa-Te emerged as a highly refined fighting art particular to the Okinawans and developed by their efforts.

The need for a highly specialized attack technique arose with the subjugation of the Okinawan people by the Satsuma Clan. Shimazu Satsuma, to guard against rebellion, confiscated everything resembling a weapon and forbade the ownership, manufacture, or import of weapons. Te spread rapidly underground and was taught and practiced secretly. This veil of secrecy accounts for the lack of factual information about its development. Even during this period when Te was in use, the only testimony to its existence was the statistics on the invaders that fell victim to its practitioners.

Originally the art was simply referred to as “Te.” Gradually, as the system spread through Okinawa, the name of the town where the master resided and taught was affixed, such as: Shuri-Te, Naha-Te, and Tomari-Te. These particular towns were well-known for their Te fighters, and in fact were the cradles of Okinawa-Te.

As other masters began teaching, the different groups came to be called “ryu” (style or school) and were usually named after the teachers of the ryu, such as Kobayashi-ryu, Motobu-ryu, et cetera. This method identified the practitioner with a particular master.

Contrary to popular belief, student-masters did not break away from their masters to start new systems, but simply began teaching away from the central school as the demand for instruction increased, and normally with the approval and in many cases at the request of their masters. Names came into use simply as a method of identification, as one would state his city and state rather than just his country when asked where he lives. Although many ryus developed, the differences were few, as the techniques in most cases were simply stylized by the individual masters. Where new technique did exist, it was soon assimilated by the various ryus.

Very little factual information is available on the early Te masters or methods. As stated previously, the Okinawans adapted the External or Hardfist method of Shaolin-szu Chuan-fa as the most practical for their needs, and this gave birth to Okinawa-Te. Later in its development it split into two approaches to the application of technique. There was little emphasis on this until masters Anko Itosu and Kanryo Higaonna developed them into two distinct schools of thought. Their schools came to be known as Shorin and Shorei.

Both of these masters were students of Warrior-Master Sokon Matsumura.

Matsumura is now considered to be the patriarch of Okinawa-Te, and is probably the man most responsible for the organization of the various techniques under a single ryu.

It is with Sokon Matsumura that the factual history of Okinawa-Te begins. Matsumura was noted to be a Samurai of exceptional skill in all military arts, and especially in the fist arts. He was retained by Sakugawa of Shuri during the late eighteenth century. His position and reputation afforded him opportunities to study with many of the Te masters as well as the Chinese masters residing in Okinawa. Because of this we may assume that his knowledge of the existing methods was broader than others of his day. Due to his knowledge and skill, many practitioners sought his instruction.

Two of these were to become more famous than their master. They were Itosu and Higaonna. They went on to spread the teachings of their master, although their methods differed from his as well as from one another’s. The differences probably came about naturally due to differences in physique and structure. Regardless, it was with these man that systemized training and style began.

The teachings of Master Itosu evolved into the Shorin school. Its students trained for speed and agility. The preference was toward flexible defenses, evasion, subtle changes in position, and long-range attacks using rapid combinations of technique. Their technique was based on the theory of the katas Naihanchi, Kusanku, and Chinto.

The teachings of Master Higaonna evolved into the Shorei school. Its students trained for great muscular strength, and preferred direct blocks, little change in position, and strong crushing attacks launched at close range, usually holding on to their adversaries. Their technique was based on the theory of the katas Sanchin and Seiuchin.

Though the Shorei school in its pure form was short-lived due to its lack of flexibility, both masters developed many excellent students who went on to expand, refine, and spread the teachings. Some studied both schools; others journeyed to China to continue their research under well known masters of Chuan-fa.

From the Itosu school came Choki Motobu, who taught a variation that came to be known as Motoburyu Naha-Te.

The Itosu school also produced Chojun Miyagi, who combined principles of the Internal Chuan-fa system, which he studied in Fukien province during a two-year stay in China, with Shorei methods to found the Goju system. Goju eventually replaced the original Shorei. This school was the first to introduce a marriage of Hard and Soft, based on the Theory of Sanchin and Tensho katas. Master Miyagi is generally credited with the creation of both katas, but it is likely that he created only Tensho after a sojourn to China, based on a variation of the Sil Lum Praying Mantis Chuan-fa method, and revised Sanchin.

With the exception of Miyagi, these masters gained fame through the introduction of their ryus to Japan.

During this time there were masters of equal or greater skill on Okinawa whose fame cannot be credited to Japanese influence, but who deserve recognition if one is to understand the growth of Karate.

We do not know who first referred to “Okinawa-Te” as “Karate.” It was with the introduction of the art to Japan that the name took hold. The art was first introduced to Japan in 1917 by Master Gichin Funakoshi, who came at the request of the Japanese government. After a demonstration of the art he returned to Okinawa, only to come back in 1921, at which time he took up residence and began teaching in Waseda University. Shortly thereafter Masters Miyagi, Kenwa Mabuni, and Motobu introduced their styles.

Although Karate was demonstrated in Los Angeles California by Norimichi Yabe in 1920, it was not until the early 1950s that formal instruction was given in the United States. Credit for this must be given to Master Tsutomu Oshima, a student of Master Funakoshi. Through his efforts the Shotokan Karate system established a firm base in America.

Overseas, the ban on martial-arts training imposed by Gen. Douglas MacArthur was lifted, exposing U.S. servicemen to the training. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, many returned and opened small training halls across the country.

In 1963 and again in 1965, Okinawan Grand Master Shimabuku Tatsuo visited the United States to give instructions to his followers.

Master Shimabuku began his study under his uncle, a well-known master of Shuri-Te, and spent the rest of his life in the study and teachings of Okinawa-Te. For twenty-six years he studied various styles. From his uncle’s tutelage he went on to study Kobayashiryu under Master Chotoku Kyan and Naha-Te under Choki Motobu. He then turned to Goju system and Master Chojun Miyagi. In both the Shorin and Goju systems Master Shimabuku was awarded Eighth Dan for his outstanding skill and knowledge.

During World War II Shimabuku Tatsuo’s reputation as a master of Okinawa-Te caused the Japanese occupation forces to take him into custody and force him to teach. It was during this period that he formulated the methods which later came to be known as Isshinryu.

He decided to combine certain aspects of the various systems that he found most practical for his own use, and discarded those that were not suited to his physical structure and concepts of combat. He chose certain forms of the Goju system, but the basis in both form and performance is the Kobayashi Shorin system. He also incorporated the most advanced Bojutsu systems, which he studied under Masters Taira [sometimes spelled Hirara] Shinken and Yabiku Moden. The outstanding features of his system were the exclusive use of the short vertical-fist punch and the rapid delivery of technique in combination.

In 1957 Master Don Nagle, a student of Master Shimabuku, began teaching Isshinryu Karate in the United States. Of his original students, four of his most promising went on to spread the system in the East and Midwest: James Chapman, Richard Niemira, Robert Murphy, and Gary Alexander.

Master Murphy began his study of the martial arts with Jujutsu and Judo as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps in 1954. His interest in the martial arts led him to seek a greater understanding of the underlying principles and philosophies through the study of various arts and systems: Tang Soo Do, Hung Shaolin Gung-fu, Baa Hak Pai Chuan-fa, Shorinjiryu, Aikijutsu, and several Robujutsu systems. In 1965 he was awarded Fourth Dan, and in 1967 Fifth Dan by Master Nagle. In 1969 Master Shimabuku awarded him master’s certification in Isshinryu Karate and Kobujutsu arts. In 1962 he resigned as Director of the Isshando Karate Association to open his own training halls, the Academies of Martial Arts, in North Bergen, Weehawken, and Hoboken, New Jersey.

Master Murphy became Headmaster of the International Institute of Judo and Karate in 1965 and held that post until 1970. He also joined the faculty of the College of Saint Elizabeth and Fairleigh Dickinson University and established two of the largest karate groups in the United States. In these and in Middlesex County College, Karate has become an accredited course of study. Since Master Murphy organized Karate International in 1965, institutions throughout the state have recognized the value of martial-arts training and have accepted programs under his supervision. At Saint Joseph’s High School in Metuchen, New Jersey, for the first time in the United States, varsity and junior-varsity letters were presented to students participating in Karate training. The coaches’ and outstanding Athlete Awards were also given to members of the club.

Karate International Incorporated was organized for the purpose of training professional instructors, standardizing training and sport competition methods, and expanding teaching capabilities to encompass all Asian studies and to accommodate educational, recreational, and business establishments, thereby benefiting all levels of society.

Master Murphy established his main training hall in Parsippany, New Jersey in 1970, the largest facility of its kind on the East Coast, and entirely designed and built by his students.

In 1968, based on the evaluation of his various studies, Master Murphy founded the system of Isshin Shorinjiryu Okinawa-Te. This is a discipline based on the consolidation of various bodies of knowledge about the Asian arts, and is recognized as one of the more fully developed methods of teaching, allowing a student to fully assimilate the broadened scope of knowledge and techniques of various styles.

After the formulation of the Isshin Shorinji system, Masters James Chapman and Ralph Chirico of the Isshinryu system found Master Murphy’s concepts of training and philosophy to be more in keeping with the true goals of the ancient masters and joined with him and Master Leo Weber in spreading those concepts.

Master Chapman was a close friend and associate of Master Murphy from early training days. He also assisted in the formation of the Academies of Martial Arts and the Society of Black Belts of America. Master Chapman opened an Academy branch in Aurora, Illinois in 1963 and sponsored both the Illinois State Championships and the Tri-State Tournament. Master Chapman lost his life in an auto accident in the spring of 1971, a blow to the Karate world.

In 1965 Masters Chirico and Murphy met while training with Master Shimabuku. In 1967, Master Chirico, well known for his tournament participation and fair judging, converted to Isshin Shorinji and became a staff instructor of Karate International in 1970 and Regional Supervisor in 1971.

Master Weber was a student of JuJutsu until he met Master Murphy in 1961. From that day on an unwavering friendship developed. Credit for the realization of many of the hopes of Master Murphy can be given to him, as he laid the foundation for the development of Karate International Incorporated and became its first Vice President.

In 1971, Isshin Shorinjiryu Okinawa-Te was incorporated as a fraternal order guided by a board of trustees and elected officers from the membership, whose purpose is to guide the system according to its philosophy: Harmony of Principle, Integrity in Purpose, and Mutual Benefit.

Master Murphy feels that in a time of turmoil and uncertainty, people need a deeper understanding of themselves. He hopes Isshin Shorinjiryu will give direction to that quest. It is easily seen that Karate was more than a mere method of defending one’s self. It is a demonstration of life as it could be and life as it should be, harmonizing elements of violent struggle with simple beauty and peace.

Karate is a scale of individual achievement, a very personal art which offers a great deal for those who have the foresight to seek it out.



Karate actually means empty hand. (kara – empty, te – hand) It is an art or science of defense which utilizes a principle of focusing power at the hands, feet, elbows, and knees directed at the susceptible or vital points of an adversary’s body.

In its present form Karate consists of complex and spectacular combinations of slashing and kicking maneuvers executed at lightning like speed. Though some students may spend hours toughening their hands and feet, breaking bricks and similar feats are primarily showmanship. The real beauty and subtlety of Karate is expressed in the intricate katas performed by one man against one or more imaginary opponents or by pairs of players.

In free play and contest the blow or kick is stopped just short of contact. A well focused blow or kick, accurately executed which does not make contact, is scored as a point.

Although it is probably the most damaging method of weaponless defense known, Karate has a lower accident or injury incidence rate than most other participant sports. No bodily contact is permitted in Karate training, except on blocks. This means that in training all blows and leg strikes must be pulled before contact is made. The methods of training strictly enforce this.

Karate exercises are uniquely designed to develop and maintain peak physical fitness regardless of age. The confidence of peak physical fitness and knowledge of one’s ability to protect oneself do much to maintain a trained Karateist’s air of gentle assurance.


What Is Budo?

Budo is a Japanese word meaning the way of knighthood. The connotation in the full meaning of the term is directly synonymous with the meaning of the word music, as it would imply a broad generality under which would come classical, Jazz, etc. In the case of the word Budo it is the genera:” subject heading. The subjects in reference to the general classification are the Oriental Combative Arts.

The logical justification of the literal meaning of Budo being interpreted as “The Way of knighthood”, occurs upon an explanation of what the ways of Knighthood in the Orient are accepted to be. The answer is that the way is the way of combat. In the scheme of Oriental philosophy, the truth most often lies in the paradox. This is most exemplary in Budo since the way of combat is really meant as the way of peace. The concepts of the spirit of Budo imply that gentility comes from strength, ferocity comes from peacefulness, greatness comes from humility.


The Character of Kata

The katas of Karate are based on the ancient dance forms of :India and China. These were developed as a means of recording and passing on the history and culture of the civilization. In order to retain the beauty and dramatic quality of the dance, and because of the metaphysical philosophies involved many symbolic movements were used in the interpretation instead of complete meanings, which might have destroyed the beauty of execution.

The interpretation of Karate kata:

They record the ancient fighting techniques developed over the centuries and, in their way, tell us of the life and times.

Perhaps more important is the fact that they record not only the physical techniques, but also the principles of set/defense on which the use of the technique is based. In other words, they give to us a complete understanding of the working of the mind and body in combat

One basic purpose of kata is to develop the internal organs and muscle structure of the body as well as to unite and control, with the mind, the actions of the body. In many positions and movements special emphasis is laid on certain muscle groups in order to produce greater muscular strength, grace’ or agility.

Many techniques and movements of kata are repetitious and many, in a very subtle way, only imply the technique which is to be performed. In this way the masters who developed the technique could conceal them from other than their own disciples.

Through the use of symbols in kata, many thousand of techniques and variations could be passed down from generation to generation. Kata is really an index or reference for technique; but, without knowing the technique the kata is useless as a reference form and remains purely a dance or exercise form. Therefore, a complete understanding of the symbols must also be passed down with the form.

Only by striving for grace, beauty, rhythm, power and speed of performance can complete coordination of mind and body be accomplished.

Only by continual practice of the kumite and kata can the techniques and principles of defense be perfected and applied. Practice of kata must be done in utmost sincerity. It must be done with the sincere belief the student is facing art actual enemy.

Reasons for Kata Training

  1. Expansion of knowledge by concentrated study of many advanced and intricate techniques.
  2. Perfection of form.
  3. Development of both sides of the body.
  4. The rhythm of kata forces one to think in terms of combination techniques.
  5. Training against multiple opponents.


What Is Kumite Contest?

Free-style sparring, Kumite is the most advanced aspect of Karate. In many respects it resembles sparring in boxing, except that attacks are stopped Just short of contact with the target. The reason for this is the obvious danger of serious injury if one of the participants strikes one of his opponent’s vital points with a focused attack. One of the tests of proficiency in Karate is the ability to focus even the strongest technique just short of contact.

The waiting position in freestyle sparring is one of watchful, though relaxed, preparedness. The actual sparring consists of a free exchange of blows, brooks, and counterattacks, until one of the players gets in a focused attack at a vital point of his opponent.


The Essence of Karate

Karate is based on scientific principles of mind and body dynamics, making the most effective use of mental and physical coordination in attack and defense. The real essence of Karate is not necessarily the way of self-defense but of purity and awareness of fife e Therefore, it is the psychological and physiological aspects that form the true heart of Karate.


The Purpose

You may ask yourself, “What is Karate good for other than self-defense?” and “What benefit is there in its study?” To answer this, we will look at it from a physical point. Karate training develops coordination and breathing control to perfection; increases speed, strength and agility naturally; limbers, tones, and relaxes the body. As to the mental aspects, it builds confidence, self-control, character, sincerity, and brings about mental relaxation.


Hand Conditioning

First of all let me state that good Karate is good techniques, mastered techniques, and not calloused hands. Conditioned hands are merely a personal achievement of the Karateka and in no way any criteria of one who mastered a style or styles of Karate.

The type of knuckle development which shall be stressed in this school is known as “calloused” type.

The real secret to successful “conditioning” lies in the number of repetitions done on the striking surface in relation to the condition of one’s knuckles at any particular given day. Weather (humidity) makes the skin softer. Above all, remember, take it easy. If you work too hard or fast and the heat builds up to a point where the knuckle blisters, a month’s work is lost, and one must wait two weeks before even attempting to start conditioning again.

If one punches the surfaces at two different angles (as straight head on punches) the foreknuckles, as well as the little finger main knuckle, will develop quite well. In conjunction with head on (straight or reverse) punching, back fist striking from straddle stance is an absolute must in achieving well proportioned knuckles.

Start your program with three 10 minute workouts each week for the first two months, then increase the time to 20 minutes for the next two months and then up to 30 minutes after that. In no case work out the knuckles more than three times a week as the body must have time to repair the damage. The repair being in the form of callouses and built up extensor tendons and tendon sheaths.

Occasionally while punching, a knuckle will swell up quite suddenly. If this should happen, don’t be alarmed. It is fluid that has formed under the skin, and the body will absorb it in time. However, you may work out on that knuckle at your next training session just as if it had no fluid under it.

  • The makiwara is a bank.
  • Each earnest punch is a dollar.
  • Each bit of nonsense, each halfhearted lazy strike is a withdrawal.
  • Each earnest punch is a deposit.
  • To kill a bull or strike a man dead with one punch is a million-dollar punch.
  • The man with that punch is a karate millionaire.
  • Practice is commonplace to everyone.
  • Just to practice is not enough.
  • Fanatical devotion towards our goal, as if each day were our last, is the only way to elevate ourselves from the poverty of a two-bit punch.
  • Masatatsu Oyama did nothing else but punch a makiwara every day of the year for two years in seclusion in the mountains of Japan.
  • Masatatsu Oyama is the only man in the world today that has split open the skull of a bull with one punch. He is the only man that can strike the horns right out of a bull’s head and punch it to death with nothing but his bare fist.
  • The old kenpo masters in the Chinese monasteries could strike a horse dead with one punch to its heart.
  • Masatatsu Oyama is the only karateka today that has deposited a million punches to the makiwara!
  • Will Masatatsu Oyama be the last?


Grade Structure & Recognition

Significance of the Belt

The belt or obi the student wears denotes his rank.

  • 8th Degree – White
  • 8th Degree – White with 1/2” yellow stripe (after basics)
  • 7th Degree – Yellow
  • 6th Degree – Yellow with 1/2” green stripe
  • 5th Degree – Green
  • 4th Degree – Green with 1/2” brown stripe
  • 3rd Degree – Brown
  • 2nd Degree – Brown with 1/2” black stripe
  • 1st Degree – Brown with 2, 1/2” black stripes
  • 1st Dan – Black with 1 1/2” red band
  • 2nd Dan – Black with 2, 1 1/2” red bands
  • 3rd Dan – Black with 3, 1 1/2” bands (red)
  • Shihan – Black with white line over red line running full length on one side.
  • Shihan Kaiden – Black with red lines over white lines running full length on one side.
  • Renshi – Black with red lines running full length on both sides in center.
  • Kyoshi – Black one side and red one side

Significance of Uniform

  • Kyu grades, White jacket
  • Shodan, White
  • Nidan, White
  • Sandan, Black jacket
  • Shihan, Black
  • Shihan Kaiden, black
  • Renshi, Black
  • Kyoshi, Black


The Codes of Karate

  1. A person’s heart is the same as heaven and earth.
  2. The blood circulating is similar to the moon and sun.
  3. The manner of drinking and spitting is either hard or soft.
  4. A person’s unbalance is the same as a weight.
  5. The body should be able to change direction at any time.
  6. The time to strike is when the opportunity presents itself.
  7. The eye must see all sides.
  8. The ear must listen in all directions.


Guide to Karate Terminology

The following list of Japanese terms are those most commonly used. Each student should familiarize himself with these terms read them, pronounce them, understand them, and most important of all use them.

The Japanese language is not difficult to speak. The following is offered as a guide to pronunciation.

English vowels – Spoken in Japanese

  • A – ah
  • E – A (as in say)
  • I – E (as in see)
  • O – the same
  • U – oo (as in shoe)

Karate Terminology

  • Age: rising

  • Atama: head

  • Bo: wooden staff

  • Choku: straight

  • Choku tsuki: straight punch

  • Chuanfa (fu) gung fu: fist way (Chinese)

  • Chudan: middle

  • Chudan tsuki: middle punch

  • Chudan gyaku tsuki: middle reverse punch

  • Chudan ude uchi uke: middle forearm inside block

  • Chudan ude soto uke: middle forearm outside block

  • Chudan shuto uke: middle knife-hand block (in and out)

  • Dachi: stance

  • Dan: black belt degree

  • Dojo: training hall

  • Hiju (empi): elbow

  • Fumikomi geri: stamping kick

  • Fumi waza: stamping techniques

  • Gammen: face

  • Gedan: lower

  • Gedan barai: lower block

  • Geta: wooden clogs

  • Gyaku: reverse

  • Hachiji dachi: stance with heels together, toes out

  • Hajime: start or begin

  • Hangetsu dachi: wide hour glass stance

  • Haishu: back hand

  • Heiko dachi: stance, toes forward: feet apart

  • Hijiate: elbow attacks

  • Hineri yoko empi: twisting lateral attack

  • Hiraken: fore knuckle fist

  • Hittsui: knee

  • Hittsui geri: knee kick

  • Hizo: spleen

  • Ippon: one point

  • Ippon ken: one knuckle fist

  • Ippon nukite: one finger spear hand (thrust)

  • Jikan: time

  • Jiyu kumite: free style sparring

  • Jodan: upper

  • Kakato: heel of the foot

  • Kaka dachi: cross leg stance

  • Kamidana: shrine of god

  • Karate: empty hand

  • Karate gi: karate practice uniform

  • Karateka: karate exponent (enthusiast)

  • Kata: form (formal exercise)

  • Keito: chicken head wrist

  • Kendo: sword stick fighting (Japanese)

  • Keri waza (also geri waza): kicking techniques

  • Ki: the one point

  • Kiai: yell or scream

  • Kibadachi: horse stance

  • Kime: focus

  • Kiotsuke: attention

  • Ko empi: rear elbow attack

  • Kokutsu dachi: back stance

  • Koshi: ball of foot

  • Kumite: sparring

  • Kyu: grade below dan

  • Kyusho: vital points of the body

  • Kyokushinkai: true high form

  • Mae geri: front kick

  • Mae geri keage: front rising kick

  • Mae geri kekomi: front thrust kick

  • Mae tobi geri: flying front kick

  • Makiwara: punching or striking board

  • Matte: wait

  • Mawashi geri: roundhouse kick

  • Mawashi tsuki: roundhouse punch

  • Mawashi uke: roundhouse block

  • Mawatte: turn

  • Migi: right

  • Mikazuki geri: crescent or three day moon kick

  • Mikazuki geri uke: crescent kick block

  • Mizu no kokoro: a mind like water

  • Montei: disciple or pupil

  • Morote uke (chudan): augmented block (two hand block)

  • Morote tsuki: two hand punch

  • Nagashi uke: sweeping block

  • Nage waza: throwing techniques

  • Makadate ippon ken: middle finger one knuckle fist

  • Nan pa ken: Indian and Okinawan hand techniques

  • Nami ashi uke: inside snapping block

  • Nao re: finish

  • Neko ashi dachi: cat stance

  • Ni: two

  • Nidan geri: double kick

  • Nihon nukite: two finger spear hand (thrust)

  • Nukite: spear hand thrust

  • Obi: belt or sash

  • Oi tsuki: lunge punch

  • Okinawate (de): Okinawan hands (karate system)

  • Osae uke: pressing block

  • Rei: salutory bow

  • Renshu: practice

  • Ryu: school

  • Sai: traditional Okinawan weapon

  • Sakotsu: collar bone

  • Sakotsu uchi: collar bone strike

  • Sakuto: edge of foot

  • Sanbun kumite: three step sparring

  • Sanchin dachi: free fighting stance

  • Seiken: forefist

  • Sensei: instructor or teacher

  • Semete: attacker

  • Shita hara: lower abdomen

  • Shinden: a sanctuary

  • Shintai uke: body defense

  • Shiai: contest

  • Shihan: head teacher (master)

  • Shuto: knife hand

  • Shiai do: contest area

  • Shimpan (simbon): referee

  • Soto: outside

  • Suki: opening

  • Tachi waza (dachi): stances (standing techniques)

  • Tameshiwaru: the art of breaking objects

  • Tatami: straw fist

  • Tate tsuki: vertical fist punch

  • Teisho: palm heel

  • Teisoku: sole of foot

  • Tettsui (kensui): hammer fist

  • Te waza: hand techniques

  • Tsukami uke: grasping block

  • Tsuki no kokoro: a mind like the moon

  • Tsuki uke: punching block

  • Tsuki waza: punching techniques

  • Uchi waza: striking techniques

  • Uchi: inside

  • Ude: forearm

  • Ude uke: forearm block

  • Uke: block

  • Ukete: defender

  • Ura: reverse

  • Uraken: back fist

  • Ura tsuki (shita): close punch

  • Ushiro geri: back kick

  • Waza: techniques

  • Yame: finish, stop, end

  • Yama tsuki: U-punch

  • Yoko empi: lateral elbow attack

  • Yoko geri: side kick

  • Yoko geri keage: rising side kick

  • Yoko tobi geri: flying side kick

  • Yonhon nukite: four finger thrust

  • Yudansha: black belt holder


  • Seisan dachi: seisan
  • Soto hachi: seiuchin
  • Uchi hachi ji: naı hanchi
  • Neko ashi dachi: cat stance
  • Sanchin dachi: sanchin
  • Tsuro no iwa dachi: crane of rock stance
  • Zen kutsu dachi: leaning forward stance
  • Judo dachi: feet apart, toes pointing outwards
  • Kokutsu dachi: back stance
  • Kake dachi: cross leg stance
  • Kiba dachi: horse stance
  • Heiko dachi: feet apart, toes pointing straight forward

Japanese Numbers

As the class does its basic exercises you hear them shouting some words in Japanese. These are actually Japanese numbers.

  • 1 – Ichi
  • 2 – Ni
  • 3 – San
  • 4 – Shi
  • 5 – Go
  • 6 – Roku
  • 7 – Shichi
  • 8 – Hachi
  • 9 – Ku
  • 10 – Ju
  • 11 – Ju Ichi
  • 12 – Ju Ni
  • 13 – Ju San
  • 14 – Ju Shi
  • 15 – Ju Go
  • 16 – Ju Roku
  • 17 – Ju Shichi
  • 18 – Ju Hachi
  • 19 – Ju Ku
  • 20 – Ni Ju
  • 21 – Ni Ju Ichi
  • 22 – Ni Ju Ni
  • 23 – Ni Ju San
  • 24 – Ni Ju Shi
  • 25 – Ni Ju Go
  • 26 – Ni Ju Roku
  • 27 – Ni Ju Shichi
  • 28 – Ni Ju Hachi
  • 29 – Ni Ju Ku


General Information

What is the significance of the patch?

One heart or one mind in Japanese. Circular lines and sharp lines signify precision, motion, and effectiveness.

What is the significance of the gi?

It allows freedom of movement and it is also traditional.

What is the purpose of kumite?

Practice techniques, reflexes, and form.

What is the purpose of the cat stance?

Stretch and tone the muscles of the trunk.

What is the purpose of the kiai?

Shock opponent, allowing you to focus your blow.

How do you sharpen reflexes?

Repeating the kata and free fighting.

How do you build speed?

By constant repetition of exercises.

How important are the basic exercises?

They form the base for more advanced training.

Is every blow a death blow?

Yes, but some are delivered to maim rather than kill.

Why is there red trim on the gi?

Kyus decorative purpose. All ranks under black belt.

Why are the toes of the foot pulled back before kicking?

This action tightens the tendon in the ankle thus lessening the chances of hurting the foot.

What is a shihan?

  • Master of karate – 4th Degree Black Belt thru 7th Degree.
  • Grand master – 8th & 9th Degree
  • Chief grand master – 10th Degree