The Best Karate Style?

“I have not permitted myself to be ignorant of any martial art that exists. Why? Such ignorance is a disgrace to someone who follows the path of the martial arts.”- Mas. Oyama


I’ve been a bit busy lately between school, social media, and training. Probably not the best time to start a new blog! For my first post I had started writing a bit about my own martial arts history but then got busy. I’ll get around to finishing it eventually. In the meantime, I ran across a post in our Facebook group today. It was a link to a YouTube video that asked the question, “The best karate style”? It got me thinking and sometimes it’s best to just “begin”. So for the first official post in this blog, I thought I would share a few of my thoughts on the subject.

In our Facebook group, although our focus definitely is on Kyokushin (the name Kyokushinkai Karate says it all ), we decided to draw a line (rather than just be a “general” martial arts group). We decided that including styles that Sosai Oyama had trained in and that are in turn related to Kyokushin were a “no-brainer”. We included the Okinawan styles because of their relationship to what we in Kyokushin are doing. It’s easy to see their influence on our art. There are schools in Okinawa that also train hard and focus on conditioning for contact. Although they may be different lineages, we are all still relatively closely related. We included Judo because Sosai also trained in Kosen Judo which includes an emphasis on not just throws, but also joint locks, grappling, and ground fighting. It should be pointed out that these techniques are found in karate also and not just judo.

In the early days of Kyokushin, when it was simply the “Oyama Dojo”, the emphasis was on what would work in a “real fight”. In a real fight things happen! You get knocked down and have to get back up. You get kicked, punched, kneed, and elbowed! You might be thrown or someone may grapple with you and then move into the manipulation of joints, or chokeholds. These techniques are found in most styles of karate (and other martial arts systems). Given our relationships, there are value and insights to be found for all of us in seeing how other “styles” of karate practice and what their approaches are.

Different styles of karate share many elements with each other. There is a tremendous amount of overlap. Emphasis can (and does) vary from one style to another but we are much more alike than people sometimes realize I think. The focus of training can (and again does) vary from one instructor to another or one karateka to another. It’s often the practitioner more than the style and their approach to training. Cross-training along with knowledge and understanding of various arts does have value. Sosai’s approach in synthesizing Kyokushin resonated with me personally and I suspect with many of you who are reading this as well!

When we approach our training with the openness of “shoshin”, the “beginners mind”, our training can take on new depths of understanding. Focus on the training is a good maxim to remember! Try not to get too caught up in politics or discussions of “best”. The answer to the question is actually quite simple. What is the best karate style? Why the one you are practicing of course!


“You must understand that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain” -Miyamoto Musashi.

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Bill Stewart

I attended my first Kyokushin class in 1980.

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