KISSAKI-KAI KARATE VS SHOTOKAN KARATE
The foundation style of Kissaki-Kai Karate is Shotokan Karate. Kissaki-Kai was establised by Vince Morris when he saw there was much to be improved upon in the way that modern Shotokan Karate is taught and trained.
However we do not train in the same manner as other Shotokan dojo train. In fact there is very little similarity between a JKA or SKIF Shotokan dojo and Kissaki-Kai so we should not rightly call it Shotokan Karate for the purists.
There are changes in the ready posture or "kamae" positions. Most Shotokan Karate (or karate-do styles) start of by crossing the arms at about stomach level and keeping the hands clenched in fists and tensed with straight arms held low at belt level.
In Kissaki, we keep our hands open and relaxed, palms facing outwards and arms loose at the sides. The palms are held at chin height and elbows tucked in against the ribs.
The punching method is also different in that Kissaki punches from the above Kamae position instead of chambering the punch from the hip, thereby reducing the number of steps required for a punch to be executed.
The way we hold the fist in a 3/4 turn instead of a full corkscrew (palm down) punch is different from the Shotokan style. Sometimes we use the vertical fist or Tate Seiken with the hand formed in a fist from the handshake position.
In Shotokan Karate, the most practiced punch is the reverse punch. In Kissaki, the most practiced punch is the lead hand punch. We use the same hip twist to generated force coupled with a body shifting movement.
Shotokan stylists typically move in a linear fashion. Kissaki moves in a 45 degree angles.
Shotokan stylists typically use long range techniques. Kissaki use close range techniques.
Shotokan Karate response against attacks is to move directly forward or directly backwards (as demonstrated in their kihon kumite practice). Kissaki response against attacks is to move forwards at a 45 degree angle facing the opponent's centreline and never move backwards.
Shotokan Karate practices the Zenkutsu dachi or forward posture, Kissaki practices the Sanchin dachi or hourglass posture as its generic posture.
Shotokan Karate uses Gedan barai, age uke, soto uke, uchi uke, shuto uke primarily as blocks and deflections. Kissaki uses mawashi uke and kanku no kamae as blocks and deflections. Kissaki uses Gedan barai, age uke, soto uke, uchi uke, shuto uke as counter offensive tactics.
Shotokan Karate has many kicks to the body and head. Kissaki has low kicks to the shins and knees. Shotokan uses Mae geri (front kick), mawashi geri (round house kick), yoko geri (side kick), ushiro geri (back kick) as its primary tools. Kissaki uses Nami Ashi Geri (returning wave kick), kin geri (groin snap) and yoko geri (side kick).
Shotokan Karate teaches the Heian 1-5 kata, followed by Tekki Shodan, Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai as the requirements for 1st Dan. Kissaki (Malaysia) teaches Naihanchi 1-3 and Bassai Dai or Kanku Dai as the requirements for 1st Dan. Kissaki (Malaysia) teaches Heian 1-5 to the kids for 1st Kyu.
Most Shotokan stylists practice kata for performance and visual aesthetics. Kissaki practice kata for understanding of the movement and their applications and do not emphasize on the prettiness of the movements, preferring function over form.
Shotokan uses "kime".
Kissaki uses "heavy hands".
Shotokan uses strong punches and hip power to general targets. Kissaki trains for accurate punches to specific targets and employs principles of combat to achieve these objectives.
Shotokan is sports based training with many rituals dictated by sporting rules. Kissaki is reality based training with many rituals dictated by little or no rules.
Shotokan has many young students below 15 years old with different black belts. Kissaki (Malaysia) does not permit this.
I can go on and on but at the end of the day Kissaki-Kai Karate is NOT Shotokan Karate. We may use the kata from Shotokan, Goju-Ryu, Shito-Ryu, Koryu Uchinadi, even Tai Chi but Kissaki-Kai is not Shotokan. So what does that make Kissaki-Kai?
Kissaki is a hybrid karate (hand) method that is not Shotokan but includes strikes, grappling, throws, ground fighting, vital point analysis, kata analysis and reality based training.
Is it necessary to put a name to a way of training? How about Kempo (fist method), how about Jeet Kune Do? How about Defensive Tactics? How about Self Defense?
If people are looking to Kissaki-Kai to perfect their characters, yes, it is possible by understanding the dangers and responsibilities involved in learning a dangerous skill. In this sense a person improves their character by being able to control their emotions and tempers.
At the same time the same person has the knowledge and ability not to succumb to bullying or physical assaults and by countering any attack he has reinforced his self confidence, thereby improving his character by making himself stronger.
When Funakoshi Gichin was still alive he did not approve of calling his "karate" anything else but "karate". Only after he died, his students named his "karate" as "Shoto-kan". Shoto was Funakoshi's pen name and "kan" means a "kwoon" or "building for learning".
It may be interesting to see the evolution of Funakoshi's "karate". When Funakoshi first studied his art it was known as "di" (Hogan language meaning "hand" or "tote kempo" meaning (Tang [Dynasty] hand or Chinese Hand fist method). Later it changed to "To-te Jitsu" meaning "Tang [Dynasty] hand method".
After which it was known as "Ryukyu Kempo" or "fist methods from the archipelago of Okinawa". Soon after its introduction into Japan it changed name to "Karate Jutsu" meaning "empty hand method" and after WWII it was further refined into "Karate-Do" and after Funakoshi passed away his students used a marketing name of "Shotokan" to identify this lineage to Funakoshi.
The modern Shotokan Karate-Do had many resemblances to its original "tote" but over time, due to popularization, many changes were introduced to Shotokan by renowned instructors like Funakoshi Yoshitaka (son), and noteably Nakayama Masatoshi of the JKA.
There are many non-JKA Shotokan style groups in existence, such as:
Ryobukan/Ryobukai of the Takehiro Konishi lineage.
The Shudokan of the Isao Obata lineage.
Shotokan Karate of America under the Oshima lineage.
Gima-Ha Shoto Ryu lineage under M. Gima.
Chito-ryu from the Dr. G.Chitose lineage.
So while there are purists who say that Funakoshi taught only one style of karate, it may be also correct to say that Funakoshi's karate changed as he changed. The name changes and kata changes confirm this evolution.
The many non-JKA Shotokan-Ryu schools who practice their own versions of kata and different training methods are no more legitimate than those who have evolved from Shotokan to Shotokai (from the Egami lineage).
Now that there are so many other legitimate Shotokan-Ryu styles in existence who do not train in the JKA or SKIF Shotokan Karate standard, who is to claim which is the most authentic? Your guess is as good as mine.
Vince Choo - Chief Instructor,
Kissaki-Kai Karate Malaysia
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