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Koryu Karate: A Taiho-Jutsu Follow-up?

by Steven J. Kaplan

Many people complete the basic Taiho-Jutsu course, and wish to continue studying. A good many consider karate as a possible follow-up art. However, is a block-kick-punch art really the best follow-up to a course specializing in the "arresting art" of Taiho-Jutsu? On the surface, the answer may be, “not really”. Karate, regardless of the style or system, whether hard or soft, is still a block-kick-punch art. This is true of the traditional ryu, the eclectic styles, and even those ryu which have some restraining techniques and/or takedowns hidden in a kata. Yet, there is a karate ryu which is not the typical, and seems a style worthy of consideration as a follow-up to Taiho-Jutsu. This is the Koryu Karate style.

Prior to speaking of the techniques of this style, it is important to briefly view its history. Many of the traditional schools of JuJutsu had striking techniques as an emphasis of their style. The strikes were paired with knowledge of human anatomy, thereby enabling the practitioner to maximize the effects of the strike. One of these schools was the Kokushin Ryu (also known as Kijin Chosui Ryu). Koryu Karate couples techniques from this system with those of Tenshin Koryu Kenpo. The systematic blending of the two schools was the result of a grandmaster of both the above named systems,


Shoto Tanemura. Tanemura Soke is a world renowned JuJutsu and Ninpo grandmaster, who has combined the various styles of JuJutsu and Ninjutsu in which he holds grandmaster certification by way of teaching lineage, into a kyu/dan system. This author has, in the past, been a member of both his JuJutsu and Ninpo organizations, and spoke to one of his long time Seventh Dan instructors, who was my sensei for a while, about Koryu Karate.

My initial statement to the sensei was that it resembled a JuJutsu style, since in learning the waza, the defender blocks the attack, counters to weaken the opponent, and in many techniques, throws or takes down the attacker and restraints him/her. What was explained to me is that the large majority of the techniques emphasize blocking and countering. Further, when the techniques themselves are examined, the principles of Taiho-Jutsu are indeed seen incorporated into this style. This is not surprising giving the JuJutsu background of Tanemura.

Koryu is translated as "old school", but karate is translated as "China hand" rather than "empty hand". It is the Chinese roots of the system, particularly Tenshi Koryu Kenpo, which remains the foundation. The actual postures taken before engaging in many of the techniques are different than those commonly seen in the Okinawan and Japanese styles. Given the fact that Taiho-Jutsu principles are seen in a majority of the movements, coupled with the fact that Tanemura himself was a police officer for many years, which reflects in the realistic nature of the style, it is a recommended option for those wishing to pursue studies in karate.

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