September 4, 2022

Goju Ryu Vs. Shotokan: Differences & Efficiency

It is no wonder that the debate of “what is the best type of karate?” is an old-age one. Nobody is as lucky as Daniel LaRusso from The Karate Kid who just so happened to live next to the karate master Mr. Miyagi. And as if that is not enough, there is an overwhelming number of styles of karate to choose from, names of which you cannot even pronounce.

Goju Ryu is a soft style taught in a natural and upright stance. Focusing more on close attacks and defense, it employs grappling in some instances. Shotokan is a hard style that emphasizes more on long-range attacks and defense. It uses a combination of fluid and natural movements with a strong focus on ‘Kata.’

Interesting. Isn’t it?

When deciding to pick up new martial art, it is essential to have knowledge about the in-depth basics and if it will fulfill your purpose or not.

Differences in Techniques and Training


Shotokan incorporates deep, wide stances that are angled precisely for powerful hits. These low stances build stamina and leg strength.

Goju ryu on the other hand has a lot of high stances which prove to be pragmatic in cases of self defence. These stances ensure quicker reflexes because they come natural to the body. However, they work the leg muscles less than the deep stances of Shotokan.

Japanese woman doing karate


Unlike popular belief that Shotokan has the least number of katas that are repeated to attain perfection, Goju ryu has almost half the number of katas.

Traditionally, the Goju Ryu curriculum includes 12 katas. Students need to be proficient in all 12 to advance to the new stage of sandan. 

To perfect their skills in each kata, students are engaged in a fighting drill for two people to understand the practical application of each kata.

Consisting of 26 katas, the Shotokan style of karate is rather simple. The katas are characterized by linear, direct punching, kicking and blocking from low stances. The formality of basic technique is the main goal in Shotokan Karate.


If you have an opportunity to see Goju Ryu fighter and Shotokan fighter fight, you will instantly realize that there is an out-to-out difference in their fighting styles. Lets see why!

Goju Ryu is Japanese for ‘hard-soft style’ which tells a lot about how it is executed. Katas are executed with a certain control and deliberation, to be completed later at a faster pace. It is characterized by short, high stances, the use of short and medium distances, in addition to knocks and circular blocks.

Goju Ryu style of fighting is like art, it is important to emphasize that Go is hard (impact) while Ju is the opposite, smoothness, but maintaining the right tension. This combination has practical application in daily life.

On the other hand, Shotokan karate is characterized by the frequent use of low positions that provide greater stability and power. A greater penetration of blows is ensured by a precise body alignment and synergy between the big muscles.


Most often than not, if you’re looking in as an outsider, karate seems like a fracas that lead to an outbreak of fisticuffs with rules. However, you cannot be more wrong!

Karate has a lot more to it than just violently beating up people. Each type of karate has a philosophy backing it which shapes the mindset of the fighter.

Chojun Miyagi, founder of Goju ryu, believed in building intellect before strength. The aim of Goju Ryu is to build character, conquer human misery, and find spiritual freedom. The name Goju Ryu was chosen to draw an analogy to real life. Only hardness or only softness cannot suffice to deal with the predicaments in life. Only when used together are they effective. Therefore, for Goju Ryu fighters it’s always mind over matter and why over how.This is good news for those who don’t fight without reason! 

The philosophy behind Shotokan is a blend of logic and spirituality as portrayed by the 20 precepts. For example, precept number 15 talks about technique, ”Consider your opponent’s legs and arms as you would lethal swords.” But, precept number 5 says, ”Spirit and mind is more important than technique.” This is the reason why Shotokan fighters never strike first.. Always fight smart!

Similarities in Techniques

Because both Shotokan and Goju Ryu are styles of karate, they ought to share some features. Also, let’s not forget the fact that they both originated from Okinawa so they are essentially from the same tree but have branched out!

There is no overlap in the katas however both styles of fighting incorporate a balance of soft and hard techniques. The philosophies may differ but the essence remains consistent. Both types of karate ensure that the mind and spirit is involved in the fight for more impact.

Which One is More Effective?

Here is the answer you have been dying to know. When it comes to effectiveness, Goju Ryu triumphs with a marginal difference and this is why:


The stances involved in Goju Ryu are more natural and fluid. Because the basic purpose of karate is self- defence you want to be able to fight combat-style in a street. Shotokan on the other hand is taught more traditionally, they do a lot of katas and unrealistic drills along with traditional blocks and stances that will get you killed on the street. Looking pretty in a crisp white uniform that pops when you throw a reverse punch while in a front stance will spell doom in the real world.

Shotokan is Predictable 

Because Shotokan fighters perfect a handful of moves, they are predictable fighters. On the contrary Goju Ryu fighters spar in combat style, their moves more aggressive and unforeseeable.

Full-Contact style

Some practitioners might claim that Shotokan is an incomplete fighting discipline because it focuses more on evading and blocking. 

karate player breaking wooden plank

Which One is Better for Self-Defense?

Shotokan takes the cake in this one. In a situation when you have to defend yourself, instinct takes over. Because the katas in Shotokan are so well practiced, a person can easily execute them on instinct. ‘Attack is not the best self-defense’. Shotokan takes this motto seriously and trains very well in evading, avoiding and blocking. 

Cost Comparison

The average monthly cost of Shotokan training may range from $65 to $95 while $35 to $55 for that of Goju-ryu.

The approximate total cost of Shotokan training to attain the black belt ranges from $2730 to $475 while $3990 to $2310 for that of Goju-ryu.

Which One Should I Learn?

For the most part, Goju Ryu is a better option to go for. Its natural stances make the poise easier and utilizes maximum muscle capacity for a rigorous fight. It trains you to fight fiercely in realistic conditions which is the true purpose of learning karate.


At the end of the day, the decision depends on you. Be honest to yourself and make realistic goals. If you’re up for some harsh conditioning and combat style fighting, Goju Ryu is the one for you. On the other hand if you want to go for a dynamic martial art style, Shotokan might be your best option. Choose wisely!

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