The first question that pops up in your mind when you are deciding on learning a particular type of karate is “How effective is it?”
If isshinryu Karate is on your list, this article will hopefully aid you in clearing the fog in your mind and leave you more confident in making the right decision for yourself.
To answer the question: “Is isshinryu the best style of karate?”
The answer is no. But don’t fret! It may not be the best, but there is no denying that it is an effective style due to its improved stances and unique hitting techniques. It may just be the style for you!
Why isshinryu karate is an effective style:
1. The best of both worlds
Sensei Shimabuku, the founder of Isshin-Ryu karate, developed the said style of karate by combining styles from pre-existing traditional forms of karate like Shorin-Ryu, Goju-Ryu and Kobayashi-Ryu.
Several changes were made to the root styles to perfect Isshin-Ryu. For instance, unlike most Okinawan karate styles, the stances are low, however not as low as Shotokan. This helps with stability.Also, if you’ve been looking into karate, you must have heard of isshinryu’s famous vertical punch. More coming up on that later!
Likewise, most Isshinryu senseis practice this process of critical thinking and continuous improvement. This openness to pursue what works best over a strict adherence to tradition makes Isshin-Ryu a traditional karate style with a modern twist.
Best of both worlds, isn’t it?
2. Limited wasted motion
Isshin-ryu eliminates wasted motion because hits like punches and kicks are delivered at natural angles.
No flashy high kicks, no corkscrew punches.
Simple and pragmatic moves that offer stability and split second advantages in a fight with opponents using other styles.
Remember, each second counts!
Isshinryu stresses “close-in” techniques that are more practical on the street. Here is how:
During Isshin-Ryu training, many quintessential maneuvers are taught for street self-defense like hand to hand combat and knife-defense. These techniques depend on the school you go to but the use of certain easy to find objects like your belt is taught.
A scuffle is mostly what you confront in daily life whether it’s a street brawl or a bar fight.
Isshin-Ryu might just be your saving grace if you find yourself in sticky situations like these!
4. ‘Snapped’ Hand and Foot techniques
To understand this one, you need to go back to eighth grade science class. However this information is hopefully not that boring:
Both hand and feet techniques are snapped with ninety percent extension of the limbs in isshin-Ryu karate to deliver a hit with maximum force.
Remember Newton’s laws of motion? Guessed not.
But surely you remember the infamous F=ma (Force= mass×acceleration). This equation tells us that the less time you are in contact with what you’re hitting, the more force you apply as a result.
The science geeks can work the logic out!
5. Balanced stances
It is evident from the katas included in Isshin-ryu curriculum that the afore-mentioned snapped techniques are delivered from short, balanced stances. This does not compromise your ability to recover after you miss a hit and helps you block hits effectively.
The stances are also not very high nor low. Natural would be the best word to describe them. The more natural a stance, the more easier it comes to you on instinct!
6. The Vertical Punch
A vertical punch is different in both fist position and delivery. Unlike the traditional karate punch which rotates like a corkscrew right before hitting, the vertical punch goes for a versatile and straight forward method.
A vertical punch reduces the impact on the knuckles. When you rotate your fist at the end of the punch, there is a tendency to curve the arm as well, meaning the small knuckles, which are more susceptible to fractures, will absorb most of the impact.
Also, when you throw a traditional punch, the elbow rotates out as the first turns over, which means you lose power as the elbow moves outside the line of the punch.
The vertical punch however reduces tension and power loss. Bio-mechanically, a vertical fist is also more stable on impact.
A vertical punch is also great if your main aim is self-defense because the vertical punch ends in and can be thrown from a middle block.
Here is a fun fact for you!
You can throw five Isshin-Ryu punches at the same time your opponent throws one corkscrew punch.
How cool is that?
8. Safe Kumite
Kumite or sparring for practice is common in most styles of karate. However, many karate styles designate a defender and attacker to practice a move that is too difficult or dangerous to be practiced in a free-form combat.
On the other hand, Isshin-Ryu emphasizes on a safe kumite for practice. This is how:
The snapped techniques incorporated in Isshin-Ryu require a level of control that makes kumite safer to practice at higher levels of intensity once you have the skill. Free-form sparring also helps you gain a realistic insight to what a real street-fight would feel like.
9. Mental strength
On the surface, it may seem like you’re learning how to fight, but there is so much more to karate than just throwing punches and kicks.
Just like any form of karate, the mental and spiritual effects of Isshin-Ryu perhaps over-power the physical aspects.
It is true that you will learn to control your body movements but you will also have control to avoid any violent situation. Your awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of your body will increase but so will your awareness of your personality and surroundings.
10. Weapons training
Apart from hand-to-hand combat, the Isshin-Ryu curriculum also includes training in Bo, sai and tonfa. These challenge a fighter by expanding his training. This type of training can later be translated to using other easily accessible objects and using them effectively in real-life threatening situations. Not to mention weapons attract a lot of attention in competitions.
All the eyes will be on you if you know how to handle a bo staff like a pro!
It goes without saying that isshin-Ryu karate is a great option to consider. However, there are people who would disagree. And this is why:
1. Unrealistic Stance
The isshin-Ryu stance has been improved and perfected so that it is natural like the Okinawan style and well-balanced like the Shotokan stance. That sounds too good to be true.
The isshin-ryu stance becomes a problem because of its rigidity. It may work well when you miss a hit but when an attacker rushes in, you’re likely to fall over.
2. Safe kumite – Too safe?
Safe kumite does not imply you get away from a drill unscathed. But, it does mean that the hits delivered are controlled. This way of sparring does give an insight to a realistic fight, however, in a real life fight, you don’t control yourself.
Unrealistic training as a part of isshin-Ryu’s curriculum is a cause of concern for many. The snapped techniques cannot alone counter an attacker who is striking from various angles.
3. Incomplete weapons training
The isshin-Ryu curriculum does include parts of kobudo like the bo staff. However, it does not include training in modern-day weapons like guns and knives.
If you were going for a gangster vibe, this one is not for you!
Isshin-Ryu karate may not be the best on paper, but there is no denying that it is equally effective in body conditioning, self-defense and mental strength.
When confronted with a cross-road, choose a style that honestly reflects yourself. Choose a style that best serves your purpose.
At the end of the day, to each his own!