The Okinawa Shorinryu Kyudokan Karate-do school, now known as 'the Higa Family Karate-do'
, is a traditional school renowned throughout the world because of its history,
its accumulated culture and the traditions handed down over the centuries.
The Kyudokan Karate-do, founded by the Master Yuchoku Higa, one of the most
famous 10th Dan Masters in the world, had its origins in the ancient Shorin school,
or in other words the Shuri-te (the hand of Shuri).
This is an evolving school in the sense that, although it is an art handed down from
generation to generation, it has advanced its technical content with regard to the art
of movement, without losing the spirit of the original.
Some of the basic features of the school are as follows:
the Myo Mamoru principle, namely the concept of defending and protecting (sheltering) the body;
development of Ki (energy) by means of systematic Hara (tandem) work and the principles of yin and yang: hard-soft relaxed-tensed slow-rapid;
the rule of Kokyu (breathing);
the Marumi-Muchimi principle, namely circularity of movement and the conclusion of the technique at its maximum level.
The Kyudokan school continually practices what it preaches, in the empirical sense, or
in other words, it sees practice as the only way of proceeding along the 'Do' (the way)
, since a purely theoretical karate does not exist.
In one's constant striving for perfection through practice, one attains, not as a goal
but as a consequence, a state of harmony and equilibrium between body, mind and spirit,
and one arrives at a state of command of oneself and of interior peace.
Obviously this state is attained with the aid of a master, who will serve as an example
and a role-model, and will guide the pupil, via constant practice, along the path to
From what has been said above, one can understand how, in traditional karate, the self-taught
do not exist; one cannot in fact be a master without first having had a Master, and in order
to become a Master one has to first have been a pupil. It is a disciple-chain that has been
continued over many generations, and will continue for as long as traditional karate exists.
The Kyudokan school teachers also provide for a sporting sector, for completeness and
not for the very essence; competiton is in fact an activity in which anybody can take part,
out of choice, and never under obligation, in order to enrich one's own experience.
As Master Jintatsu Higa said; "the competitive element is only a single element
of the whole, real karate is for life", thus underlining the importance of
practice without the requirement of eventual success and without and pre-arranged,
The Kyudokan School motto - KYUDO MUGEN - (the study-trail is never-ending)
symbolizes the spirit of the school, that is, constancy in practice and an endless
search for perfection as a way towards growth, as an antithesis to the confining mentality.
Kyudokan is technically oriented for fighting. Therefore unnecessary movements
are left out in Kyudokan techniques. High and short positions are used, which
allow fast changes of movement using ’Tai Sabaki’. With special emphasis
put on speed, the use of blocks focused on cutting or avoiding attacks, without
strength excess. With the exception of the high zone (jodan) defense,
the defenses are closed, and elbows practically do not separate from the rest
of the body in carrying out soto uke, uchi uke, gedan barai, shuto uke etc.
In this way, speed action is gained and the body is more protected.
The use of hand techniques (te waza) accounts for 80% as related to
the legs techniques (ashi waza) , which are trained by each practitioner
according to his/her condition, with the exception of mae geri, nami ashi geri
and mikazuki geri. The circular tendency of most of the techniques based on the
versatile rotation of the hips, pretends to give the Kyudokan Style a way of fighting
which although short and direct.
The main difference between Kyudokan technique and the rest of the Shorin
systems is based on the hip rotation work, on which the Sensei Yuchoku Higa
made a deep study to redimension the strength generation, make the best power
of the technique with the least physical effort and seek the devastating effect
coming from Hara (Tanden) .
Makiwara, as well as Kote Kitai (toughening of arms and legs),
or impact absorption during a kata execution (preferably Naihanchi Shodan
), have a preferential place on the training, which makes Kyudokan a deeply
The work with weights is also very important, that’s why before and/or after
each session training with tetsugeta and chishi is common.
The grasp (kakete) is trained by using taketaba. The kata practice
in the Kyudokan style generally targets on each practicioner having his/her own
Tokui Kata (chosen Kata), which means that, although the school has 22 kata,
the idea of Master Yuchoku Higa was to become an expert in only one or two. That
Tokui kata will later become his/her element of consultation for the creation
of the tactic and strategy of his/her fighting style.
The conception of kumite in Kyudokan style is faithful to the literal
translation of the word ‘hands interchange’. The grasping in the confrontation
is of utmost importance. So, much so, that the saying of the master of the
Hombu Dojo in Okinawa is “the left hand grasps, while the right hand hits” .
”Mind and body” , Master Higa Yuchoku used to say “before the war (II WW)
I used to go to meditate at a cemetery since 11pm until 1am every day. My objective
was to be strong in spirit, that is the purpose of martial arts. However after the war
I adopted another objective “Kyudo Mugen”, the search of the way has no limits” he
The way which Sensei Higa refers to is called ’DO’ Road, Path. ‘Path’
is the journey of a man in his world. His life which must be fair, right, educated,
focused on virtue and fighting against defects. Being better people to create better
worlds. Do not come apart from ’DO’ . The rightful way. “Karate is like boiling
water, if the fire is put out, the water gets cold”, comments Master Higa. “Karate
cannot be taught if you do not practice it yourself” , he adds. “ As you know
I am 74 years old. You see, every morning I train alone during one hour, since five
to six am. I do it until I feel I have reach my limit. I usually do five goes and five
returns. Sometimes my wife watching me, I achieve… seven! Her presence helps me a lot.
Nevetherless, beware of this; if you do not do anything apart from practicing karate,
your heart will toughen and you will become brute, whereas a true Karateka must be a Bushi,
a man of heart and spirit.”
“Sensei, Miyahira,one of my masters, was also a poet, and played the Sansin (a small
guitar of three cords). I myself take care of bonsai and the birds. When I was young
I used to think “Attacking is the best defense”, then I understood what having a
strong heart and meant. Currently my young friend, at 74, I have realized the following:
” KYUDO MUGEN, THE SEARCH OF THE WAY, HAS NO LIMITS…” As it is claimed in Okinawa, the
practicioner must be shown that way, that DO, so that he/she can follow it. According
to the Zen principles: “Break the attachment to the self. Try to live this, here and
now. Have a clean, healthy mind, and even the non intention, as aposed to continuous
transit of the DO. The daily practice with toltal devotion each moment, the experience
and the pure empirism, which is the essence of Karate Do. It is a way to learn to come
apart from your ego or detachment of the self.
During the first stage, the practice is monotonous and the objective is to achieve
a respectful, patient ad disciplined mind, without pretending to dominate the combat
or breakage techniques in two or three days. Many people take up the discipline out
of snobbism or because they want to show how strong they are in the street, without
a right mentality. Sometimes because they are wrong about the target of the practice,
under no circumstances is the trainee promised to become a champion, the competitiveness
will come up naturally. The aim is to achieve an unintensioned training without
an obsessive mentality.
From the first stage, the group opens through natural differences, part of it works
on and is ready to assimilate the true essence. Firstly, it is inculcated that
rationalism is not the most importantpart of the technique. For instance, understanding
which is the mechanism. Of the techniques, that is how to flex my fingers
when I blow my fists, etc. It is a physical as well as mental training process.
Once the technique is assimilated, the process implies putting rationalism aside,
letting it flow naturally. It is in that moment that repetition is essential. Karate
is pure repetition. It is not the same for somebody to have given one hundred punches
than one million. Working on one technique on a daily basis, constantly, that is
"...the study-trail is neverending. The karate pathway is as immensely vast,
profound and bondless as the heavens that go on for ever beyond all limits".
- KYUDO MUGEN -
- Higa Family Teachers in Argentina (1977) -
L/R ; Minoru Higa, Oscar Higa, Benito Higa, Jintatsu Higa, Yuchoku Higa