Roleplayer #26, October 1991

Make Your Best Better

Okinawan Martial Arts Styles

by J.C. Connors and Brian McAuliffe

Is Shin Ryu . . . . . 11 points/18 points

Is Shin Ryu was created by Tatsuo Shimabaku in 1954, and brought to the United States in the 60s. Is Shin Ryu was derived from many different Okinawan karate styles, including Goju-Ryu, Shorin-Ryu, and Naha-Te.

As a new technique, Is Shin Ryu is not as spiritually developed as some karate arts. However, Shimabaku taught eight ideals:

  1. A person's heart is the same as heaven and earth.
  2. The blood circulating is similar to the motion of the moon and the sun.
  3. A manner of drinking and spitting is either hard or soft.
  4. A person's unbalance is the same as his weight.
  5. The body should be able to change directions at any time.
  6. The time to strike is when opportunity presents itself.
  7. The eye must see all sides.
  8. The ear must listen in all directions.

Is Shin Ryu is unlike many other karate styles. In the American Budo Kai Association, Judo and Is Shin Ryu become a single art – both hard and soft techniques are taught equally. There are 11 major principles that distinguish Is Shin Ryu from other karate styles:

  1. All fancy techniques are eliminated.
  2. Most kicks are low-line, aimed below the waist.
  3. The fighting stances taught are usually short and natural with no wasted body motion.
  4. Hand and foot techniques are emphasized equally, especially in katas.
  5. There are many close ranged attacks.
  6. Snap kicks and punches are taught, with the limb extending only about 90%.
  7. Both hard and soft (open handed) blocking are taught.
  8. Attacks are blocked with the forearm muscle, not the bone.
  9. The fist is formed with the thumb on top of the hand, rather than alongside the first two fingers.
  10. Vertical punches are taught to increase speed and focus.
  11. All techniques are multi-purpose.

Primary Skills: Karate, Karate Art, Savoir-Faire (Dojo).

Secondary Skills: Jitte/Sai, Judo, Flail, Staff, Tonfa, Tournament Law.

Optional Skills: Body Language, Katana, Philosophy (Taoism), Yin-Yang Healing.

Maneuvers: Back Kick, Breakfall, Cat Stance, Elbow Strike, Hook Kick, Jump Kick, Knee Strike, Spin Kick.

Cinematic Skills: Blind Fighting, Immovable Stance, Kiai, Power Blow, Pressure Points.

Cinematic Maneuvers: Flying Jump Kick, Roll with Blow.

Goju-Ryu . . . . . 15 points/23 points

Goju-Ryu was created by Kanryo Higashionna during the late 19th century on Okinawa. Many other modern karate styles have traces of Goju-Ryu in them. It was later brought to the United States during the mid-20th century.

The spiritual foundation of Goju-Ryu is deeply rooted in Taoism. This inner calmness is apparent in many of the style's katas. Taoism, however, is not as apparent in modern dojos as it was in years past.

Goju-Ryu's main principle is to never meet the enemy with the same strength that he is using. In Chinese, Goju means hard-soft. If the enemy attacks at full force, never use an equally strong block. The style, however, teaches powerful techniques designed to down a foe in one blow. Timing and reaction speed is the key to Goju-Ryu. In addition, dramatic breathing techniques are emphasized; in-ibuki (soft) and yo-ibuki (hard) are as important to master as any attack or defense.

Primary Skills: Breath Control, Karate, Karate Art, Savoir-Faire (Dojo), Staff, Jitte/Sai.

Secondary Skills: Flail, Tonfa, Tournament Law.

Optional Skills: Katana, Shuriken, Theology (Taoism), Yin-Yang Healing.

Maneuvers: Aggressive Parry, Back Kick, Breakfall, Cat Stance, Elbow Strike, Ground Fighting, Jump Kick, Knee Strike, Sweeping Kick.

Cinematic Skills: Breaking Blow, Immovable Stance, Meditation, Power Blow, Pressure Points, Pressure Secrets.

Cinematic Maneuvers: Flying Jump Kick, Roll with Blow.

New Maneuver

Cat Stance (Average) . . . . . Defaults to Karate-3

The Neko-Ashi-Dachi, or Cat Stance, is generally unique to the Okinawan styles. Almost all balance is shifted to the back leg as the slightly raised front leg comes perpendicular to the rear foot. The result is a leg that is prepared to strike almost instantaneously. It takes a second to enter Cat Stance, or no time at all if a skill roll is made.

On a successful Cat Stance roll, anyone entering the fighter's front hex may be kicked, without that kick counting as an action – essentially a "free" attack. This allows a martial artist to attack and then be ready to counterattack or defend.

The kick is treated like an ordinary Karate kick. Roll at Cat Stance-2, or Karate-5 if the default has not been improved at all. A failed roll will unbalance the kicker: -2 to DX and active defenses that turn.

Going into a Cat Stance is also useful in breaking Grapples from the rear (as long as the Cat Stance is performed after being grappled). If the fighter is grappled from the rear, he may attack with an elbow strike and attempt to Break Free on the same turn.

A person performing a Cat Stance may either change facing (any direction) or move 1 hex forward on his turn.

Okinawan Combinations

Combinations that are studied in the Okinawan arts are known as shobu techniques. There are several shobu techniques in each art. Some common ones include:

Block-Punch-Punch (6 points)
Block-Kick (4 points)
Block-Pivot and Elbow-Hand Strike to face (6 points)
Block-Pivot and Elbow to back (4 points)

Okinawan Ranks

Most of the Okinawan styles use the standard belt system. There are ten ranks to consider before black belt. Each rank is known by name and belt color. Suggested average primary skill levels are: Jukyu (White), 10 and below; Kyukyu (Yellow), 10.5; Hachikyu (Orange), 11; Shichikyu (Green), 11.5; Rokkyu (Blue), 12; Gokyu (Purple 1), 12.5; Yonkyu (Purple 2), 13; Sankyu (Brown 1), 13.5; Nikyu (Brown 2), 14; Ikkyu (Brown 3), 14.5.

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