Musings Scholarly Pursuits

Why Being a Multi-Stylist is Awesome: Shito-ryu Karate History

Karate vs. TKD: Each of these pairs contain one Karate and one TKD student. They are doing sticking or splashing hands--originally a kung fu drill! Credit: Bec Thomas Photography (
Multi-stylists: Each of these pairs contain one Karate and one TKD student. They are doing sticky hands, originally a Kung Fu drill! Credit: Bec Thomas Photography (

There’s a lot of debate in the martial arts world about which style of martial arts is best. With the surging popularity of UFC and MMA, it’s not surprising that we have these debates.

There are some who demand that you stick to one style, one art, one school. There are also those of us who cross train and learn to find value in different styles.

Reading this article recently about the history of Shito-ryu Karate (NWSMA’s style) taught me something really cool.

Mabuni Kenwa, the founder of Shito-ryu Karate, was a multi-stylist himself. Not only did he train with Goju-ryu and Shotokan-ryu masters, he also trained in Kendo and Judo. He also knew Chinese boxing masters (Monkfist, White Crane) and learned from them.

Mabuni was born in 1889. The concept of being a multi-stylist is nothing new.

Here at Northwest School of Martial Arts, you get the chance to be a multi-stylist. It can be confusing. You have more to remember and more muscle memory to struggle with.

Ultimately though, it gives you a bigger range of tools and equips you for a wider variety of situations.

There’s no reason why different styles have to separate themselves or compete with each other. They all have different, complementary areas of special focus. And they all have something of value.

For example:

NWSMA Shito-ryu Karate specializes in

  • snappy, linear hand techniques;
  • flowing hand techniques;
  • in-circle fighting;
  • use of hips and center for power;
  • maximizing efficiency in motion.

NWSMA Tae Kwon Do specializes in

  • strong and varied kicks;
  • long range fighting;
  • kicking combinations for fighting;
  • use of the full body for power;
  • meeting force with force.

NWSMA Arnis specializes in

  • soft, flowing motion
  • redirecting the opponent’s motion;
  • joint locks and control holds;
  • weapons.

We are proud to be multi-stylists, following an old tradition of cross training and learning from other martial artists. Much like studying abroad, cross training is a great way to gain perspective and experience difference.

In the words of Master Remy Presas, “It’s all the same.”

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