By Seikichi Toguchi
Fundamentals of Shorei-Kan Karate
By Seikichi Toguchi
(Ohara Publications, Inc., 1976, 192 pages.)
Review by Christopher Dow
I previously reviewed two books on the Okinawan art of Goju-Ryu Karate by Gosei Yamaguchi, who was the son of famed karateka Gōgen Yamaguchi. The elder Yamaguchi was one of Goju-Ryu founder Chōjun Miyagi’s principal students. The book under consideration here, is by another of Miyagi’s principal students, Seikichi Toguchi, who used it as the basis for his own branch of Goju-Ryu, which he named Shorei-Kan Karate.
Goju-Ryu’s founder, Higaonna Kanryō (1853–1916), spent many years in China, where he studied under various masters, notably Ryu Ryu Ko, of the White Crane school. Miyagi was Higaonna Kanryō’s most prominent student, and another high level fellow student was Sekō Higa. As with Gōgen Yamaguchi, Toguchi began his study of karate as a boy—for thirty-three years under Sekō Higa—and so was proficient by the time he met Miyagi, with whom he studied for an additional twenty-five years. Toguchi established Shorei-Kan in 1954.
Thanks to borrowings from Chinese martial arts, Goju-Ryu is generally characterized as a “hard–soft” style that incorporates hard, linear attacks with softer, circular blocks and controlling movements such as chin na. Frankly, from the photos of Toguchi and his students performing katas and action sequences, it seems to me that it the style is mostly hard with only a smattering of the soft.
Okinawan Goju-Ryu is a pretty standard martial arts manual with only brief introductory material on the history and development of Okinawan karate and origin of Goju-Ryu. These are followed by an equally brief bio of Higaonna and a somewhat longer one on Miyagi. Toguchi uses an alternate name for the former, who also was also known as Higashionna West, but he gives this master’s dates of birth and death as 1840–1910, which does not agree with the information in the Wikipedia articles on the subject.
From there, the author goes into a discussion of the necessity for the implementation and practice of unified kata. His reasoning is that practicing unified kata gives all karate students a firm foundation in the basics of technique and theory. It thus gives the student a codified method for moving from the basics to more advanced stages. Unified kata also gives those who wish to practice karate for its exercise and physical conditioning a way to do that without undertaking the fighting aspect. Third, unified kata provide a means to grade student advancement and to provide a set of rules for fair competition. And finally, unified kata help impart the musical rhythm of the style.
Next, Toguchi goes into a curriculum for unified kata and how that curriculum can be used to grade student advancement. After that, he discusses basics, such as posture, breathing, power and speed, stances, walking patterns, and forming the basic fist. Formalities, such as the proper way to bow to one’s teachers and opponents, comes next, followed by how to execute basic punches and blocks.
The remainder of the book—about 140 pages—is taken up with kata and kumite (prearranged sparring sets). Most of the curriculum previously laid out by Toguchi is covered in the several sections of these pages. Each kata/kumite is outlined with words, good-quality photos, and diagrams of footwork. Most of the kata are demonstrated by Toguchi, while the kumite are show by his students. A thumbnail glossary winds up the book.
This is a basic instruction manual for Shorei-Kan Karate, and while it is well done, it would be of interest mainly to practitioners of that style.