I sometimes get emails asking me how Tou’on-ryu differs from Goju-ryu. These questions can range from the technical and mechanical, and into the philosophical. To answer these questions would probably take an entire book in itself and since Tou’on-ryu has continued to stay out of the public eye, I doubt such a book is forthcoming. I am no authority on the style and simply consider myself a student, but I can talk in a limited way about Tou’on-ryu at the technical level.
In a nutshell, Tou’on-ryu looks simple, but as Kanzaki sensei always put it, “it is simple but not simplistic”. Superficially the style is relatively easy to learn due to its limited number of techniques and kata, but like any good Karate-do system, it takes a long time to get down to its essence and master it properly.
So, what exactly does simple in this context mean? First, it has only four major kata: sanchin, sesan, sanseru and bechurin. Second it tends to be direct and emphasizes the closed fist and uses light footwork. Finally, its strikes are more akin to a getting hit with a mace, rather than say being struck by a sword. If I was to try and sum-up Tou’on-ryu on a technical level in one sentence, I suppose I would say that, “it is a practical art that is powerful and effective”. IMHO, Tou’on-ryu is a form of old Kume village boxing and is designed to end a conflict with as few strikes as possible. It is not meant to be complex or elaborate and proficiency is attainable within a few years, not decades.
Now back to translating Mabuni and Nakasone’s ‘Karate-do Nymon‘. Did I mention that the writing and editing of the book are atrocious? As my wife put it, “did these guys even graduate high school!?” 🙂