The United States Karate Organization Does Not Teach Karate

In anything learned, names are helpful indicators for people to have a good idea what a school or instructor teaches. Karate (空手) has a particular set of strategies, tactics, methods and techniques and a way that it approaches grappling. It is my belief that the foundation of the curricula of both the United States Karate Organization (USKO) and it’s child school the Pro-Am Martial Arts Academy  (PMAA) includes Karate, but it is not only Karate.

Argument #1: The Nishioka Foundation

Walter K. Nishioka Shihan, founder of the International Karate League (in Japanese, 国際空手連盟 or Kokusai Karate Renmei) in Hawai’i is the foundation of the modified Shōrin-ryū (少林流) of the USKO. He is the teacher’s teacher of the founder of the USKO, Sensei Joe Pagliuso. Additionally, he is the source of the major modifications to traditional Shorin-Ryu that we find in the USKO-style curricula.

Nishioka Shihan’s contributions include the following: The base system for biomechanics is derived from his studies of Wadōryū (和道流) with founder Hironori Otsuka. Wadōryū is not properly a style of Karate. Due to the fact that it is a synthesis of Shindō Yōshin-ryū jūjutsu (新道楊心流柔術), Shōtōkan Shōrin-ryū (松濤館少林流), and Motobu-ryū (本部流), it is often recognized as a style of Karate Jūjutsu (空手柔術) and this is appropriate. The jūjutsu element is reflected in the performance and interpretation of kata (kanji: 型, hiragana: かた), and in the Kihon Kumite (基本組手 or きほん組手, basic self-defense sequences) of the USKO.

Argument #2: The USKO Alteration

In the 1990’s, the Board of Senseis at the USKO sought to modernize the Shōrin-ryū passed down from Shihan Pagliuso. The Board made the following motions with regard to curriculum:

  1. They removed the Naihanchi kata, Pinan Sandan and Pinan Godan from the curriculum. These kata were arguably superfluous in light of Kensei (hiragana and kanji unknown) and Kushanku-Dai (hiragana: クーシャンク, kanji: 公相君大).
  2. They integrated strategies, tactics, methods and techniques from Jūdo (柔道 historically referred to as Kano Jūjutsu 嘉納柔術) and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (Portuguese: jiu-jitsu brasileiro; also BJJ for short) into the curriculum.

They could have simply offered a grappling program on the side but found it important to impart these jūjutsu skills to their students (however the USKO now has a separate BJJ program for those who want to go deeper than the scope of the jūjutsu in the Shōrin-ryū curriculum). These actions further increased the jūjutsu foundation of the system and further evened out the karate-to-jujutsu ratio of the curriculum.

Significance: The Ryū Reclassification

Due to the Nishioka Foundation and the USKO Alteration, I believe that the art taught by the USKO her child organizations should be renamed. The synthesis of various styles of jūjutsu into the curriculum warrants that the curricula be properly reclassified as a style of Karate Jūjutsu (空手柔術). So in a phrase, the curricula of USKO and PMAA should both be called Modified (kanji unknown) Shōrin-ryū Karate Jūjutsu (少林流空手柔術).

What do you think? Am I missing something?

Further Reading

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