The style of karate we practice is called Goju-Ryu, which means hard-soft style. The exact details of the origin of this style of martial arts are unknown, or at best a bit hazy. However we do know a lot about the more recent development of the style, in the time since it came to Okinawa.
Goju-Ryu was formalized by Miyagi Chojun (1888-1953). Miyagi sensei started studying martial arts at age 14, studying such arts as Naha-te, Tiger Claw Boxing, judo, and a Chinese style known as White Crane. One can see various aspects of these other styles in Goju-Ryu, from the hard linear movements (punches, blocks, kicks) to circular motions (blocks, grabs, take-downs and arm-bars).
The study of Goju-Ryu at Boulder Kodokan is accomplished first by training in basic strikes and blocks. As the student begins to master these basic techniques, they are introduced to kata. A kata is a series of karate techniques strung together to approximate a fight with several opponents. It is said that a beginning student’s kata looks as though they are just trying to remember the moves of the kata. A more experienced karate student begins to envision the opponents that they are battling, and they can see how their techniques would affect that opponent. And the most experienced students can allow others to easily imagine these opponents.
After learning a few kata, the student will be introduced to the concept of bunkai. Bunkai in our dojo means that we take a kata and actually use it as a basis for a drill with another student. So, as one student punches, the other is blocking that punch. This helps the student develop a sense of timing and distance, as well as developing confidence in the techniques that they are learning. While martial arts are often trained as a competitive sport, Boulder Kodokan emphasizes training for self-improvement, the improvement of your fellow student, and the strengthening of the dojo as a whole; as it was when Master Miyagi taught. Students are encouraged to look for a reward greater than a trophy through their training.