Tag Archives: styles

Does Your Character Have Style?

In Martial Arts and the Perfection of One’s Character, I’ve blogged about characterization and the martial arts.  Today’s post will focus on the different types of martial arts your characters might study.  Realize that you may also need to delve deeper and understand the specific style within the type.

For example, the type of martial arts I study is Karate. The style of karate I study is Isshinryu Karate (meaning one heart way or whole hearted way).  My style emphasizes a vertical fist with the thumb on top, which aligns the wrist bones and makes for a strong weapon.  Isshinryu also emphasizes muscle blocks.  Other styles of karate may emphasize bone blocks, a twist punch, deep stances and deep breathing.  As Tatsuo Shimabuku (the founder of Isshinryu Karate) had once said, “all bottles are good,” meaning that all martial arts are good.  However, not all martial arts are the same.  And as a writer, you need to know the differences if you want your character and your story to sound authentic.

It is also important to know the correct vernacular your style uses.  If your character practices Tae Kwon Do, do not let him call it Karate. Tae Kwon Do is Korean.  Karate is Japanese.  Yes, there is a difference.  Don’t make me throw your book against the wall because you’re using incorrect vocabulary.  Here’s another example, a karate school is a Dojo.  A Tae Kwon Do School is a DojangSensei is teacher in Japanese.  Sifu is teacher in Chinese.

In addition to proper vernacular, you should be familiar with the techniques each style emphasizes.  Akido practitioners will use more throws and movement to evade their attacker, whereas a character that practices Muay Tai will use mostly strikes.  If you don’t want to get caught up in the nuances of each style, have your character study multiple styles or practice a form of American Freestyle, where they learn many techniques from different styles all in one school.  However, this character probably won’t have as deep a cultural knowledge in any one style because they are not practicing a strict traditional art.

Below is a chart listing different types of martial arts, their primary focus, and their county of origin.  It is by no means comprehensive.  It’s merely a jumping off point for your research.

Pentjak Silat Striking and weapons Archipelago (Malaysia to New Guinea)
Capoeira Kicks, sweeps, head strikes, evasive moves, rolls Brazil
Kung Fu Adept, skilled through hard work Striking and throwing China
T’ai Chi Chuan Supreme ultimate fist “internal” martial art, moving postures, powerful pushes China
Wing Chun Kung Fu striking, balance, trapping China
Savate Boxing – striking, kicking France
Indian Martial Arts India
Kendo Way of the sword fencing Japan
Judo Gentle way throwing, break falls, ground fighting, joint locks Japan
Jujutsu or Jujitsu Art of softness; Way of yielding Most variety – Uses attacker’s energy against him, grappling,  joint locks, holds, throwing, striking, weapons Japan/  Brazil
Iaido sword combat Japan
Kyudo The way of the bow Archery Japan
Ninjutsu & Shuriken-Do Uses strategy and tactics of unconventional warfare, guerrilla warfare, and art of espionage (ninja) Japan
Sumo grappling Japan
Aikido The way of harmonious spirit throwing, moving to avoid attacks, not a system of self defense Japan
Taekwondo The way of kicking and punching striking Korea
Ryukyu Kobujutsu Old martial way of Okinawa Weapons Okinawa
Karate Do The way of empty hand striking Okinawa/ Japan
Escrima Fencing Stick and sword fighting Philippines
Sambo Grappling Russia
Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) striking, grappling in a standing position Thailand
Kick Boxing striking Western
Hybrids ie Jeet Kun Do, MMA, American karate

~KM Fawcett

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