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Shotokan Vs Kyokushin: Distinct Features Students Must Know

Shotokan vs Kyokushin

Last Updated on May 19, 2024

Generally, most of the world’s martial arts are related, but did you know that they can be further split into several variants depending on techniques, styles, and origin?

Did you know that there are different types of karate? Well, there are several karate styles with the most common ones being Kyokushin and Shotokan, which share some ideologies and techniques. So if you’re stuck between Kyokushin vs. Shotokan martial arts styles and don’t know which is the best for you, please read on.

Shotokan Vs. Kyokushin -- Differences & Uniqueness

The main differences surrounding Shotokan vs. Kyokushin are:

  • Shotokan karate focuses mainly on weak strikes to certain body parts, whereas Kyokushin karate believes in full contact training for combat and competition.
  • Shotokan karate training focuses on the kata part (choreographed sequence of movement) of karate, whereas Kyokushin karate focuses on hard sparring against opponents.
  • In Shotokan competition, you score points for clean strikes to specific body parts, whereas in Kyokushin competitions, you score points by downing an opponent.
  • Shotokan karate isn’t effective against other martial arts because of a lack of training against opponents, whereas Kyokushin karate is effective against other martial arts, but it does lack when it comes to grappling.

The Difference Between Shotokan And Kyokushin Karate

Shotokan Karate
Shotokan Karate
Kyokushin Karate
Kyokushin Karate

Karate is one of the world’s oldest and most widely practiced martial art, but did you know it’s bifurcated into several styles? There are different forms of karate, and as aforementioned, Shotokan and Kyokushin are the most popular types of karate.

Shotokan and Kyokushin originated from Japan and are highly influenced by several Japanese martial art styles.

Shotokan karate relies on your strength and speed instead of skillful decisions, while Kyokushi uses full-body contact. Kyokushin karate practitioners are taught Muay Thai kicking techniques and Goju-Ryu deflections.

1. Origin

Gichin Funokoshi is believed to have created Shotokan karate in 1938 after learning and training in Okinawa.

The name of this karate style was derived from a pen name that he used when writing poetry. Shotokan karate was advanced by Gichin Funokoshi and his son and has gained popularity for the last few decades.

On the other hand, Kyokushin was created by Oyama Sosai Masutatsu.

Sosai practiced Okinawa karate in Gichin Funokoshi’s dojo. And after the Second World War, he practiced Goju-Ryu, which helped him establish his unique type of karate.

Even though it’s considered the most aggressive type of karate, Kyokushin still has many followers. The first Kyokushin dojo was opened in the early 1950s, and since then, it has grown in popularity worldwide.

2. Techniques

Both Kyokushin and Shotokan feature a wide range of striking techniques, including punches, knees, kicks, hand strikes, and elbows. But these styles differ when it comes to stance and approach when fighting.

Shotokan karate uses a wide stance, and the practitioners are allowed to throw straight punches from a distance.

These strikes are usually aimed at specific parts of the body. Plus, there is a little-to-no emphasis placed on the power needed for the strikes.

On the other hand, Kyokushin training features a wide array of stances; plus, the style and angle of strikes vary with the position and posture of your opponent. Remember, every hit doesn’t have to hit a certain body part. But hand or elbow strikes to the neck and head are not allowed.

3. Challenges In Transitioning To Other Arts

Generally, transitioning from these types of karate to grappling martial arts can be a bit challenging. For instance, transitioning from Shotokan karate to a striking art pose several challenges. After all, this karate technique’s training sessions are rarely against opponents; therefore, practitioners have little to no contact experience.

So transitioning from Shotokan to some martial arts like Muay Thai and kickboxing can be quite challenging. Fortunately, Shotokan techniques can be beneficial in other arts.

On the other hand, Kyokushin fighters can easily transition to other striking martial arts.

After all, contact sparring among Kyokushin fighters is mandatory; therefore, they’re always ready for physicality, especially when it comes to self-defense. In fact, some Kyokushin-style practitioners have also started learning kickboxing as a way to expand their skill set.

4. Philosophy

Other than technique and origin, these types of karate-do have different philosophies; for instance, Shotokan karate teaches practitioners about body and mind. The Shotokan karate practitioners learn a number of techniques and study this art as a way of life. They are also taught how to improve their lives using this art as a tool.

On the other hand, Kyokushin karate is all about combat and fighting an opponent. Kyokushin karate fighters undergo serious training on fighting with little-to-no protection and using full force.  

5. Tournaments

Unlike some martial arts, both Shotokan and Kyokushin styles have tournaments; however, they’re quite different. Shotokan competitions are usually split into three key formats:

  • Continuous glove full contact, 
  • Kata 
  • Semi-contact points sparring).

On the other hand, Kyokushin karate tournaments are divided into four formats:

  • Non-contact point sparring
  • Full-contact bare-knuckle sparring
  • Kata
  • K-I Rule Match

In Kyokushin, karate scores are awarded for throwing your opponent down, while in Shotokan, you get points for kicks, sweeps, throws, and punches.

Shotokan Vs. Kyokushin: Similarities

As aforementioned, these two styles of karate have several similarities, including the fact that they can trace their origin to Japanese martial arts. Sosai practiced Okinawa karate in Gichin Funokoshi’s dojo before creating Kyokushin karate. Some of its major similarities include:


Both Shotokan and Kyokushin karate use colored belts and white gi to signify rank, but the color of the belt may differ with rank. In both types of karate, black belts are for experienced or expert fighters, while white belts are for beginners.   

Knock-Out Point: Japanese martial art has a colorful history of evolution and innovation. There is, however, an oldest Japanese Karate school of thought that many are not familiar with. Read our article regarding this Karate variation here -- Goju Ryu Karate.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Will It Take Me To Get A Black Belt In Kyokushin And Shotokan Karate?

The amount of time it takes to get a black belt varies from fighter to fighter and nation to nation. But in most nations, it takes about 4.5 years to get a black belt in Kyokushin and 3 to 5 years in Shotokan.

Remember, there are ten stages you have to undergo before reaching the black belt level you still have ten more levels to progress through. On the other hand, in Shotokan, you will have eight levels to attain the black belt level and five more to progress.

Which Is More Effective In Street Fights?

Both types of karate can come in handy when it comes to self-defense, but Kyokushin is way more effective. After all, in real-life situations, your first impulse is to survive, so you have to respond to your attacker with more aggression. Therefore, Kyokushin is a better option when it comes to a street fight.

Which Is Easier To Learn?

Shotokan karate is way easier to learn, and you can get a blackbelt within three and a half years. On the other hand, learning and perfecting Kyokushin karate can take up to 7 years.


Despite being forms of karate, Kyokushin and Shotokan are different styles of karate. These types of karate are effective against opponents, but Kyokushin is more aggressive and ideal for street fights and self-defense.

Therefore, if you’re looking for a type of karate that can help you fight off an attacker while making it easier to transition to other techniques, you should go for Kyokushin. On the other hand, if you want to learn much quicker and easier, then Shotokan is ideal for you to study.

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