The popularity of karate has never been greater, with practitioners numbering in the tens of millions.

However, there are many different schools of thought on what a karate practitioner should do. The broadest of these categories is the Goju Ryu vs. Wado Ryu karate debate.

What Does Wado Ryu Karate Entail?

A Shotokan practitioner is expected to be calm and relaxed. They should have excellent balance and reflexes, being able to keep their head on their shoulders even when thrown violently into the dirt by opponents.

They tend to train with a spirit of humility that seeks to promote order out of chaos. There’s no such thing as ‘bad’ karate in Wado Ryu karate – it’s only bad if you don’t do it right.

Karate-ka is also expected to be polite and respectful and not jump down the throats of opponents or passersby.

Wado Ryu is a more relaxation-oriented style of karate with an emphasis on biomechanical efficiency and fitness.

The Wado Ryu karate practitioners believe in using relaxed muscles to generate power rather than muscle tension. It is all about soft techniques and the “correct” way to execute a technique.

What Does Goju Ryu Karate Entail?

Goju Ryu karate is an aggressive, powerful, and very muscular style of karate. GOJU-RYU stands for Go no Jutsu – “hard way” and refers to the practice of going all-out in sparring with one’s opponent.

Goju Ryu practitioners typically train in intense sessions that involve extreme physical effort and sacrifice many hours a day to be effective.

They are typically used to leading their students through relentless high-intensity training.

Goju focuses more on power and the “right” mentality to use in fighting. It advocates a form of karate that is hard, circular, and flowing.

This is because the founder of this style from which most other styles descend, Chojun Miyagi, was inspired by a crane (the bird).

He wanted his style to be as strong as a crane but as flexible as bamboo. Goju Ryu believes muscle tension is essential for maximum power output.

Differences between Wado Ryu vs. Goju Ryu karate styles

The differences between Goju-Ryu and Wado-Ryu are found in their emphasis on technique, training methods, and philosophies.

  • Wado Ryu practitioners stress the importance of relaxed muscles in generating power through a smooth, coordinated delivery of techniques rather than building muscle tension to achieve power. This is reflected in the many different Karate techniques called ‘soft.’
  • Goju Ryu emphasizes power generation through stiff, strong, and repeated strikes of the same pattern without giving up on the fight till they win. This is reflected in the many different Karate techniques called ‘hard.’
  • The techniques in Wado are characterized by their economy of movement. This is a reflection of karate being derived from a combination of different martial arts.
  • Wado is a synthesis of styles developed for use in sports-fighting competitions. As such, it is not as “hard-nosed” as Goju Ryu and does not encourage contact sparring or developing one’s ability to take the pain from an opponent.
  • On the other hand, Goju Ryu karate is more “hard-nosed” with a focus on developing power, using contact sparring and grappling. In general, Goju is considered the ‘harder’ of the two schools.
  • The last difference between Wado and Goju comes down to attitude. Wado is about softness and fluidity, with less emphasis on killing moves.
  • In Goju, the attitude is one of power and aggression. This does not mean that Goju practitioners are angry or unfriendly. It simply means that they expect to be hit in a fight and understand that they will probably lose if they do not win.

Similarities between Wado Ryu vs. Goju Ryu karate styles

Wado and Goju Ryu karate styles share the following features:

  • Training involves the individual practice of kata, as well as basic exercises such as stretching and breathing.
  • Techniques are not practiced with an opponent until a certain level of skill is achieved.
  • The idea behind both karate styles is to train the mind and body simultaneously to achieve self-mastery in both fields.

What to choose?

For the practitioner, choosing a style to study is a matter of personal taste. There is no “right” or “wrong” karate style, but it really depends on who you are and what you want to achieve.

If you’re more interested in becoming more of a fighter or learning more practical techniques, then Goju Ryu would be a good choice.

If you’re more interested in fighting for self-defense or traditional reasons, then Wado Ryu would be good for you. Otherwise, it’s up to you to decide what’s best for yourself and your own goals in karate.


The Wado Ryu karate vs. Goju Ryu karate controversy is one that has simmered for many years now. Both styles are very forceful in their philosophy and training methods and are equally effective in their own way.

It is up to the individual student to decide which school of thought suits them better. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ here – it really depends on what the student wants out of their karate training.

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