Okinawa te Karate System

Okinawa te Karate is a system created by its Founder Gordon Doversola. It was a mixed martial art born of his influences from kempo as taught by James Mitose, Kajukempo by Emperado and Kung fu by Chow amongst other influences from systems and styles that Gordon had trained in. These influences along with his own experiences in Shotokan and Boxing led him to create a series of techniques and ultimately a system that he named, Okinawa te Karate.

Grandmaster Doversola was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii.  He began his martial arts training at the early age of 7.  He studied a wide variety of martial arts styles, obtaining instructor ratings in Kendo, Kempo, Jiu Jitsu and Kung Fu.  Grandmaster Doversola moved to Los Angeles, CA in the early 50’s.  In 1957, he opened his first school and was consistent and devoted in teaching the system he created, Okinawa-Te Karate, to kids and adults for generations.  Under the leadership of Grandmaster Doversola, the Okinawa-Te Organization became known and respected in the martial arts community and one of the forefathers of karate on the west coast.

Okinawa te karate grew also outside the USA, and a dojo was established by Mike Lee, an ex student of Gordon’s who had moved to Christchurch, New Zealand in the 70’s. Known for its long animal based kata’s and weapons formats the system provides its students with a foundation to build upon. During the 80’s and early 90’s it was a well known club for its participation and results in the Freestyle tournaments.

The history of Okinawa te karate is one steeped in mis-information, internal political wranglings and half truths on both sides of the pacific. The techniques over time have changed depending on where you go. Some techniques are known to only a few. Others have completely different interpretations of things. Such was the way of Gordon Doversola. Many students align themselves with the old or new way of Okinawa te.

The old way – The way it was first came into being was strongly based on street combat principles as taught by James Mitose. The techniques focused on combat application and being straight forward to apply.

The new way – This interpretation and teaching of techniques came about to enable Doversola’s Okinawa te to compete in te tournament circuit. Techniques were made more suited for sports karate as opposed to street combat. The essence to the techniques was the same but the execution was very different. This change flowed through all the katas and techniques and into the very understanding of what the techniques were trying to achieve.

Both ways of Okinawa te karate are considered valid in their own right if they are approached from the perspective of what the intention was.

As mentioned Okinawa te Karate worldwide has long suffered political disturbances which is a prevented it from growing in popularity as similar systems such as Ed Parkers Kempo and Emperado’s Kajukenbo did, in my opinion.

Pre 2016 Okinawa te in New Zealand was aligned with the American counterparts based out of Los Angeles and in line with the New Way of Okinawa te teachings.

In 2015, the New Zealand based organisation underwent a major political upheaval that saw the then NZ head instructor pushed out of the organisation under a cloud of controversy within the governing family and fully demoted in rank. It also saw some NZ based black belts and students leave with the full endorsement of the governing American council.

Subsequently the NZ Okinawa te Karate representation has been split into two main schools. The system is still taught in Christchurch, New Zealand at its Aranui dojo. There are other non affiliated dojo’s with ex instructors dotted around New Zealand as well. In January 2018 a new NZ based Head Instructor was appointed by the Governing council at the Aranui dojo and the club remained aligned with the larger American organisation. The other primary school now present in New Zealand was started under a new organisation name Okinawa Te Karate Organisation International Incorporated Society and is headed up by the ex NZ Head instructor of the other organisation. Unfortunately controversy continues in NZ within Okinawa te Karate.

At Shizoku Martial Arts we recognise Okinawa te Karate is part of our heritage but we are not aligned with either school in NZ or America. We do not teach Okinawa te Karate at our school but incorporate the teachings and concepts that exist in it, along with other systems that stem from the James Mitose original Kempo system that systems like Okinawa te are derived from.

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