Kokondo

Kokondo Karate and its sister style, Jukido Jujitsu are Japanese-based martial arts developed by Paul Arel. Jukido Jujitsu was founded in 1959 followed by Kokondo Karate in 1970. The two styles are taught and practiced primarily in the United States, Finland and Israel; within the United States, the largest concentration of dojos is near South Windsor, Connecticut, where Arel’s dojo is located.

“Kokondo” translates as “the way of the past and the present;” this is embraced by the art in that it emphasizes modern application of ancient principles. “Jukido” means “the way of gentle flowing power”; its meaning is similar to that of aikido, although technically it is considerablly different.

The techniques of Kokondo karate are drawn from several styles of Asian martial arts, but principally Kyokushin karate and Sankata karate-jitsu. Jukido jujitsu is also based on many styles, but principally Sanzyuryu jujitsu. The term “Kokondo” is used to refer to the two arts jointly.

History: The history of Kokondo and Jukido is bound closely to the history of its founder, Paul Arel. His formal martial arts training began in 1950, when he began studying Sanzyu-ryu jujutsu in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. By 1952, he had earned his black belt and began teaching jujutsu.

In 1956, he entered the Marines; he was stationed in North Carolina first, and later Japan. His travels as a marine were an excellent opportunity to study a variety of martial arts, including Isshin-ryu karate under Don Nagle, Sankata under Ishikawa and other jujutsu and karate styles. After his honorable discharge in 1959, he returned to Hartford, Connecticut, where he opened “Karate, Inc.,” the state’s first karate school, where he taught Sankata karate. In 1959, Arel founded jukido jujitsu and began teaching it.

In 1962, Arel was invited to train with Mas Oyama, the founder of Kyokushin karate, along with his top students. During this time, Arel was involved frequently with tournaments; he authored the rules for the first North American Karate Championships, and hosted several other championships over the rest of the decade. By 1970, Arel resigned from the Kyokushinkai-kan to found Kokondo karate, along with the IKA, the official governing body of both Kokondo Karate and Jukido Jujitsu.

Kokondo Karate: Origins, Principles & Techniques: Kokondo is a traditional karate style emphasizing practical, effective self-defense. Kokondo’s techniques and philosophies draw on a diverse array of East Asian martial arts, and include armed and empty-handed fighting methods developed in China, Japan, Okinawa, Burma, and the Philippines. Kokondo is classed as a Japanese karate style due to its strong emphasis on powerful body dynamics and its structured balance of kihon (basics), kata (forms), yakusoku kumite (pre-arranged sparring), self-defense and kobudo (traditional weapons).

The primary styles that influenced Kokondo’s development include Sankata Karate-jitsu; Okinawan Isshin-Ryu Karate-do; Sanzyuryu Jujitsu; and Kyokushinkai Karate-do, along with a variety of traditional weapons styles from numerous countries. Some of the other secondary ryu that have directly influenced Kokondo Karate, either through kata, bunkai or kumite principles, include Wado Ryu, Shotokan, Shorinji Kempo, Shorin Ryu and Bando.

The founder of both Kokondo and Jukido is Shihan Paul Arel, who has been practicing Budo full-time since 1950. He started training in Jujitsu, then intensively studied Isshin-Ryu Karate, Sankata Karate, Kodokan Judo, Aiki-jitsu, and numerous weapons and Jujitsu systems while in the U.S. Marines.

Throughout the 1960’s, Sensei Arel was a direct student of Mas Oyama (who awarded him 4th dan in 1966) and earned national recognition as one of the first Branch Chiefs of Kyokushinkai in the United States.

Kokondo does utilize many of the dynamics, kata, and powerful basics of the early Kyokushinkai, but does not emphasize sport as Kyokushin now does. Technically, Kokondo is a “jutsu” style, meaning that its primary goals are perfection of technique and realistic self-defense.

Philosophically, Kokondo is a “budo” style in the sense that the emphasis is on perfection of character, safety for one’s partners, and always doing one’s best. By stressing point-oriented competition, most modern karate styles focus their training on long-distance fighting. To a large degree, this competitive agenda has lead to a lack of effective blocking techniques and striking power in non-contact point karate systems; and also, virtually a complete eradication of kime (focus) in full contact systems.

Additionally, this long-distance fighting range encourages karate-ka to limit their practice to basic punching, kicking, and striking techniques, followed by an immediate retreat from the opponent. While Kokondo-ka do practice jiyu-kumite (free sparring), most real self-defense situations occur in medium and close range distances. Therefore, Kokondo stresses self-defense techniques against all types of chokes and grabs, multiples attackers, ground defenses, and the disarming of guns, knives, clubs and other street weapons.

For example, it is quite common to initiate a defense with a simultaneous block and retaliation, and then execute a takedown and containment. Kokondo is notable for using a large range of hand techniques (blocks, punches, strikes and immobilizations) drawn from kata, frequently including diverse morote waza (augmented techniques) that are rarely emphasized in many systems.

Keri waza (kicking techniques) in Kokondo are generally practiced for power and speed rather than height. High kicks and jumping kicks do serve a purpose in traditional karate and are part of IKA training, but are not stressed or frequently applied in self-defense by most Kokondo-ka.

The nucleus of Kokondo’s versatility is the synthesis of three dynamic principles: Kuzushi (unbalancing); Jushin (Center Line Principle); and Shorin-ji (Points and Circles). Although more commonly discussed in Judo and Jujitsu, kuzushi is also an essential part of every Kokondo karate technique.

This core principle relates to distance, timing and motion, allowing the Kokondo-ka to block or redirect incoming attacks and respond instantly with economy of motion.

When using kuzushi correctly, it is much easier to choose the most ideal targets and retaliate with a few well-chosen techniques, rather than a flurry of flashy but less impactful ones. Kuzushi techniques appear in every Kokondo kata, often hidden in the subtle transitions between major kata techniques.

Combining basic techniques in both renraku (simultaneous combinations) and renzoku waza (successive combinations) also generates Kuzushi, as does a very specific type of full-body muscular energy flow that is taught to more experienced Kokondo practitioners.

Shorin-ji reflects the Chinese influence in Kokondo Karate. Unlike many Japanese karate styles that exclusively highlight strong, linear dynamics, the use of circular and rounded blocks and strikes allows for great speed and fluidity.

Kokondo’s arsenal of hand techniques is vast, and the combination of circular defenses with deep, strong stances and linear punches, strikes and kicks is devastating. Shorin-ji also relates directly to the well-known karate concept of hard and soft (go & ju), an essential balance of techniques based on driving, linear power and deceptive, sudden force based on circular, whipping and snapping power.

One broad example of the points & circles concept is body shifting, or tai sabaki. In kumite, many Japanese karate styles rely heavily on a front to back or side-to-side evasion strategy. The result is a powerful and stable stance from which to retaliate, but those movement patterns may become predictable to observant attackers.

Many Chinese styles are far less predictable, using all sorts of directions for evasion, but they often lack the retaliatory power generated through straight-line dynamics. Kokondo systematically meshes the strength & stability of Japanese karate movement and stances with the variety of Chinese and Okinawan hand and foot tactics, resulting in a wide range of both body shifting and retaliatory capabilities.

Jushin, the principle of attacking and controlling opponents on their vertical and horizontal center lines, is a system of continuous quartering which can enhance every technique in one’s arsenal, regardless of style.

Although more easily explained and understood though physical contact than written description, Jushin is especially helpful for targeting a retaliatory strike, punch, or kick, executing a joint-lock, or quickly dispatching an opponent with a take-down or throw.

Jushin also incorporates many specific kamae (fighting postures) that may be used effectively in kumite or against multiple attackers. Some of these kamae come directly from karate kata while others stem from traditional Jujitsu, and therefore greatly expand the arsenal of Kokondo karate-ka.

Principles: The central principles of Kokondo Karate and Jukido Jujitsu are:

  • Jushin: the center line. The horizontal and vertical center lines of an opponent’s body is critical to the effectiveness of techniques. Attacks should be on the center line; containment techniques should be applied along the center line, and throws should break the center line.
  • Kuzushi: unbalancing. Motion (your own or an opponent’s) creates an imbalance. Creating and controlling this imbalance leads to effective techniques.
  • Shorin-ji: points and circles. Neither straight line techniques (as in many Japanese systems) nor rounded techniques (as in many Chinese systems) are ideal separately: each has their strengths and when combined, the result is more effective.

Philosophy and rules: Kokondo is a closed system: students are expected to not train in any other martial arts. The focus of the two arts is on effective, realistic self-defense.

Kokondo-ka (Kokondo practitioners) are discouraged from engaging in martial arts tournaments; it is Arel’s stance that training for tournaments is disruptive to self-defense training. The seven codes of Bushido (benevolence, courage, honor, justice, loyalty, politeness, and veracity) are considered particularly important ideals for Kokondo-ka, in their karate as well as in their behaviour while training, as well as their behavior generally.

Kokondo dojos are usually run by volunteer sensei, though there are exceptions. The IKJA rejects the practice of student contracts, and attempts to retain students through excellence of instruction. Kokondo welcomes women, and has equal expectations of female and male kokondo-ka.

Belt ranks: There are 11 ranks before black belt in Kokondo karate: White, White 1, White 2, Yellow, Yellow 1, Yellow 2, Green, Red, Brown 3, Brown 2, and Brown 1. In Jukido Jujitsu there are thirteen ranks before black belt: White, White 1, White 2, Yellow, Yellow 1, Yellow 2, Orange, Blue, Purple, Green, Brown 3, Brown 2, and Brown 1. The brown ranks are numbered in decreasing order, corresponding to the rank of the kyu; 1st kyu corresponds to Brown 1, 2nd kyu to Brown 2, and so on.

There is no fixed timetable for advancement through the ranks, but it takes an average of about 4 or 5 years for a student to earn their black belt.

Emphasis:

  • Practical, realistic & effective self-defense
  • Safety
  • Self-Confidence
  • Responsibility- “Appropriate response training”
  • Personalized attention
  • Fun

Typical classes often include:

  • Traditional Bow-in: Greeting to Sensei and fellow students
  • Warm-up, stretching, brief calisthenics
  • Basics: punching, kicking, striking, stances, combinations and drills
  • Yakusoku Kumite- pre-arranged, controlled sparring techniques with a partner
  • Kata: forms training practiced individually and in groups
  • Self-Defense: pre-arranged techniques appropriate for each rank
  • Surprise Attack scenarios, disarming, group drills
  • Question & Answer period
  • Traditional Bow-out: Thank you to Sensei and fellow students

History:

  • Kokondo Karate was founded by Shihan Paul Arel in 1970
  • Primarily a Japanese karate style, with influences from numerous Asian martial arts
  • Emphasizes body dynamics for fast, powerful self defense techniques
  • No major emphasis on tournaments or competetion