Shotokan vs Kyokushin Karate

Karate is a martial art that has been practiced for centuries, and it has evolved into two distinct styles: Shotokan Karate and Kyokushin Karate. Both of these styles have their own unique set of techniques, stances, and principles, making them ideal for different types of martial artists.

Shotokan Karate focuses on strong blocks, kicks, and punches; while Kyokushin Karate emphasizes more powerful strikes from the hips with an emphasis on full-body contact. While both are effective in self-defense situations, they also provide practitioners with physical fitness benefits such as increased strength and flexibility.

In this article, we will take a closer look at each style to help you decide which one is right for you!

Table of Contents

shotokan vs kyokushin karate fighters

What is Shotokan Karate?

Shotokan Karate is a traditional Japanese karate style that was developed in the 1920s by legendary martial artist Gichin Funakoshi.

This style is characterized by its strong movements, emphasizing blocks, punches, and kicks from the hikite (pulling hand), as well as stances that are low to the ground. It also focuses heavily on kihon (basics) and kata (formal exercises).

What is Kyokushin Karate?

Kyokushin Karate is a full-contact style of karate developed in the 1950s by legendary martial artist Masutatsu Oyama. This style emphasizes powerful strikes from the hips, including punches and kicks.

To practice Kyokushin Karate, practitioners must be extremely fit, as it requires an intense level of physical conditioning. Kyokushin Karate also focuses heavily on kata, as well as kaishu (sparring).

Difference Between Kyokushin and Shotokan Karate

Type of Strikes 

While Shotokan Karate emphasizes blocks, punches, and kicks from the hikite; Kyokushin Karate utilizes powerful strikes from the hips with an emphasis on full-body contact. Moreover, Kyokushin Karate has a greater emphasis on kaishu (sparring) than Shotokan Karate.


Shotokan Karate focuses mainly on kihon (basics) and kata (formal exercises) while Kyokushin Karate focuses on both kata and kaishu (sparring). In addition, Kyokushin Karate requires a higher level of physical fitness than Shotokan Karate to effectively practice.


Shotokan Karate practitioners wear traditional Japanese karate gis, whereas Kyokushin Karate practitioners wear thicker and heavier martial arts gis.


Shotokan Karate utilizes a number of katas such as Pinan and Heian, whereas Kyokushin Karate uses a single kata called Kanku.


Shotokan focuses on cleanly executed techniques and rewards more points for takedowns followed by a strike. On the other hand, Kyokushin sparring is far less restricted; it has higher stakes as its main objective is to knock down or even out your opponent—and these tactics are rewarded accordingly with ample points. Punches and kicks do not earn you much in this style of martial arts!

Similarities Between Kyokushin and Shotokan Karate

Although Shotokan Karate and Kyokushin Karate are two distinct styles of martial arts, they have some similarities. Both rely heavily on kata (formal exercises) to instill technique, discipline, and respect for one’s opponent.

In addition, both styles emphasize strong stances, posture, and breathing control during practice. Finally, both styles rely on the same core principles of mutual respect and self-improvement.

Which is Better for Self-Defense? 

Both Shotokan Karate and Kyokushin Karate are effective for self-defense. Both styles focus on blocks, punches, kicks, and stances that can be used in a defensive manner.

However, Kyokushin Karate has a greater emphasis on full-body contact strikes from the hips which makes it more suitable for self-defense.

In addition, Kyokushin also emphasizes kaishu (sparring), which provides practitioners with an opportunity to practice their defensive skills in a live situation. Therefore, for those looking for a martial art to use for self-defense, Kyokushin Karate may be the better choice.

Which is Better for Fitness?

For those looking for a martial art to improve fitness, Kyokushin Karate is the better choice. This style requires a higher level of physical conditioning than Shotokan Karate and emphasizes strong movements from the hips.

As such, practitioners must be physically fit in order to effectively practice this style of karate. Additionally, Kyokushin Karate also emphasizes kaishu sparring, which helps to further improve physical fitness.

In contrast, Shotokan Karate focuses mainly on kihon (basics) and kata (formal exercises). Therefore, those looking to get in shape should consider Kyokushin Karate as their martial art of choice.

Which is More Popular? 

Shotokan Karate is the more popular of the two styles, as it has a long history and is a widely practiced martial art. This style of karate has been around for over 100 years and is taught in many dojos worldwide. Additionally, Shotokan Karate has been featured in various popular media such as films and video games.

On the other hand, Kyokushin Karate is a relatively new style of martial arts and is not as widely practiced or known as Shotokan Karate. While it has gained some popularity in recent years, it still does not have the same wide recognition or history as Shotokan Karate.

Equipment Comparison

In terms of equipment, Shotokan Karate practitioners typically use mats for protection during practice. Kyokushin Karate practitioners on the other hand, often train on hard surfaces like concrete or wooden floors in order to better prepare themselves for competitive fighting. Additionally, Kyokushin Karate practitioners often wear chest protectors and other protective gear when sparring.

As mentioned earlier, different Gis (uniforms) are also worn in each style. Shotokan Karate practitioners typically wear uniforms with long sleeves and pants while Kyokushin Karate practitioners usually wear uniforms with shorts and no sleeves.

Weapons Used

Both Shotokan Karate and Kyokushin Karate have elements of weapons training included in their practice. In Shotokan Karate, practitioners often use the jō (a wooden staff) and katana (a curved sword) to practice their techniques. Kyokushin Karate also includes weapons training, but practitioners tend to use more modern weapons such as the bo (a long staff) and nunchaku (two sticks connected by a chain).

Should I Learn Shotokan or Kyokushin?

Ultimately, the decision to learn either Shotokan Karate or Kyokushin Karate should be based on personal preference. Those looking for a martial art to use for self-defense might prefer Kyokushin Karate due to its focus on full-body contact strikes and kaishu sparring. Also, those looking to improve their physical fitness may find Kyokushin Karate more beneficial due to its focus on strong movements from the hips and kaishu sparring.

It is important to note that both Shotokan Karate and Kyokushin Karate have their own unique qualities and benefits. Therefore, it is best to research both styles before making a decision as to which one is right for you.

Pro Tip

Try 2 lessons in each style before deciding which one is best for you. Regardless of what martial art you choose to learn, make sure to always practice with dedication, respect, and safety. Martial arts are powerful tools that can have a great impact on your life, so choose the style that works best for you and enjoy the journey.

Which Karate is Better Kyokushin or Shotokan?

It is difficult to say which karate style is better, as each style has its own unique benefits and advantages. While Shotokan Karate focuses on basics and forms, Kyokushin Karate puts more emphasis on physical fitness and full-contact sparring.

Personally, I prefer Kyokushin because it is powerful and aggressive, and I like the challenge of kai shu sparring. But remember, many Shotokan karatekas are highly skilled and some Kyokushin karatekas prefer to stick to basics. Ultimately, it is up to you which style you prefer.