Most people are familiar with Karate as a Japanese or Okinawan martial art. Karate is an unarmed fighting system now practiced all over the world. Today’s major styles include Goju Ryu, Shotokan, Shito Ryu, Kyokushin, and Shorin Ryu.
However, several schools were also founded by American pioneers to better reflect the needs of the modern world. One of those American systems is Goshin Jutsu Karate. Goshin Jutsu literally means “self-defense” in Japanese.
This style was founded by Gerald Durant, who trained in various martial arts in Japan, including Karate, Judo, and Aiki Jutsu. A few other notable American styles include American Kenpo (Ed Parker), Shuri Ryu (Robert Trias), and USA Goju (Peter Urban).
Below we’ll go over the detailed history of Goshin Jutsu Karate, its founder, influences, and teachings. Why might you want to consider this style over others?
What is Goshin Jutsu Karate?
In this section, we’ll explain more about the history of the style, major influences, and general characteristics.
Goshin Jutsu Origins
Goshin Jutsu Karate begins with Gerald Durant. Durant resided in Japan for roughly 13 years, beginning in the 1940s. He was a merchant marine who decided to stay in Japan and learn the martial arts.
His training wasn’t limited to a single teacher or school. Rather, he trained in several disciplines. This wasn’t unlike the early masters of Karate, where extensive cross-pollination existed. It’s well known that most of the Karate pioneers trained with each other and exchanged ideas.
During his time in Japan, Durant studied Judo at the Kodokan, Karate, and Aiki Jutsu. His main teachers at the time were Murakami and the Tanaka family. When he finally returned to the US, he was ranked 6th dan (6th-degree blackbelt), which is typically considered a master-level rank.
Shortly after, he moved to Canada, where he lived for three years and learned from a Buddhist monk. The first Goshin Jutsu Karate dojo was opened in Erie, PA. After Durant’s instructor passed away in 1974, he was finally promoted to 10th dan, the highest rank given by the Yudan-Shakai.
Durant passed away on July 14, 1991, in Pasadena, Texas. As it typically happens after the founder of a school dies, Goshin Jutsu Karate split into a few different branches. Today, several senior students continue his teachings.
The Goshin Jutsu Karate System
Goshin Jutsu Karate follows the Japanese system of belts and grades. Students first begin with the Kyu system, which makes use of colored belts. Starting with white, the belts gradually become darker as the student gets closer to the black belt. At the black belt, the ranks are now referred to as Dan.
Kata is usually seen as the most important practice in Karate schools. Many Kata are thought to trace back to China, and were created as solo representations of fighting techniques and strategies that a student could practice on their own.
Goshin Jutsu Karate is different in this regard. Since Goshin Jutsu means self-defense, the focus is more on developing practical skills. Students can expect to spend more time doing partner work and practicing techniques with other students. Durant founded the school as a more modern style that better fits the needs of American society and is more geared to practical techniques.
How is Goshin Jutsu Karate different from other schools?
In order to explain how and why Goshin Jutsu Karate is different from other styles, we have to first examine the various influences on the founder Gerald Durant. First, this school goes beyond just Karate. Durant also trained in several other arts in Japan, notably Judo and Aiki Jutsu.
Everyone with a basic familiarity with Judo knows that Randori (the two-person practice) is very common in each class. Aiki Jutsu and Aikido both focus a lot on partner work, and many techniques can’t be practiced by yourself.
With that, we begin to see the differences from other Karate styles where Kata practice dominates. In the Goshin Jutsu school, you’ll instead focus more on applying techniques rather than form practice. In this way, the student can acquire skills more quickly.
The style also utilizes more throwing, joint locking, and grappling techniques. These mainly come from the Aiki and Judo influence. This is in contrast to some other Karate styles, which focus more on striking techniques.
There are specific ways strikes are performed and utilized in Goshin Jutsu Karate. First, there’s an emphasis on using the hips and rotating them to generate power. This allows someone who is perhaps weaker and smaller to still be able to generate stronger attacks.
The techniques also use a snapping motion, which carries a few advantages. Some teachers theorize that snapping a strike causes damage to penetrate into the body and cause internal damage. It’s better for attacking the vital points and organs compared to a standard strike, which only results in damage on the surface. In some cases, the effects may not even be noticed right away.
Another important teaching centers on controlling your balance and center. Many techniques depend on having a proper, stable base. In addition to maintaining your own posture, you also want to destabilize your opponent. This concept is often called Kuzushi in Japanese and is a common principle in Judo and Aiki Jutsu.
Ultimately, Goshin Jutsu Karate takes inspiration from a variety of schools and martial arts. You could say it goes beyond only Karate.
Philosophy and Teachings Behind Goshin Jutsu Karate
The main teaching of all Karate schools is that it’s a defensive art first and foremost. It’s never meant to be used against others except as a last resort if your life is in danger. The saying “Karate ni sente nashi” is one that all Karate styles adhere to, including this one. It roughly translates to the idea that there’s no first attack, meaning that you shouldn’t initiate violence or fights with others.
The basic rules and creed are also as follows:
Goshin Jutsu Creed
I will keep my body and mind strong and clean.
I will use them to the best of my ability.
I will pity the weak and show them the way.
I will honor my instructors and fellow students and bring them no shame.
I will study hard so that I will bring nothing but honor to my school.
I come to you with karate empty hands.
I have no weapons, but should I be forced to defend myself,
My principals or my honor:
Should it be a matter of life or death, right or wrong,
Then here are my weapons, “Karate Empty Hands.”
School Locations and Notable Practitioners
Although the first dojo was opened in Erie, PA, the style eventually spread to several locations. You can find schools in both Texas and Pennsylvania. Compared to more recognized Karate styles, Goshin Jutsu is still on the smaller side.
Two of the notable teachers of the art include Joe Brague and Stephen Capela Jr. There’s some debate over who exactly is the most senior or head of the style. This sort of thing can be pretty common in many martial arts.
Many of the popular and traditional styles of Karate trace back their origins to Okinawa or Japan. Since the art has spread all over the world, more modern systems have begun to be developed in various countries.
Goshin Jutsu is an American style founded by Gerald Durant, who spent roughly a decade living in Japan. Durant learned several additional styles like Judo and Aiki Jutsu, which played a big influence on him.
Ultimately, Goshin Jutsu is a modern style and is more geared to self defense. Keep checking back to see more articles on different martial arts and concepts.