About Go Kan Ryu Karate

Kancho Robert Sullivan
Kancho Robert Sullivan

Go Kan Ryu is a traditional style that draws from the best of a number of martial arts styles, to create a new type of karate which is both easy to learn, yet highly functional.

It's primarily a non-contact, sporting style of karate rather than an ultra-physical combat style, but students will nevertheless learn valuable conflict resolution skills, including anti-bullying.

GKR students do not hit each other, or work on real-world combat conditioning. This makes it ideal for families because GKR's training environment lacks the testosterone-fuelled aggression that puts many potential students off. Like most modern karate styles, as many as two-thirds of GKR's membership are children.

Students will have the opportunity to enter professionally run tournaments at least three times per year.In addition to its sport fighting side, GKR also pays great attention to kata, which you can think of as the performance side of karate. Kata are sequences of moves used to learn responses to many common real-world combat situations. As students progress, mastery of these kata develops strength and crucial self-defence skills. They are also used as the primary criteria in assessing students' knowledge when progressing them through the various ranking belts.

Kata are not the only source of self-defence techniques - most classes will regularly cover specific techniques and situations in order to provide the students with responses to common acts of aggression that they may encounter.

GKR is one of, if not the largest single-membership martial arts style in the world, and a GKR membership bought in London, will get you into any GKR club in the world. This is in stark contrast to some styles, where membership is regional, local, or even on a club-by-club basis.

Go Kan Ryu (GKR) karate was founded in Adelaide, South Australia, in 1984 by Robert B. Sullivan (pictured above), and has since expanded across Australia and overseas to New Zealand, England and the United States.

Robert first took up martial arts aged 17 in 1964. He lived in New South Wales, Australia, where he was a police cadet. He started training with Merv Oakley, a 1st Dan black belt who had just returned from Japan and had started a dojo (karate training gym) in Sydney. As a young man, Robert Sullivan was very impressed by what he saw and learned. He describes the training as "simplistic but strong". This aspect has gone on to become the basis of Sullivan's own GKR karate style, which foregoes show-stopping flashy moves in favour of easier to perform, but effective basic techniques.

In 1971 Robert Sullivan lived in Japan where he received advanced tuition from a number of now-famous Japanese martial arts founders. After travelling to California, where Robert had a TV series, and taught karate for about a year, he returned to Australia and in 1984, he founded the Go Kan Ryu Karate Do.

Robert Sullivan trained in a number of martial arts styles, but the two that most impressed him were Keishin Kan, a style with many similarities to Shotokan, and Goju Kai. Keishin Kan is a full contact style, with hard, rigid techniques, and a great deal of physicality. Goju Kai is more flowing, and attempts to contrast hard and soft, to create a style which is both yieldng, and devastating. Robert Sullivan took a number of kata from each system, and largely adopted the rigid training methods of Keishin Kan, melding it with the traditionalism of Goju Kai.

Ironically, both styles believe in heavy contact training, but this element was ommitted from GKR in favour of something more acceptable for families to learn. Some people argue that the lack of physical conditioning and impact training makes GKR less effective, and it's an impossible claim to refute. However, in counter to that, would you sooner be hurt a thousand times in training, or once in a real fight? Since 2011, GKR has incorporated pad and bagwork into the basic training regimes at most dojos to ensure that students are able to punch with good form and power should the need arise.

GKR attempts to provide a basic set of tools that will eliminate or reduce your chance of injury in a real combat situation.

Robert Sullivan is a strong believer in traditional teaching methods, and that means constant and extensive practice of the basics (kihon). You can enter any GKR class in the world, and the students are likely to start the class with a workout of the basic punches, kicks and blocks.

Since about 2007, the club has been evolving to incorporate more bunkai and real-world fighting techniques, better preparing its students for potential street violence.

GKR club badge  meaning of the Go Kan Ryu kanji

GKR's club badge includes six kanji (Japanese characters), that serve as a mission statement, reminding its members about the style's intent.

The preferred translation for "Go Kan Ryu Karate Do" is "Hard Complete System Empty Hand Way of". Translating Japanese grammar into English, we get something like, "Hard Complete System of the Way of the Empty Hand". By the way, that's "hard" as in the opposite to "soft", rather than "hard" as in "difficult" or "macho". In other words, GKR is designed to be a complete and robust no-weapons fighting style.

GKR Karate currently has in excess of one million members in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with about 35,000 active members training each week, making it one of the fastest-growing styles in the world.