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What are the main differences between Urban Tiger Kempo and other traditional karate styles and martial arts?

Urban Tiger Kempo is the amalgamation of various styles to create one hybrid system consisting of Striking, stand-up Grappling and groundwork. Urban Tiger Kempo consists of several components

Ashihara Karate Jutsu - The Art of Sabaki

Japanese Jujitsu - The Gentle Art

Judo - The Gentle way

Aikido - The way of harmonising energy

Chin Na - The Art of Seizing and Locking

Shuai Jiao - The Art of Chinese Wrestling

TaiChi Quan - "Shadow Boxing"

Our Core component was founded in the 1980s, Ashihara Karate is a modern/contemporary karate system that places emphasis on practical self-defence and the cultivation of holistic wellness. As such, training focuses on fostering effective self-defence skills that is based on scientific logic and rational strategies. 

Most notably, Urban Tiger Kempo generally adopts an "MMA" stand-up fighting posture But with open hands palms outwards. Compared to the stances often seen in Traditional Karate, this stance / posture bears closer resemblance to modern kick-boxing.

From here, techniques are executed with an emphasis on being relaxed, natural and fluid, as opposed to being rigid and regimental.
Practicality is emphasized in Urban Tiger Kempo, hence techniques often involves dynamic body movements, positioning and striking to vital areas. This is done instead of adopting a head-on strategy that places importance on brute strength or sheer speed. Such a strategy is often referred to as Sabaki.
For real-life self-defence applications, Urban Tiger Kempo techniques focuses on simple and straightforward techniques, aimed at quickly neutralizing the opponent. Such techniques and applications are codified in our forms or Kata, 
When training, we aim to replicate the realism of actual combat as close as possible, but in a manner that is safe. Students learn to build confidence giving and receiving strikes, being Grappled, Thrown and Struck without getting injured. 

Do our students take part in tournaments?
Yes, some of them do.
But since regular classes are not designed for competition-styled Kempo, they take part in separate preparatory sessions.


Progression One's progress through the various levels of ability and understanding of karate is measured by means of periodic grading. The rewards of these Gradings are many and are symbolised by the presentation of a coloured belt. At first, only white, brown and black belts were used. There were many grades among these though and so other colours were later added to differentiate amongst them.

12th Kyu Jr White

11th Kyu Jr White/Red

10th Kyu White or Jr Red/White

9th Kyu Red

8th Kyu Blue/White

7th Kyu Blue

6th Kyu Yellow/White

5th Kyu Yellow

4th Kyu Green/White

3rd Kyu Green

2nd Kyu Brown/white

1st Kyu Brown

1st Dan Jr Black/white (Jr grade)

1st to 4th Dan Black

5th to 7th Dan Red/Black Block

8th to 10th Dan Red 

OSU is used in many situations and seems to mean a lot of things.  But what does it really mean? The word OSU comes from Oshi Shinobu, which means “to persevere whilst being pushed”.  It implies a willingness to push oneself to the limits of endurance, to persevere under any kind of pressure. It means patience, determination and perseverance.

Kata is sequences of movements for offence and defence applied against the simultaneous attack of either One or more than one opponent. Simply put, Kata's are various techniques and combinations which have been arranged in a series to help the students learn them. The movements are rationally and systematically combined. In this way, students can, even on their own, master the art of parrying. 

There are 7 Kata types:

Junior (Takiyoku)

Beginner's (Shoshinsha),

Basic (Kihon),

Sparring (Kumite)

Throwing (Nage),

Real Combat (Jissen). 

Goshin (Traditional self-defence)

The practice of Kata is similar to shadow boxing in that when it is practiced solo, it is performed against imaginary opponents. However where it differs is that each kata is a series of fundamental movements carried out according to a pattern which makes up a fixed routine. They represent both a compilation of fight controls, as well as a model for combinations. 

In Urban Tiger Kempo it is referred to as controlled technique Kata. Controlled technique kata has been devised to help explain the idea behind Urban Tiger Kempo Sabaki techniques. The Kata prepares one for real fight situations and are unique to Urban Tiger Kempo

Our Systems: Ashihara Fighting Karate


Kickboxing K-1 Style

Black Tiger Martial Arts has had the opportunity to help countless students acquire foundational skills, develop new techniques and confidently move forward in their learning journey. Japanese Kickboxing is born from Ashihara Karate with influence from Muay Thai Boxing and SanDa. This style is very popular and effective using hands, feet, elbows and knees. We also love our low kicks and up to full contact sparring. We have several Fighters who compete in Local, National and International tournaments as well as several Champions. Competing isn't compulsory and with the best Professional Martial Arts School to support students from all backgrounds and levels that's why whether you want to Kickbox for fitness or self defence or competing. Black Tiger Martial Arts will help you get there. 


Progression One's progress through the various levels of ability and understanding of karate is measured by means of periodic grading. The rewards of these Gradings are many and are symbolised by the presentation of a coloured belt. At first, only white, brown and black belts were used. There were many grades among these though and so other colours were later added to differentiate amongst them.

9th Kyu White

8th Kyu Red

7th Kyu Blue

6th Kyu Yellow

5th Kyu Orange

4th Kyu Green

3rd Kyu Brown

2nd Kyu Brown

1st Kyu Brown

1st Dan Jr Black/white (Jr grade)

1st to 4th Dan Black

5th to 7th Dan Red/Black Block

8th to 10th Dan Red 

Our Systems: Japanese Kickboxing


Black Tiger Martial Arts has had the opportunity to provide an exclusive opportunity to learn and practice Cheng Man Ch'ing 37 form, 6 Form and Yang 8 Form as well as the Yang 32 sword form. Whether you want to have gentle exercise to keep you moving or wanting to acquire foundational skills, develop new techniques Black Tiger Martial Arts is the best Professional Martial Arts School in the South Manchester area, we provide a wide range of classes to support students from all backgrounds and levels.
Our TaiChi classes are a fresh and easy way to learn. With everyone smiling and feeling refreshed after the class. 

Our Systems: Cheng Man Ch'ing TaiChi


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Two Japanese word elements are commonly found in the names of most Japanese martial arts: do and jutsu.  Jutsu simply refers to a collection of techniques, methods, skills or technical applications in a practical or scientific sense.  Do, on the other hand, is more philosophical, referring to a “way” or “path” to be followed as a lifestyle. In Zen Buddhism (a major influence on the development of martial arts in Japan), a do or tao is a religiously oriented way of life which is practiced for its own sake and which brings about self-knowledge and spiritual enlightenment.  In secular life the term refers to any art which is practiced to develop both technical proficiency and spiritual maturity, harmonizing body and mind. Consequently, when Gichin Funakoshi introduced karate-do (rather than karate-jutsu) to Japan, he introduced much more than an Okinawan fighting style, claiming also a spiritual and philosophical foundation for karate training.  As a do, karate was transformed from a fighting system into a Way which could rightfully claim a place in traditional Japanese martial culture. Other examples of this dichotomy include budo (“the martial way,” or, more literally, “the way of ending conflict”) vs. bujutsu (“military science”), kendo vs. kenjutsu (ken = “sword”), and jujutsu and aikijutsu (dangerous samurai grappling arts) vs. judo and aikido; judo is a safer-to-practice version of jujutsu developed primarily for purposes of sport and personal development, and aikido is a kinder, more humane version of aikijutsu with a strong mystical and philosophical foundation. Another Japanese do is bushido, bushi meaning “warrior.”  The Way of the warrior was the concept most intimately tied to the warrior culture of Japan, a rigorous standard of behavior and thought demanded of all samurai, and designed to produce principled citizens as well as effective soldiers.  In this early form of do the martial arts were not yet viewed as vehicles for self-development and enlightenment, but were nevertheless expected to constitute a total lifestyle and way of thinking beyond simple combat technique. At the KoSho karate school the Dojo Code gives a first indication of the responsible attitudes which students are expected to cultivate, if they haven’t already.  Philosophical concepts are rarely discussed overtly in class, but psychological effects of the training tend to emerge anyway.  Especially with children and young people, the improvements in concentration, perseverance, self-confidence, self-esteem, responsibility, achievement, sociability and level-headedness are often pronounced.  And even a kind of spiritual maturity sets in, involving reduced hostility and a feeling of being at peace with the world.  Such subtle changes in attitude do place students irrevocably on a new and better “path” in life, as they advance in the arts of karate-do and kobudo.  

Reference WINGATE, C. (1993)  Exploring our roots; historical and cultural foundations of the ideology of karate-do.  
Journal of Asian Martial 2 (3), 11-35.

©Wendell E. Wilson (2010) (email: from Essays on the Martial Arts Home: 

Our Systems: DO versus JUTSU


Concepts of our Kempo System

All Sparring Etc is as per Sabaki Knockdown rules

Urban Tiger Kempo is Jissen based so hence the kata are Jissen based which is slightly different. Wado and other Traditional Kempo are Goshin based so their kata is Goshin based. I have bridged the 2; my students study Jissen Kempo as they do not "like" or "understand" traditional Kempo. I want to "feed" them Wado so they can understand that Traditional Kempo is not just about doing forms that do not mean anything at all to anyone except the creator.

Tai Sabaki (体捌き) is a term from Japanese martial arts, and which relates to 'whole body movement', or repositioning. It can be translated as body-management. It is a term used widely in kendo, jujutsu, aikido, judo, Kempo and Ninjutsu. Tai Sabaki is usually used to avoid an attack, such that the receiver of the attack ends up in an advantageous position and it is often wrongly referred to as evasion.

An example of Tai Sabaki is 'moving off the line' of attack using Irimi and Tenkan movements rather than to 'move against' the attack. This implies the use of harmony rather than physical strength. Different styles have a different concept of how to perform "tai Sabaki" none are incorrect, just a different way of doing the same thing.
Tai Sabaki is related to ashi Sabaki (footwork) and Te Sabaki (handwork).

This is a good observation from a Japanese Wado Ryu Yudansha (he trains with Hironori (Jiro) Ohtsuka II Sensei); of the two styles

"After looking at the Chinese characters "Goshin" is "guard self" and "Jissen" is "true battle". It makes sense.

You tend to find that Wado is very 'Goshin' because it is mostly based on Jujutsu and became Kempo when Otsuka sensei studied with Funakoshi. It then broke away from Shotokan as it was not maybe 'aggressive' enough because there were no free sparring elements in Funakoshi's Shotokan.

A Goshin base seems to be more for intercepting attacks 'should' they come not necessarily when they come. Wado in my opinion seeks to attack an opponent first but should the opponent attack then it can be intercepted. The Wado kata though seem based on only the moving around of attacks and then striking your opponent. Otsuka Sensei shows this well when he demonstrates...idori"

Jissen seems particularly good for stand up battering each other but it seems to favour a power base over a speed base. Both require good Tai Sabaki however Goshin requires accurate strikes to critical points with speed in real situations, but Jissen requires you to mess up your opponents form as much as possible then take them out with a powerful strike."

I have described it slightly different below for those who still do not see the difference

I suppose we could put it in another Context, the difference between Football (soccer for the Americans) and Rugby. Jissen being Rugby and Football being Goshin.

Jissen (Rugby) Kempo. Knockdown Kempo is very dare I say "aggressive" you can see that in the sparring - the same as in Rugby. The players are "aggressive,” but it is a controlled "gentleman's" aggression you get more knocks, bangs, and bruises etc. You are tougher, you can take more punishment before you 'fold' and you are stronger too as you need to be to be able to take on the bigger players. You tend to go straight in towards your opponent, but you do twist and turn as your heading up the field.

Goshin (Football) Kempo. Traditional Kempo is dare I say "passive" you can see that too in the sparring - the same as it Football. The players are "passive" but can react "aggressively" when required. The players are leaner and move quicker and are work more on timing and twisting and turning as opposed to going directly at their opposite player. It is about tapping and "hit and run" in the game using your speed and accuracy rather than strength and aggression.

Hope this helps to understand what was written - remember all is an opinion and can be amended and change as Do is a way of life and we continually spend our lives correcting and amending and changing ethos regards our Kempo.

Hence why I have looked at the kata of Urban Tiger and keeping its core, which was Ashihara Kancho's brainchild.

I can see where you may say "Watching the new kata created for Urban Tiger Kempo to me anyway looks like drills found in kickboxing, nothing wrong with kick boxing but its not Kempo." Similar can be said to an outsider of traditional Kempo that "it looks like a "Dance" or "Yoga" that is just moving and twist the body in positions for no real reason"

I agree that for some it is just pre-applied combinations that can be found in a kickboxing school. At the beginning of my journey through Urban Tiger Kempo that is what I thought too. Then I began to look more into the style of Kempo itself, looking at the kata thinking about each move. Why is it there? What is it for? Can it be used for anything else? I through my experience of Traditional Kempo looking into the core of Bunkai. I amended most of the kata to make a more realistic approach and now the kata can support a various amount of Bunkai I have added moves, body twists, changed round kicks to front kicks, taken moves out included "grappling" techniques into the kata etc to make the Kata and style "complete" or "whole".

Once I have managed to film the kata and its Bunkai you'll understand what I mean.

Kempo and kata go hand in hand, Kata was the Sensei's way of recording his/her fighting style for all time I say this as Naihanchi (Tekki) Bassai and Kushanku (Kanku Dai/Sho) were all fighting styles that are no longer practiced in main land China.

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