The History and Foundation of Tatsu Te Ryu Karate Systems.

Tatsu Te Ryu Karate Systems

Thank you for considering training within the art of Tatsu Te Ryu Karate Systems.  We would be proud to be a part of your martial arts journey, and honored to help you meet your self-defense needs.  Please allow us to take this opportunity to tell you about the system.

Tatsu Te Ryu Karate / Style Definition

The Kanji:
立つ         = Tatsu meaning “To Rise / Stand Firm”
            = Te meaning “Hand / Fist”
             = Ryu means “School / Style / Family

So simply translated Tatsu Te Ryu means “The Style of the Rising Fist.  Our founder decided to use Tatsu Te Ryu as a metaphor of positivity and growth.  The raising of a hand or fist in many sporting areas symbolizes a competitor’s victory, but beyond that we want to look at it as our ability to rise above hate, to rise above prejudices, to rise above selfishness, and to rise above our own self set limitations.

Tatsu Te Ryu Karate Systems are an American “Blended” Martial Art discipline.  The techniques taught in this system are extensively based on the experience of its founder Shidoshi Geoffrey R. Spohn, and within the curriculum you will find the following disciplines represented; Traditional Karate (Shotokan / Shorin Ryu / Okinawan Goju / Kyokushin / Kenpo), Jujutsu, Tae Kwon Do, Aikido, and Ninjutsu.

We use the term Blended Martial Art instead of Mixed Martial Art intentionally.  Most mixed martial arts focus on the growth of a fighter and in-ring ability rather than the growth of the individual.  While we want our students to be able to competently and effectively defend themselves, we also want to see them grow mentally and ethically as well.

The principles of Tatsu Te Ryu mirror that of the philosophy for Shotokan founder Gichin Funakoshi; who said “The ultimate aim of karate lies not in victory or defeat, but rather in the perfection of the character of its participant.”

Tatsu Te Ryu Karate / Technical Aspects

The Blend:
Tatsu Te Ryu Karate incorporates tai sabaki, spatial awareness, close quarters fighting, joint locks, control and immobilization techniques, as well as pressure point applications.  While some high kicks and aerial techniques are taught, we primarily stay rooted to the ground with kicks being aimed to the ribs and legs.  This all leads to a no nonsense approach to self-defense.

 Crediting Our Past:
Earlier we mentioned that the Tatsu Te Ryu Karate curriculum has multiple disciplines represented.  We would like to explain some of what we adopted and pay honor to those arts.

Traditional Karate (Shotokan / Shorin Ryu / Okinawan Goju / Kyokushin / Kenpo):
Karate is defined as a weaponless means of self-defense. It consists of dynamic offensive and defensive techniques using all parts of the body to their maximum advantage.  This is achieved by a student’s persistent effort in training.   If karate had to be described in only one sentence, then the most suitable one may arguably be "You never attack first in karate."  Quoted from Gichin Funakoshi, who is credited as the father of modern karate, and who brought karate to Japan in 1922

From traditional karate, Tatsu Te Ryu utilizes the 3 K’s of martial arts training; Kihon, Kata, and Kumite.  In each category, instruction is given to challenge the student.  As the student progresses technically, they progress physically as well. 

   -  Kihon (drilling of stances, blocks, punches, strikes and kicks)
A majority of our stances and striking can be found in traditional karate.

  -  Kata (pre-arranged forms simulating combat situations)
While we do use some traditional katas, Tatsu Te Ryu Karate has developed its own forms.This helps to separate us as our own style and not into just an alternative name to a preexisting system.

  -  Kumite (sparring, controlled fighting)

 When a student approaches black belt level, technique, stamina, speed, and coordination become natural as a result of strong practice.  It is at this stage that the serious student discovers that his or her study of karate has only just begun. The object of true karate practice is the perfection of oneself through the perfection of the art.

Jujutsu & Aikido:
Jujutsu is a Japanese martial art system consisting of joint locks, throwing, grappling and striking techniques.  Jujutsu when translated from Japanese means “Gentle Art”.

Aikido is a Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba.  On a purely physical level it is an art involving some throws and joint locks that are derived from Jujitsu and some throws and other techniques derived from Kenjutsu.  Aikido doesn’t focus on punching or kicking opponents, but rather on using their own energy to gain control of them or to throw them away.  It is not a static art, but places great emphasis on motion and the dynamics of movement.  Aikido when translated means "The Way of Harmony of the Spirit".

From Jujutsu and Aikido, Tatsu Te Ryu Karate utilizes the ability to control an opponent.  There are many times in an altercation when the use of extreme force is not necessary.  In these situations the knowledge of Jujutsu and Aikido are paramount.  If there is a more peaceful and less combative alternative to a situation we will always try this avenue first.  Within Tatsu Te Ryu Karate we believe in the words Ueshiba spoke; “The Way of the Warrior has been misunderstood. It is not a means to kill and destroy others.  To smash, injure, or destroy is the worst thing a human being can do. The real Way of a Warrior is to prevent such slaughter; it is the Art of Peace, the power of love.

Tae Kwon Do & Hapkido:
From our heritage in Korean based arts we honor Tae Kwon Do and Hap Ki Do.  Tae Kwon Do is one of the oldest and most systematic and scientific Korean martial arts, and it teaches more than physical fighting skills. It is a discipline that shows ways of enhancing our spirit and life through training our body and mind.  Tae Kwon Do translated means “The Way of the Foot and Fist”.

Hapkido is a form of self-defense that employs both long and close range fighting techniques, utilizing jumping kicks and percussive hand strikes at longer ranges and pressure point strikes, joint locks, or throws at closer fighting distances. Hapkido emphasizes circular motion, redirection of force, and control of the opponent. 

From the Korean arts, Tatsu Te Ryu Karate utilizes their higher level kicks and some aerial techniques.  Kicking at higher levels and performing aerial maneuvers help the Tatsu Te Ryu student to control their balance, enhance flexibility, and increase the power and speed of their kicks.  From the Korean arts we endeavor to follow their philosophy of; Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control, and Indomitable Spirit.

Ninjutsu is a Japanese martial art which involves strategy, and tactics of unconventional warfare and guerrilla warfare as well as the art of espionage.  Ninjutsu uses conventional martial arts, with stealth, camouflage, sabotage, pressure points/nerve strikes, battlefield grappling “kumi-uchi” (old jujutsu form) and apothecary study.  Ninjutsu training can also contain parkour, disguise, escape, concealment, archery, and medicine (poisons/antedotes/herbology/first aid).  However unlike its empty handed predecessors Ninjutsu is also a weapon art, they teach shurikenjutsu, kenjutsu, sojutsu, bōjutsu, and others.  This can all be found in the Ninja Jūhakkei "The Eighteen Disciplines"

01.  Seishinteki kyōyō – spiritual refinement
02.  Taijutsu – unarmed combat (karate/jujutsu/tuite (pressure points/nerve strikes)
03.  Kenjutsu – sword techniques
04.  Bōjutsu – stick and staff techniques
05.  Sōjutsu – spear techniques
06.  Naginatajutsu – naginata techniques
07.  Kusarigamajutsu – kusarigama techniques
08.  Shurikenjutsu – throwing weapons techniques
09.  Kayakujutsu – pyrotechnics
10.  Hensōjutsu – disguise and impersonation
11.  Shinobi-iri – stealth and entering methods
12.  Bajutsu – horsemanship
13.  Sui-ren – water training
14.  Bōryaku – tactics
15.  Chōhō – espionage
16.  Intonjutsu – escaping and concealment
17.  Tenmon – meteorology
18.  Chi-mon – geography

From Ninjutsu we have adopted numerous pressure point applications, nerve strikes, fight tactics, and we learn to be light on our feet as well as remaining mobile and efficient.  Tatsu Te Ryu also teaches weaponry including bo, sai, nunchaku, sword, cane, kama, tonfa and through non-combative means our most import weapon; our mind.

Our System Founder:

Tatsu Te Ryu Karate Systems were founded by Geoffrey R. Spohn.  Shidoshi Spohn started his journey in the martial arts in 1982 and has dedicated his life to the practice of the martial arts.  Today, he still trains in Shotokan, under the direct guidance of Hanshi Robert Handley.

As an instructor, Spohn believes in a principled approach to martial arts, which includes the development of personal character as well as physical strength.  His teaching goals are to motivate and inspire his students to be the best that they can be, while instilling respect, confidence, effective self-defense, and discipline.

Shidoshi Spohn's accomplishments include:

World Director - Intercontinental Martial Arts Union
Associate World/US Ambassador - World of Martial Artists Against Child Abuse.
Board of Directors - USA Open Martial Arts Federation
Board of Directors - Global United Sokeship Alliance
Board Member - Kokusai Bujutsu Kessha Sokeship Council
Technical Advisory Board - Muniz Shiroi Shishi Ryu ​​Karate Federation
United States Martial Arts Hall Of Fame (2008 - Master of the Year)
Intl Independent M.A. Assoc. Hall Of Fame (2010 - Founder of the Year)
Intl Independent M.A. Assoc. Hall Of Fame (2011 - Man of the Year)

Shidoshi Spohn's black belt rankings include:

Founder - Tatsu Te Ryu Karate Systems
Founder - Nido Shubi Ryu Karate-Do
  --  Shotokan Karate-Do
  --  Japanese Jujutsu
  --  Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate
  --  Shukokai Ryu Karate
  --  American Combat Jujutsu
  --  Kyokushin Karate
  --  Bujinkan Ninjutsu
  --  Aikido
  --  Tae Kwon Do

Shidoshi Geoffrey R. Spohn - Karate Lineage








Our Belt System & Titling:

Tatsu Te Ryu Karate System instructors will guide the willing student through the training required to earn their "Black Belt."

Many martial arts feature a belt as part of their gi (uniform), and our style too offers this method of student development, and as a student progresses, they earn rank with belts.  The belt that is worn is called an “obi”, and its color signifies the wearer's skill level and denotes their rank.

These obis are made of thick cotton and are about 1.75 in wide. The obi is tied with a koma-musubi knot (square knot).  The colored belt levels are called "Kyu", and the Black Belt levels are called "Dan".

Below you will find the breakdown of our belts.

Kyu Levels:

          Karate-Do                                      Karate-Jutsu                         Shubi Senjutsu

     12th  Kyu:  White Belt                    6th  Kyu:  White Belt            2nd Kyu:  White  Belt
     11th  Kyu:  Yellow Belt                   5th  Kyu:  Orange Belt           1st Kyu:  Brown  Belt
     10th  Kyu:  Sr. Yellow Belt             4th  Kyu:  Green Belt   
       9th Kyu:  Purple Belt                   3rd  Kyu:  Blue Belt     
       8th Kyu: Sr. Purple Belt              2nd  Kyu:  Brown Belt 
       7th  Kyu:  Green Belt                   1st  Kyu:  Ikkyu Belt   
       6th  Kyu:  Sr. Green Belt  
       5th  Kyu:  Blue Belt          
       4th  Kyu:  Sr. Blue Belt   
       3rd  Kyu:  Brown Belt  
       2nd  Kyu:  Sr. Brown Belt     
       1st  Kyu:  Ikkyu Belt   

In Tatsu Te Ryu Karate  it takes 5 years of dedicated training and a minimum age of 16 to test for a full black belt. We use 16 years of age because a black belt not only represents a physical skill level but also a level of emotional maturity.  It's the apparent attention to detail, ability to teach, troubleshoot, and capability to react to any situation with a clear level headedness that is lacking, and children, by the very fact that they ARE children, very rarely rise to the level required to truly be considered a full black belt.  With this in mind we have a transitional black belt grading for students’ age 8+, who complete the necessary physical skills.

 Dan Levels:

   Sho Juretsu Seijuku              Ni Jurestu Seijuku                             San Juretsu Seijuku
1st Maturing (Age 8-9)     2nd Maturing (Age 10-11)                3rd Maturing (Age 12-13)

    Kohai Shodan          Shodan (1st Dan)          Nidan (2nd Dan)          Sandan (3rd Dan)
     (Age 14-15)                (Age 16-17)                   (Age18)                             (Age 20)

   Yondan (4th Dan)    Godan (5th Dan)          Rokudan (6th Dan)      Shichidan (7th Dan)

                 Hachidan (8th Dan)            Kudan (9th Dan)                 Judan (10th Dan)


Tatsu Te Ryu Karate Systems uses Japanese Shogo.  A Shogo is a title which indicates one's level of achievement as an instructor. In this system, there are seven levels of shogo: Sempai, Sensei, Tashi, Renshi, Kyoshi, Hanshi, and Shidoshi.  To receive one of these titles the black belt must be teaching in the dojo.

          1st Degree - Sempai:
Sempai is an honorific term used when speaking to someone of an elevated status in the dojo.  The term is usually reserved for mentors and student leaders.

          2nd & 3rd Degree - Sensei:    
Sensei translates as -  “One who has gone before”, and is widely adopted into English for use with martial arts instructors whose rank is Shodan or higher and in other styles including ours, must be the rank of Nidan and above.     

          4th Degree - Tashi:
Tashi translates as - “Proficient Expert”, this title is awarded to an expert instructor who is ranked to a Yondan.

          5th & 6th Degree - Renshi:
Renshi translates as - “Polished Instructor”, a person whose performance and character is polished by continued practice and who can demonstrate a kind nature while passing on knowledge without ego, pride or arrogance.

          7th & 8th Degree - Kyoshi:
Kyoshi translates as - “Professor” or “Philosopher”.  This title can be utilized in numerous interpretations; however its best described as an instructor who is capable of teaching the philosophy as well as the physical aspects of martial arts.

          9th Degree & 10th Degree - Hanshi:
Hanshi translates as - “Model Instructor” and indicates a teacher that can serve as an ideal model for other students and instructors.  A Hanshi blends the best parts of a Renshi and a Kyoshi.

Shidoshi translates as - “Master of Guides", "Expert Guide", or  Teacher’s Teacher”  Shidoshi is a title that represents one that lives the highest levels of the martial arts, as a practitioner and instructor, demonstrating personal growth and in depth understanding of the of martial arts and a balance in mind, body, and spirit.