A History and Style Guide of Budokan Karate

Ghulam Ali of Pakistan competes in the Men's Individual Kata Karate during the 15th Asian Games Doha 2006 at the Qatar Sports Club on December 12, 2006 in Doha, Qatar. Paul Gilham/Staff/Getty Images

Can the martial arts be classified as a ‘sport’? Not always. That said, athletes tend to gravitate toward them. Such was the case once with a young Malaysian man by the name of Chew Choo Soot. At the age of 15, Soot became interested in weightlifting. But along the way, the martial arts came calling to a great enough extent that years later, he would develop the karate style called Budokan.

The History of Budokan Karate

Environmental factors, or issues of chance, have such a profound impact on what we become. Though it’s hard to know the impact of Chew Choo Soot losing his father as an infant, we do know that it led to his coming under the strong influence of a disciplinarian grandfather who brought him up. Chew Choo Soot’s grandfather was an old school Confucian scholar that believed in education, not the arts. Thus, the young boy was not encouraged in any way to participate in athletics or the arts.

Well, they say we sometimes rebel against our parents in adolescence, do they not? Whether this was the case or not, at the age of 15 Chew Choo Soot began weight training at a small bodybuilding club in Epoh. He trained so hard, in fact, that he eventually became national weight lifting champion as a featherweight and lightweight during the years of 1939, 1941, and 1942. During those years, he also trained in judo, jujitsu, and wrestling.

Thus, he was initially a grappler.

As has been the case in multiple areas of the world throughout history, Malaysia became occupied by Japan’s military. Though this would not be considered the norm, in early 1942 a Japanese Army Officer, apparently hearing of Chew Choo Soot’s prowess as a weightlifter from a health and strength magazine, sought out his tutelage.

Interestingly, the officer was a high ranking karate expert, specializing in Keishinkan and Shotokan. Thus, the two decided to train with one another, exchanging tuition, as they trained for more than two years in karate, jujitsu, judo, and weightlifting.

When the second World War ended, Chew Choo Soot traveled to Japan and Okinawa to continue and further his martial arts training. He eventually also came to Taiwan, where he learned about kung fu and weapons.

In 1966, at the request of those close to him, Chew Choo Soot started a dojo in Petaling Jaya. Though he started with a small amount of people, the class grew very quickly, eventually causing him to seek out assistant instructors. But that’s not where the growth stopped. Rather, schools under his tutelage and style spread to the northern and southern peninsulas of Malaysia, and eventually, to other countries.

Chew suffered from a paralytic attack on February 4, 1995. He died on July 18, 1997. Today Budokan is recognized by the World Union of Karate Do Organizations and the World Karate Federation.

Characteristics of Budokan Karate

Budokan karate is like many other types of karate, in that it is predominantly a striking style of martial arts.

In that sense, it utilizes blocks and powerful kicks and/or punches to quickly and decisively stop attacks. Karate as a general art adheres to the principle of one kick or punch equating to significant damage. Budokan is no different. Like most karate styles, some takedowns are employed, though this is not the focus of the art.

Budokan stylists practice forms, sparring, and weapons. Their katas have been heavily influenced by Shotokan. Practitioners also use weapons such as the Bo staff and various swords. Budokan utilizes both hard and soft techniques.

Leadership

Karate Budokan International was founded on July 17, 1966, by Chew. Today it continues as its own organization.  The second Grandmaster of Budokan Karate International was Chew's second son, Richard Chew.  He worked diligently to bring his art to the masses similarly to how his father did.

 Today, due to their efforts, Budokan has a strong Asian connection.