Nathan J. Johnson

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This article is about the martial artist. For Barack Obama assassination plotter, see 2008 Barack Obama assassination scare in Denver.

Nathan Johnson is a British martial arts instructor, researcher and author;[1] he is notable for his controversial theories on the origins of Karate and Kung Fu.


Johnson was born and continues to live in the south of England.


Johnson has researched the use of traditional kata and forms,[2] contending that many of those central to the practice of Karate and Kung Fu are not for empty-hand fighting, as is commonly believed.[3]

Johnson's research has evolved over the years and this evolution can be categorized into three periods "Chan Tao Wing Chun", "Zen Shorin Do Karate" and "Kodo Ryu Karate".

Chan Tao Wing Chun[edit]

During this period Johnson focused on the applications of the Wing Chun forms with respect to the idea that both the forms and their applications were an extension of Buddhism. Tim Crook, an ex-student of Johnson during this period, states in and that his self-published book, "The Buddhist Way of Wing Chun" (1998)[4] would not have been possible without Johnson and his Chan Tao group. This combined with the fact that Johnson holds a 4th degree black sash in Wing Chun and that Zen Shaolin Karate was published in 1994 suggests the existence of the Chan Tao group sometime prior to 1994.

Zen Shorin Do Karate[edit]

During this period Johnson focused on the applications of three karate forms Sanchin, Tensho and Naihanchi once again with respect to the idea that both the forms and their applications were an extension of Buddhism. In 1994 he published "Zen Shaolin Karate" explaining Sanchin (modified Uechi Ryu version) as a pushing hands kata and Naihanchi (modified Shōrin-ryū version) as a double hand grappling kata. In 2000 he published "Barefoot Zen" explaining Sanchin (modified Goju Ryu version) as a double hand grip escape kata, Tensho (modified Goju Ryu version) as a single hand grip escape kata and Naihanchi (modified Shōrin-ryū version) once again as a double hand grappling kata (applications differed slightly from those in Zen Shaolin Karate).

Kodo Ryu Karate[edit]

During this period Johnson re-examines the application of Sanchin (Uechi Ryu version) and examines the applications of two more Uechi Ryu kata Seisan and Sanseirui; however at this point he appears to abandon the idea of kata being an extension of Buddhism and instead adopts the idea that kata show methods of both armed and unarmed civil arrest. In 2006 he published "The Great Karate Myth" in which he re-iterates the applications presented in Barefoot Zen as well as asserting that the Uechi Ryu kata Sanchin, Seisan and Sanseirui are sai forms done without the sai. A few applications are shown but nowhere near as much detail as his previous books.

Published works[edit]

Johnson is the author of nine published books.[5] In 1994 Zen Shaolin Karate was published, which outlined his initial research into the Naihanchi kata, arguing for and showing its use as a grappling rather than a striking form. The 2000 book Barefoot Zen: The Shaolin Roots of Kung Fu and Karate furthered this work and delved into the philosophical background of the oriental martial arts, with particular attention to the apparent Buddhist and non-violent origins of the fighting arts.

In The Great Karate Myth the information on Naihanchi and Sanchin was updated, contending that Sanchin was created as a weapons form (using sai) and only a weapons form. A DVD enclosed with the book demonstrated Johnson's research conclusions clearly.

Ko-do Ryu[edit]

Johnson is the most senior instructor of the Ko-do Ryu Karate Renmei.


  1. ^ Official Site
  2. ^ Zen Shaolin Karate (Tokyo: Tuttle 1994)
  3. ^ Barefoot Zen (York Beach, Maine: Weiser 2000)
  4. ^ The Buddhist Way of Wing Chun (By Tim Crook Self Published 1998)
  5. ^ Official Site

Further reading[edit]

  • The Great Karate Myth (The Wykeham Press: 2006)