Keichu Do

Keichu Do

Keichu Do (or, as it was originally called, "Keichu Ryu") is a martial arts system created by the controversial American martial artist, Karl William Marx, Sr (born 1936-08-10). (See "Controversies" below.) Keichu was first taught to the public in Louisiana, on August 10, 1960. The Keichu system was initially created as a self-defense for women, but has long since been adapted and expanded to a comprehensive system that is taught to men, women and children, with schools in the United States, Europe, and Tahiti.


The main techniques and strategies of the Keichu system are found in its formal kata, in its self-defense sets, and in the punch defenses. The various kata taught below black belt are unique to the Keichu system; at black belt level, students often begin training kata from classical systems.

Keichu students are taught both stand-up and ground fighting; however, the main strategy of Keichu is to maintain a superior position over the attacker. Thus, most drills or self-defense sets have the defender finishing on his feet, often after taking the attacker to the ground. The overall stand-up fighting strategy is similar to that found in many Shuri-based systems.

The techniques used in the system are a mix of traditional jujutsu, karate, judo, and "street fighting". Students are required to know striking, kicking, and blocking techniques from karate and jujutsu. A number of judo throws and grappling techniques (including pins, chokes, arm and leg locks) are taught, depending on the particular school, as either required or optional parts of the curriculum. Mixed into the blend are a variety of "street fighting" techniques that can be used on the street or in self-defense situations. The ranking system and techniques taught may vary somewhat from dojo to dojo; typically the belt system is white, yellow, blue (or orange), green, purple, brown, black.

Weapons training is also taught in a number of Keichu schools, typically using traditional Okinawan weapons such as bo, sai, kama, tunfa, etc.

There are some technical differences in what is called "Orthodox Keichu Ryu" and Keichu-Do. "Orthodox Keichu Ryu" is closer to the system as it was originally organized and taught, while the system has continued to evolve under the direction of Karl Marx. Instruction in the newer schools tends to reflect these changes, most of which were made for the sake of tournament participation or to make the techniques appear either more "flashy" or more uniquely American. An additional distinctive of "Orthodox Keichu Ryu" is that it is taught and practiced in a more systematic, unified manner, with a greater emphasis on effectiveness of technique.

The Keichu Ryu system underwent several evolutions as it came into contact with other martial art systems in the early to late 1970s. Although its primary focus was on self defense, it placed a high emphasis on tournament participation as a way to validate its kata and its fighting theory. Keichu Ryu fighting theory took a significant portion of its movement from boxing and simply added kicks to its arsenal. This was validated at numerous tournaments where early Keichu Ryu black belts secured a place for the style and set a superb reputation on the tournament circuits.

When Keichu Ryu first evolved it had only a few kata that would be recognizable as such, but others were added as the system matured. As always, the primary focus was on self defense against more practicable attacks such as punches, kicks, chokes, arm bars, etc, even chains, rope chokes, and multiple attackers. By about 1985-1990 the Keichu Ryu system had evolved to a point where its second generation black belts (Yudansha) began to develop their own interpretations of the system based on their own experiences.

There was another significant step in the evolution of the Keichu system in the 1980's when Mr. Marx moved to California and began teaching Keichu-Do along with his son Victor Marx, who had earned his black belt in kenpo. A lot of the basic self-defense techniques became more "hidden" as the kata and self-defense moves were modified. The newer modifications were so significant that some practitioners began referring to "California Keichu" as being somewhat of a sub-system of Keichu. Some of the established schools adopted a number of the newer modifications, while others saw the benefits of continuing to train in the original, more systematically organized and taught, style of Keichu Ryu (which then became known as as "Orthodox Keichu Ryu")

Branch disciplines of Keichu Ryu or Keichu Do

Several branch styles, or "ryu-ha" evolved which utilized Keichu Ryu influences.

Shin-Keichu Ryu

"Shin Keichu Ryu" (True Keichu Ryu) was developed by Mark Williams (7th Dan)with more emphasis on karate-do based on influences from Okinawan/Japanese martial arts and a de-emphasis on the three-pronged focus of "mental-physical-spiritual" mode of "Keichu-Do". Its primary goal was to focus on martial arts, and not using it for spreading religion (Christianity). Mark Williams was one of the primary "Orthodox Keichu Ryu" practitioners from the early 1970s. He competed in numerous tournaments and was instrumental for putting Keichu Ryu "on the map" from its early days as one of its first black belts to compete and win many tournaments (both kumite and kata). Shin Keichu has a balanced approach to its kata, kumite and self defense.

Williams has since began to study and teach authentic Shorin Ryu. His schools are members of the International Matsumura Seito Society (IMSS) and Williams is now recognized as a 7th Dan by that organization. Williams' system includes the authentic Matsumura Seito kata;however most of the self defense and punch defenses taught are the traditional Keichu/Shin Keichu techniques.

Shisei Ryu Aikibudo

Shisei Ryu Aiki Budo(One's True Heart Method) founded in 1993, was developed by Gary Ducote (7th Dan) with an emphasis on Aikido and Judo principles as applied to self defense. A large influence of this "ryu-ha" or branch discipline was Tomiki Ryu Aikido as taught by the Jiyushinkai method. The "Goshin Waza" or self defense of orthodox Keichu Ryu was modified to include the emphasis on off-balance, neutralization and intuitive response to the attacker's reactions and adaptations to a particular sequence of movements. Shisei Ryu also views itself as a form of "Gendai Budo" or modern martial art, incorporating effective principles found in classical Karate-Do, Judo and Tomiki Ryu Aikido. It teaches principles commonly understood in Judo and Tomiki Ryu. Two overarching concepts or principles of training and "climate" are; JITA-KYOEI - mutual welfare and benefit and SEIRYOKU-ZENYO best use of energy or maximum efficiency - minimum effort. Shisei Ryu Aiki Budo also incorporates a study of Bokuto and Jo in its curriculum, as well as Chanbara to enhance an understanding of timing and distance in a combative sense.


In 1970 Marx developed a desire to avoid the violence that had plagued his younger years. Along with a desire to live a more peaceful life came the desire to help others avoid the violence that had led him to develop his system.

The "Do" suffix to the system's title indicates "a way of", in this case directly referring to "the way of devoting oneself to the Way". For some students, this means a devotion to the martial art, while to others, it means a devotion to Jesus Christ as "The Way". Along with training in self defense/combat techniques, there is also an emphasis in some Keichu schools on learning Judeo-Christian ideals as a way of avoiding fights and conflicts. However, students of all or no faith backgrounds are welcomed to train in Keichu-Do; no specific beliefs are required.


Marx had a rather novel way of looking at the human and its condition in a self defense situation. Like many martial artists, he feels that the total person is a composite of the mind, body and spiritual aspects. However, some of the implications he drew from this in the past are considered controversial. (See "Controversies" below.) Most Keichu instructors do not take the mind-body-spirit implications as far as Marx has, but simply teach the mental and spiritual aspects of training and self-defense along with the physical.

The individual techniques of the system come from multiple pre-existing styles. What makes the system unique is the way in which the system was organized, how the techniques are used, and how they are combined. Marx came to believe that Americans on the street attacked differently than the ways in which the martial artists of the Asian countries had attacked in the past. Over time Marx developed his own style of fighting that was designed to be used in common self-defense situations as encountered in America. Marx's system developed to use a minimum of movement to achieve a maximum of damage to an opponent, very similar to the "maximum efficiency - minimum effort" credo of Aikido, Judo and other arts. The techniques of Keichu Ryu were originally intended not to be flashy, but streamlined and practical. Using his own "street" experience, Soke Marx's original intent was to create a self-defense system that would be effective for smaller and physically weaker people to use against commonly encountered types of attacks.

Keichu employs three basic strategies;-


  1. Use motion as efficiently as possible.
  2. Take away an opponent's ability to continue attacking, by attacking/disabling their "weapons".
  3. Utilize weaknesses in the design of the human anatomy to allow damage to an opponent even if they are larger/stronger.


Marx's educational background is an area of some controversy. He has claimed in his written works to hold two PhD's: a degree in Philosophy from the International Institute of Human Sciences in Athens, Greece and a degree in in Oriental Philosophy from International University of Missouri. However, Marx has since recanted that he earned these Ph.D's due to new information that he was previously unaware of (see investigation).

"Martial Art Spirit" and Medical claims

Arguably the most controversy has resulted from Marx's book "Martial Art Spirit", self-published in 2004. The book is largely a collection of letters written to one of Marx's former senior students, Mark Williams, in the early 1970's. Marx was exploring a variety of spiritual paths at the time, and the letters reflect this. In 2004, Marx had one of his young black belts prepare a rough draft, which was then printed unedited. Apparently the only changes to the letters were the removal of a few offensive sections and the addition of references to Christianity, which seem strangely incongruous to the rest of the work. Current students who expressed concern about the contents of the book were told by Marx that it was published to provoke dialog and to "reach New Agers for Jesus Christ."

Marx has also made a number of medical claims in his written works that do not correspond to conventional medicine. In his book "Martial Arts Spirit," Marx claimed that several illnesses were due to psychological origins; in one section, he claimed that mononucleosis was caused by "emotional repression and sexual starvation (MAS, page 97). He also described cancer, glaucoma, and arthritis as being due to imbalances of energy or magnetic fields throughout the body (p. 98-100).

Involving Louisiana

A magazine article published in Action Martial Arts Magazine (May/June 1997) stated that "July 30, 1997 has been declared Keichu Day in Louisiana." However, the State Library of Louisiana stated that there was no official martial art of Louisiana, nor was there ever a state holiday called "Keichu Day." (See investigation) Until this came to light, Keichu being the official state martial art was repeated and accepted as fact within some Keichu circles, even appearing on one school's website.


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