Karate (空手) is a martial art developed in the Ryukyu Islands in what is now Okinawa, Japan. It developed from the indigenous martial arts of Ryukyu Islands (called te(手), literally "hand"; tii in Okinawan) under the influence of Chinese martial arts, particularly to that of the Fujian White Crane. Karate is a striking art using punching, kicking, knee strikes, elbow strikes and open hand techniques such as knife-hands, spear-hands, and palm-heel strikes. In some styles, grappling, throws, joint locks, restraints, and vital point strikes are also taught. A karate practitioner is called a karateka (空手家).
Karate developed in the Ryukyu Kingdom. It was brought to the Japanese mainland in the early 20th century during a time of cultural exchanges between the Japanese and the Ryukyuans. It was systematically taught in Japan after the Taisho era. In 1922 the Japanese Ministry of Education invited Gichin Funakoshi to Tokyo to give a karate demonstration. In 1924 Keio University established the first university karate club in Japan and by 1932, major Japanese universities had karate clubs. In this era of escalating Japanese militarism, the name was changed from 唐手 ("Chinese hand" or "Tang hand") to 空手 ("empty hand") – both of which are pronounced karate – to indicate that the Japanese wished to develop the combat form in Japanese style. After World War II, Okinawa became an important United States military site and karate became popular among servicemen stationed there.
The martial arts movies of the 1960s and 1970s served to greatly increase the popularity of martial arts around the world, and in English the word karate began to be used in a generic way to refer to all striking-based Oriental martial arts. Karate schools began appearing across the world, catering to those with casual interest as well as those seeking a deeper study of the art.
Shigeru Egami, Chief Instructor of Shotokan Dojo, opined that "the majority of followers of karate in overseas countries pursue karate only for its fighting techniques ... Movies and television ... depict karate as a mysterious way of fighting capable of causing death or injury with a single blow ... the mass media present a pseudo art far from the real thing." Shoshin Nagamine said, "Karate may be considered as the conflict within oneself or as a life-long marathon which can be won only through self-discipline, hard training and one's own creative efforts."
In 2009, in the 121st International Olympic Committee voting, karate did not receive the necessary two-thirds majority vote to become an Olympic sport. Karate was being considered for the 2020 Olympics,—however at a meeting of the IOC's executive board, held in Russia on May 29, 2013, it was decided that karate (along with wushu and several other non-martial arts) would not be considered for inclusion in 2020 at the IOC's 125th session in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in September 2013.
Web Japan (sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs) claims there are 50 million karate practitioners worldwide, while the World Karate Federation claims there are 100 million practitioners around the world.
What is Karate?
Karate may be 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.
Karate practice is divided into:
- Kihon (drilling of stances, blocks, punches, strikes and kicks)
- Kata (pre-arranged forms simulating combat situations)
- Kumite (sparring)
In each category, the beginner is given instruction at the most basic level until the techniques become spontaneous. As the student progresses technically, he or she progresses physically as well, and advanced practices demand greater stamina. At this stage, the student becomes involved with more intricate and difficult katas and more dynamic forms of kumite. As the 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.
Karate as self-defense
Karate is one of the most dynamic of all the martial arts. A trained karateka is able to coordinate mind and body perfectly, thereby allowing the unleashing of tremendous physical power at will. Therefore, it is not the possession of great physical strength that makes a strong karateka; rather it is the ability to coordinate mind and body. Upon developing this ability, even the smallest person finds that he or she has within himself or herself the power to deliver a devastating blow to any would-be attacker.
The benefits of karate
In our everyday lives we often forget the value of exercise to both our physical and mental health. The practice of karate tones the body, develops coordination, quickens reflexes, and builds stamina.
Also, the serious practice of karate develops composure, a clearer thought process, deeper insight into one's mental capabilities, and more self-confidence. In this, karate is not an end, but a means to an end. It is an activity in which advancing age is not a hindrance. Rather it encourages proficiency in the keen coordination of mind and body.
Karate is a Japanese martial art whose physical aspects seek the development of defensive and counterattacking body movements. The themes of traditional karate training are fighting and self-defense, though its mental and moral aspects target the overall improvement of the individual. This is facilitated by the discipline and persistent effort required 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." This is a a maxim of Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957), the Okinawan who brought karate to Japan in 1922, and who is accepted as the father of modern karate.
The word karate is a combination of two kanji (Chinese characters): kara, meaning empty, and te, meaning hand; thus, karate means "empty hand." Adding the suffix "-dō" (pronounced "daw"), meaning "the way/path," karate-dō, implies karate as a total way of life that goes well beyond the self-defense applications. In traditional karate-dō, one is supposed to compete and strive to excel against him/herself.
Today there are four main styles of karate in Japan: Shotokan, Goju-ryu, Shito-ryu, and Wado-ryu. Shotokan, though never described as a style by Gichin Funakoshi, it has been nevertheless considered as his. Actually Shotokan was the name of his dōjo, chosen after the pen name used by Funakoshi to sign poems written in his youth. Shotokan Karate is characterized by powerful linear techniques and deep strong stances. It is the style taught at the Tulane Karate Club.
Like the word karate, Shotokan is also composed of two different kanji : Shoto, meaning "pine breeze" and kan, meaning "the place", thus Shotokan means the place of shoto.