Learn more about Karate

Jump to: navigation, search
Kanji 空手
Kana spelling からて
Rōmaji (Hepburn) Karate
Kunrei-shiki Karate
Nihon-shiki Karate
Okinawan language Tudi

Karate (lit. "empty hand") is a martial art of Ryūkyūan origin. The word "karate" comes from kara (空:から), meaning empty, and te (手:て) meaning hand. Karate has a rich and diverse history of development, incorporating countless influences from other martial arts and cultures. Today, karate is known primarily as a hard style striking art, featuring linear punches, blocks, kicks, knee/elbow strikes and open handed techniques. However, soft style punches and blocks, grappling, joint manipulations, locks, restraints, throws, and vital point striking are often an inherent part of many karate styles.


[edit] The Practice of Karate

Image:Motobu Choki2.jpg
Motobu Choki in Naifanchi-dachi, one of the basic Karate stances

In general, there are many components to modern karate training. One common division is between the areas of kihon (basics or fundamentals), kata (forms), and kumite (sparring). Another popular division is between art, sport, and self defense training. Weapons comprise another important training area, as well as the psychological elements incorporated into a proper kokoro (attitude) such as perseverence, fearlessness, virtue, and leadership skills. Often in the execution of a technique, karateka are encouraged to issue a loud kiai or 'spirit shout'.

[edit] Kata (Forms)

Kata (型:かた) means "form" or "pattern," and despite how they might appear to the outsider, are not simply aerobic routines. They are patterns of movements and techniques that demonstrate physical combat principles. Kata may be thought of as fixed sequences of movements that address various types of attack and defense under ideal circumstances. It is important to remember that they were developed before literacy was commonplace in Okinawa or China, so physical routines were the logical method for preserving a body of this type of information. It is also important to remember that the moves themselves may have multiple interpretations as self-defense techniques- there is no 'standard right or wrong' way to interpret them, but interpretations may have more or less utility for actual fighting.

[edit] Kumite (Sparring)

Kumite (組手:くみて) is literally "meeting of hands," and has many incarnations. Sparring may be constrained by many rules or it may be free sparring, and today is practiced both as sport and for self-defense training. Sport sparring tends to be one hit "tag" type contact for points. Depending on style or teacher, practical aikido and judo-type takedowns and grappling may be involved alongside the punching and kicking.

[edit] Kokoro (Attitude)

Kokoro (心:こころ) is a concept that crosses through many martial arts, but has no single discrete meaning. In context, it means something like "heart," "character," or "attitude." Character is a central concept in karate, and in keeping with the nature of modern karate, there is a great emphasis on improving oneself. It is often said that the art of karate is for self-defense; not injuring one's opponent is the highest expression of the art. Some popularly repeated quotes implicating this concept include:

"The ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants." -Gichin Funakoshi[citation needed]
"The Way is not meant as a way of fighting. It is a path on which you travel to find your own inner peace and harmony. It is yours to seek and find." -Hironori Ohtsuka[citation needed]

Respect is another very important part of karate; it is about cleansing oneself and strengthening character. The spirit of "osu" is to push onself to the limit of one's ability, to persevere under pressure, to endure. This is why it is said that "Karate always begins and ends with rei."[citation needed]

[edit] Kobudō (Weapons Training)

Although technically meaning only "old martial way," in context kobudō refers specifically to the old martial way of Okinawa, and even more specifically, to the traditional weapons of Okinawa. These include most notably the kama (sickle), tonfa (stick with a handle), sai (fork), and (staff), although there are several others, as well.

[edit] Conditioning

Many styles of karate also include specialized conditioning equipment, known in Japanese collectively as "hojo undo." Some of the more common devices are the makiwara, the chi-ishi (a kind of off center free weight), and nigiri game (large jars used for grip strength).

[edit] Sport

Japanese karate competition can be in three disciplines: sparring (kumite]), forms kata (empty handed forms), or kobudō kata (weapons forms); competitors may enter either as individuals or as part of a team, or both. Evaluation for kata is done by a panel of judges; sparring is judged by a head referee, usually with assistant referees at the side of the sparring area. Sparring matches are often divided by weight classes.

Some traditionalists are concerned that the emphasis on competition is antithetical to the deeper values of the art. They feel that sport competition promotes a highly compromised interpretation of the art, including point fighting and demonstration of forms for entertainment value. In less traditional forms of tournament, usually in the United States of America, kata are occasionally set to music and even weapons that light up or glow are sometimes used. In extreme cases, martial practicality is eschewed in favor of gymnastics. Traditionalists feel this should not be regarded as emblematic of karate; others feel the publicity is helpful.[citation needed]

[edit] Self-defense

Karate may be practiced for many reasons, but was developed for self-defense. The kata contain a variety of techniques intended for this purpose: hand strikes, kicks, locking, and grappling. However, proper training is required to make these techniques usable against a determined aggressor. Most styles include some form of two-person pre-arranged self-defense exercises as well as sparring or semi-sparring (structured sparring with limited options allowed for either partner). This allows for the development of a sense of range and timing. A number of styles practice hard-contact sparring.

Some schools are criticized for claiming to teach practical martial arts despite a lack of two-person training to develop needed attributes. An instructor may believe that practicing kata suffices to develop the necessary skills.

Other schools may intentionally place emphasis on tournament preparation, physical conditioning, or aesthetics (developing form for form's sake), rather than self-defense. These schools will typically still teach self-defense techniques as well.

[edit] Rank

Originally, karate training did not use a ranking system. After introduction to Japan, some adopted only three obi (belt) colours: white, brown, and black, with several levels of each. This is the same system that was used by the Kodokan for Judo. In fact, Gichin Funakoshi adopted the idea from Judo founder Jigoro Kano. Here is the original belt system:

  • Ungraded - white
  • 8th kyū through 4th kyū - white
  • 3rd kyū through 1st kyū - brown
  • 1st dan and above - black

As karate became more widespread, some organizations added more colors and ranks to the system. Many schools have systems that look roughly like the following (with wide variations):

  • 10th kyū - white
  • 9th kyū - yellow
  • 8th kyū - orange
  • 7th kyū - orange
  • 6th kyū - green
  • 5th kyū - blue
  • 4th kyū - purple
  • 3rd kyū - brown
  • 2nd kyū - brown
  • 1st kyū - brown
  • 1st to 5th (or all levels of black) dan - black
  • 6th to 8th dan - black, or red with white stripes
  • 9th and 10th dan - black or red


  • 8th kyu - Red
  • 7th kyu - Yellow
  • 6th kyu - orange
  • 5th kyu - Green
  • 4th kyu - Blue
  • 3rd kyu - Purple
  • 2nd kyu - Brown
  • 1st kyu - Brown with gold tags
  • Dan - Black

The requirements for each belt vary as a student progresses, and each form of karate has a different grading system, however it is commonly noted that the progression of learning is in the following order:[citation needed]

  1. Position - Stance
  2. Balance - Control of position
  3. Coordination - Control of balance and position in technique
  4. Form - Performing the above correctly
  5. Speed - Increase the rate of performance without loss of form
  6. Power - Strengthening the techinique
  7. Reflex - The technique becomes a natural movement
  8. Conclusion - It is essential that the progression is not rushed, but developed at each stage.

[edit] Etymology of "Karate"

In the modern world, some could (and do) make the argument that due to the generic meaning of the word "karate," (i.e. "empty hand") that any unarmed combat system or sport could technically refer accurately to itself as karate. This can be a difficult and sometimes inflammatory question, complicated by attitudes toward philosophy and competition, by questions of lineage and primacy, and perhaps above all by questions of nationalism and identity.

[edit] China Hand

The word "karate", while always pronounced the same, was originally written with different kanji (ideographic characters). The first use of the word "karate" is attributed to Gichin Funakoshi, who wrote it not as we do today as 空手:からて (empty hand), but rather, as 唐手:からて (Tang Dynasty hand). The Tang Dynasty was a dynasty of China, and although it ended in 907 A.D. (well before Funakoshi's time), the kanji representing it remained in use in Okinawa as a way to refer to China, generally.[citation needed] Thus "karate" was originally a way of expressing "China hand," or "martial art from China."

[edit] Empty Hand

The original use of "Chinese hand," "Tang hand," “Chinese fist,” or "Chinese techniques" (depending on one's exact interpretation of 唐手) reflects the documented Chinese influence on karate. Hanashiro Chomo(1869-1945) began using a homophone of the ideogram pronounced "kara" by replacing the character meaning "Tang Dynasty"(唐:から) with the character meaning "empty"(空:から) in 1905. This followed the so-called Meeting of the Masters in October of 1936, which included Chojun Miyagi, Chomo Hanashiro, Kentsu Yabu, Chotoku Kyan, Genwa Nakasone, Choshin Chibana, Choryo Maeshiro and Shinpan Shiroma (Gusukuma).[citation needed] Since this 1933-1936 period, the word pronounced "karate" has almost universally referred to the written kanji meaning "empty hand"(空手) rather than "Chinese hand"(唐手).

[edit] The Way and the Hand

Another nominal development is the addition of (道:どう) to the end of the word karate. is a suffix having numerous meanings, including "road," "path," "route," and in this case, "way." It is used in many martial arts that survived Japan's turbulent transition from feudal culture to "modernity," and implies that they are not just techniques for fighting, but have spiritual elements when pursued as disciplines. In this circumstance it is usually translated as "the way of" as in aikido (合気道:あいきどう), judo (柔道:じゅうどう) and kendo (剣道:けんどう). Thus, "karatedō" is more than just "empty hand", but is "the way of the empty hand".

[edit] History of Karate

[edit] Okinawa

Japan annexed the nominally independent Ryūkyū island group in 1874 after centuries of strong Japanese influence over the kingdom's affairs following the invasion by the Japanese Satsuma clan in 1609. The relationship between Okinawa and Japan is complicated. For purposes of discussing karate, it is convenient to speak of Okinawa and Japan as separate entities. The question of whether karate is Japanese or Okinawan is somewhat akin to asking whether the luau or the hula dance are American traditions or Hawaiian ones: They developed in Hawaii prior to when Hawaii became one of the United States, and so are usually described as Hawaiian, not American. The case is similar for karate, which is originally of Okinawan origin.[citation needed]

The Okinawan martial art "ti" was practiced by Okinawa royalty and their retainers for centuries before, and alongside, later Chinese influences. For the most part there were no particular styles of "ti", but rather a network of practitioners with their own individual methods and eclectic traditions. Early styles of karate are often generalized as Shuri-te, Naha-Te and Tomari-te, named after the three cities in which they emerged, although these are not concrete distinctions. Each area (and the teachers who lived there) had particular kata, techniques, and principles that distinguished their local version of "ti" from the others.[citation needed]

Members of the Okinawan upper classes were sent to China regularly to learn and study a variety of disciplines, political and practical; this exchange was not too different from the practice of exchange students today. The incorporation of empty-handed Chinese kung fu occurred partly because of these exchanges. Estimates of the Chinese influence in modern karate styles (or schools) vary considerably, and there are no clean divisions among 'styles'. To this day karate styles from some areas bear a striking resemblance to Fujian martial arts such as Fujian White Crane, Five Ancestors, and Gangrou-quan (Hard Soft Fist, pronounced "Gōjūken" in Japanese), while some karate looks distinctly Okinawan.[citation needed]

In 1806, "Tode" Sakukawa (1782-1838), who had studied pugilism and staff (bo) fighting in China (according to one legend, under the guidance of Koshokun, originator of kusanku kata), started teaching a fighting art in the city of Shuri that he called "Karate-no-Sakukawa" (at that time meaning "China hand of Sakakawa"). This was the first known recorded reference to the art of karate (written as 唐手).[citation needed]

Around the 1820's, Sakukawa's most significant student, Sokon Matsumura(1809-1899) taught a synthesis of te (Shuri-te and Tomari-te) and Shaolin (Chinese 少林) styles. It would become the style Shorin-ryū.

Matsumura taught his karate to Anko Itosu(1831-1915), among others. Itosu adapted two forms he learned from Matsumara, namely kusanku and chiang nan, to create the ping'an forms ("heian" or "pinan" in Japanese, as the symbols can be read differently) as simplified kata for beginning students. In 1901 he was instrumental in getting karate introduced into Okinawa's public schools. These forms were taught to children at the elementary-school level. Itosu is also credited with taking the large naihanchi form ("tekki" in Japan) and breaking it into the three well-known modern forms naihanchi shodan, naihanchi nidan and naihanchi sandan.[citation needed]

Itosu's influence in karate is very broad. The forms he created for beginners are common across nearly all forms of karate. His students included some of the most well-known karate practitioners, including Gichin Funakoshi, Kenwa Mabuni, and Motobu Choki. He is sometimes known as the "Grandfather of Modern Karate."[citation needed] In addition to the three early "ti" styles of karate, a fourth Okinawan influence is that of Kanbun Uechi (1877-1948), who, at the age of 20, went to Fuzhou in Fujian Province, China, to escape Japanese military conscription. While there, he studied under the leading figure of Chinese Nanpa Shorin-ken at that time. He later developed his own style of karate and brought it to Japan, though the style itself was neither taught in Okinawa nor rooted in Okinawan "ti".[citation needed]

[edit] Japan

Image:Masters of Karate.jpg
Masters of Karate in Tokyo (1930s)
(From left)Toyama Kanken, Ohtsuka Hironori, Shimoda Takeshi, Funakoshi Gichin, Motobu Choki, Mabuni Kenwa, Nakasone Genwa and Taira Shinken
Gichin Funakoshi, father of Shotokan karate, is generally credited with having introduced and popularized karate on the main islands of Japan. He was a student of Anko Asato and Anko Itosu, who had worked to introduce karate to the Okinawa Prefectural School System in 1902. He brought Itosu's pinan kata to Japan (as did other of Itosu's students, such as Kenwa Mabuni, founder of Shito-ryu karate). Funakoshi worked specifically to introduce modernizations into karate and to spread it to Japan. However, there were many other Okinawan karateka living and teaching in Japan during this time period. Funakoshi's peers included such notable figures as Kenwa Mabuni, Chojun Miyagi, Motobu Choki, Toyama Kanken, Kanbun Uechi and several others.

This was an especially turbulent period in history for that area of the world, including Japan's official annexation of the Okinawan island group in 1874, the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), and the rise of Japanese expansionism (1905-1945). The karate styles within Japan have fairly clean lineages.

Japan was occupying China at the time, and Funakoshi knew that the art of Tang/China hand would not be accepted; thus the change to 'way of the empty hand.' The "" suffix implies that karatedō is a path to self knowledge, not just a study of the technical aspects of fighting. Like most martial arts practiced in Japan, karate made its transition from -jutsu to - around the beginning of the 20th century. The "" in "karate-dō" sets it apart from karate "jutsu", much as aikido is distinguished from aikijutsu, judo from jujutsu, Iaidô from Iaijûtsu and so on.

As mentioned, Funakoshi changed the names of many kata and the meaning of the art itself (at least on mainland Japan). He most likely did this to get karate accepted by the Japanese budo organization Dai Nippon Butoku Kai. Funakoshi also gave Japanese names to many of the kata. The five Itosu pinan forms became known as heian; the three naihanchi forms became known as tekki; seisan' as hangetsu; chinto as gankaku; wanshu' as enpi; etc. These were mostly just political changes, rather than changes to the content of the forms, although Funakoshi did institute changes to the content. The name changes may have been designed to make the art sound more Japanese (less "foreign"). Funakoshi had trained in two of the popular branches of Okinawan karate of the time, Shorin-ryū and Shorei-ryū. In Japan he was influenced by kendo, incorporating some ideas about distancing and timing into his style. He always referred to what he taught as simply "karate"; however, in 1936 he built the Shotokan dojo in Tokyo, and the school or style he left behind is usually called Shotokan.

The modernization and systemization of karate in Japan also included the adoption of the ubiquitous white uniform which consisted of the kimono and the dogi or keikogi - mostly called just karategi (pronounced 'gee' like 'key') - and colored belt ranks. Both of these innovations were originated and popularized by Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, one of the men Funakoshi consulted in his efforts to 'modernize' karate.

In 1922, Ohtsuka Hironori attended the Tokyo Sports Festival, where he saw the Karate of Gichin Funakoshi. Ohtsuka was so impressed with this that he visited Funakoshi on numerous occasions during his stay. Funakoshi was, in turn, impressed by Ohtsuka's enthusiasm and determination to understand Karate and agreed to teach him all he knew about it. In the following years, Ohtsuka set up a medical practice dealing with martial arts injuries. His prowess in martial arts had led him to be the Chief Instructor of Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujitsu at the age of only 30, and assistant instructor at Funakoshi dojo.

By 1929, Ohtsuka Hironori was registered as a member of the Japan Martial Arts Federation. Okinawan Karate at this time was only concerned with Kata, which is a set sequence of movements against an imaginary opponent (or group of opponents). Ohtsuka thought that the full spirit of Budo, which concentrates on defence and attack, was missing, and that kata techniques did not work in realistic fighting situations. He experimented with other, more combatative styles such as Judo, Kendo and Aikido. He blended the practical and useful elements of Okinawan karate with traditional Japanese martial-arts techniques from jujitsu and kendo, which lead to the birth of Kumite, or fighting, in Karate. Ohtsuka thought that there was a need for this more dynamic and fluid type of Karate to be taught, and he therefore decided to leave Funakoshi to concentrate on developing his own style of Karate - Wado.

In 1934 Wado-Ryu Karate was officially recognised as an independent style of Karate. This recognition meant a departure for Ohtsuka Sensei from his medical practice and the fulfilment of a life's ambition - to become a full-time martial artist.

Ohtsuka Sensei's personalised style of Karate was officially registered in 1938 after he was awarded the rank of "Renshi-go". He presented a demonstration of Wado Karate for the Japan Martial Arts Federation. They were so impressed with his style and commitment that they acknowledged him as a high-ranking instructor. The next year the Japan Martial Arts Federation asked all the different styles to register their names. Ohtsuka Sensei registered the name Wado-Ryu.

In 1944, Ohtsuka Sensei was appointed Japans Chief Karate Instructor.

A new style style of karate called Kyokushin was developed by Masutatsu Oyama in 1964. Kyokushin taught a curriculum that emphasized contact, physical toughness, and practical application of karate techniques to self-defense situations. Because of its emphasis on physical, full-force sparring, Kyokushin is now often called "full contact karate." Many other karate organizations based, at least in part, on the Kyokushin curriculum have "spun-off" over the years.

[edit] The Influence of Karate

[edit] In Korea

Japan occupied Korea from 1910 until 1945. Some Koreans who were able to travel to Japan during the occupation for education became exposed to Japanese martial arts. After achieving independence from Japanese colonialism and following the turmoils of the Korean War, many of the martial arts schools in Korea were started by masters trained in Japanese karate with varying degrees of training in Chinese and Korean martial arts. In 1955, at the behest of President Syngman Rhee, the dozens of Korean martial arts schools were standardized and the resulting construction became Taekwondo. Although major techniques of taekwondo largely differed from Japanese Karate as they were centered around kicks from indigenous arts such as taekkyon, karate's influence was nonetheless significant. For example, the earliest forms called hyong were adopted from karate, as was the belt and degree system.

[edit] In the United States

Traditional karate entered the United States principally via those members of the military who learned it in Okinawa or Japan and opened schools upon their return to the United States. For example, Robert Trias is often credited with opening the first Western karate school in the United States in Phoenix, Arizona in 1942. There are competing claims to this distinction; for example, it has been claimed that Ron Keiser instructed a number of his fellow Americans in his family's karate tradition while imprisoned in a Japanese-American internment camp.[citation needed]

[edit] Internationally

Since the 1950s, karate has exploded in popularity worldwide. By the end of the 20th century, karate was one of the most pervasive cultural exports from Asia to the Western world.[citation needed] It is impossible to enumerate the various schools and styles worldwide that are identifiably "karate". Nowadays one can learn karate (or one of its offshoots) almost anywhere. It is no longer something practiced in just certain countries: karate is universal.

There were two main avenues for the propagation of karate to the rest of the world. First, Allied servicemen, stationed in Japan and Okinawa after 1945, who studied karate and returned to their home countries. Second, the emigration of karate masters from Japan or Okinawa to other parts of the world, where they taught their art.

[edit] In film and popular culture

Another factor in the enduring appeal of karate is film; kung fu movies have propelled karate and other Asian martial arts into mass popularity. Some well-known stars who were students of karate or related styles are:

[edit] Sports and the Olympics

An additional factor in the interest in karate is the availability of international competitions. There are bodies which sponsor competitions, including the U.S. Karate Association and Professional Karate Association.

Japanese karate does not have Olympic status, although it received more than 50% of the votes to become an official Olympic sport; 75% of the votes are required. The World Karate Federation (WKF) is the recognized International Sport Federation by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for karate. WKF represents the major uniform rules among all styles. karate activities in individual countries are organized through national karate federations, recognized by each official national sports governing body and a National Olympic Committee. Each continent has one federation for continental karate activities. There are many organizations on national and international karate organization, regarding competitive activities and styles activities. Only WKF, however, is recognized by the International Olympic Committee, and only one in each country is linked with that official structure. For that, official recognition of the country sports governing body is required. Each country organizes their own karate championships following WKF rules.

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes


List of Karate schools
AshiharaChito-ryuEnshinGensei-ryuGoju-ryuGo kan ryuIsshin-ryuKyokushinRyu teSeidoShito ryuShorinjiryuShotokaiShotokanShǔdōkanWado-ryu

<span class="FA" id="de" style="display:none;" />

als:Karate ar:كاراتيه bs:Karate bg:Карате ca:Karate cs:Karate da:Karate de:Karate et:Karate el:Καράτε es:Karate eo:Karateo fa:کاراته fr:Karaté gl:Karate hr:Karate id:Karate ia:Karate it:Karate he:קראטה la:Carate hu:Karate ms:Karate nl:Karate ja:空手道 no:Karate nn:Karate ug:چېلىشىش (قۇرۇق قول) pl:Karate pt:Caratê ro:Karate ru:Каратэ simple:Karate sk:Karate sl:Karate sr:Карате fi:Karate sv:Karate th:คาราเต้ vi:Karate tr:Karate zh:空手道


Personal tools
what is world wizzy?
  • World Wizzy is a static snapshot taken of Wikipedia in early 2007. It cannot be edited and is online for historic & educational purposes only.