Karate literally translates to "empty hand." As a form of Martial Art its origins date back to the sixth century, and to the roots of Zen Buddhism. In its original form can be found influences from various other forms of Martial Arts, from all over Asia.
Shotokan Karate was developed by Gichin Funakoshi, who was also instrumental in popularising the wide public practice of the discipline of the Martial Art of Karate.
Introduced in this country in the early 1960's it has since become the most popular style of Karate; the world over.
As with most of the Martial arts - there is more to Karate than physical techniques. Its foundation shows a tradition of spiritual & physical development; and as Master Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan said: "the ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants."
There are two distinct "sides" to Karate - traditional, and competition. Whilst the appeal of each is different, both are a valid part of Karate training. But whilst the "life" of a competitor at competition may be limited to five years, traditional training may be started at any age and continued into old age.
Training builds self discipline, suppleness, co-ordination, speed of reaction, overall fitness, stamina, and a sense of inner calm. It is also highly enjoyable!
karate Literally means "empty hand" ("kara" - empty "te" - hands)
Gi Karate training suit
Shotokan The most popular and widely practised style of Karate. Originally developed by Gichin Funokoshi, between 1922 and 1957
Shihan Master
Sensei Karate Instructor (Coach)
Dojo Training area / Hall
Jodan Upper section of the body - from throat to top of the head
Chudan Middle section - from the lower abdomen to the upper chest area
Gedan Lower section - from below the belt
Kata Pre-set sequence of "basic" techniques (blocks, strikes and punches), as a formal exercise, as if against imaginary opponents
Uke Block
Zuki Strike or punch
Geri Kick
Kumite Sparing - application of techniques with a partner
Basic techniques, which are developed technically up through the grades, form the foundation of all Karate training. Essentially these are:
Great emphasis is placed on the technical development of good stances - known as "Dachi," as they set are the foundation for performing all other techniques.
Stances for basics differ greatly from those used in Kumite, but the technical foundation still remains true.
These allow the Karateka (practitioner of Karate) to evade and deflect an attacker. A well executed block will leave the opponent vulnerable to counter attack, or at an advanced level may be a combined block & striking blow to the attacker.
Strikes and punches
These can be made employing different parts of the body, though are most often by use of the hand. Students learn how to enfold the hand into forms capable of delivering devastating blows, employing a proportion of the body weight. In training the emphasis is on the ability to control power & delivery; and in the early grades no contact is made until this can be achieved.
Often seen as the most spectacular part of Karate, kicks require a greater degree of suppleness, and technical development in order to deliver proportionally more power than an upper body technique.
Kicks rely on the strength and balance of the entire body, and a high degree of co-ordination. Developing the degree of control necessary to effectively & accurately deliver a kick takes great practice.
These formal exercises put together all of the preceding basics into a training exercise performed as if against multiple "imaginary attackers."
As the Karateka progresses through the grades Kata takes on new meanings. In addition to the skill required to perform Kata in terms of Basics, there is "the development of self." Kata performed correctly requires a unification of mind, body and spirit; and within lies the key to personal development as proposed by Funakoshi.
From all that proceeds comes Kumite - free-style sparing. As possibly the most visually exciting aspect of Karate to the public in general, this is the closest that students of Karate come to real fighting. Even here discipline & control is required.