What is Karate?
Karate, or Way of the Empty Hand, is a Japanese martial art composed of striking with the hands, feet, elbows and knees, with some styles also using sweeps, throws and locks.
Karate styles are described as either soft (graceful and circular), or hard (strong linear movements), with most styles consisting of a mix of the two.
Some popular styles of Karate in North America are: Shotokan Karate, Shito Ryu Karate, Goju Ryu Karate, Wado Ryu Karate, Chito Ryu Karate and Kyokushinkai Karate.
History of Karate
Karate comes from the island of Okinawa, Japan. It has a long history stretching back at least to the 13th century if not longer.
Okinawan Karate teachers, such as Chojun Miyagi (Goju ryu), Kenwa Mabuni (Shito ryu), and Gichin Funakoshi (Shotokan) introduced karate to mainland Japan in the early 1900s.
Later, other teachers such as Hironori Otsuka (Wado ryu) and Masutatsu Oyama (Kyokushinkai) combined different styles to produce popular new schools of Karate which continued to flourish.
The use of white uniforms and a coloured belt system ending in black belt levels were borrowed by Gichin Funakoshi from Jigoro Kano who had already used the system in his recently founded martial art, Judo.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s Karate was exported from Japan throughout the world. From the 1970s onwards Karate’s global popularity exploded, first with the rise of the martial arts genre of films such as The Karate Kid, and then with the rise of (video-) gaming culture featuring games such as Street Fighter and Tekken.
Philosophy of Karate
Karate aims to merge the mind and body into one force more than able to defend itself when needed.
Through kihon, kumite and kata (repetitive basic training, sparring and set forms) a student of Karate, or Karateka, develops not only physically but also mentally and spiritually. A summary of Karate’s general aims can be found in its “Dojo Kun.”
Karate as Self-defense
Karate is a very powerful martial art. Through rigorous practice, it aims to subdue an attacker with one decisive blow. Training to achieve this ideal, the body naturally becomes very strong and resilient.
Kids and Karate
Karate has become a very popular martial art for kids. It builds up physical strength and self-confidence, all the while improving mental concentration through disciplined instruction.
Adults and Karate
Practicing Karate provides the adult student with an excellent opportunity to develop and maintain strength, co-ordination, flexibility, and strong focusing abilities. Attendant to these qualities are a strong sense of calmness and serenity such as one feels after having regularly exerted oneself to the maximum.
Styles such as Shotokan Karate and Kyokushinkai have proven valuable when added into a mixed martial artist’s repertoire.
Karate Associations & Resources:
International Shotokan Karate Federation (ISKF) of Canada
Canadian & International Shito-Ryu Karate
International Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate-Do Federation
Canadian Wado Ryu Karate Federation
Canadian Chito Ryu Karate-Do Association
Canadian Kyokushinkai-kan Karate Organization Website
National Karate Association of Canada
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