Karate is a Japanese martial art that was developed partially from Te, the indigenous martial arts of Okinawa, and from Chinese Kenpo. It is a striking art that uses a variety of techniques including punching, knee strikes, kicking, elbow strikes as well as several open hand techniques such as spear-hands, knife-hands and palm-heel strikes. A karate practitioner is known as a karateka.
Karate has its origin in the Ryukyu Kingdom and was systematically taught in Japan from the end of Taisho era. The art was introduced into the Japanese mainland in the early 20th century due cultural exchanges between the Ryukyuans and the Japanese .The 1960s and 1970s’ martial arts movies served to greatly increase the popularity of karate and other martial arts around the world. Subsequently, karate schools were opened to cater to those with casual interest as well as those seeking a deeper study of the art.
There are 4 main karate styles in Japan and which are recognized by the World Karate Federation. These are:
This is the most popular karate style and was developed from various martial arts by Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957) and his son Gigo Funakoshi, who was also his student. In Shotokan, strength and power are first demonstrated instead of the slower, more flowing motions. Students who progress to brown and black belt level develop a much more fluid style that incorporates techniques like grappling.
It was developed by Kenwa Mabuni in 1931. Shito-ryu combines the physical strength and long powerful stances of some karate styles like shotokan, and the circular and directional movements, and breathing power of Goju-ru and some styles.
Goju-ryu is one of the popular traditional karate styles and was developed by Kanryo Higashionna (1853-1916). It combines hard striking attacks like close hand punches with softer open hand circular techniques for blocking, attacking and controlling the opponent, such as grappling, locks, throws and takedowns.
This karate style was founded by Hironori Ōtsuka (born in 1892). To untrained observers, Wado-ryu may look similar to other styles like Shotokan, but it has distinct underlying principles. It moves from the balls of the foot, rather than the heel, which affects the delivery of most of the techniques, the stances and the kata.
Karate training is divided into three parts. These are;
– Kihon (the basics) -It is a combination of several techniques by a group of karateka.
– Kumite (sparring) – Literally means “meeting of hands” and is usually practiced as a sport or as self-defense training.
– Kata (patterns of moves) – Kata is a sequence of movements that represent different offensive and defensive postures.
Karate can be practiced as:
– An art or budṓ (martial way or way of war) – Traditional karate generally emphasizes on individual self-development.
– A sport – Sport karate places emphasis on exercise and/or competition.
– A combat sport or fighting sport – Where two combatants fight against each other to gain points.
– Self Defence training – People also train in karate to learn how to defend themselves, their property, or the well-being of other persons from harm.
Modern Japanese style training generally places an emphasis on the psychological elements incorporated into a proper attitude like fearlessness, perseverance, virtue and leadership skills. Use of weapons is key training activity in some karate styles.