or KarateDo(空手道) means
"Way of the Empty Hand"
Kara(空)- "Empty" Te(手)-"Hand" Do(道)-"Way"
A martial art developed in the Ryukyu Islands
of Okinawa from
indigenous fighting methods and Chinese kenpo.
It is primarily a striking art
using punching, kicking, knee and elbow strikes and open-handed techniques
such as knife-hands and ridge-hands. Grappling, locks, restraints, throws,
and vital point strikes are taught in some styles.
A karate practitioner is
called a karateka.
precursor of present-day Karate is believed to have come by
way of visitors from China. In the 7th century, Chinese martial arts were
introduced to Okinawa through Taoist and Buddhist monks. These styles were
practiced in Okinawa and developed into Te (手) over several centuries.
In the 14th century, when the three kingdoms on Okinawa (Chuzan, Hokuzan,
and Nanzan) entered into a tributary relationship with the Ming Dynasty of
China, Chinese Imperial envoys and many other Chinese arrived, some of who
taught Chinese Chuan Fa (Kempo) to the Okinawans. The Okinawans combined
Chinese Chuan Fa with the existing martial art of Te to form To-de (唐手, Tang
hand or China hand), sometimes called Okinawa-te (沖縄手).
Karate was originally written as Chinese hand in kanji. It was later changed
to a homophone meaning empty hand. The original use of the word karate in
print is attributed to Ankō Itosu. He wrote it with the kanji 唐手:からて (Tang
Dynasty hand) rather than the present usage of 空手:からて (empty hand). The Tang
Dynasty of China ended in AD 907. The kanji representing it remained in use
in Okinawa as a way to refer to China generally.Thus the word karate was
originally a way of expressing "Chinese hand," or "martial art from China."
Since there are no written records it is not known definitely whether the
kara in karate was originally written with the character 唐 meaning China or
the character 空 meaning empty. During the time when admiration for China and
things Chinese was at its height in the Ryūkyūs it was the custom to use the
former character when referring to things of fine quality...
It should be noted that use of the written character is possibly linked to
the origins of karate from China.
In 1429, the three kingdoms on Okinawa unified to form the Kingdom of
Ryukyu. When King Sho Shin came into power in 1477, he banned the practice
of martial arts. To-te and kobudo continued to be taught in secret. The ban
was continued in 1609 after Okinawa was invaded by the Satsuma Domain of
Japan. The bans contributed to the development of kobudo, which uses common
household and farming implements as weaponry.
Karate began as a common fighting system known as "ti" (or "te") among the
pechin class of the Ryukyuans. After trade relationships were established
with the Ming dynasty of China by King Satto of Chuzan in 1372, many forms
of Chinese martial arts were introduced to the Ryukyu Islands by the
visitors from China, particularly Fujian Province. A group of 36 (the 36
here does not literally mean "36", but is taken to mean "many") Chinese
families moved to Okinawa around 1392 for the purpose of cultural exchange,
where they established the community of Kumemura and shared their knowledge
of a wide variety of Chinese arts and sciences, including the Chinese
martial arts. The political centralization of Okinawa by King Sho Hashi in
1429 and the 'Policy of Banning Weapons,' enforced in Okinawa after the
invasion of the Shimazu clan in 1609, are also factors that furthered the
development of unarmed combat techniques in Okinawa.
There were few formal styles of ti, but rather many practitioners with their
own methods. One surviving example is the Motobu-ryu school passed down from
the Motobu family by Seikichi Uehara.Early styles of karate are often
Shuri-te, Naha-te, and
Tomari-te, named after the three
cities from which they emerged. Each area and its teachers had particular kata, techniques, and principles that distinguished their local version of
ti from the others.
Members of the Okinawan upper classes were sent to China regularly to study
various political and practical disciplines. The incorporation of
empty-handed Chinese wu shu into Okinawan martial arts occurred partly
because of these exchanges. Traditional karate kata bear a strong
resemblance to the forms found in Fujian martial arts such as Fujian White
Crane, Five Ancestors, and Gangrou-quan (Hard Soft Fist; pronounced
"Gojuken" in Japanese).Further influence came from Southeast Asia—
particularly Sumatra, Java, and Melaka. Many Okinawan weapons such as the
sai, tonfa, and nunchaku may have originated in and around Southeast Asia.
Sakukawa Kanga (1782–1838) had studied pugilism and staff (bo) fighting in
China (according to one legend, under the guidance of Kosokun, originator of
kusanku kata). In 1806 he started teaching a fighting art in the city of
Shuri that he called "Tudi Sakukawa," which meant "Sakukawa of China Hand."
This was the first known recorded reference to the art of "Tudi," written as
唐手. Around the 1820s Sakukawa's most significant student Matsumura Sokon
(1809–1899) taught a synthesis of te (Shuri-te and
Tomari-te) and Shaolin
(Chinese 少林) styles. Matsumura's style would later become the Shorin-ryu
By the 18th century, different types of Te had developed in three different
villages - Naha, Shuri, and Tomari. The styles were named
and Tomari-te, respectively. Practitioners from these three villages went on
to develop modern karate.
The original use of "Chinese hand," "Tang hand," “Chinese fist,” or "Chinese
techniques" (depending on interpretation of 唐手) reflects the documented
Chinese influence on karate. The first documented use of a homophone of the
logogram pronounced kara by replacing the character meaning Tang Dynasty (唐
から) with the character meaning empty (空 から) took place in Karate Kumite.
This is a book by Hanashiro Chōmo (1869–1945) which was published in August
1905. In the early 20th century Japan did not have good relations with
China. In 1932 Japan attacked China and occupied its northern territory. At
that time referring to Chinese origins of karate was considered politically
In 1933, the Okinawan art of karate was recognized as a Japanese martial art
by the Japanese Martial Arts Committee known as the "Butoku Kai". Until
1935, "karate" was written as "唐手" (Chinese hand). But in 1935, the masters
of the various styles of Okinawan karate conferred to decide a new name for
their art. They decided to call their art "karate" written in Japanese
characters as "空手" (empty hand)
Anko Itosu(Grandfather of Modern Karate).
Matsumura Sokon taught his art to Itosu Anko
(1831–1915) among others. Itosu adapted two forms he had learned from
Matsumara. These are kusanku and chiang nan. He created the ping'an forms
("heian" or "pinan" in Japanese) which are simplified kata for beginning
students. In 1901 Itosu helped to get karate introduced into Okinawa's
public schools. These forms were taught to children at the elementary school
level. Itosu's influence in karate is broad. The forms he created are common
across nearly all styles of karate. His students became some of the most
well known karate masters, including Gichin Funakoshi, Kenwa Mabuni, and
Motobu Choki. Itosu is sometimes referred to as "the Grandfather of Modern
In 1869 Kanryo sailed to Fuzhou in the Fukien province of China.He spent his
time studying with various teachers of the Chinese martial arts.Kanryo then
trained under Ru Ru Ko or Lu Lu Ko, his name was never recorded as Kanryo
Higaonna was illiterate. His real name was probably Xie Zhongxiang founder
of Whooping Crane gongfu). According to oral account, Kanryo spent years
doing household chores for master Ru Ru Ko, until he saved his daughter from
drowning during a heavy flood and begged the master to teach Kung-fu as a
In the 1880s Kanryo returned to Okinawa and continued the family business.
He also began to teach the martial arts in and around Naha. His style was
distinguished by its integration of both go-no (hard) and ju-no (soft)
techniques in one system. He became so prominent that the name "Naha-te"
became identified with Higaonna Kanryo's system.
Kanryo was noted for his powerful Sanchin kata, or form. Students reported
that the wooden floor would be hot from the gripping of his feet.
One of Higaonna Kanryo, Chojun Miyagi , formulated a cohesive system that
allowed penetration into the deeper and more advanced techniques of
Naha-te. Chojun Miyagi's best student, Jinan Shinzato, was sent to mainland
Japan to demonstrate Naha-te. The Japanese asked Shinzato the name of his
style , unable to answer as the style had not been named yet. On his return
to Okinawa he told Miyagi what had happened. Miyagi chose the name Goju-ryu.Chojun
Miyagi taught such well-known karateka as An'ichi Miyagi(teacher of Morio
Higaonna),Seko Higa (who also trained with Higaonna), Meitoku Yagi, Miyazato
Ei'ichi, and Seikichi Toguchi
Grandmaster Gogen Yamaguchi (1909-1989) co-founder of Goju-Ryu met Chojun
Miyagi and together they developed their understanding of karate.Yamaguchi
was renowned throughout for his long hair and feline expression giving him
In addition to the three early ti styles of karate a fourth Okinawan
influence is that of Kanbun Uechi (1877–1948). At the age of 20 he went to
Fuzhou in Fujian Province, China, to escape Japanese military conscription.
While there he studied under Shushiwa. He was a leading figure of Chinese
Nanpa Shorin-ken at that time. He later developed his own style of Uechi-ryu
karate based on the Sanchin, Seisan, and Sanseiryu kata that he had studied
Founder of Shotokan karate, is generally credited with having
introduced and popularized karate on the main islands of Japan. Actually
many Okinawans were actively teaching, and are thus equally responsible for
the development of karate. Funakoshi was a student of both Asato Anko and
Itosu Anko (who had worked to introduce karate to the Okinawa Prefectural
School System in 1902). During this time period, prominent teachers who also
influenced the spread of karate in Japan included Kenwa Mabuni, Chojun
Miyagi, Motobu Choki, Kanken Toyama, and Kanbun Uechi. This was a turbulent
period in history in the region. It includes Japan's annexation of the
Okinawan island group in 1872, the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895), the
Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905), the annexation of Korea, and the rise of
Japanese militarism (1905–1945).
Japan was invading China at the time, and Funakoshi knew that the art of
Tang/China hand would not be accepted; thus the change of the art's name to
"way of the empty hand." The do suffix implies that karatedo 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 -do around the beginning of the 20th century. The "do" in "karate-do"
sets it apart from karate "jutsu", as aikido is distinguished from
aikijutsu, judo from jujutsu, kendo from kenjutsu and iaido from iaijutsu.
Funakoshi changed the names of
many kata and the name of the art itself (at least on mainland Japan), doing
so 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
pinan forms became known as heian, the three naihanchi forms became known as
tekki, seisan as hangetsu, Chinto as gankaku, wanshu as empi, and so on.
These were mostly political changes, rather than changes to the content of
the forms, although Funakoshi did introduce some such changes. Funakoshi had
trained in two of the popular branches of Okinawan karate of the time,
Shorin-ryu and Shorei-ryu. 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, but in 1936 he built a
dojo in Tokyo and the style he left behind is usually called Shotokan after
Founder of Isshin-ryu a style of Okinawan karate, a
student of Motobu Choki, and named by him on January 15, 1956. Isshin-ryu
karate is largely a synthesis of Shorin-ryu karate, Goju-ryu karate, and
Kobudo. The name means, literally, "one heart method." The style, while not
very popular in Okinawa, spread to the United States via the Marines
stationed on the island after they returned home, and has also spread to
other countries. After the passing of Shimabuku, many variations of the
system formed and exist to this day.
(who was born on July 12, 1923 in Korea, Choi Yeong-Eui) founded Kyokushinkai in 1957
which is largely a synthesis of Shotokan and Goju-ryu. It teach a curriculum
that emphasize contact, physical toughness, and full contact sparring.
Because of its emphasis on physical, full-force sparring, Kyokushin is now
often called "full contact karate", or "Knockdown karate" (after the name
for its competition rules). Many other karate organizations and styles are
descended from the Kyokushin curriculum. He lived on his sister's farm in Manchuria from infancy until age 12,
during this time he studied Kung-Fu. Returning to Korea, he continued his
martial arts training, then travelled to Japan in 1938. He trained in
various martial arts disciplines in Japan earning his second degree (nidan)
black belt in karate at age 17, and fourth degree (yondan) at age 20. The
progress he made in his studies of Judo were equally astounding, achieving
the rank of yondan in less than four years.
One of Mas Oyama's instructors in Karate, So Nei Chu, was to have a profound
influence on Mas Oyama, when he advised him to make a firm commitment to
dedicate his lifeto the martial way. Heeding his words to "seek solace in
nature", Mas Oyama subjected himself to the rigours of daily training in the
mountains of Chiba prefecture in order to strength his own body and spirit.
He was accompanied by one of his own students, but after six months of
isolation, the student secretly fled, leaving Mas Oyama to continue his
vigourous training alone. Returning to civilization after one year of
solitude, he tested his abilities in the karate division of the first
national martial arts championships, and won.
Mas Oyama then imposed on himself a further period of solitary training,
again in the mountains, and upon his return, demonstrated his remarkable
ability by fighting bulls. He fought a total of 52 bulls, killing three and
breaking the horns off 49 others.
His fame as a karateka spread rapidly as his feats were unparalled and in
1954 he opened his first dojo in Tokyo, Japan. This dojo was the beginning
of the Kyokushin KaiKan. In 1964, the Tokyo Honbu (headquarters) was
officially opened and the International Karate Organization (IKO) was
established. Today, the IKO, headed by Kancho Shokei Matsui, is the largest
karate organization in the world with over twelve million members in 135
countries Sosai Oyama died at the age of
World Karate Federation WKF recognizes these styles of karate in its
The World Union of Karate-do Organizations (WUKO) recognizes these styles of
karate in its kata list.
Many schools would be affiliated with, or heavily influenced by, one or more
of these styles.
Karate can be practiced as budo, as a sport, as a combat sport, or as self
defense training. Traditional karate places emphasis on self development
(Budo).Modern Japanese style training emphasizes the psychological elements
incorporated into a proper kokoro (attitude) such as perseverance,
fearlessness, virtue, and leadership skills. Sport karate places emphasis on
exercise and competition. Weapons (kobudō) is important training activity in
Karate training is commonly divided into kihon (basics or fundamentals), kata (forms), and kumite (sparring). Kihon
Karate styles place varying importance on kihon. Typically this is
performance in unison of a technique or a combination of techniques by a
group of karateka. Kihon may also be prearranged drills in smaller groups or
It literally means "meeting of hands." Kumite is practiced both as a sport
and as self-defense training.
Levels of physical contact during sparring vary considerably. Full contact
karate has several variants. Knockdown karate (such as
Kyokushin) uses full
power techniques to bring an opponent to the ground. In Kickboxing variants
, the preferred win is by knockout. Sparring in armour (bogu kumite) allows
full power techniques with some safety. Sport kumite is free or structured
with non-contact (or more correctly limited-contact), light contact, semi
contact or full-contact, and points are awarded by a referee.
In structured kumite (Yakusoku - prearranged), two participants perform a
choreographed series of techniques with one striking while the other blocks.
The form ends with one devastating technique (Hito Tsuki).
In free sparring (Jiyu Kumite), the two participants have a free choice of
scoring techniques. The allowed techniques and contact level are primarily
determined by sport or style organization policy, but might be modified
according to the age, rank and sex of the participants. Depending upon
style, take-downs, sweeps and in some rare cases even time-limited grappling
on the ground are also allowed.
Free sparring is performed in a marked or closed area. The bout runs for a
fixed time (2 to 3 minutes.) The time can run continuously (Iri Kume) or be
stopped for referee judgment. In light contact or semi contact kumite,
points are awarded based on the criteria: good form, sporting attitude,
vigorous application, awareness/zanshin, good timing and correct distance. In full contact karate kumite, points are based on the results
of the impact, rather than the formal appearance of the scoring technique