In today’s culture, it’s difficult to find media that does not have some passing reference to the ancient Japanese martial art of Karate. If you are a parent with kids who watch SpongeBob, odds are you have heard them mention KAR-RA-TE a few times. Perhaps you have seen a few action movies where the character’s hands fly like lightning. Maybe you just saw a Vine of someone breaking a board with their fist.
Prevalent as this gung-ho, hard-hitting image is, it does not truly do the intricate beauty of Karate the justice it deserves.
Karate mixes an effective approach to resisting attack with an almost spiritual element designed to streamline a person’s focus into a concentrated form able to withstand not only assault, but also life’s many pressures.
If the birthplace of Karate is Japan, then the “father” of the art is Gichin Funakoshi. He was raised learning the different styles of fighting that existed on his native island of Okinawa, off the coast of Japan. His most important contribution to martial arts was to combine Okinawa’s several approaches to unarmed combat together into one style. Funakoshi then brought this style to the mainland, from which it spread across the world.
After a few decades, Karate became popular in the United States. Karate schools and academies soon were as common as Starbucks stores.
Funakoshi’s focus in Karate, which continues today in modern Karate academies, was on not only the physical element, but on the psychological development of those who engage in Karate. He declared that “[the] ultimate aim of karate lies not in victory nor defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants.”
It is difficult to designate a single, specific style for Karate since the modern version has developed into so many forms.
Three important characteristics of Karate training are Kihon, Kata, and Kumite.
Kihon is the mastery of foundation skills such as front kicks and fist strikes. Practice makes perfect, and in Karate this practice is very important.
Kata is the practice of forms in order to prepare for combat situations. It takes the basic skills from Kihon and trains the student to use them in combinations to fend off attackers.
Kumite is actual practice combat between students. Naturally, the emphasis of these fights is on safety and fine-tuning skills, so don’t expect to deliver a Jason Bourne-style beating in the ring. The judges are careful that serious injuries do not occur.
The goal of properly practiced Karate is to make it so that physical size does not become the only factor in a fight; Karate training works to make you able to safely defend yourself against beefier opponents.
A trained Karate fighter is taught to direct an attacker’s force in ways that compensate for any physical disadvantages that exists. Its study also provides the focus to allow the channeling of power and thought so that the fighter is capable of safe, proportionate self-defense in any unarmed situation.
The actual technique incorporates different moves that are completed without the aid of weaponry. This includes the kind of punching and kicking with which many are familiar from television. It is also a defensive discipline; in Karate, there is no preemptive attacking.
Another benefit of taking a Karate class is the discipline and focus one receives from such instruction.
The central philosophical beliefs of Karate are that in daily life, one's mind and body must be trained and developed in a spirit of humility; and in critical times, one must be devoted utterly to the cause of justice.
The study of Karate trains the student to focus on the streamlining of one’s consciousness in a way that allows a clearer head and a better understanding of oneself. This is achieved through rigorous training and discipline that unlocks self-control and increases confidence.
Everyone from young children to senior citizens can benefit from the training that can be found at a local Karate academy near you.
In order to train, a Karate master, known as a sensei, is required. Trainees, known as karatekas, work under the instruction of their sensei to move from level to level.
The ranks are measured in belt color, which start at white and end at the prestigious black and red belts. Competitions are held often to help students advance. These tournaments pit students against similarly skilled competitors in front of a crowd, which aids development and handling high-pressure situations.
Karate classes are conducted in a dojo, another name for the training area. Students work with each other to help hone their abilities as they practice Kihon, Kata, and Kumite.
Respect for others is a must. The rules of the dojo and the sensei must be obeyed to ensure safety and effective training.
Commands during sparing rounds are given in Japanese. Don’t worry if you only speak Mid-western English; you’ll catch on as you go, and beginners are not required to have any Japanese language experience.
There are many different schools that teach Karate in the United States, and many organizations, including the American Karate Association and the Shotokan Karate of America, that host matches and promote the sport.
If you think you might be interested in Karate’s physical or mental training, or you have a hankering to be the next Chuck Norris, then the next step would be to find a Karate school or academy in your area.
Pursuing this ancient martial art form can offer stress-relieving exercise, mental clarity, and peace of mind from knowing that you can defend yourself if life decides to throw lemons. You may even score higher than on Fruit Ninja.
Karate is a combat style of fighting that originated from the Ryukyu Islands that lie off the Japanese mainland. Considered to be a combination of the Chinese martial arts and the indigenous combat techniques of the Ryukyu Islands, Karate has been developed over the decades by a number of masters, including Higaonna Kanryo, Sakukawa Kanga, Arakaki Seisho, Matsumura Sokon and Itosu Anko. Today it is one of the more popular martial arts styles in the west and there are countless karate schools to be found in the USA.
Karate, meaning “open hand” in Japanese, is a full contact fighting style that teaches the student to use their whole body to deliver strikes to an opponent. The Karate techniques taught include kicking, sweeps, punching, knee strikes, throws, elbow strikes and a variety of open-handed strikes, such as spear hands, knife-hands and palm-heel hits.
Karate also requires students to master the ability to debilitate an opponent using a variety of ground holds, chokeholds, restraints and joint locks. The more advanced (and responsible) of karateka may learn vital point strikes, which can floor an opponent with a single deft movement and an accurately landed blow.
Karate is a fast-paced and exciting martial art that combines a suite of both defensive and offensive techniques that incorporate the use equipment and even weaponry in its teaching. It’s as entertaining to watch as it is to participate and, in addition to perfecting physical fitness, dexterity and flexibility, teaches students much about philosophy, respect and tradition.
To learn more about Karate, check out the links below:
- Dojo Kun