What is Karate?

djt images at laleham for Ethos SKC. 19-

Karate is a Japanese martial art started many years ago as a form of self-defence.  The word 'karate' means 'empty hand' because no weapons are used.  Instead the hands and feet are used to make powerful punches, strikes and kicks, as well as to block the opponent's attacks.  In training and competition the moves are held back so that the opponent is not actually hit.  Karate develops the body effectively against attack whilst focusing the mind leading to improved physical stamina and suppleness as well as increased concentration and self-discipline.  Karate is practised using etiquette allied to oriental practices that emphasise respect and courtesy.

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Karate styles of self-defence were handed down from generation to generation among the warrior classes and peasant farmers and practised solely in Kata form (a set form of movements against defence).  About five hundred years ago karate reached a high level of development in Okinawa, an island of the Ryukyu archipelago near Japan, though its roots went back even further and were imported from China.  Two schools emerged:  Shuri-Te in the region of Shuri and Tomari, later known as Shorin-Ryu, and Naha-Te in the port area of the city of Naha, later known as Shorei-Ryu.  Gradually, with the breaking up of the feudal system and the development of society, these forms of combat became more widely known as an art form and not merely as a means of self-defence.  Each school had its own characteristics.  In Shorin-Ryu both attacking and defending are done at tremendous speed.  In contrast, Shorei-Ryu is slower but is done with far more power.


The great father of modern karate, Ginchin Funakoshi, introduced karate to Japan in the early twentieth century.  He made good use of both the Shorin and Shorei schools.  After mastering both styles, after much study, he combined the strong points of each.  It was felt that this combination should have a name, so his first students called it Shoto-kan.  "Shoto" was Funakoshi's pen-name and "Kan" means "hall".  This is the style of karate practised at Axios SKC. 

There are many other schools of karate in addition to Shotokan.  Some you may have heard mentioned are Goju-Ryu, Wado-Ryu, Kyokushinkai and Shito-Ryu.