A Historical Overview

   The origin of Karate dates back more than a thousand years. It is generally traced to a form of self -defense taught to monks at a Buddist monastery in southern China. Legend has it that Bodidharma, a monk from India, taught them to fashion parts of their bodies into formidable weapons. The physical conditioning that accompanied this practice helped the monks build up strength and endurance for their other disciplines. The original form was later developed into the Shaolin art of fighting and was known as Kempo or Kung Fu which spread gradually throughout the East. The practice gained wide usage in Okinawa, where occupying Japanese had forbidden the carrying of arms. Fused with local variations, it's name evolved into Karate.
 

 Karate ( pronounced  kah-rah-tay ) is a Japanese word that means "the way of the empty hand." This refers to the karate-ka's ( student of karate ) ability to defend him / herself without the use of weapons. The Island of Okinawa  is the birthplace of Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Karate as we know it today. In 1922 he introduced Karate to Japan proper, and  the process of bringing this ancient art to the world began. Karate -Do ( the way of Karate ) is an art which is now known and practiced in all corners of the world. From it's beginnings in Okinawa, Karate-Do has devotees in  every sports-loving country. As it developed, many leading Karate men in Japan and other countries made their interpretations on the practice of the art so that today there are many styles and variations, making Karate-Do no one's monopoly but rather a precious asset to be owned by all  in striving for spiritual and physical perfection. A common goal of world peace is it's aim and neither national boundary nor discrimination by sex or race is recognized.
 The nature of Karate-Do is characterized  by great potential power and is thus frequently misunderstood as something violently aggressive. In fact it is a unique sport strictly governed by the codes and principals of courtesy, benevolence and spiritual understanding, and unlike other sports which depend on the concepts of winning and losing, it is distinguished by being an art of justified self defense.
   Since Karate is, and has been the subject of much sensationalism in the media, it is usual to regard it only as a matter of the Karate expert smashing hard objects and dealing out death and destruction while remaining immune from injury. However, Karate is a physical, mental and moral culture which stresses the highest ethical principles
   Any student attempting to master the surface manifestations of Karate without mastering the essence will fail. The purpose of Karate training is to develop both mind and body. The mental and physical nature of Karate cannot be separated and one cannot progress without the other. To develop each person's ability, constant and arduous practice is required, thus it takes years to achieve the rank of Black Belt and even then this is still considered to be the beginning. Many hours are spent in Karate training to perfect basic blocking, punching, and kicking techniques. Each technique has it's own purpose and form that must be mastered through endless repetition and single-minded effort. In Karate one never stops practicing the basic techniques as these are the foundation of all that is to follow.
Kata is a form of Karate practice that consists of a series of techniques performed against imaginary multiple opponents and is used to develop not only fighting technique but fighting spirit. Another aspect of Karate is Kumite, or free sparring, where contestants demonstrate their techniques, ability, and spirit in open contest. This is a very small element in the practice and learning of Karate and to the untrained observer the matches will seem to be over very quickly without any conclusive scoring being apparent. If you see contestants participating in Kumite, keep in mind that this represents just one part of Karate-Do - the tip of the iceberg that comes as a result of many years of training and dedicated effort on behalf of each participant.  Remember also that this would not be possible at all but for the selfless and dedicated effort that Karate masters and Sensei have devoted to training and teaching their students.

 

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