From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Karate or karate-dō is a martial art of Ryūkyūan origin. It developed from a synthesis of indigenous Ryukyuan fighting methods and southern Chinese martial arts. Karate originally meant Tang hand, i.e. Chinese hand, which was later changed to a homonym meaning 'empty hand' in Japanese. It is known primarily as a striking art, featuring punching, kicking, knee/elbow strikes and open handed techniques. However, grappling, joint manipulations, locks, restrains, throws and vital point striking appear in many styles of Karate.
The Practice of Karate
In general, there are many components to modern karate training. One common division is between the areas of kihon (basics or fundamentals), kata (forms), and kumite (sparring). Another popular division is between art, sport, and self defense training. Weapons (kobudo) comprise another important training area, as well as the psychological elements incorporated into a proper kokoro (attitude) such as perseverance, fearlessness, virtue, and leadership skills. Often in the execution of a technique, karateka are encouraged to issue a loud kiai or 'spirit shout'.
Kata (型:かた) means "form" or "pattern," and despite how they might appear to the outsider, are not simply aerobic routines. They are patterns of movements and techniques that demonstrate physical combat principles. Kata may be thought of as fixed sequences of movements that address various types of attack and defense under ideal circumstances. It is important to remember that they were developed before literacy was commonplace in Okinawa or China, so physical routines were the logical method for preserving a body of this type of information. It is also important to remember that the moves themselves may have multiple interpretations as self-defense techniques- there is no 'standard right or wrong' way to interpret them, but interpretations may have more or less utility for actual fighting. Kata is a sequence of specific Karate moves that must be practised and ready to perform at a grading for one to grade to the next kyu or dan level.
Kata by the same name are often performed with variations between styles, within schools of the same style, or even under the same instructor over time. None of these variations are more "correct" than the other, though during testing only one version is typically accepted.
Kumite (組手:くみて) is literally "meeting of hands," and has many incarnations. Sparring may be constrained by many rules or it may be free sparring, and today is practiced both as sport and for self-defense training. Sport sparring tends to be one hit "tag" type contact for points. Depending on style or teacher, judo-type takedowns and grappling may be involved alongside the punching and kicking.
Types of Kumite
- Ippon kumite - one step sparring, typically used for self defense drills
- Sanbon kumite - three step sparring, typically used to develop speed, strength, and technique
- Jiyu kumite - free sparring
- Nusumi ashi - back foot steps in first, front foot steps second to close distance
- Okuri ashi - front foot steps in first to close distance, back foot follows
- Tsugi ashi - stutter step, typically the front foot makes a small closing step followed by a much larger one to close distance with the back foot following as needed
- Ayumi ashi - the back foot steps through to the front to close distance
Kokoro (心:こころ) is a concept that crosses through many martial arts, but has no single discrete meaning. In context, it means something like "heart," "character," or "attitude." Character is a central concept in karate, and in keeping with the dō nature of modern karate, there is a great emphasis on improving oneself. It is often said that the art of karate is for self-defense; not injuring one's opponent is the highest expression of the art. Some popularly repeated quotes implicating this concept include:
- "The ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants." -Gichin Funakoshi
- "The Way is not meant as a way of fighting. It is a path on which you travel to find your own inner peace and harmony. It is yours to seek and find." -Hironori Ohtsuka
Respect is another very important part of karate; it is about cleansing oneself and strengthening character. The spirit of "osu" is to push onself to the limit of one's ability, to persevere under pressure, to endure. This is why it is said that "Karate always begins and ends with rei."
The Three Attacks
- Sen sen no sen - to attack first
- Go no sen - to let the opponent attack first
- Tai no sen - to attack simultaneously
- Ichi gan - first, eyes (awareness)
- Ni soku - second, footwork (ability and foundation)
- San tan - third, spirit (willingness to fight)
- Shi riki - fourth, strength (fitness of the body)
The Three Spirits
- Fukutsu no sieshin - never give up
- Kanto no seishin - good fighting spirit
- Hissho no sieshin - winning spirit
The Four Sicknesses
The Three Minds
- Mushin - no mind (no need to think)
- Fudoshin - immobile mind (unaffected by anything external)
- Heijushin - common mind (always ready)
- Seme - pressure towards the opponent
- Zanshin - awareness of self and surroundings
- Ki - universal life spirit
- Do - the "way"
- Embusen - location of the opponent
- Seichusen - center/centerline of either the opponent or yourself
Kobudō (Weapons Training)
Although technically meaning only "old martial way," in context kobudō refers specifically to the old martial way of Okinawa, and even more specifically, to the traditional weapons of Okinawa. These include most notably the kama (similar to a sickle), tonfa (stick with a handle), sai (fork), and bō (staff), although there are several others, as well.
Many styles of karate also include specialized conditioning equipment, known in Japanese collectively as "hojo undo." Some of the more common devices are the makiwara, the chi-ishi (a kind of off center free weight), and nigiri game (large jars used for grip strength).
Karate competition can be in three disciplines: sparring (kumite), forms kata (empty handed forms), or kobudō kata (weapons forms). Competitors may enter either as individuals or as part of a team. Evaluation for kata is done by a panel of judges; sparring is judged by a head referee, usually with assistant referees at the side of the sparring area. Sparring matches are often divided by weight, age, sex, and experience classes.
Some traditionalists are concerned that the emphasis on competition is antithetical to the deeper values of the art. They feel that sport competition promotes a highly compromised interpretation of the art, including point fighting and demonstration of forms for entertainment value. In less traditional forms of tournament, usually in the United States of America, kata are occasionally set to music and even weapons that light up or glow are sometimes used. In extreme cases, martial practicality is eschewed in favor of gymnastics. Traditionalists feel this should not be regarded as emblematic of karate; others feel the publicity is helpful.
Karate may be practiced for many reasons, but was developed for self-defense. The kata contain a variety of techniques intended for this purpose: hand strikes, kicks, locking, and grappling. However, proper training is required to make these techniques usable against a determined aggressor. Most styles include some form of two-person pre-arranged self-defense exercises as well as sparring or semi-sparring (structured sparring with limited options allowed for either partner). This allows for the development of a sense of range and timing. A number of styles practice hard-contact sparring.
Some schools are criticized for claiming to teach practical martial arts despite a lack of two-person training to develop needed attributes. An instructor may believe that practicing kata suffices to develop the necessary skills.
Other schools may intentionally place emphasis on tournament preparation, physical conditioning, or aesthetics (developing form for form's sake), rather than self-defense. These schools will typically still teach self-defense techniques as well.
Originally, karate training did not use a ranking system, however, Gichin Funakoshi adopted the idea from judo founder Jigoro Kano using an identical scheme with a very limited set of belt colors.
As karate became more widespread there was a corresponding increase in the variation of rank numbers and belt colors. In traditional schools there are ten ranks of "color belt", referred to as kyu, and five or more dan or "black belt" ranks, with ten being the most common, or eleven if the rank of probational black belt (shodan-ho) is used. It is common for extensive periods of time to be required to pass before being allowed to test for promotion, and Jyudan is frequently awarded only after a notable karateka has passed away.
The requirements for each belt vary as a student progresses, and each form of karate has a different grading system, however it is commonly noted that the progression of learning is in the following order:
- Position - Stance
- Balance - Control of position
- Coordination - Control of balance and position in technique
- Form - Performing the above correctly
- Speed - Increase the rate of performance without loss of form
- Power - Strengthening the techinique
- Reflex - The technique becomes a natural movement
- Conclusion - It is essential that the progression is not rushed, but developed at each stage.
Promotion is frequently a process of demonstration of acquired skill before a panel of judges, usually high ranking black belts of a particular style or school. Promotion can also be awarded by defeating a higher ranking competitor in kumite, particularly at dan levels. This practice is more common in judo and in Japan, though may still be practiced elsewhere.
Black belt testing is commonly done in a manner known as shinsa, which typically includes a written examination, a composition, kumite, kata, kobudo, footwork, and demonstrations of blocks, punches, kicks, etc.
Etymology of "Karate"
In the modern world, some could (and do) make the argument that due to the generic meaning of the word "karate," (i.e. "empty hand") that any unarmed combat system or sport could technically refer accurately to itself as karate. This can be a difficult and sometimes inflammatory question, complicated by attitudes toward philosophy and competition, by questions of lineage and primacy, and perhaps above all by questions of nationalism and identity.
The word "karate", while always pronounced the same, was originally written with different kanji (ideographic characters). The first use of the word "karate" is attributed to Gichin Funakoshi, who wrote it not as we do today as 空手:からて (empty hand), but rather, as 唐手:からて (Tang Dynasty hand). The Tang Dynasty was a dynasty of China, and although it ended in 907 A.D. (well before Funakoshi's time), the kanji representing it remained in use in Okinawa as a way to refer to China, generally. Thus "karate" was originally a way of expressing "China hand," or "martial art from China."
The original use of "Chinese hand," "Tang hand," “Chinese fist,” or "Chinese techniques" (depending on one's exact interpretation of 唐手) reflects the documented Chinese influence on karate. Hanashiro Chomo(1869-1945) began using a homophone of the ideogram pronounced "kara" by replacing the character meaning "Tang Dynasty"(唐:から) with the character meaning "empty"(空:から) in 1905. This followed the so-called Meeting of the Masters in October of 1936, which included Chojun Miyagi, Chomo Hanashiro, Kentsu Yabu, Chotoku Kyan, Genwa Nakasone, Choshin Chibana, Choryo Maeshiro and Shinpan Shiroma (Gusukuma). Since this 1933-1936 period, the word pronounced "karate" has almost universally referred to the written kanji meaning "empty hand"(空手) rather than "Chinese hand"(唐手).
The Way and the Hand
Another nominal development is the addition of dō (道:どう) to the end of the word karate. Dō is a suffix having numerous meanings, including "road," "path," "route," and in this case, "way." It is used in many martial arts that survived Japan's turbulent transition from feudal culture to "modernity," and implies that they are not just techniques for fighting, but have spiritual elements when pursued as disciplines. In this circumstance it is usually translated as "the way of" as in aikido (合気道:あいきどう), judo (柔道:じゅうどう) and kendo (剣道:けんどう). Thus, "karatedō" is more than just "empty hand", but is "the way of the empty hand".
History of Karate
Japan annexed the nominally independent Ryūkyū island group in 1874 after centuries of strong Japanese influence over the kingdom's affairs following the invasion by the Japanese Satsuma clan in 1609. The relationship between Okinawa and Japan is complicated. For purposes of discussing karate, it is convenient to speak of Okinawa and Japan as separate entities. The question of whether karate is Japanese or Okinawan is somewhat akin to asking whether the luau or the hula dance are American traditions or Hawaiian ones: They developed in Hawaii prior to when Hawaii became one of the United States, and so are usually described as Hawaiian, not American. The case is similar for karate, which is originally of Okinawan origin.
The Okinawan martial art "ti" was practiced by Okinawa royalty and their retainers for centuries before, and alongside, later Chinese influences. For the most part there were no particular styles of "ti", but rather a network of practitioners with their own individual methods and eclectic traditions. Early styles of karate are often generalized as Shuri-te, Naha-Te and Tomari-te, named after the three cities in which they emerged, although these are not concrete distinctions. Each area (and the teachers who lived there) 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 learn and study a variety of disciplines, political and practical; this exchange was not too different from the practice of exchange students today. The incorporation of empty-handed Chinese kung fu occurred partly because of these exchanges. Estimates of the Chinese influence in modern karate styles (or schools) vary considerably, and there are no clean divisions among 'styles'. To this day karate styles from some areas bear a striking resemblance to Fujian martial arts such as Fujian White Crane, Five Ancestors, and Gangrou-quan (Hard Soft Fist, pronounced "Gōjūken" in Japanese), while some karate looks distinctly Okinawan.
In 1806, Tode Sakukawa (1782-1838), who had studied pugilism and staff (bo) fighting in China (according to one legend, under the guidance of Koshokun, originator of kusanku kata), started teaching a fighting art in the city of Shuri that he called "Karate-no-Sakukawa" (at that time meaning "China hand of Sakakawa"). This was the first known recorded reference to the art of karate (written as 唐手).
Around the 1820's, Sakukawa's most significant student, Sokon Matsumura(1809-1899) taught a synthesis of te (Shuri-te and Tomari-te) and Shaolin (Chinese 少林) styles. It would become the style Shorin-ryū.
Matsumura taught his karate to Anko Itosu(1831-1915), among others. Itosu adapted two forms he learned from Matsumara, namely kusanku and chiang nan, to create the ping'an forms ("heian" or "pinan" in Japanese, as the symbols can be read differently) as simplified kata for beginning students. In 1901 he was instrumental in getting karate introduced into Okinawa's public schools. These forms were taught to children at the elementary-school level. Itosu is also credited with taking the large naihanchi form ("tekki" in Japan) and breaking it into the three well-known modern forms naihanchi shodan, naihanchi nidan and naihanchi sandan.
Itosu's influence in karate is very broad. The forms he created for beginners are common across nearly all forms of karate. His students included some of the most well-known karate practitioners, including Gichin Funakoshi, Kenwa Mabuni, and Motobu Choki. He is sometimes known as the "Grandfather of Modern Karate." In addition to the three early "ti" styles of karate, a fourth Okinawan influence is that of Kanbun Uechi (1877-1948), who, at the age of 20, went to Fuzhou in Fujian Province, China, to escape Japanese military conscription. While there, he studied under Shushiwa, the leading figure of Chinese Nanpa Shorin-ken at that time. He later developed his own style of karate and brought it to Japan, though the style itself was neither taught in Okinawa nor rooted in Okinawan "ti".
Gichin Funakoshi, father of Shotokan karate, is generally credited with having introduced and popularized karate on the main islands of Japan. He was a student of Anko Asato and Anko Itosu, who had worked to introduce karate to the Okinawa Prefectural School System in 1902. He brought Itosu's pinan kata to Japan (as did other of Itosu's students, such as Kenwa Mabuni, founder of Shito-ryu karate). Funakoshi worked specifically to introduce modernizations into karate and to spread it to Japan. However, there were many other Okinawan karateka living and teaching in Japan during this time period. Funakoshi's peers included such notable figures as Kenwa Mabuni, Chojun Miyagi, Motobu Choki, Toyama Kanken, Kanbun Uechi and several others.
This was an especially turbulent period in history for that area of the world, including Japan's official annexation of the Okinawan island group in 1874, the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), and the rise of Japanese expansionism (1905-1945). The karate styles within Japan have fairly clean lineages.
Japan was invading China at the time, and Funakoshi knew that the art of Tang/China hand would not be accepted; thus the change to "way of the empty hand". The "dō" suffix implies that karatedō 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 -dō around the beginning of the 20th century. The "dō" in "karate-dō" sets it apart from karate "jutsu", much as aikido is distinguished from aikijutsu, judo from jujutsu, Iaidô from Iaijűtsu and so on.
As mentioned, Funakoshi changed the names of many kata and the meaning of the art itself (at least on mainland Japan). He most likely did this 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 Itosu pinan forms became known as heian; the three naihanchi forms became known as tekki; seisan' as hangetsu; chinto as gankaku; wanshu' as empi; etc. These were mostly just political changes, rather than changes to the content of the forms, although Funakoshi did institute changes to the content. The name changes may have been designed to make the art sound more Japanese (less "foreign"). Funakoshi had trained in two of the popular branches of Okinawan karate of the time, Shorin-ryū and Shorei-ryū. 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"; however, in 1936 he built the Shotokan dojo in Tokyo, and the school or style he left behind is usually called Shotokan.
The modernization and systemization of karate in Japan also included the adoption of the ubiquitous white uniform which consisted of the kimono and the dogi or keikogi - mostly called just karategi (pronounced 'gee' like 'key') - and colored belt ranks. Both of these innovations were originated and popularized by Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, one of the men Funakoshi consulted in his efforts to 'modernize' karate.
In 1922, Ohtsuka Hironori attended the Tokyo Sports Festival, where he saw the Karate of Gichin Funakoshi. Ohtsuka was so impressed with this that he visited Funakoshi on numerous occasions during his stay. Funakoshi was, in turn, impressed by Ohtsuka's enthusiasm and determination to understand Karate and agreed to teach him all he knew about it. In the following years, Ohtsuka set up a medical practice dealing with martial arts injuries. His prowess in martial arts had led him to be the Chief Instructor of Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujitsu at the age of only 30, and assistant instructor at Funakoshi dojo.
By 1929, Ohtsuka Hironori was registered as a member of the Japan Martial Arts Federation. Okinawan Karate at this time was only concerned with Kata, which is a set sequence of movements against an imaginary opponent (or group of opponents). Ohtsuka thought that the full spirit of Budo, which concentrates on defence and attack, was missing, and that kata techniques did not work in realistic fighting situations. He experimented with other, more combatative styles such as Judo, Kendo and Aikido. He blended the practical and useful elements of Okinawan karate with traditional Japanese martial-arts techniques from jujitsu and kendo, which lead to the birth of Kumite, or fighting, in Karate. Ohtsuka thought that there was a need for this more dynamic and fluid type of Karate to be taught, and he therefore decided to leave Funakoshi to concentrate on developing his own style of Karate - Wado.
In 1934 Wado-Ryu Karate was officially recognised as an independent style of Karate. This recognition meant a departure for Ohtsuka from his medical practice and the fulfilment of a life's ambition - to become a full-time martial artist.
Ohtsuka's personalised style of Karate was officially registered in 1938 after he was awarded the rank of "Renshi-go". He presented a demonstration of Wado Karate for the Japan Martial Arts Federation. They were so impressed with his style and commitment that they acknowledged him as a high-ranking instructor. The next year the Japan Martial Arts Federation asked all the different styles to register their names. Ohtsuka registered the name Wado-Ryu.
In 1944, Ohtsuka was appointed Japans Chief Karate Instructor.
A new style style of karate called Kyokushin was developed by Masutatsu Oyama in 1964. Kyokushin taught a curriculum that emphasized contact, physical toughness, and practical application of karate techniques to self-defense situations. Because of its emphasis on physical, full-force sparring, Kyokushin is now often called "full contact karate." Many other karate organizations based, at least in part, on the Kyokushin curriculum have "spun-off" over the years.
There are four recognized (by the Federation of All Japan Karatedo Organization), traditional styles of karate:
Styles that do not belong to one of these schools are not automatically considered to be "illegitimate" or "bad" karate, just not one of the traditional schools. Many/most schools will be affiliated with or heavily influenced by one or more of these traditional styles.
The Influence of Karate
Japanese's occupation of Korea lasted from 1910 until 1945. It was a period marked by brutal repression and the practice of Korean martial arts were banned along with other vestiges of Korean culture and identity. However, the few Koreans who were able to travel to Japan for education became exposed to Japanese martial arts. After gaining independence from Japanese occupation many of the martial arts schools in Korea were started by masters with varying degrees of training in Japanese(including karate), Chinese and Korean martial arts. In 1955, at the behest of President Syngman Rhee, the dozens of Korean martial arts schools were standardized and the resulting construction became Taekwondo. Although major techniques of taekwondo largely differ from Japanese Karate as they are influenced by indigenous kicks such as taekyon, karate's influence was nonetheless important. Karate provided a comparative model for the early founders of taekwondo in their formalization of a standard Korean martial art. Taekwondo also inherited from karate the concept of linear striking to generate power as well as early karate "kata" and the belt and degree system.
In the United States
Traditional karate entered the United States principally via those members of the military who learned it in Okinawa or Japan and opened schools upon their return to the United States. For example, Robert Trias is often credited with opening the first Western karate school in the United States in Phoenix, Arizona in 1942. There are competing claims to this distinction; for example, it has been claimed that Ron Keiser instructed a number of his fellow Americans in his family's karate tradition while imprisoned in a Japanese-American internment camp.
Since the 1950s, karate has exploded in popularity worldwide. By the end of the 20th century, karate was one of the most pervasive cultural exports from Asia to the Western world. It is impossible to enumerate the various schools and styles worldwide that are identifiably "karate". Nowadays one can learn karate (or one of its offshoots) almost anywhere. It is no longer something practiced in just certain countries: karate is universal.
There were two main avenues for the propagation of karate to the rest of the world. First, Allied servicemen, stationed in Japan and Okinawa after 1945, who studied karate and returned to their home countries. Second, the emigration of karate masters from Japan or Okinawa to other parts of the world, where they taught their art.
In film and popular culture
Another factor in the enduring appeal of karate is film; kung fu movies have propelled karate and other Asian martial arts into mass popularity. Some well-known stars which have related styles are:
- Chuck Norris - Tang Soo Do
- Cynthia Rothrock - Tang Soo Do
- Jean Claude Van Damme - Shotokan
- Jeff Speakman - American Kenpo
- Fumio Demura - Shito ryu
- Dolph Lundgren - Kyokushin
Sports and the Olympics
An additional factor in the interest in karate is the availability of international competitions. There are bodies which sponsor competitions, including the U.S. Karate Association and Professional Karate Association.
Karate does not have Olympic status, although it received more than 50% of the votes to become an official Olympic sport; 75% of the votes are required. The World Karate Federation (WKF) is the recognized International Sport Federation by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for karate. WKF represents the major uniform rules among all styles. karate activities in individual countries are organized through national karate federations, recognized by each official national sports governing body and a National Olympic Committee. Each continent has one federation for continental karate activities. There are many organizations on national and international karate organization, regarding competitive activities and styles activities. Only WKF, however, is recognized by the International Olympic Committee, and only one in each country is linked with that official structure. For that, official recognition of the country sports governing body is required. Each country organizes their own karate championships following WKF rules.
Common Issues Within Karate
Due to the popularity of martial arts, both in mass media and real life, a large number of disreputable, fraudulent, and misguided teachers and schools have arisen over the last 40 years or so. Commonly referred to as a "McDojo" or a "Black Belt Mill", these schools are frequently headed by martial artists of either dubious skill & training, business ethics, or both. Common means of discerning these types of schools include:
- High rank at a young age
- Very large number of black belt certifications from different styles
- "Grandmaster" status of the head instructor
- Select organizations within the school
- Emphasis on testing and fees
- Rapid promotion of students without discernable improvements in skill
- "New" and "revolutionary" methods
- "Secret" teachings from unverifiable sources
It is not uncommon for traditional schools to maintain that a sensei or instructor of their own school must be at least a third or fourth degree black belt at a minimum.
Another common issue is "chi masters" and others that make claims of superhuman or unverifiable abilities such as "no touch knockdowns", resisting physical force in defiance to the laws of physics, or "world record" speed. These are not to be confused with martial artists that train in feats of strength and focus for such things as breaking competitions.
Internal political fighting within schools and styles is quite frequent and the cause of a large number of splinter organizations and schools. When a recognized master or founder of a school dies, it is common for the senior instructors and students to split off and form their own competing school under a different name without making any substantial changes to the training material, kata, or teaching philosophy. A prime example of this when Ed Parker died and his IKKA Kenpo Karate organization quickly became several major and uncountable minor schools that have yet to reunify.
Self-promotion of rank is an issue without any real solution. While this often happens with long-standing brown belts that did not have the means or opportunity to test for Shodan, it is more likely to be an issue when the owner of a school creates an accrediting organization for his own style and issues himself a diploma for whatever rank he or she sees fit. Larger accrediting organizations exist to provide independent assessment of skill and are typically regional or national in nature. It is not unusual for someone to not only acquire rank though their school or dojo, but to also test though one of these organizations as well to provide additional evidence of their ability and put to rest any rumors or concern as to the legitimacy of their rank. However, due to the large number of schools and instructors, it is not realistic to challenge someone's claimed rank because they lack independent verification - in essence, you pretty much have to take rank claims at face value unless there is substantial reason not to.
- Japanese martial arts
- Karate stances
- ^ Kanbun Uechi history