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About Karate

Gichin FunakoshiAlthough there are many legends about the genesis of karate, one thing is for sure: it did not appear in Japan, but its origin is in India. Buddhists have practiced it because they needed to be prepared for psychological strains that are essential for their final goals, and also to protect themselves from many enemy attacks on their missionary trips. That’s probably the way this martial art came to Japan. Archipelago Ryu Kyu, especially its biggest island Okinawa, because of its strategic situation was in the centre of a dramatic fight between Japan and China for a long time. The inhabitants were in a bad position and without any weapons. They were in a situation to fight with their bare hands very often. A connection between the local and “imported” fighting skill with the bare hands, had resulted in a tremendous way of self-defense, so that skill was forbidden to use. 

The golden era of karate starts in the 17th century on Okinawa, in the time of Japanese domination, when was created the first secret organization of people who are interested in karate. The practices were held in late night hours and the goal was to develop the skill in a way that neither an armed samurai can do them any harm. In the 19th century karate moves from the night into daylight and a significant stimulant to the spreading happened in 1904 when this sport became legalized in the schools of Okinawa. Its expansion started in 1922 when some of the top masters went to the biggest cities of Japan. Gichin Funakoshi started his school in Tokio and Shoti Morobu in Osaka. This is the period when masters realized they should consider a unique name for this skill and the term karate ("empty hand") started to exist.

The militarization of Japan in the beginning of the 20th century made a great step for karate because all of its influence and importance in the development of young people were perceived. This was the first step towards the modernization of karate.

Today, there are many different styles of karate:

  • SHOTOKAN style

Shotokan


    Its founder is Gichin Funakoshi. Shoto in Japanese means “pine waves” while kan means “house.” Shotokan was the hall where Funakoshi taught his students.


  •  GOJU RYU style

Gojuryu


  Its founder is Chojun Miyagi. The name derives from Japanese goken which means “hard hand” and juken – “soft hand.”


  • SHITO RYU style

shito ryu


   Its founder is Kenwa Mabuni. This style is characteristic because its main goal is to block attacks.


  • WADO RYU style

WADORYU small


  Its founder is Hironori Ohtsuka. The names is derived from Japanese wado which means “the path of calm” and the main philosophy is the belief following Buddha in a fighting way means to be on the path for calm and peace.

 

The end of the II World War gave wings to karate. Funakoshi and his assistants go to America to spread karate. The organization of first tournaments makes karate a fighting sport. The fight of two persons on a tatami symbolizes life to death fight but the opponents respect each other and they have to bow and say rei before the fight as a symbol of deep respect.

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).

Kata (Forms)

Karate kata (: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 a sequence of specific Karate 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. In karate, there are many types of Kata available. Depending on the current grade of the pupil, a specific Kata must be practiced 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 all around the world.

Kumite (Sparring)

Kumite (組手:くみて) literally means "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 for points. Depending on style or teacher, 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
  • Kiso kumite – structured sparring drawn from a kata
  •  Jiyu kumite – free sparring

Basic Footwork:

  • Nusumi ashi – back footsteps in first, front foot steps second to close distance
  • Okuri ashi – front foot steps in first to close distance, back foot follow
  • 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
  • Ayu shi – the back foot steps through to the front to close distance

Gichin Funakoshi about karate:

  • You have to be extremely serious while practicing
  • Practice with your heart and soul, don’t worry about the theory
  • Avoid vapour and obstruction
  • Try to realize who you are and accept what is good in the work of others
  • Adhere ethical forms in everyday life, public and private

        Karate is a self-defense martial art and it should never be used for hurting or killing people. Be careful, but never attack first.