Karate - General Background

By: Thanaseelan

History: Karate is one of the most widely practised of the oriental martial arts. It evolved during one of the Japanese occupations of the island of Okinawa, part of the Ryukyu chain of islands, in the 15th century. Its roots, however, can be traced back much further than this - all the way back to ancient India. Many people hold the view that what we regard today as the oriental martial arts have their roots in India. In fact, when we look at such disciplines as yoga and the breathing techniques that originated in India, there does seem to be a great similarity between those and many of the modern martial arts systems.

Zen Buddhist monks took the Indian fighting techniques to China from as early as the 5th century BC. Bodhidharma, an Indian monk, travelled at the end of the 5th century AD from India to China, where he became an instructor at the Shaolin monastery. He taught a combination of empty hand fighting systems and yoga. This became the well-known Shaolin Kong Fu - the system on which many Chinese martial arts systems are based.

In 1470, the Japanese had occupied the island of Okinawa. The law of the land dictated that anybody found carrying weapons would be put to death. In order to protect themselves from local bandits, who largely ignored the prohibition on weapons, Zen Buddhist monks developed the empty hand system known as "te", importing new techniques from China. Eventually the new art was translated as "t'ang" (China hand), but was familiarly known as "Okinawa-te" (Okinawa hand). It was not until the 20th century that t'ang became known as Karate-do. The suffix do was added by Gichin Funakoshi's son Yoshitaka Funakoshi, in friendly opposition to his father's Okinawa-te style. Practice and demonstrations until that time had been extremely violent. Punches were not pulled and full contact was an integral part of the Okinawa-te style. Yoshitaka Funakoshi transformed the techniques of Okinawa-te into a gentler system, seeking not to deliver blows fully, but to focus strikes at skin level. The do suffix expressed the move away from the aim of the warrior and towards physical and spiritual development.

Styles: There are numerous styles of karate practised. Wado Ryu and Shotokan are just 2 of them. Other popular systems include Shinto Ryu, developed in 1948, and now one of the main systems in the world. It is also important to realise that the various styles of Karate are the results of the personal ideas of many individuals about how each basic technique should be carried out or applied. The different techniques within the styles of Karate also dictate whether strength, speed, hand or leg techniques are emphasised.

Competitive Karate: Karate has been a self defense system and a form of physical exercise. The competitive and sporting elements have a further part to play in the individual's enjoyment of this activity. It is because of the possibility of participation in competition that many people take up this art.

Competition is not the only reason for engaging in this art. It is possible to learn Karate without participating in competitions, however for some peopleScience Articles, competition provides motivation and stimulation for training. The sense of achievement that comes from just taking part can be carried over into everyday life.

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