In the world of martial arts, karate is a relative new comer. Although its roots go back over 1,000 years to the Shaolin province of China, karate as it is today was not developed until the early twentieth century in Okinawa, Japan. It was during that time that four martial arts masters developed the forms of karate that are still taught today. These are called Okinawan karate. They are: Goju-ryu, Shito-ryu, Shotokan, and Wado-ryu. Thought these four karates have many similarities, they are distinctively different.
Later, in the 1950’s a newer form of karate was developed called Kenpo karate. Based on the forms found in Okinawan karate, it was a much more complicated form of karate.
Borrowing heavily from the forms and techniques of other martial arts such as kung fu and jujitsu, karate focused on providing a means of self defense without the use of weapons. In fact, the name karate means “way of the empty hand”. Although advance karate students do learn to use weapons in their fighting routines, the emphasis is on fighting with an empty hand.
When you first learn karate, you are taught several basic techniques. You will be required to practice these techniques in class and on your own, until you can do them without hesitation. The moves should come quickly and smoothly. After these beginning techniques are learned, more techniques are added, and you begin to learn how to put the individual techniques together in a series of choreographed moves, called kata.
In learning the different katas, you learn how to transition quickly form one technique to the next. You learn how to block or evade an oncoming attack, then counter with a punch or kick of your own. With just your empty hands and feet you can protect yourself and overcome an opponent regardless of how much bigger or stronger they are.
Although karate is classified as a fighting art, its guiding philosophy makes it clear that its purpose is self defense. The karate philosophy states that karate never attack first. In fact, students are taught that the best defense is to avoid the conflict completely. It is much better to talk your way out of the fight, or even to run away to avoid the fight, but when all else fails, and the use of force is inevitable, you must be ready to act quickly and decisively.
Karate is built on respect both toward others, and for yourself. As you learn karate, you will notice your feelings about yourself changing. The workouts required to become proficient in the techniques and katas will make your body stronger, you will have more endurance, and you will have lower body fat. You will soon begin to feel better about yourself physically.
You will also begin to see changes psychologically and emotionally. Not only will you gain confidence from knowing that you have the knowledge to use your empty hand to protect yourself and drive away an attacker, but you will begin a pattern of success based on effort and self discipline.
Learning karate – the way of the empty hand – is an excellent way to not only learn to defend yourself, but also as a way to build yourself up physically and emotionally. Find a school near you and give it a try.