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What is Karate?

Karate is a martial art of Okinawan origin. Okinawa is an island in Japan. Karate is a synthesis of indigenous Okinawan fighting methods and southern Chinese martial arts.

Karate is primarily a striking art, featuring punching, kicking, knee/elbow strikes and open hand techniques; however, grappling, joint manipulations, locks, restraints, throws, and vital point striking are inherent in the finer points of the art.

Karate is characterized by the use of the hips and stances to generate striking power, by the distinctive use of breathing to focus power, and by the practice of prearranged forms. The prearranged forms are called kata. A person who practices karate is sometimes referred to as a karate-ka. In Japanese, karate-ka means "karate practitioner".

Karate is also called karate-dō.

Karate Training

Karate training is divided into three major areas: basics, forms , and sparring. Basic motion (Kihon) is the study of the fundamental techniques of the art. Forms (Kata) is a series of movements and techniques linked together by the physical/combative principles that the kata expresses, represented as a fixed sequence of moves against imagined opponents. The moves involved in a specific form may have multiple interpretations as self-defense techniques. Sparring may be constrained by many rules or it may be free sparring, and may be practiced both as sport and for self-defense training.

Types of Karate

There are several different karate styles. Many styles use specialized condition equipment. Some styles use traditional Okinawan weapons.

Some common styles are:

  • Goju-ryu karate
    • Goju-ryu is the hard/soft school of Karate.
    • Goju-ryu is one of the four original Okinawan styles of Karate, and was founded by Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953).
  • Shotokan karate
    • Shotokan is one of the four main schools of Karate in Japan. Shotokan is best characterized by its long and deep stances and its use of more linear movements.
    • Shotokan Karate has little of the circular movements found in Okinawan styles of karate, nor does it have the body conditioning and supplementary training exercises typical for Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate.
    • Tournaments and point-sparring are central to the Shotokan karate.
  • Wado-ryu karate
    • Wado-Ryu Karate is one of the four main styles of
      Japanese karate.
    • Wado-Ryu Karate was developed by Otsuka Hironori
    • Wado-Ryu Karate is a combination of Shotokan karate, Jujutsu, grappling and Tai Sabaki.
    • Wado-ryu karate does not practice many of the body toughening exercises common to other styles of karate, preferring rather to use Tai Sabaki to evade attacks.
  • Shito-ryu karate
    • Shito-Ryu Karate was developed by an Okinawan karate master named Kenwa Mabuni (1890-1954).
    • Shito Ryu is a combination of the kata and techniques of Gojuryu KArate and Shuri-Te Karate.
    • Characteristic for Shito-Ryu Karate are the square-on stances and linear strikes.
    • Traditional Okinawan weapons are also taught in the Shito-Ryu style of karate.
  • Kenpo karate
    • Kenpo Karate is a complete fighting system that is particularly popular in the United States.
    • Kenpo places equal emphasis on the use of hands and feet and uses similar fighting techniques to other Okinawan fighting styles.
    • Kenpo also practices Kata or forms like other martial arts.
    • Whereas most Karate styles use white gis (uniforms), a visual characteristic of Kenpo is its use of black Gis for higher grades and sometimes mixing black Gi tops with white pants and vice versa.

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