About Karate - An Overview

Karate is, and always has been, a method of self defence, never a technique of aggression. However, it is much more than that alone. To the dedicated student, it is a form of combined physical and mental discipline from which a student can learn the value of personal attributes such as kindness and sincerity.

To the Karate Master, self-control is quite as important as mastery of the various techniques. The Karateka (user of Karate) never brings his or her techniques into serious play unless a threat is unequivocal and other defences are inadequate. In fact, all Kata (forms or formal exercises) begin with "Uke" (defensive technique) rather than an offensive one.

Gichin Funakoshi (biographically mentioned below), the man largely responsible for introducing Karate into Japan, often told his students "The spirit of Karate is lost without courtesy".

Decorum, humility and gentleness are other hallmarks of the Karateka but he or she is never servile. A student's performance of Kata must bring forth boldness and confidence. These seemingly paradoxical combinations of boldness & gentleness, confidence & humility lead eventually to harmony (body and mind integrated into a singular discipline).

This, as much as self-defence, is the aim of Karate.

Grand-Master Funakoshi

Contrary to most people's perception, Karate did not originate in mainland Japan. It was brought to Japan from Okinawa (South of Japan). Okinawa had already enjoyed Karate as part of it's cultural history for many years.

Gichin Funakoshi was first taken as a young boy to learn Karate by his father, who thought that it may help to improve his health and overall strength. From that humble beginning came a dedication that led to the Karate phenomenon that the whole world enjoys today.

Shotokan, the Karate style eventually spawned from the teachings of Gichin Funakoshi, is the very foundation upon which many other Styles of Karate, and in fact even other entire Martial Arts, were built.

To understand better where the style of Shotokan came from, we invite you to read the following passage, written by "Shotokan Karate of America" who we graciously acknowledge for this contribution to our site.....

Gichin Funakoshi is widely considered the primary "father" of modern karate due to his efforts to introduce the Okinawan art to mainland Japan, from where it spread to the rest of the world.

Born in 1868, he began to study karate at the age of 11, and was a student of the two greatest masters of the time, Azato and Itosu. He grew so proficient that he was initiated into all the major styles of karate in Okinawa at the time.

For Master Funakoshi, the word karate eventually took on a deeper and broader meaning through the synthesis of these many methods, becoming karate-do, literally the "way of karate," or of the empty hand. Training in karate-do became an education for life itself.

Master Funakoshi was the first expert to introduce karate-do to mainland Japan. In 1916 he gave a demonstration to the Butokuden in Kyoto, Japan, which at that time was the official centre of all martial arts.

On March 6, 1921, the Crown Prince, who was later to become the Emperor of Japan, visited Okinawa and Master Funakoshi was asked to demonstrate karate.

In the early spring of 1922 Master Funakoshi travelled to Tokyo to present his art at the First National Athletic Exhibition in Tokyo organized by the Ministry of Education. He was strongly urged by several eminent groups and individuals to remain in Japan, and indeed he never did return to Okinawa.

Master Funakoshi taught only one method, a total discipline, which represented a synthesis of Okinawan Karate styles. This method became known as Shotokan, literally the clan or the house of Shoto, which was the Master's pen name for his poetry, denoting the sound of the wind blowing through pines.

The 20 main principles of our Karate - Niju Kun

  • Karate is not only dojo training.
  • Don't forget that Karate begins with a bow and ends with a bow.
  • In Karate, never attack first.
  • One who practices Karate must follow the way of justice
  • First you must know yourself. Then you can know others.
  • Spiritual development is paramount; technical skills are merely means to the end.
  • You must release your mind
  • Misfortune comes out of laziness.
  • Karate is a lifelong training.
  • Put Karate into everything you do.
  • Karate is like hot water. If you do not give heat constantly it will again become cold.
  • Do not think you have to win. Think that you do not have to lose.
  • Victory depends on your ability to tell vulnerable points from invulnerable ones.
  • Move according to your opponent.
  • Consider your opponent's hands and legs as you would sharp swords.
  • When you leave home, think that millions of opponents are waiting for you.
  • Ready position for beginners and natural position for advanced students.
  • Kata is one thing. Engaging in a real fight is another.
  • Do not forget (1)strength and weakness of power, (2)expansion and contraction of the body, (3)slowness and speed of techniques.
  • Devise at all times.