What is Karate?

Karate is an Oriental art and science of self-defence aimed improving a person’s physical and mental well-being. There are no short-cuts, no easy methods. You must truly want to learn and you must study hard, but this does not stop you from enjoying it while you do it!

Karate is not about gaining different coloured belts although they give you short term goals to aim at. Belts are for your instructor’s convenience, so that he knows where you are in your study and what he should be teaching you. You should not worry about your karate rank but should approach your training with the attitude that you will do your best every time you train and that you will be doing this for the rest of your life! You should find that lessons you have learned from your karate training can be applied in your everyday life, this is the ultimate goal in the mental training. You might for example overcome some difficulty in your everyday life by applying the determination to succeed that you needed while karate training.

Karate originally meant Chinese hand (see History) but the kara kanji character was changed to one that meant empty, presumably to make the art more acceptable to the mainland Japanese. It is widely accepted now that karate is an empty hand form of Japanese martial arts.  However there is a deeper meaning to the ‘emptiness’ of karate.

As a mirror’s polished surface reflects whatever stands before it and a quiet valley carries even small sounds, so must the student of karate render his mind empty of selfishness and wickedness in an effort to react appropriately toward anything he might encounter. This is the meaning of kara, or empty, of karate

– Funakoshi Gichen

Karate is normally perceived to be a punching and kicking art, but in fact there are throwing techniques and joint locking techniques to be found in the kata.

Karate training can be divided up into three sections

  1. Kihon – basic technique
  2. Kata – the heart of karate, an encyclopaedia of self defence techniques
  3. Kumite – literally crossing hands, ie combat. The application of the techniques found in the kata