Definition of T.K.U Karate-Do

Karate is a system of self defence and physical culture originally developed and refined in Japan. The word Karate is formed from the Japanese words Kara (empty) and Te (hand), meaning that its practitioners - Karateka - are unarmed, but use their hands and feet as striking weapons.

Okinawa existed as an autonomous Kingdom until 1878, when it was 'annexed' by Japan. In effect, this means that when Gichin Funakoshi travelled to Japan less than 50 years later, although he was in political terms a citizen of Japan, he was a person steeped in the culture and traditions of Okinawa. He brought with him a practical fighting system that had been developed because of the decree by Japan that Okinawans should not carry weapons. This fighting system encompassed the use of bare hands and feet with the supplement of indigenous farming implements, such as the rice flails (nunchaku) and seed planters (tonfa).

"The ways of the martial arts are not only physical but also a search and to master the ways of WA."

H. Ohtsuka

Sensei Funakoshi travelled to Toyko in 1922 to give a demonstration of this Okinawan fighting system, and so impressed the Judo Master, Jigoro Kano, that Sensei Funakoshi was asked to stay and teach. Sensei Funakoshi was so impressed by the effect of the Budo code on the Judoka, apparent in their discipline and etiquette, that he decided to adopt it for his school. Thus was born modern Karate-Do, this wonderful blend of physical and mental discipline.

Karate training should be structured into three main sections - Kihon, Kata and Kumite - basic techniques, set combinations of techniques and sparring. Each section has a range of complexity to suit the different levels or grades of students. Kumite will be introduced to the beginner as basic blocking and counter-attacking, but will ultimately lead to free-style fighting, where practitioners are required to attack with, and defend against, unannounced and unspecified attacks.

Different coloured belts are used to denote skill and seniority levels. Generally there will be 7-10 grades, known as Kyus, below black belt, with the higher number denoting the lowest grade - for example a ninth Kyu will be a relative beginner. There are 10 levels of Black belt, or Dan grade, with the higher number denoting the most senior grade. There is a fixed time between grades, which means that a 5th Dan in Karate should have at least 20 years of experience and maturity.

"Karate-ka must render his mind empty of selfishness and evil thoughts in an effort to react appropriately towards anything he might encounter."

Gichin Funakoshi

Because of its origins, Karate practice is heavily steeped in Japanese culture. The accepted prime language of Karate is Japanese, the uniform and belt (gi and obi) evolved from the traditional Judo and Jin Jitsu uniform (shown in illustrations since the early 17th century), the traditional Japanese bow is used as a greeting, and there is a well defined hierachy structure based on skill and experience, such as exists in Japanese society.

The hard physical training required to reach a high level of skill in Karate helps to strengthen the character. There is a 'Dojo Kun', or training code, which not only ensures a disciplined training environment, but also serves as a tool for moulding behaviour, so that a true Karateka will fight with words and only employ physical violence as a last resort.

Karateka may demonstrate their skills and prowess in Kata and Kumite competitions - Karate is an exciting and challenging sport. There are several recognised styles of Karate and they all adhere to the above principles.

A more concise definition might be 'Karate is the development of striking techniques for the purpose of self-defense, within a specified code of behaviour and allied to particular Japanese cultural practices'.

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