Karate-do is Japanese, "the way of the empty hand". Shotokan Karate-do is a martial art of unarmed self-defence in which directed or focused blows of the hands and feet, accompanied by special breathing and shouts, all dealt from poised positions. More than a method of combat, karate-do emphasizes self-discipline, positive attitude, and high moral purpose. Karate-do is related to Judo and Jujitsu, but stresses techniques for striking, with lethal kicks and punches, rather than wrestling or throwing the opponent. The three elements of speed, strength and technique are vital to Karate expertise. Constant alertness and a keen sense of timing and surprise are also requisites . It is taught professionally as a self-defence skill, a competitive sport and a free- style exercise for health and longevity.
The art of Karate is more than 1000 years old and originated in Eastern Asia. During the 17th Century it became highly developed as an art on the island of Okinawa, Japan. Used and practiced defensively against armed bandits. In 1922 Karate was introduced to the Japanese public by an Okinawan, Gichin Funakoshi, and the art today is chiefly associated with Japan. Karate was introduced to the U.S. after World War II.
To search for the old is to understand the new.
The old, the new, this is a matter of time.
In all things one must have a clear mind.
The way: Who will pass it on straight and well?
- Poem by Gichin Funakoshi
The first connotation of kara indicates that karate is a technique that permits one to defend himself with his bare hands and fists without weapons.
Second, just as it is the clear mirror that reflects without distortion, the proper understanding of Karate-do requires one to practice with a clear mind. This is another meaning of the element kara in Karate-do.
The nature of karate is such that it requires the body to move in all directions and it can be practiced in just about any area, small or large. Since each individual may adjust the exercise to their own capacity, Karate may be practiced by the physically weak, by women, children or elderly people. Moreover, as the body is built up and the techniques become more skillful, the movements naturally become more powerful, so that the amount of exercise becomes sufficient even for the healthy young man in his prime.
The power of Karate has become well known in these times and it is not an exaggeration to assert that a person well trained in this form of defence may consider the whole body to be a weapon of awesomely effective power. Though Karate does have throwing techniques, it relies principally on striking, kicking and thrusting techniques. Block-attack combinations are eventually executed simultaneously, no weapons are necessary and anyone can learn to apply it and protect himself effectively even with little natural strength.
Karate is no different from the other martial arts in fostering the traits of courtesy, integrity, humility and self control in those who have found its essence. However, since there is no need for a special training place, equipment or an opponent, a flexibility in training is provided such that the spiritually weak individual can develop his body and mind so gradually and naturally that he himself may not even realize his own great progress.
From: Karate–Do Kyohan by Gichin Funakoshi