Karate or karate-do is a martial art of Okinawan origin. Recent research indicates that it developed from a synthesis of indigenous Ryukyuan fighting methods and southern Chinese martial arts. Karate is known primarily as a striking art, featuring punching, kicking, knee/elbow strikes and open handed techniques. However, grappling, joint manipulations, locks, restrains, throws and vital point striking are inherent to the art.
The word "karate" originally comes from the Okinawan pronunciation of the kanji (kara) which means Tang dynasty or simply China, and "te" meaning hand. In other words, "karate" simply means "Chinese hand" ("karate-do" – "Chinese hand way"). In Japan the work "Karate" is translated as empty hand.
In general, modern karate training is divided into three major areas: basics ("kihon"), forms ("kata"), and sparring ("kumite").
Basic motion (Kihon) is the study of the fundamental techniques (punching mechanics, footwork, stances) of the art. This is the 'public face' of the art that most people recognize, ie, the stepping and punching movements.
Kata means 'form' or 'pattern;' however, they are not simply aerobic routines. They are patterns of movements and techniques that demonstrate physical combat principles. Kata may be thought of as fixed sequences of movements that address various types of attack and defense. It is important to remember that they were developed before literacy was commonplace in Okinawa or China, so physical routines were the logical method for preserving a body of this type of information. It is also important to remember that the moves themselves may have multiple interpretations - there is no 'standard right or wrong' way to interpret them, but interpretations may have more or less utility for actual fighting. For example, the same passage of a kata may be interpreted as block/punch/block, or joint strike-lock/punch/throw.
Sparring (kumite) may be constrained by many rules or it may be free sparring, and in modernity is practiced both as sport and for self-defense training. Sport sparring tends to be one hit "tag" type contact for points. Depending on style or teacher, practical aikido and judo-type takedowns and grappling may be involved alongside the punching and kicking.
There are many karate styles now including: Shotokan, Kempo, Wado Ryu, Shito Ryu, Godjo Ryu, Kyokushinkai, etc.
In recent decades, Kyokushinkai, which absorbed techniques from other Korean and Chinese martial arts, became the most popular and spectacular form of competitive Karate.
Many styles of karate also include specialized conditioning equipment, known in Japanese collectively as "hojo undo" Some of the more common devices are the "makiwara" (long post driven into the ground), the "chi-ishi" (a kind of off center free weight), and "nigiri game" (large jars used for grip strength). Some styles also include instruction in "kobudo" ("old martial way") or traditional Okinawan weaponry.
Since the 1950s, Karate has exploded in popularity worldwide. By the end of the 20th century, Karate was one of the most pervasive cultural exports from the Far East to the Western world. It is impossible to enumerate the various schools and styles worldwide that are identifiably "karate". Nowadays, one can learn Karate (or one of its offshoots) almost anywhere. It is no longer something practiced in just certain countries: Karate is universal.
There were two main avenues for the propagation of Karate to the rest of the world:
- Allied servicemen, stationed in Japan and Okinawa after 1945, who studied Karate and returned to their home countries.
- The emigration of Karate masters from Japan or Okinawa to other parts of the world, where they taught their art.
Another factor in the enduring appeal of Karate is film; "kung fu movies" have propelled karate and other Asian martial arts into mass popularity. Some well-known stars who were students of Karate or related styles are: Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Steven Seagal, Cynthia Rothrock, Karen Shepherd, Jean Claude Van Damme, Jeff Speakman, Jackie Chan and many more.
An additional factor in the interest in Karate is the availability of international competitions. There are bodies which sponsor competitions, including the U.S. Karate Association and Professional Karate Association.
Japanese Karate does not have Olympic status, although it received more than 50% of the votes to become an official Olympic Sport; 75% of the votes are required. The World Karate Federation (WKF) is the recognized International Sport Federation by International Olympic Committee (IOC) for Karate. WKF represents the major uniform rules among all styles. Karate activities in individual countries are organized through national karate federations, recognized by each official national sports governing body and a National Olympic Committee. Each continent has one federation for continental karate activities. There are many organizations on national and international Karate organization, regarding competitive activities and styles activities. Only WKF, however, is recognized by the International Olympic Committee, and only one in each country is linked with that official structure. For that, official recognition of the country sports governing body is required. Each country organizes their own karate championships following WKF rules.
Karate is very effective and dangerous form of martial arts, everyone knows that karateists can cut down bricks and wooden boards by hands, by legs and even by head. In fact, three contact levels for karate sparring/competitions exists: without contact, semi-contact and full contact (where the knock out can be allowed.)
In Kata contest, each Team is exclusively male, or exclusively female. The Individual Kata match consists of individual performance in separate male and female divisions.
Contestants must wear a white karate gi without stripes or piping. The jacket, when tightened around the waist with the belt, must be of a minimum length that covers the hips, but must not be more than three-quarters thigh length. A female contestant may elect to wear a plain white T-shirt or leotard beneath the GI jacket. There are mandatory protective equipments: mouthguards, regulation hand guards and chest guard for women.
Duration of the Kumite bout is defined as three minutes for Senior Male Kumite (both teams and individuals) and two minutes for Women's, Junior, and Cadet bouts. (Female novice – 1.5 minutes.)
Female individual Kumite weight categories:
-53kg, -60kg, +60kg and Open category
A score is awarded when a technique is performed according to the following criteria to a scoring area:
- Good form
- Sporting attitude
- Vigorous application
- Awareness (Zanshin)
- Good timing
- Correct distance
The scores are as follows:
- SANBON: Three Points
- NIHON: Two Points
- IPPON: One Point
SANBON is awarded for:
- Jodan kicks;
- Throwing or leg sweeping the opponent to the mat followed by a scoring technique.
NIHON is awarded for:
- Chudan kicks;
- Deflecting an attack and scoring to the unguarded back of the opponent;
- Combination hand techniques, the individual components of which each score in their own right;
- Unbalancing the opponent and scoring;
- Successfully scoring at the precise moment the opponent attacks.
IPPON is awarded for:
- Chudan or Jodan Tsuki;
The Refereeing Panel must look for Nihons in the first instance and only award an Ippon in the second instance.
Attacks are limited to the following areas:
A victory over an opponent who has been given a Hansoku or Shikkaku will be worth Kachi. If a contestant is absent, withdraws, or is withdrawn, the opponent will be credited with a win by Kiken.
An effective technique delivered at the same time as the end of a bout is signaled, is considered valid. An attack, even if effective, delivered after an order to suspend or stop the bout shall not be scored any may result in a penalty being imposed on the offender.
No technique, even if technically correct, will be scored if it is delivered when the two contestants are outside the competition area. However, if one of the opponents delivers an effective technique while still inside the competition area and before the Referee calls "Yame", the technique will be scored.
Simultaneous effective scoring techniques delivered by both contestants, the one on the other (Aiuchi) shall not score
There are a a number of other ways of scoring matches, including sanbon kumite, and shobu ippon kumite. In sanbon kumite (3 point fighting), the matches usually last until time, unless the tournament has a "mercy rule" in place. Kicks to the head are worth 3 points, kicks to the body worth 2, and hand techniques worth 1. A sweep followed by a technique that lands is worth 3 points. This is the method most often used in tournaments, as it promotes flashier fighting that is better suited to spectator sports. In shobu ippon kumite (one point fighting), the fights last until one person scores a point. A point in ippon kumite is any technique that would have been killing or disabling if landed with full force instead of the moderated contact used in practice. A half point (waza-ari) is any technique that would have caused considerable harm. This is also the system used by Olympic judo. Ippon/wazari kumite promotes a more conservative style of fighting, more like actual fighting, as a single mistake can end the match.
Styles branching from Mas Oyama's kyokushinkai school of karate practice knockdown kumite. In this form of competition, the match is won by flooring the opponent with a strike. Punching to the head is forbidden in knockdown tournaments, but punches to the body and kicks to the head, body or legs can be thrown with full power. This promotes more aggressive fights than the somewhat cautious style favoured by shobu ippon kumite competitors.
A further development to this theme is practiced by daido juku karate tournaments in which participants wear helmets covering their face and head, but there are very few banned attacks (headbutts, punching to the head, grappling and kicks to the shins are permitted, for example). Here, a match can be won by making an opponent submit as well as by knockdown.
Some traditionalists are concerned that the emphasis on competition is antithetical to the deeper values of the art. They feel that sport competition promotes a highly compromised interpretation of the art, including point fighting and demonstration of forms for entertainment value.
Originally, Karate training did not involve any notions of rank. After introduction to Japan, some adopted only 3 obi (belt) colors. White, Brown and Black, with several ranks of each. This is the same color system that was used by the Kodokan (World Judo headquarters). Gichin Funakoshi (founder of the school Shotokan) adopted the idea from Jigoro Kano. Here is the original belt system, still used by Shotokan Karate of America:
• Ungraded - white
• 8th kyu through 4th kyu - white
• 3rd kyu through 1st kyu - brown
• 1st dan and above - black
As karate became more widespread, a decision was made by some karate organizations to add more colors and ranks to the system.
One example is given below, but these vary among organizations.
• 9th kyu - red
• 8th kyu - yellow
• 7th kyu - orange
• 6th kyu - green
• 5th kyu - blue
• 4th kyu - purple
• 3rd kyu - brown
• 2nd kyu - brown
• 1st kyu - brown
• 1st to 5th (or all levels of black)dan - black
• 6th to 8th dan - red with white stripes
• 9th and 10th dan - red
There are three competitions forms: without contact, semi-contact and full contact where the knock out can be allowed. Karate is very effective and dangerous form of martial arts, everyone knows that karateists can cut down bricks and wooden boards by hands, by legs and even by head.
Like many other Oriental martial arts, karate has a substantial spiritual component. In order to become a real karateist you must bring up specific spiritual qualities. As a matter of fact, a few years have to be spent to achieve a real spiritual karate level.
Karate has been and continues to be a multi-cultural development, absorbing the contributions of many gifted practitioners over time and crossing many borders. Compiling a reasonably accurate history of Karate is challenging.
Contrary to popular belief and established myths, the development of Karate did not move from India, to China to Okinawa via a wandering monk named Bodhidharma. Although Bodhidharma is a historically verifiable person who might have brought Ch'an Buddhism to China, the development of the Asian fighting arts had nothing to do with him. The association of Bodhidharma and karate has more to do with pulp fiction novels and movies than real life.
As far as amateur and self-defense applications are concerned, karate is the most popular form of martial art among girls and women; the most of them are participating in it just for self-defense exercise, shaping and aerobics rather than for competition. The most of karate competitions between women run without physical contact - the blows in Karate have to be very precise within millimeters. But some female karate amateur clubs cultivate contact competition, for instance, the Kyokushinkai club "Bagira" in the town of Lipetsk in Russia. In contact competition women wear breast and shin protectors. According to the club source, there are more women participating in Kyokushinkai in Europe than men. Female karate competitions are more emotional and spectacular attracting wider audience than men's ones.
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