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Hanashiro Chomo.jpg

Karate (空手) (/kəˈrɑːti/; Japanese pronunciation: [kaɾate] (About this sound listen); Okinawan pronunciation: [kaɽati]) is a martial art developed in the Ryukyu Kingdom. It developed from the indigenous Ryukyuan martial arts (called te (), "hand"; tii in Okinawan) under the influence of Chinese Kung Fu, particularly Fujian White Crane. Karate is now predominantly a striking art using punching, kicking, knee strikes, elbow strikes and open-hand techniques such as knife-hands, spear-hands and palm-heel strikes. Historically, and in some modern styles, grappling, throws, joint locks, restraints and vital-point strikes are also taught. A karate practitioner is called a karateka (空手家).

The Ryukyu Kingdom was annexed by Japan in 1879. Karate was brought to Japan in the early 20th century during a time of migration as Ryukyuans, especially from Okinawa, looked for work in Japan. It was systematically taught in Japan after the Taishō era. In 1922 the Japanese Ministry of Education invited Gichin Funakoshi to Tokyo to give a karate demonstration. In 1924 Keio University established the first university karate club in mainland Japan and by 1932, major Japanese universities had karate clubs. In this era of escalating Japanese militarism, the name was changed from 唐手 ("Chinese hand" or "Tang hand") to 空手 ("empty hand") – both of which are pronounced karate in Japanese – to indicate that the Japanese wished to develop the combat form in Japanese style. After World War II, Okinawa became an important United States military site and karate became popular among servicemen stationed there.

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Kata (形, or more traditionally, 型) (literally: "form") is a Japanese word describing detailed patterns of movements practiced either solo or in pairs. Each is a complete fighting system, with the movements and postures of the kata being a living reference guide to the correct form and structure of the techniques used within that system. Karate Kata are executed as a specified series of a variety of moves, with stepping and turning, while attempting to maintain perfect form. The practitioner is counseled to visualize the enemy attacks and their responses. Karateka "read" a kata in order to explain the imagined events. The kata is not intended as a literal depiction of a mock fight, but as a display of transition and flow from one posture and movement to another, teaching the student proper form and position, and encouraging them to visualize different scenarios for the use of each motion and technique. There are various forms of kata, each with many minor variations.


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Mabuni Kenwa.jpg

Kenwa Mabuni (摩文仁 賢和) was one of the Okinawan karateka to introduce karate to mainland Japan, and the founder of the style known as Shitō-ryū (糸東流). Born in Shuri on Okinawa in 1889, Mabuni Sensei was a descendant of the famous Onigusukini Samurai family. At age 13, he began his instruction in his home town in the art of Shuri-Te (首里手)under the tutelage of Ankō Yasutsune Itosu (糸州安恒) (1831-1915), and Naha-te (那覇手) under Higaonna Kanryō (東恩納 寛量) (1853–1915). He trained diligently for several years, learning many Kata from these great masters.


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Execution of a judo throw (ōuchi-gari). The player in blue is being thrown.
Credit: Lance Cpl. Scott M. Biscuiti



  • "The ultimate aim of karate lies not in victory nor defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants."
-Gichin Funakoshi (1868–1957)



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