What is Karate?

The word 'karate' means 'empty hand'. As the name suggests it is a fighting art using no weapons.

The origins of this art can be traced as far back as between the year 502 and 550 as it is said that the Indian monk Bodhidharma taught physical exercises with breathing techniques to his disciples in order to maintain their strength and well-being during their many years of meditation. The monks of the Shaolin Temple combined these exercise techniques with various forms of Chinese boxing which then became the basis of many martial arts.

These arts were practised by the people of a small island situated south of Japan called Okinawa. Okinawa was invaded by the Japanese in the 17th century and all fighting weapons prohibited and confiscated. This encouraged the Okinawans to adapt and refine a fighting system of 'empty hand' techniques influenced by their knowledge of the Chinese martial arts. This system of training was given a name - Karate.

Modern karate in the form that we recognise today was demonstrated to the Japanese Ministers of National Education in 1922 by Master Gichin Funakoshi from Okinawa. The demonstration was a great success and the Keio University later founded Japan's first Karate Dojo. By this time karate had become a well-structured teaching system of unarmed combat. Karate has different styles due to different teaching principles and influences of other martial arts on the founders and masters.

Today, the four main traditional styles recognised by the World Karate Federation are Wado-Ryu, Shotokan, Gojo-Ryu and Shito-Ryu.  AKS students learn basics and kata (form) from two of those traditional styles.

Wado-Ryu

    

 Founded in 1934 by Master Hironori Ohtsuka (1892-1982)

 Shito-Ryu

 Founded in 1931 by Master Kenwa Mabuni (1889-1952)

Over the years karate has meant many different things to many different people and influenced their lives in many different ways. With today's modern consumer static lifestyle, like all those years ago, karate now still plays a major part essential to our physical and mental well being.