KARATE is a Japanese word meaning "Empty Hand" indicating that Karate is a Martial Art that does not require weapons other than the parts of the body, but, also means that the practitioner of Karate should strive to empty his or her mind of aggression.
Originally, Karate was a method of unarmed self-defence developed in the Okinawan Islands from various techniques introduced from mainland China, as well as local innovations up until the late 19th century, the various karate techniques were practiced and taught within relatively small regions. For example, a particular technique would be taught in one village and never revealed to outsiders. After 1900, great interest was shown in teaching karate to larger groups of the general public and certain karate experts developed distinct 'styles'. In the 1920's, an Okinawan school teacher, Gichin Funakoshi, introduced an organised method of karate to Japan, which became immediately popular.
Present day Karate is categorised into four parts -- physical conditioning, self-defence, mental conditioning, and a sport.
Although its origin is obscure, a popular story prevails that credits the Indian Priest Daruma or Bodhidharma (525 A.D.) with its birth. However, other great men such as Hua T'o (190-265 A.D.), a brilliant doctor, and Yuen Fei, a popular general of the Sung Dynasty, (960-1275 A.D.) are also considered forefathers of Karate.
Karate was originally known as 'Kenpo', meaning 'First Law'. From China it crossed over to Okinawa, where known as 'Te', it consisted mostly of hand movements. In 1923 the Okinawans changed the Chinese character to a Japanese character. Thus, the meaning changed from 'hands of China' to 'empty hand'. This transition assuredly brought about a deeper meaning to the art in which the spiritual overcame the physical.
Two experts form Okinawa, Kenwa Mabuni and Gigen Funakoshi introduced their techniques to Japan in 1916. Their aim was to promote Karate as a sport throughout Japan.
Before its introduction to Okinawa, many styles of the art existed throughout China. Each style or system was generally noted for a distinctive feat --- developing the tiger claw, butterfly kick, panther punch, etc. In addition, the various systems jealously guarded their techniques and trained in secret. Among the systems of Southern China stemming from the Shaolin or Shorinji temple, were Hung, Liu, Ts'ai or Choy, Li and Mo. Other Cantonese as well as northern systems have found their way to many other Countries.
In the last seven decades, the techniques have been modified into distinct Japanese styles:
Many of these styles are currently taught in the United States and are often modified into styles more suitable to American methods of self-defence. Thus the art of karate is constantly undergoing improvement and revision.
WADO, the karate style taught at Elite Karate Association, is a Japanese karate style founded in 1939 by Hironori Ohtsuka. Wado kai or ryu, meaning the “Way of Peace and Harmony", is one of the four major styles of karate in Japan and perhaps the purest form of Karate-Do (the way of the empty hand). Trained in classical bujutsu (the techniques of the Samurai), Sensei Ohtsuka applied this outlook and experience to his teachings. Some of the harsher resistive or hard contact elements of sparring technique, typical of many karate styles, are not present in Wado. Sensei Ohtsuka rejected hardening certain parts of the body, such as hand conditioning, as useless preparation.
The aim of Wado karate is not merely perfection of the physical techniques of self-defence, but, the development of a mind that is tranquil yet alive, able to react intuitively to any situation. In Wado, as skill and knowledge are acquired through training and concentrated effort, the student is expected to develop inner strength and calmness of character, as well as the virtues of self-control, respect for others, and true humility. Karate-do for Sensei Ohtsuka is primarily a spiritual discipline.
Basic techniques - punching, kicking, blocking, striking with open hand, joint twisting, and trapping techniques - kata (a sequence of techniques done in certain order against imaginary opponents), and prearranged and free style sparring comprise the training foundation of this style.
Equally fundamental to Wado is Taisabaki, body shifting to avoid the full brunt of an attack, a technique derived from Japanese swordsmanship.
Kumite (sparring) is usually judged on a point system; one referee and four corner judges determine which techniques are given a point. In free sparring, there is no contact allowed to the head, below the waist except for foot sweeps, or to the spine; only light to medium contact is allowed to the torso. Attacks to the head and torso can all score points in a tournament, therefore, Wado karate-ka tend to fight with explosive, close movements with an emphasis on well-controlled techniques.
KARATE AS A SPORT
Over the years, Karate has come into prominence as a sport. In its original form, it is an extremely effective method of unarmed self-defence. The average student learns Karate for self-defence and physical conditioning. As he/she becomes proficient, he/she is taught to apply their knowledge by sparring with fellow students. This is a vital part of the training used in most systems. Such contests afford themselves the opportunity to test what they have learned.
As a sport, Karate offers many different levels and types of competition. A typical tournament would include demonstrations of breaking, weapons use, self-defence techniques, tradition and open forms and the most exciting competition, sparring. Competitive tournaments bring together many different styles of Karate. The opportunity for students to be exposed to different styles and to compete with students of different styles encourages advancement of the sport.
Karate offers lifelong opportunities for participants to stay involved, as a student, teacher or an organiser of the various activities.
KARATE, Is not a means of combat which simply takes the issue of battle as its ultimate objective.
It is an art which by systematically tempering every part of the body, giving special attention to the hands and feet. It enables one to act effectively in the moment of crisis. This training provides protection with nothing more than the empty hand.
It is a sport in which opponents compete in techniques which require skilful and even movement of the body. With the entire body enabled in the execution of a technique, enlisting both good control and will power one seeks to gain the advantage of their adversary.
However, the most important objective of this art is, that through the process of overcoming every trial, and out of the sweat of training, one must strive to perfect the human character.
Only once one is equipped with both techniques and mind can it be called “True Karate”.