Prefecture: Whole of Japan
Karate, the Japanese word for “empty hands,” was born in the Okinawan Islands as a form of self-defense, at a time when weapons were banned by invading Japanese forces. It began as te (hand), a fighting style used by the natives of the Ryukyu Islands, and was later influenced by Chinese kenpō, introduced through the Chinese families that settled on Okinawa after trade relationships between China and the islands were established.
Karate can be practiced as an art (budō), self defense or as a combat sport. Traditional karate places emphasis on self-development (budō). Modern Japanese style training emphasizes the psychological elements incorporated into a proper kokoro (attitude) such as perseverance, fearlessness, virtue, and leadership skills. Sport karate places emphasis on exercise and competition. Weapons are an important training activity in some styles of karate.
Today, karate-do is taught all around the world, and though it is often modified and always changing, four distinctive Japanese styles have emerged:
Goju-ryu is a traditional Okinawan style of karate with an extensive history. The term Goju-ryu actually means “hard-soft style,” which refers to the closed hand techniques (hard) and open hand techniques and circular movements (soft) that comprise this martial art.
Shitō-ryū is extremely fast, but still can be artistic and powerful. Modern Shitō-ryū styles also place a strong emphasis on sparring. Shitō-ryū stresses speed, and fighting is generally initiated from a higher, more upright stance.
Shotokan is regarded as a dynamic martial art as it develops anaerobic, powerful techniques as well as developing speed. Initially strength and power are demonstrated instead of slower, more flowing motions.
A key principle in Wadō-ryū is that of tai sabaki (often incorrectly referred to as ‘evasion’). The Japanese term can be translated as “body-management,” and refers to body manipulation to move the defender as well as the attacker out of harm’s way. The way to achieve this is to ‘move along’ rather than to ‘move against’—or harmony rather than physical strength.
Let’s end this post with a quote:
“Karate aims to build character, improve human behavior, and cultivate modesty; it does not, however, guarantee it.” – Yasuhiro Konishi (founder of Shindo Jinen-ryu Karate