KARATE is a Japanese word meaning "Empty Hands" 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/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;
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 organized method of karate to Japan, which became immediately popular.
Present day Karate is categorized into four parts -- physical conditioning, self defense, 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 distinct 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 the United States.
In the last seven decades, the techniques have been modified into distinct Japanese styles Shoto-kan, Shudo-kan, Wado-ryu, Chitsoe-ryu and others. Many of these styles are currently taught in the United States and are often modified into styles more suitable to American methods of self defense. Thus the art of karate is constantly undergoing improvement and revision.
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