About Karate

The term “Karate” is comprised of the Chinese characters “KARA” 空 meaning empty and “TE” 手 meaning hand (Sahota, 1997). Empty hand techniques utilise the student’s body as a controlled weapon to only be used in self-defence and the defence of others (Hisataka, 1995, Sahota, 1997). With an element of uncertainty in its origin due to centuries of secrecy (Marshall, [no date]), it is often assumed to be a Japanese art.

However, the Karate that is commonly used today had a variety of influences. Developed over centuries and taking certain teachings from the Chinese martial arts it was practically unknown outside of Okinawa before Funakoshi introduced it to mainland Japan (Marshall, [no date], Egami, 1976). Okinawan Karate was originally named Chinese Hand, or Tode which did not bode well with Japanese authorities looking at introducing it as a national sport. It was with this political stance that it was re-named Karate which is what we know it as today (Enkamp, 2017).

The core component of Karate is Karate-Do, with “do” 道 simply meaning “the way” or “the path”  (Egami, 1976), more often referred to as way of life. This is the philosophy of the art, the purpose of which is to help each person who studies it develop into a more rounded human being (Hisataka, 1995). Shotokan Karate, the do side upon which this syllabus is based, originates from Gichin Funakoshi who is labelled the father of modern day Karate (Sahota, 1997). Shotokan was literally named after Funakoshi, being combined of the words “Shoto” 松濤 and “kan” 館. Shoto means waving pines and was Funakoshi’s pen name. Kan simply means house or school. The first Karate school opened by Funakoshi was known as Shoto’s Kan (Shoto’s school), which we now name Shotokan (Egami, 1976).

Over years of development and mis-interpretation, Karate has also become a combat sport where people are concerned with winning matches  (Egami, 1976). This type of Karate differs from what it initially was, where the focus was on kata and not on fighting, the constant repetition of kata was seen to prepare the body and the mind for conflict should it ever be unfortunate enough to become reality (Japanology Plus, 2017). Fighting in the ring also differs from Karate-Justu. “Jutsu” 術 refers to the combat side of the art; the techniques used which are applied to combat in real life situations (Egami, 1976). Karate in the ring is not applicable to real life scenarios and is more suited by being referred to as “Competition Karate” such as referred to by the World Karate Federation. Through our club we practice a combination of Karate-Do and Karate-Jutsu which we feel is the perfect combination!


Enkamp, J. (2017). Karate Nerd In Okinawa | Season 1 (EP. 4) – Jesse Enkamp. [online]. Accessed via:https://youtu.be/gkW5slo8Psw

Egami, S. (1976). The Way of Karate: Beyond Technique. Ward Lock Limited, London

Hisataka, M.K. (1995). Scientific Karate Do. Tuttle Publishing, Singapore

Japanology Plus. (2017). Okinawan Karate. Accessed via: https://youtu.be/resYkuq2gdk

Marshall, S. [no date]. The origins of Karate. [online]. The Culture Trip, Japan

Sahota, G. (1997). The Advanced Shotokan Karate Handbook. Sahota Publishing, Bedford



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