Facts You May or May Not Know About Karate
Karate Dojos in Action
The Facts about Karate
There is a commonly-held belief among many people that Karate, the art of personal combat, had its origins in Japan. That’s simply not true. In fact, Karate originated a few hundred nautical miles away from the Japanese mainland in the Ryuku Islands, known at the time as the “Ryuku
Kingdom,” but now referred to as Okinawa.
Karate is a striking art that uses punching, kicking, knee and elbow strikes, as well as open-handed hitting techniques called “knife-hands” and more, including grappling, locks, restraints, throws and, perhaps most importantly, vital point strikes that can be lethal.
Karate is Born
This world-famous Martial Art was actually developed over time, beginning hundreds of years ago, from indigenous fighting methods that were called The (which literally means “hand”) and the Chinese fighting style known as “kenpo.”
Karate first appeared in Japan in the early 20th century, soon after the Japanese annexation of Okinawa. Its popularity ballooned almost overnight and, before long, it was being taught at a single Japanese university. By 1932, not long after its initial introduction to the Japanese people, Karate was being taught in dojos (training halls) in all Japanese colleges and universities.
The reason for that may have more to do with the ruling party at that time and less to do with the infatuation for the fighting art held by ordinary Japanese citizens. Japanese militarism was rampant in the 1920s and 1930s and personal combat techniques, such as Karate, were heavily promoted by the government as something noble and worthwhile.
Continuous propaganda for the “new” sport eventually helped it to become popular with millions of Japanese men and women … and children, as well. That “overnight” popularity has never waned … even to this day.
The truth is quite the opposite. In the 1970s, Hong Kong filmmakers began distributing “kung fu” movies that glamorized the Martial Arts and made the personal combat technique of Karate world-famous. It became a household word and dojos (training halls) quickly appeared in cities and towns in countries all over the world.
Karate vs Drunken Kung Fu
Karate Spreads in Popularity
The Martial Arts, particularly Karate, became a global phenomenon. When Hollywood studios followed Hong Kong and began adding their dramatic and action-filled entries to this new film genre, Karate became even more popular. In fact, dojos dotted the American landscape. They were everywhere (that is still true today) and new students, from the very young to women of all ages (interested primarily in self defense) to retired baby boomers were soon “kicking the air” and practicing “knife hands” in nightly classes as their instructors watched intently.
Today, nearly 40 years after global superstar Bruce Lee last stepped on a movie sound stage to both popularize and glamorize Martial Arts Karate remains remarkably in vogue with practitioners in every part of the world. In fact, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated that there are currently 23 million people involved in Karate. That is a lot of people and there is every reason to believe that the number of practitioners (known as karatekas) will continue to increase in the years ahead.
Those people who are involved in Karate today, that is, people who are receiving instruction in dojos everywhere tend to attend these “schools” for a number of reasons, some of which you are likely to find interesting.
Many of today’s students extend themselves physically and mentally to learn Karate because of an interest they have in self-perfection. Their belief is that Karate improves and elevates them as individuals. Others learn Karate for a more practical reason – self-defense. Women want – and need – to feel safe. Knowledge of Karate provides the self-confidence they require to live their lives fearlessly.
Some current students push themselves to learn Karate for cultural reasons. Perhaps for this group it is a sign of honor to learn the art of self-defense. Of course, there are many who attend dojos because they think of Karate as a sport and harbor hopes of competing professionally in Karate competitions that take place around the world.
Interestingly and perhaps importantly, as well, many view Karate as a deeply philosophical practice that can nurture their sense of well-being. These people believe that Karate teaches ethical principles that are useful in life and that this combat technique – a Martial Art – can have spiritual significance to those who are truly and totally committed.
And, while Karate is considered a sport by millions and millions of people and has long been considered as a possible addition to the Summer Olympic Games, it has never garnered quite enough support to actually be included in this world sporting event.
Perhaps as Karate continues to grow in popularity … as more and more dojos spring up in small towns and big cities everywhere … as new fans are developed in the United States and elsewhere, members of the International Olympic Organizing Committee will recognize its importance and add it to the roster of sports that comprise the Summer Games.