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What is Karate?

The literal translation of the word Karate means "empty hands." This refers to the fact that Karate originated as a system of unarmed self-defense using only the hands, feet, and body of the practitioner. This is a system of basic techniques that block or evade an attack and then counter attacking the opponent by punching, kicking, striking or any combination thereof.

Empty handed fighting was brought from India to Canton, China, during the Liang Dynasty by a Buddhist Monk named Daruma Taishi. There he originated a meditative sect of Zen and introduced empty handed fighting about 525 A D.

About 300 years ago, the Satsuma clan of Kyushu banded all weapons in Okinawa. This caused a form of empty handed fighting called Okinawa-te to undergo development.

The man most responsible for the systemization of Karate as we know it today was Gichin Funakoshi. He was born in Shuri, Okinawa in 1869, and began the study of Karate (then known as Okinawa-te) at the age of eleven. He trained under Senseis' Azato and Itosu, the two top masters of the art at that time. In time he became a Karate expert in his own right. He is credited with being the first man to introduce Karate to Japan proper. He gave exhibitions in 1917 and 1922 at physical education expositions sponsored by the Ministry of Education.

The art of Karate soon caught on in Japan and Funakoshi traveled throughout the country giving lectures and demonstrations. The main universities invited him to help set up Karate teams, and hundreds of people studied the art under his guidance. In 1957, Master Funakoshi, the father of modern Karate, passed away at the advanced age of 88. Thousands of students were left to carry on his spirit in Karate. Funakoshi was also a poet under the pen name "Shoto," meaning pine trees in the sand. The style of Karate he taught then became known as "Shotokan style Karate."

Mr. Tomasaburo Okano, a devout student of Mr. Funakoshi, opened a school of Shotokan Karate under the guidance of Mr. Funakoshi and his son. Later, Mr. Okano became head of the "Kenkojuku" Karate Association, which means "Strength with Modesty."