The word “karate” is formed from the Japanese words “kara”, meaning empty, and “te”, meaning hand. It has its roots in the fighting styles of southern China as they developed in Okinawa, a trading island located between China and mainland Japan. Modern karate was created in the early 20th century through a blend of this unarmed combat style with the Japanese martial philosophy of “budo”.
This combination of training the body and mind together – fitness for one, peace for the other; self-control over both – has proved very popular. It was introduced across the university level education system in Japan in the 1920’s and began to spread internationally in the 1950’s, helped by the large US presence in Okinawa following the Second World War and popularity of martial arts movies in the 1960’s and 70’s. Today, perhaps as many as 100 million people around the world practise karate.
As physical exercise karate increases strength, power, flexibility and coordination. It provides a low impact overall body workout. As a mental exercise, it promotes mindfulness; with an aim to having a clear mind, free from distractions and with a focus on the present. Many students practise karate for relaxation and stress management as well as for the physical exercise and training.
The philosophy of karate has been described as “inwardly humble and outwardly gentle”. Students are required to listen and be receptive to criticism during training, show respect to instructors and others and never to misuse the fighting skills they have learned.
Karate is universally recognised as one of the most comprehensive of all the martial arts and is ideally suited to combat the stresses and sedentary nature of modern living.
Karate for Children
Karate is fun! Lessons are dynamic, changing from bursts of physical movement to times of quiet attention or contemplation. For those wishing to compete, karate can be treated as a sport with an extensive programme of competitions and rankings to test and recognise the development of skills.
Because of the nature of training, children learn skills such as following directions, paying attention in class and striving to be better by focusing on constant, small improvements in their own performance. They are rarely judged against others. Accomplishing goals as they progress individually at their own pace, children become more self-confident; a strength they can use in all aspects of their life.
Karate training helps develop hand and eye coordination and motor skills, and is good physical exercise. Parents and teachers often report that children are more focused and attentive during their daily activities at home and at school after starting karate. Personal self-discipline and respect for others is practised in training and provides an excellent foundation in life for any young person.