The word "Karate" (pronounced kah-rah-tay) comes from two Japanese characters: "kara" meaning empty, and "te" meaning hand; thus, Karate means empty hand.  The term "Do", (pronounced dough) means way, so when put together, Karate-Do means "empty hand way" or "The way of the empty hand".  This refers to the art as being a weaponless form of self-defense. 

Unfortunately, most people believe karate, and the martial arts in general, are about being violent or macho, when in fact, true karate, true martial arts are about self-control, being humble, yet strong, and striving to avoid unnecessary confrontations.

Traditional Japanese karate is a martial art which seeks to unite the whole person, mind and body, in a motion-efficient and healthful manner. Real application self-defense, not sport fighting, is emphasized.  Correct body alignment and form, breathing and energy management, posture and correct muscle usage are studied exhaustively in an effort to help each student, regardless of size, develop and maintain a calm, focused mind and produce the strongest, fastest and most powerful technique possible.  Because correct body dynamics and mechanics are stressed, a student can, and many do, study and practice the art well into their 70's or even 80's. 

Traditional Japanese empty-hand arts are unique in their desire to achieve 'todome waza' or finishing blow technique.  This is technique, a kick, punch, strike or even a block, which is sufficient to stop an attacker with a single blow.  While this is not an easy endeavor, it is part of a worthy goal that requires many years of diligent training to attain.

Finally, though not widely understood, self-defense is actually the secondary goal of the art while the primary goal is the "perfection of the character of those who study" (Gichen Funakoshi, founder).  The tough training, along with frequent 'think about it' moments, helps students to look inside, learn more about themselves and develop the means to understand and to overcome their own fears, limitations and insecurities.

Copyright 2011 Eric D. Banks

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