What is Karate?
Karate is the ages old art of fighting that originated on the island of Okinawa. Karate as we know it today had its beginnings in the 13th and 14th century ad. The Okinawan people had a fighting method called "Te" (hand). Over time this "Te" became influenced by several Chinese fighting methods brought to Okinawa by Chinese merchants and military envoys that had business or diplomatic missions on Okinawa. Okinawa is half way between Taiwan and the southern tip of Japan and was a major trading point between China and Japan. "Te" eventually became known as "Karate" which means "empty hand". The particular kind of Okinawan Karate taught at Zingg's is called Tozan-ryu, which means "Strong Mountain Style". Tozan-ryu is a sub-system of the major karate system on Okinawa called Shorin-ryu, which in turn is derived from the Shaolin Temple style (Young Forrest) of Chinese fighting. It is most often referred to by its informal name of "Shindokan", which means "True Way school".
The literal meaning of the two Japanese characters that make up the word "KARATE" is empty hands. This, of course, refers simply to the fact that Karate originated as a system of selfdefense that relied on the effective use of the unarmed body of its practitioners.
This system consisted of techniques of blocking or thwarting an attack and counter-attacking the opponent by punching, striking, kicking, throwing, pressure points and joint locking.
The modern art of Karate was developed out of a more thorough organization and rationalization of these techniques. The three branches of present day Karate: as a physical art, as a sport, and as selfdefense, are based on the use of these same fundamental techniques.
Karate as a means of selfdefense has the oldest history going back hundreds of years. It is only in recent years that the techniques which have been handed down were scientifically studied and principles evolved for making the most effective use of the various movements of the body. Training based on these principles and knowledge of the working of the muscles and joints and the vital relationship between movement and balance enable the modern student of Karate to be prepared, both physically and psychologically, against any wouldbe assailant. Many of the so-called "modern" martial arts taught to military and law-enforcement have their true origins in Karate and other martial arts.
As a physical art, Karate is almost without equal. Since it is highly dynamic and makes balanced use of a large number of body muscles, it provides excellent allaround exercise, and develops coordination and agility. Men, women, and children practice karate as a means of staying in shape and developing their coordination to aid other sports, as well as the inherent self-defense techniques gained. Many youth organizations and schools are promoting it as a physical art among their students since there is a strong emphasis in Karate good character development, sportsmanship, respect, self-control, and the leadership skills student develop over time.
As a sport, Karate has a relatively short history. However, contest rules have been devised, and tournaments of all sizes, types, and styles are held all over the United States all year long. There are many organizations devoted solely to promoting tournaments and each have their own particular set of rules. All one has to do is find an organization that meets their needs for competition and their prefered rules and there will probably be tournaments within a reasonable distance from their homes several times a year. Because of the speed and variety of its techniques and the splitsecond timing it calls for, many athletic minded people have come to show an interest in competitive Karate, and there is every indication that it will continue to grow in popularity.
You may be interested to know that Zingg's Karate Center and The American Kempo-Karate Association emphasize the character building aspect of the Martial Arts, in which respect for one's opponent or sportsmanship, is the cardinal principle; along with sound self-defense.
The maxims which we teach to our students can be summarized in the following five words:
1. PERSONAL CHARACTER
Short History of Okinawan Karate
Although the basic forms of Individual SelfDefense are probably as old as the human race, the art of Karate as it is practiced today can be traced directly to Okinawan techniques.
Okinawa is the main island of the Ryukyu Islands chain, located in the East China Sea. In 1349 there began a period of rapid development.
It is at this point that Martial Arts from other countries first made major inroads. It is also probable that Chinese emptyhands fighting methods were introduced to Okinawa, also called "Nanchu" in the native Okinawan language of Hogan. Around 1470, private ownership of arms was restricted and swords were no longer permitted as personal equipment. All weapons were stored in government warehouses. The effect of this ban on weapons was the stimulation of emptyhands fighting methods. Combat methods were studied and practiced clandestinely. Gradually, styles became known as "te", meaning hand.
The "te" developed at the old capital Shuri and was called "Shuri-te" received the strongest influence from the External System (brought in from other countries) and, accordingly, was primarily offensive. It can be seen in the Shorin-ryu systems of today. The "te" developed in the new capital of Naha was called "Naha-te" and was a very strong system. The modern system of Goju-ryu came from this system.
From 1890 to 1940, Okinawa underwent complete assimilation by Japan. As Okinawan skills increased, competitions were conducted with teams from Japan. Impressed, the Japanese government authorized the inclusion of te as physical education in Okinawan schools.
The Okinawans chose the name "KarateJutsu" to replace the word "te". The ideogram for "kara" was chosen because it represented the T'ang dynasty, from which the basic ideas for the development of "te" had come, "jutsu" refered to the combat application of the techniques. So the ideogram was known as China-hand, later, as relations with China deterioated, the name became refered to as Empty-hand, which carried the same characters and pronunciation as before but used and alternate meaning of the "kara" symbol.
"Karate" was now the name used to refer to this unique fighting system that developed on Okinawa and spread to Japan and from there to the rest of the world. When refering to the formal art form it is called "Karate-do", "do" meaning the "way" or "path" in life. If you were refering to the combat applications of the art is was called "Karate-jutsu", "jutsu" meaning "warrior art" or "fighting method".