What Is Karate?
The literal translation of karate is "empty hand". "Kara" is empty and "te" is hand. On the surface, karate is a martial art employing the use of the body, without the aid of weapons or tools, for the purpose of striking, blocking, or otherwise hitting a target using various parts of the body including the hands and feet. It is viewed as an art of self defence, physical exercise and as a fighting method.
We practise Shotokan karate—the oldest and most traditional form of the Japanese martial arts, which was founded by Master Gichin Funakoshi. Originally developed in China under various forms of martial arts, modern day karate is attributed to Master Funakoshi in Japan where it was first introduced in 1921.
Karate is a life long training, in and outside the dojo. The physical training includes the practice of kihon (fundamental techniques of stances, blocks, strikes, kicks and punches), kata (series of karate techniques forms in a preset pattern) and kumite (sparring or training methods to apply karate techniques ). Essential to the practice of karate is control of technique which means a strike, punch or kick is held about 3 centimetres from the target but applying maximum power to the technique. Each technique requires speed, power, timing, rhythm, proper expansion and contraction of the muscles, connection of the hips and body parts which ultimately results in focus (kime).
Training without development of one's character and spirit results in an imbalance. The goal of Karate is the pursuit of perfection of character. The symbol for "kara" should not be construed strictly with "te". "Kara" originally meant "Chinese". Master Funakoshi changed the symbol to the Japanese ideogram of "kara" meaning "emptiness". The empty in this context is the development of character and mind. In fact the mind becomes clear or "empty" through proper karate training. The emptiness concept of “kara” attaches the emptiness of mind or “mushin”, empty and clear mind. We train to clear our minds of fear, stress, nervousness and thoughts that clutter our thinking and ability to react quickly to an attacker. The concept can be applied to our everyday lives, in work or studies. A clear mind means that a karateka must be humble, gentle, unselfish and above all be courteous. Through a clear mind, one learns self control, dedication and determination. "Mushin" is the logo of the ISKF Nova Scotia and depicted on our home page.
Therefore karate is more than winning a competition, defeating an opponent or obtaining a black belt. Indeed, it is a part of life itself for which those pursue it as part of one's path in life will find spiritual development and perfection of character. Karate-dō is the unity of mind and body ("ken san ichi"). To achieve the perfection of character, however, it is necessary to train hard and regularly but over time the body ages and physical development is diminished. Development of the spirit and character is boundless and without limit.
Members of our club have worked to prepare a video introduction to karate that may be helpful to many. We invite you watch it below.