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The ‘Way’ of karate (KarateDo) is one of Japan’s most famous martial arts. It is an art of self-defense that, for the most part, uses no weapons, hence the meaning of karate---‘empty hand’. There are three main categories of techniques: strikes with the arm (Uchi); thrusts (Tsuki); and Kicks (Keri). There are also a number of blocks (Uke) to parry the opponent’s attacks.

KarateDo places emphasis on courtesy and moral development, and can facilitate these vital aspects of children’s education through active physical participation. Rigorous training enables practitioners of KarateDo to control their emotions, and to sympathize with pain and anguish of other people.

Karatekas (karate practitioners) are taught the importance of never hurting other people, and to be respectful of opponents and training partners. This respect ideally extends beyond the confines of the dojo (practice hall) and match court. Practitioners also learn perseverance, and the importance of making efforts to improve their immediate surrounds. A concern and appreciation for others and sense of responsibility to society, are fundamental to KarateDo’s ultimate goal of self-perfection.

To this purpose, the role of the instructor is indispensible, and his or her responsibilities vast. Students are taught about the value of life itself through stringent training. The instructor, although firm, must also exhibit the virtuous qualities of thoughtfulness to the needs of others, and be upstanding in posture and disposition, providing a model for emulation. This is the “Way” of karate.


Although it is widely acknowledged that KarateDo developed from fighting systems originating in China, there are few documents in existence that can verify the exact process. In 1392, over five hundred Chinese emigrated from Fujian to the Okinawan city of Naha and established a community in the area known as Kume. They introduced Chinese culture to the Ryukyu people, and it is believed that a number of experts in traditional Chinese hand-to-hand combat were also in the community. Much later on, the Qing Dynasty military envoy, Kusanku, said to have been an expert in the martial art of Ch’uan Fa, introduced it to Okinawa when he was sent there around 1756.

When Shimazu Iehisa of the Satsuma clan invaded the islands in 1609, all weapons were confiscated from the local populace. Ryukyu was still allowed to maintain its tributary relationship with China, but the prohibition on weapons was strictly enforced for the next 250 years. The study and training of hand-to-hand combat was conducted secretly, as the Satsuma authorities intensified their policies of disarmament and control.

There are many theories surrounding the roots of the term “karate”. It is unclear who first used the word, and when. However, the ancient Ryukyuan fighting system was originally referred to as “te”, and the standard assumption is the appellation “kara-te” refers to the martial techniques learned from China (kara = China).

Whatever the case, it is clear that karate evolved in Okinawa with significant Chinese cultural influence. Over time, the highly esoteric and once secret techniques became widespread throughout Okinawa. By 1904, public demonstrations were commonplace in Naha and other localities. In April 1905, Itosu Anko introduced karate into the school curriculum in Okinawa teaching seven forms from Okinawan ‘te’: Gojushiho, Chinto, Kushanku-dai, Kushanku-sho, Bassai-dai, Bassai-sho, Naifanchi Shodan; and also seven forms which he created ( Heian Shodan-Godan, Naifanchi Nidan/Sandan), making fourteen in total.

The main karate regions in Okinawa were Naha and Shuri, and accordingly the foremost methods are called “Naha-te” and “Shuri-te”. Another style known as “Tomari-te” closely resembles Shuri-te, and is usually classified within the latter group. Higaonna Kanryo and Miyagi Chojun made Naha-te popular. Shuri-te was popular with the upper-echelons of Okinawa society, and was taught to the royal family by Matsumura Sokon and Itosu Anko. In the Tomari-te line, Matsumura Kosaku and Motobu Choki were particularly active.

Apart from these well-known masters, many others created what would become over one-hundred different schools of karate in Okinawa and mainland Japan. Among them, Shotokan, Goju-ryu, Shito-ryu, and Wado-ryu are the most successful in terms of the number of students and popularity. These are referred to as the “Great Four” schools of KarateDo.

Karate was first seen on mainland Japan in 1916-1917, when Funakoshi Gichin gave a public demonstration at the Butokuden in Kyoto where it was introduced as Ryukyu karate-jutsu. In 1922, the Ministry of Education conducted the first Physical Education Exposition in Tokyo to which Funakoshi was invited to demonstrate the Kushanku-no-Kata. Kano Jogoro requested that he demonstrate kata and kumite to Kodokan students. Funakoshi remained in Tokyo to teach karate from then on.

Further details of Master Funakoshi Gichin made available on our Head Quarter website:


When the Olympic Games were held in Tokyo in 1964, the four main schools, and smaller karate groups decided to amalgamate into a national federation. The Japan KarateDo Federation (JKF) was inaugurated in 1964. It was granted permission by the Ministry of Education to become a foundation in 1969, and came to serve as Japan’s sole national governing body for KarateDo. In 1972, the JKF affiliated with Japan Sports Association (JASA), and became as event in the prestigious National Sports Meet (Kokutai) from 1976.

The international karate population is even more difficult to gauge. Following Japan’s defeat in the Second World War, American military personnel stationed in Okinawa took an interest in the traditional Okinawan hand-to-hand combat system. Their enthusiasm pled to the first steps in the international spread of KarateDo in the modern post-war era.

There were earlier attempts to establish KarateDo outside Japan. Pioneers such as Yabu Kentsu went to Hawaii and Los Angeles in 1927 to teach, and Miyagi Chojun taught in Hawaii in 1932. However, KarateDo only became firmly rooted in the United States with the return of American servicemen who had trained in Okinawa.

With the establishment of individual clubs and organizations around the world, Japan started to receive requests for trained instructors with increasing frequency. The following summary is by no means a comprehensive record of the many Japanese karate instructors who travelled overseas, but provides a basic historical outline of the formative years of karate’s international dissemination.




Yabu Kentsu (1868-1951) visits Los Angeles and introduces Shuri-te karate-jutsu.


Miyagi Chojun (1888-1953) teaches Goju-ryu karate in Hawaii.




After the war, over one-hundred instructors travel overseas to contribute to karate’s international spread.


Oshima Tsutomu (1930- ) graduate of Waseda University (Shotokan-ryu) travels to the United States in the first group to be dispatched overseas. He is instrumental in forming the United State’s first collegiate karate club at the California Institute of Technology, and the Southern California Karate Association. Since 1964, he has travelled extensively throughout Europe and Africa to teach karate, and assist in establishing clubs. Takamatsu Koji (1931- ) graduate of Tokyo University of Agriculture (Wado-ryu) travels to Brazil around 1955 or 1956 and begin teaching karate.


Mikami Takayuki (1933- ) graduate of Hosei university (Shotokan-ryu) travels to the Philippines to instruct.


Ajari Yoshiaki (1933- ) graduate of Meiji University (Wado-ryu) attends University of California Berkley for study, and begins teaching there.


Murata Nobuyoshi (1932-2005) graduate of Osaka university of Foreign Languages (Shito-ryu) travels to Mexico to teach.


Yamaguchi Gogen (1909-1989), a graduate of Ritsumeikan University (Goju-ryu) and Okazaki Teruyuki, graduate of Takushoku University (Shotokan-ryu) , both travel to the United states to instruct, Kanazawa Hirokazu, graduate of Takushoku University (Shotokan-ryu), also is sent to Hawaii


Nishiyama Hidetaka (1928- 2009), a graduate of Takushoku University (Shotokan-ryu), and Otsuka Hiroyuki (Soke of Wado-ryu) move to the United States.


Mabuni Ken’ei (1918- ), Soke of the Shito-ryu goes to Mexico to instruct.

By the end of the 1960s, most large cities around the world had karate dojo (training hall) with resident Japanese Instructors. As a by-product of this growth in the popularity of karate, an amusing but increasingly common misconception that arose was that all Japanese must be “karate experts”. In any case, these instructors and their students formed vast networks linking the various groups around the world. Before long, there was an obvious need of unified match rules, and an international organization to oversee the plethora of karate groups.

The international KarateDo movement culminated with the formation of the “World Union of KarateDo Organization” (WUKO). WUKO was created in Tokyo in October 1970, with the cooperation of organizations from 33 countries. Sasakawa Ryoichi was appointed as the first President. To coincide with this event, the first World KarateDo Championship was held at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo on October 10, 1970.

In 2008, there were 178 countries affiliated with the WKF, with an estimated 40 million members worldwide. In November 2008, the 19th World KarateDo Championship was conducted at the Nippon Budokan with 1200 competitors from 100 countries in attendance. The following table gives a brief overview of the recent history of karate’s international governing body.




World Union of KarateDo Organization (WUKO) is inaugurated.
1st World KarateDo Championship is held in Tokyo.


WUKO is affiliated with the General Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF).


Karate participates in the 1st GAISF world Games.


The 1st KarateDo World Cup is conducted. This tournament is held biannually until the 6th tournament in 1997. Subsequently, the World Junior & Cadet KarateDo Championships are started in 1999.


The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognizes WUKO.


WUKO becomes “World Karate Federation” (WKF).


The IOC recognizes the WKF.


Matsumura Sokon described karate as a way of “self-perfection born of techniques of killing”. He taught his philosophical ideals to Itosu Anko, who then promoted the positive qualities of karate in Okinawan schools. Itosu taught classes at the Okinawa Prefectural Normal School and the Dai-Ichi Middle School as a “way for developing the self”. Funakoshi Gichin also continued with this approach when called upon to teach at universities on the mainland.

He created a set of twenty dojo rules (dojo-kun) from which five articles were extracted and promoted as the fundamental concept of karate.

1) Seek perfection of character.
2) Be sincere.
3) Put maximum effort in everything you do.
4) Respect others.
5) Develop self-control.

This philosophy has remained central to JKA karate’s promotion since the formation of the JKA. The idea if training in karate as a way of developing the self, while maintaining respect for others and venerating harmony, are attributes that karate practitioners are encouraged to pursue throughout their lifelong study of the art.

As it is not always possible to train with a partner, individual practice methods were developed in the form of kata. Kata are prescribed sets of movements that employ thrusts (Tsuki), strikes (Uchi). Blocks (Uke), and kicks (Keri) in predetermined sequences. Almost all of kata start with an initial block in accordance with the precept, “There is no first attack in karate”.

By learning the basic movements thoroughly, and training in the imaginary combat scenarios, practitioners can than engage in actual fighting (kumite-keiko or shiai) with an opponent. The difference between this and kata training is that the opponent is actually moving. Sparring was devised as an exercise to master the skills required to prevail in the uncertainty of a real fight. This includes mental conditioning, courage, confidence to make decisions and concentration.

Kumite is a dangerous exercise, and although attacks are intentionally stopped just short of the target (sundome), both fighters compete vigorously to overcome each other with attacks and counter-attacks. Gaining experience in such intensive encounters serves to build up confidence, and contributes to the practitioner’s development as a person.

When two fighters face off from a safe distance (ma-ai), they need to assess the opponent’s strengths and weakness. They probe each other’s defense and look for the right instant to unleash an attack. This process of ascertaining the opponent’s vulnerabilities is crucial in the encounter, and each opponent presents different challenges. This idea is represented by the maxim, “know yourself first, then you can know others”.

The technical system of JKA KarateDo consists of the following:

1) Kihon-waza (fundamental techniques)
Kotei-Kihon (Stationery Basics), Ido-Kihon (Moving Basics).

2) Kata – Kihon-kata (basic);
Shitei-Kata (Standard); Shintei-Kata; Oyo-kata (applied).

3) Kumite – Bunkai or Yakusoku kumite (arranged sparring);
Jiyu-Ippon Kumite (Semi Free Sparing); Jiyu-Kumite (Free Sparring).


Formulating a Positive Self-image

Firstly, physical strength is developed through participating in daily practice. The student becomes capable of changing direction quickly, improves their sense of balance and develops his/her reflexes and the central nervous system through limb movements. They come to realize that being hit, thrown or kicked is not going to break them, and they can overcome such adversity, thereby contributing to an improved self-image.

A child’s world today is centered on the virtual reality of video games and the internet. They are often unable to distinguish between reality and fiction with regards to their true abilities, leaving them to go through life with many uncertainties. Through karate, they are able to get in touch with the “Self” using physical activity as the medium. They must assess the true extent of their improvement, and develop any capabilities they already possess. Children cannot make progress without first gaining a vivid perception of who they are, and ultimately learn to accept the Self.

By studying karate-do, children become aware of true self, form a realistic self-image, and learn to accomplish their goals based on a realistic self-assessment and self-confidence. In the present age, children are apt to have an exaggerated and unstable self-image. Training in karate-do brings the formation of a healthy and realistic sense of worth.

Acquisition of Human Understanding

In karate-do, children also learn to interact with other people. Rather than fighting imaginary opponents, as is the case with video games, they engage in direct physical contact with each other. They are able to hone their senses, and gauge the opponent’s strengths, weakness and condition. This helps them to develop skills for understanding others by means other than verbal communication. Modern children are comparatively inept at interpreting nonverbal cues. Through physical interaction in karate-do, children can directly experience what it is like to be on the receiving end of conflict, feel empathy for weaker or younger children, and learn the importance of being considerate.

The Teacher as a Model of Growth

I wonder how many children can remember the names of their past teachers. The weakening of bonds between children and their teachers is alarmingly rising in schools. Teachers do not have as much physical contact with students as they did in the past, and communication is usually conducted verbally.

Karate-do cannot be taught solely by verbal means. Teachers must act as models for their students to emulate, provide guidance and support as they watch over their student’s training, and use their own bodies to demonstrate lessons. The Sensei (teacher) and the Seito (student) have to work as a unified entity, and the children obviously will respect and appreciate their instructor’s efforts.

The state of a child’s physical and mental condition is manifest in each action they do in the dojo, and it is the sign of a skilled instructor to be able to identify them. The words, actions and attitude of the instructor affect the children. The messages that they receive in the dojo help them improve physically and, mentally, and plant seeds for future cultivation.

Meaningful Human Relation

Karate-do always begins and ends with a bow of courtesy and respect (rei). Simple actions such as greetings and various points of etiquette are underscored in the dojo (training hall), and matters of deportment and attitude take precedence over winning matches. Of course, winning is important, but of greater significance is the manner in which one wins, and one’s conduct after the match. Regardless of the result, once the match is over the competitor will bow to his/her opponent and quietly kneel down and observe the remaining matches with his/her teammates.

The relation with peers is not just one of rivalry. There is an understanding that each one is contributing to the other’s growth. Students of karate-do grow to admire their peer’s techniques, work hard together, and aspire to reach the same level as those who are more accomplished. These are the ideals of karate-do training and are representative of the strong bonds commonly seen in karate circles.

Strong Heart

To conquer difficulties one is faced with, it is crucial to view the issue rationally, and act accordingly without reacting in a brash or violent manner. In the case of karate-do, nobody starts out as a skilled exponent. Through the ongoing process of being thrown, struck, or parried the student learns how to persevere. Karate-do is a constant struggle to find ways of prevailing in adverse situations. Challenging experiences in the dojo help people to act judiciously in the course of their everyday lives, and with enduring confidence when faced with hardship.

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