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Vad is karate?

Text by Shingo Ohgami

© Swedish Karatedo Wadokai

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Karate is a martial art which has been developed in the southern island of Japan, Okinawa. The art was probably in Okinawa called 'Te' (hand, technique) or 'To-dei' (To=Tang=China, dei=te=hand, technique). But the letter 'To' can be read 'Kara' in Japanese. Around 1922 'To-dei' has become 'Karate', still meaning 'Chinese technique'.
In 1928 Funakoshi Gichin changed the letter 'Kara' from 'Chinese' to 'Empty', influenced by the idea of emptiness in Zen-buddhism.
To hit or to kick is nothing new for human being. In the ancient Greece they started the Olympic Games. In the program, there were boxing, wrestling and pancration. In pancration, punches and kicks were used. But the unique thing with Karate is the aspect of how to live.

'Kara' should be understood as 'emptiness in mind'.
'Te' is hand, but means more likely 'technique'.

For more details about history of Karate, may I recommend you to read my article series in 'Svenska Fighter' (written in Swedish).

Karate can be trained for various purposes by various kind of people, young or old, men or women:

Karate as physical fitness exercise

In Karate, all parts of the human body are involved, originally in order to win a combat (symbolically). To move all parts of your body is basic for physical fitness exercise.

Karate as self-defence

Movements in Karate are based on techniques in combat. Therefor, you are automatically training self-defence when you are training Karate.

Karate as sport

Competition is one way promote our activities. In Karate there are competitions in both Kumite (fighting) and Kata (form). Everybody can enjoy this part of Karate.

Karate as 'do' (A Way of Life)

By training Karate we try to gain not only physical health, but also mental development. It is a final purpose for all of us in the world to reach a stage of happy living. We have chosen Karate as our method to achieve this. Karate should be trained in order to gain both physical health and satisfaction of life. May I again recommend you to read a book: 'Introduktion till Budo' (originally in Japanese by Nakabayashi Shinji, translated to Swedish by Shingo Ohgami).

Karate for everybody
If you train correct, Karate is good for everyone, young or old, men or women, and even for disabled people.

svenskav Shingo Ohgami).

Karate för alla

Om man tränar på rätt sätt är Karate bra för alla utövare. Även de som är kroppsligt handikappade kan njuta av Karateträning.

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