Volume 5, Issue 5 | November 2018 ISSN: 2395-2547

Inside the Box

Karate- The Way of Empty Hands
- Parthapratim Goswami
Origin and its modification
Karate, the Japanese word for “empty hands,” is one of the forms of the most popular martial arts, born in the Okinawan Islands as a form of self-defense. It began as a fighting style used by the natives of the Ryukyu Islands, and was later influenced by Chinese ‘Kung Fu’. Because of increasing Japanese influence, the label of ‘te’ (means hand) was eventually lengthened to ‘karate-jutsu’ (Chinese hand art). It then changed to ‘karate-do’ after an Okinawan master altered the meaning of the word ‘kara’ (also pronounced ‘tode’) to mean “empty” rather than “Chinese hand.” karate-do translates into “the way of the empty hand.
Very little is known of the exact origins of karate before it appeared in Okinawa, but one popular theory states that it came from India over a thousand years ago, brought to China by a Buddhist monk called Bodhidarma (“daruma” in Japanese). As legend describes it, Bodhidarma arrived in Shaolinsi and began teaching Zen Buddhism as well, a style of temple boxing based on exercises designed to strengthen the mind and body.
The terminology of Karate while enlisted never ends, but some of the basics of them are
Sensei ( Chief Instructor at karate school )
Dojo ( Training hall of karate )
Honbu Dojo (Main Dojo )
Sempai ( Student of a higher rank; big brother)
Cohai (Student with lower ranks)
Shomen Ni rei (Bow in front (Past))
Sensei Ni rei (Bow towards the teacher (present))
Otagani Ni rei (Bow towards everyone (future))
Different Styles of Karate
Today, karate-do is taught all across the globe, and though it is often modified and always changing, four distinctive Japanese styles have emerged:
The word RYU (Japanese) stands for ‘style’. Apart from these four globally recognized styles, there are certain other widely popular styles like Kyokushin, Uechi-Ryu, Isshin-Ryu, Shorin-Ryu in karate and Shaolin-Kempo-Karate which is a hybrid martial art that combines karate, kempo and Shaolin into one art.
Significant Historical Figures
Gichin Funakoshi:  Founder of Shotokan.
Dr. Jano Kano:  Founder of Japanese judo.
Sakukawa Kanga: One of the first Okinawans to study in China.
Itosu Anko: Often called the “grandfather of karate” brought karate to Okinawan schools and simplified it for increased public acceptance.
Chojun Miyagi: Founder of the Gōjū-ryū style.
Hironori Otsuka: Founder of the Wadō-ryū style.
Kenwa Mabuni: Founder of the Shitō-ryū style.
Karate Practice
Karate can be practiced as an art (budo), self-defense or as a combat-sport. Traditional karate places emphasis on self-development. Modern Japanese style training emphasizes the psychological elements incorporated into a proper kokoro (attitude) such as perseverance, fearlessness, virtue, and leadership skills. Sport karate places emphasis on exercise and competition. Weapons are an important training activity in some styles of karate.
Karate training is commonly divided into three categories
Kihon (basics or fundamentals)
Kata (forms)
Kumite (sparring)
Kihon (基本, きほん) means basics and these form the base for everything else in the style including stances, strikes, punches, kicks and blocks. Karate styles place varying importance on kihon. Typically this is training in unison of a technique or a combination of techniques by a group of karateka. Kihon may also be prearranged drills in smaller groups or in pairs.
Kata (:かた) means literally "shape" or "model." Kata is a formalized sequence of movements which represent various offensive and defensive postures. These postures are based on idealized combat applications. The applications when applied in a demonstration with real opponents is referred to as a Bunkai. The Bunkai shows how every stance and movement is used. Bunkai is a useful tool to understand a kata. To attain a formal rank the karateka must demonstrate the competent performance of specifically required kata for that level. The Japanese terminology for grades or ranks is commonly used. Requirements for examinations vary among schools.
Kumite (組手:くみて) Sparring in Karate is called kumite. It literally means "meeting of hands." Kumite is practiced both as a sport and as self-defense training. Levels of physical contact during sparring vary considerably. Full contact karate has several variants. 
When a karateka reaches a certain level of barehanded practice & gets a satisfactory level of control over his body then he is introduced to weaponized practices so that the influence of the art extends beyond his physical body. Some of the most popular weapons used in karate & other forms of martial arts are listed below…
Bo Staff – Staff
Jo – Japanese short staff
Jutte or Jitte – Japanese weapon similar to the Sai
Katana – Japanese sword
Nunchaku – Also known as Nunchucks
Sai – Three pronged weapon
Tonfa – Two baton-like weapons
Karate as a Sport
The World Karate Fedaration (WKF) is the largest sport karate organization and is recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as being responsible for karate competition in the Olympic Games. The WKF has developed common rules governing all styles. The national WKF organizations coordinate with their respective National Olympic Committees.
WKF karate competition has two disciplines: sparring (kumite) and forms (kata). Competitors may enter either as individuals or as part of a team. Evaluation for kata and kobudō (“old martial way of Okinawa") is performed by a panel of judges, whereas sparring is judged by a head referee, usually with assistant referees at the side of the sparring area. Sparring matches are typically divided by weight, age, gender, and experience.
WKF only allows membership through one national organization/federation per country to which clubs may join. The World Union of Karate-do Federations (WUKF) offers different styles and federations a world body they may join, without having to compromise their style or size. The WUKF accepts more than one federation or association per country.
It gives all the karate lovers immense pleasure that Karate is going to make its debut appearance at the Summer Olympics in 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. Olympic karate will feature two events, Kumite and Kata. Sixty competitors from around the world will compete in the Kumite competition and twenty will compete in the Kata competition. Both divisions of the competition will be split 50/50 between men and women.
From the above discussion, it sums up that as a sports karate is played all over the world in some way or the other. All of these may be enlisted in a general manner as shown in the picture with this article.
Here, I would like to carify that the full contact competitions are also known as ‘Orthodox karate’, ‘Traditional Karate’ means a particular style in karate practices. In the open challenges, karate schools from different styles can participate where no invitation is sent particularly to any of the styles. If the organizing body sends an invitation to the clubs & schools of a specific style, then the competition is called invitational competition. The rules of the competitions may vary as per the convenience of the specific organizing committee and events.
Karate in India and Assam
Karate had grown in popularity in India in 1970s and 1980s, with many dojos first established in major cities, which eventually spread across every nook and corner of the country. Karate Association of India (KAI) is the nationally recognized body for governing karate in India. The governing bodies of each state for different styles are affiliated to KAI.
In Assam the main governing body is United Karate-Do Association, Assam - UKAA which organizes the various competitions around the state. The steps of competitions is in a very structured way comprising of both kata & kumite events in various categories. It follows as
District Karate Championship
Zonal Karate Championship
State Karate  Championship
National Karate Championship
International Karate Championship
The karateka who plays these recognized form of games is known as a ‘Sporting Karateka’.
Grading In Karate
There are different levels or grades assigned to a karateka (the one who practices karate) and with each grade, a colour belt up gradation is associated. It starts with 10th KYU (White belt) and goes till 1st KYU (Black Belt 1st DAN). Then the DAN grades follow till 10th DAN. For each KYU certain Kihon, Kata & Kumite technique is required to be performed in the grading tests.
In the above discussion, the focus has been given on providing just the overview of the martial art ‘Karate’ as per the best of my knowledge. Practicing karate shows a karateka the way of exploring the limitless possibilities of his physical strength & mind power, Imagination and rational thinking. It’s not just an art or practice, it’s undoubtedly a way of life and a path that he/she follows till the end ends.
“Karate may be referred to as the conflict within yourself, or a life-long marathon which can be won only through self-discipline, hard training, and your own creative efforts.” – Shoshin Nagamine (founder of Matsubayashi-ryu Karate)

Partha Pratim Goswami is currently pursuing his B. Tech in Electronics and Communication Engineering at NIT Silchar. He is fond of reading and writing poems and short prose. He has been regularly writing on Poemhunter.