Karate is a system of unarmed defensive and offensive techniques. The

word Karatemeans empty handsin Japanese. Karate is one of

many martial arts whose defensive and offensive techniques are

performed without knives, swords or other weapons. The basic

techniques of Karate are punching, blocking, striking and kicking.

Each of thesebasic techniques has many variations, depending on

the situation and the persons involved.


Legend has it that early forms of unarmed defense were developed

by Buddhist monks in their journeys from India to China during

the third century B.C. Their beliefs prohibited them from using

weapons to defend themselves. But the roads and trails were full of

dangers from highwaymen and other thieves and murderers. As a

consequence, the monks developed different ways of defending

themselves without using weapons. By the time they reached

China, they had perfected secret and mysterious forms of unarmed

defense, and were believed by many to be masters of magical

powers and utterly invincible. The Shaolin fighting techniques are

thought to have been created by the first of these wandering

Buddhists. Even today, a popular syndicated television show

continues the legends of the Shaolin priests and their mysterious

powers.  As word of these unarmed defense techniques spread to

other countries, each locale developed its own version, with

variations on the basic techniques. Thus in China, unarmed fighting

became Kung Fu,while in Korea, it became Tae Kwon Do. In

Okinawa, it became Okinawa-do (The Way of Okinawa) and in

Japan, it became Karate. In modern times, systems have been

developed which use combinations of Karate, Kung Fu, Tae Kwan

Do, boxing and kick boxing. Notable among these systems is Jeet

Kune Do, which was developed by the late Chinese television and

movie star, Bruce Lee.Unarmed fighting techniques were adopted by

many as a means of attacking and defeating an enemy when

weapons were either not available or were forbidden. Thus what

started as a holy mans means ofpeaceful self-defense became a

martial artamong other fighting techniques, such as kendo

(swordfighting) and was incorporated into Ninjitsu, the art of stealth.

During World War II, what American news commentators called

Jiu Jitsuwas a combination of various fighting skills, including

Karate and Judo.

Karate became a sport in 1927 through the efforts of Okinawan

Karate Master Gichin Funakoshi, the developer of the Shotokan

style of Karate. Funakoshi worked out a system of scoring points

which enabled Karatekas to compete without injuring each other.

The Shotokan style is demanding, and requires great concentration

and hard work to master. Today, for many, Karate is primarily a

sport, although some people learn Karate neither for the sport nor

for self-control. Especially with the growing popularity of gang

membership, and with the fantasyland Karate techniques shown in

movies, many people mistake Karate for something that it is not.

In the words of Hidetaka Nishiyama, onetime head of the All

America Karate Federation, Karate is not fighting. Fighting is

for animals. Karate is a way to stop fighting.Nishiyamas words

echo those of the legendary Chinese General Sun Tzu, who said

that the greatest general is the one who wins the battle without

loss of blood or life. The greatest Karateka, then, is the one who

always wins an encounter, but is never drawn into a fight.

So what is the purpose of modern Karate? Does it teach you to

beat up the members of your gang? No. The purpose of Karate

is to teach you self-discipline and a new way of looking at conflict.

This is not a mysterious concept. If you are so skilled that no one

can touch you no matter how hard he or she tries, what is the need

to fight such a person?  As it is with many sports, Karate has taken

many forms in the United States. If you were to confine your

knowledge of Karate to what you learn in popular magazines such

as Black Belt, movies such as Enter the Dragon,” “The Karate

Kid,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,or any of Jan Claude Van

Dammes movies, you might get the idea that Karate is about

mysterious martial arts masters who live as gardeners, or psychotic

sociopaths who spend their spare time beating people up, or rough,

bloody fighters who claw their way to the top smeared with blood,

or lovable fantasy characters who kick and chop their way into your


This, fortunately, is only Hollywoods version of Karate. True

Karate is something else altogether, as expressed by the great

Shotokan master and founder of the Japan Karate Association,

Master Funakoshi Gichin:

The ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the

perfection of the character of its participants.

In short, Shotokan Karate is not so much a way of fighting as it is a

way of life. More attention is paid to strengthening ones character

 than to strengthening ones punch. Many years ago, Mr. Takiyuki

Mikami, an international champion and today a thoughtful, modest,

brilliant instructor in the International Shotokan Karate Federation,

shamed a group of rowdy American black belts who were students

in a club he visited each month. He walked out onto the floor

dressed in a sport shirt, a pair of slacks, and loafers.  With his hands

in his pants pockets, he invited the four best black belts to attack

him, all at once. Mr. Mikami was 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weighed

about 130 pounds. None of the black belts ever got close enough to

land a punch, strike or kick. Mr. Mikami blocked every technique,

without even bothering to take his hands out of his pants pockets,

smiling all the time. After about ten minutes, when the four black

belts were worn out and gasping for breath, Mr. Mikami walked

toward them, still smiling, and told them that it was time for them

to earn the belts they wore. He did foot sweeps and sent all of them

to the floor. Then he walked away laughing. His hands had never

left his pockets.  Mr. Mikamis performance had taught all of us

that sometimes, a real Karateka needsonly to injure an attackers

pride in order to stop an attack. As you learn Karate, you will

participate in seven elements of training, each of equal importance:

Centering or meditation exercises, done to help you control your

emotions and develop your powers of concentration

Body conditioning, including strength, power, endurance,

stamina, and flexibility exercises.

Practicing the various stances (right forward, left forward,

kibidachi, back stance, etc.).

Practicing the basic techniques of punching, striking, blocking,

hooking and kicking by learning the precise bodily movements

involved. Punching, striking, hooking, blocking and kicking a

makawaraboard (a tapered 4x4, covered with burlap) and other

devices to toughen your knuckles and feet and to develop power

in the basic techniques.

Kumite (sparring), to develop the ability to combine techniques

spontaneously, according to the needs of the situation.

Learning and performing the Kataor Heian,which is a

choreographed, formalized fight sequence done with an imaginary

opponent. Katas are performed with great precision, and combine

all the techniques of Karate into a system of flowing movements.

In the Japan Karate Association (which teaches

the Shotokan style) there is a different Kata for each rank

promotion test.


It is impossible to learn Karate without the help

of a trained instructor. As described by Mr.

Mikami, the Shotokan school, for example, has a

rigorous training program for instructors, which

includes (for Chief Instructor) three years at the

home dojo in Japan. A 4th degree black belt is

required in order to enter the Chief Instructor

school. After three years of study, work and intense

instruction, a candidate is given one chance

to pass the Chief Instructors test. Only if you pass

this test will you be made a 5th degree black belt

and a Chief Instructor. For these people, Karate is

not a game. It is a way of life.

While there are many people who claim to be

experts in Karate (and there are many storefront

Karate studios all over the United States), one has

only to watch a real Master to understand the difference

between the pros and the amateurs. Many black belts are gifted,

but few are Masters. As it is with any sport or physical skill,

championship performance demands unswerving dedication to the

sport and superb natural physical skills in performing. It is truly

breathtaking to watch the real Karatekas perform their art.


Below is a description of how to perform two of the many

variations possible for each basic technique. Be sure to warm

up with stretching exercises for the neck, chest, shoulders, arms,

upper back, lower back, hips and legs before beginning any

full-speed technique.


Straight punches are practiced as follows. Stand with your feet a

comfortable distance apart, knees slightly bent and leg muscles


Assume a left forward stance:

1. Stand with your left foot forward, with the left leg bent at the

knee so that your knee is over the second joint in the left big toe.

Turn your left foot slightly inward at the toe.

2. At the same time, extend your right leg backwards at a shallow

angle from the direction of your opponent, with the right knee

slightly bent and the leg muscles tensed. Turn the right foot slightly

outward at the toe. Turn the pelvis slightly to the right. Feel the

stance and become aware of its strength. It provides you with the

stable foundation you need to perform Karate techniques.  Now

perform the punch:

1. Make a fist by curling the tips of your four fingers so that

you fold them into the palm of the hand. Clamp the thumb across

your finger.

2. Extend your left arm straight out in front of you, hand open

and pronated (palm toward the floor). Bend your right arm at the

elbow so that your right fist rests on the side of your pelvic bone.

The right hand should be supinated (palm toward the ceiling).

3. Start the punch by rotating the hips in a counter-clockwise

direction while straightening the right leg. Do this in slow motion

until you get a feel for the movement.

4. At the same time, extend the right arm slowly to the front,

while rotating the forearm counter-clockwise. When your

arm is fully extended and level, your right hand should be

pronated (palm toward the floor). Be careful not to hyperextend

the armyou may injure your elbow joint if you do. Position your

arm so that an imaginary straight line running the length of your

arm will go directly between the first and second knuckles of your

closed fist.

5. At the same time you are straightening the right arm, bring

the left arm back, make a fist with your left hand, rotate the

forearm counter-clockwise and bring your left fist to your left side

the way your right fist was at the beginning of the punch.

6. Now bring your right arm slowly to its original position by

your side while extending the left arm to its original position.

Repeat the motion slowly for 20 repetitions in order to get the

feel of the technique. Performed correctly, the motion should flow

smoothly, with the arms rotating as the punch is performed, and

rotating again as the arms return to their starting positions. When

you have become accustomed to the movement, try punching with

the other arm. Then alternate arms.

7. Now gradually increase the speed as you straighten your arms.

Work for precise form and smooth movements. Imagine that the

entire force of your body is concentrated into the first two knuckles

of your fist.

8. As you increase the speed of the punch, also concentrate

on contracting every muscle in your body at what would be the

point of impact if you were actually punching somebody. This is

the physical component of what is called focussing.If performed

properly, it will focus all of your power at the point of impact.

9. Slowly add speed to the punch without

sacrificing form. Alternate arms at top

speed for 20 repetitions.

10. Do NOT run off and start breaking

boards or trying to break bricks. Such

activities are NOT Karate. They are

carnival stunts. They can also split the

cartilage in the knuckles, resulting in

loss of finger movement and considerable



This technique is used to block punches to your abdomen, chest and face. The top of

your forearm will collide with the bottom of the opponents forearm. Note that in this

technique, the bony ridge of your forearm will strike against the soft muscular tissue ofyour opponent

s forearm. Several perfectly executed rising blocks and your opponentsforearm will be so sore that he or she will have trouble making a fist. Heres how its


1. Assume a right forward stance, with legs and feet in the opposite positions

as described in the left forward stance above. Then perform the block as

follows. Start with your left arm extended toward your opponent and your

right fist at your right side as it was when you started the punch described

above. Hips should be almost facing the front.

2. Start the block by rotating the hips to

the left.

3. Slowly and simultaneously

bring the left arm back and

down so that the fist ends at your

left hip, while at the same time

bringing the right arm up, staying

close to the body, elbow

bent, until it reaches a point

where the fist is still clenched

and the palm is turned toward

the front, slightly above and in

front of the forehead. The forearm

should be at about a 45-degree

angle to the floor.

3. Return both arms to their original positions and repeat the motion slowly

until you get the feel of the technique.

4. Slowly increase your speed. Imagine that an opponent is performing a

straight punch to your chest or face. The rising block is used to block such

a punch.

5. Now try the technique with the left arm, slowly at first, then with increasing

speed, focusing each time.

6. Alternate both arms for 20 repetitions.


Most Karate Associations recommend a plain white cotton Gi

(uniform). They come with a white belt, which you can dye different

colors (green, purple, brown, black, etc.) as you go up

through the ranks. The Gi is a traditional Karate uniform, and

provides touch, durable, loose-fitting comfort and a full range of

motion for all limbs.

The Gi also reports to youwhen you have performed certain

techniques correctly. For example, when you do a straight punch

or a rising block, focussing the punch should bring a cracking

sound as the inside of the arm of the Gi pops against your forearm.

Also, the fist that is brought to the side will make a cracking

sound as it collides with the side of the Gi. When the real

pros do these basic techniques, every movement is accompanied

by a sharp crack of the Gi.

The belt must be tied in a certain way. Heres how:

1. Start by holding the belt vertically in front of you, with the two ends held

by the right hand. Then Wrap the belt around you, so that the two ends

come around from behind. This will put the belt across your abdomen, around

the sides, with the ends coming around to the front.

2. Pull the two ends of the belt forward to make sure that you have an equal

amount of belt for each side. Otherwise, when it is tied, one end of the belt

will hang down lower than the other.

3. Cross the right end over the left end, then tuck it under the belt next to your

body and then up. Change hands and pull tight.

4. Pull the end that now hangs to the right under the end that hangs to the left.

At the same time, pull the end that hangs to the left over the other end,

under it, and up through the loop that has formed.

5. Pull tight. If done correctly, you will see a laterally symmetrical knot with

the ends hanging loosely on both sides of the knot.


The development of Shotokan Karate in the United States is directed by the International

Shotokan Karate Federation, which is the American branch of the Japan Karate

Association (JKA). The ISKF is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and operates

under the leadership of Chief Instructor Teruyuki Okazaki.

The ISKF has local organizations in

many major U. S. cities. It has promoted

true Karate in American colleges

and universities for over 30

years. Intercollegiate tournaments

are held under strict supervision.

Contestants must reach a specified

level of competence before they are

allowed to compete. Competence is

not limited to technique. It also includes

attitude and character development.

Another center for Shotokan Karate

is the Midwest Karate Association,

located in Minneapolis and operated under the direction of Robert Fusaro, the highest

ranking non-oriental in the Japan Karate Association. Mr. Fusaro, the son of an Italian

tailor, learned Karate while serving in the Army in the Pacific during the Korean War.

Dont expect to see lurid headlines about ISKF or JKA champions. If you want lurid

headlines, buy a copy of Black Belt Magazine. Those who understand Karate know that

the true winners are the ones whose characters are strengthened through the discipline of

Karate. The real prize is inside.

In November, 2000 the Pan American Karate Federation sponsored the Junior Pan American

Championships. There are both male and female competions with ages ranging from

14 to 20. In the 14 -15 year-old category, the female gold medal winner was Sara

Anissipour of the USA and the male gold medalist was Brando Lozano of Mexico. In the

16 -17 year-old category, the female gold medal winner was Roxana Muro of Mexico

and the male gold medalist was Cesar Monagas of Venezuela. And in the 18 - 20 yearold

bracket for females the gold went to Ana Sofia Martinez of Venezuela with Antonio

Diaz of Venezuela winning the top spot for the boys in this same age group. In the 2000

competition, Venezuela won the most gold medals with a total of 14. The USA was

second with 7 gold medals. A total of 300 athletes competed and 16 countries were


If you are interested in learning more about shotokan Karate, the following books will

be helpful:

Nishiyama, Hidetaka and Brown, Richard C. Karate, the art of emptyhandfighting. Charles Tuttle and company, Vermont and Tokyo: 1959.

Gichin, Funakoshi. The Master Text. Tsutomi Oshima, trans., Kodansha

International Publishers: 1973.

Okazaki, Teruyuki and Stricevic, Milorad, M. D. The Textbook of

Modern Karate. Kodansha International Publishers: 1984.


The following questions will help you to have a greater appreciation and understanding

of Karate. Write your answers in the spaces below the questions. If there is not enough

room, write on the backs of these sheets. Be neat, spell correctly, and write in complete


1. How did unarmed defense techniques develop? Why were they needed? Why not

just use a knife or a sword?

2. Why is breaking boards called a carnival stunt by some Karate instructors?

3. List the names of several Karate styles, and match them with the country of their


4. What does it mean to focus a Karate technique?

5. Describe the left forward stance in your own words.

6. Describe the rising block in hour own words.

7. Who is Takiyuki Mikami and what lesson did he teach to the overconfident black


8. Describe how Karate became a sport.

9. In your own words, describe the straight punch.

10. What is the ultimate purpose of Karate? What is the mark of a great Karateka? If

you go into Karate training, what should be your ultimate goal?

Short Answer Questions:

1. The purpose of Karate is to teach self ______

2. Created Jeet Kune Do style

3. One of several Karate styles developed in Japan

4. Name of board used in Karate practice

5. Destination of the monks who created Karate

6. Formalized fight sequence with imaginary opponent

7. Man who developed Karate into a sport

8. Country in which Tae Kwan Do was developed

9. Karate means ____ hands

10. Punch made directly at opponent

11. Name of the temple where Karate was first taught in China

12. Sparring in Japanese Karate

13. Head of the All America Karate Federation

14. Number of basic stances

15. Buddhist monks who created Karate came from here

16. Bone that strikes opponents arm in  rising block

17. He shamed a group of American black belts

18. Name of Karate uniform

19. Number of basic techniques

20. An instructor must spend three years here