Karate may be defined as a weaponless means of self-defense. It consists of dynamic offensive and defensive techniques using all parts of the body to their maximum advantage.
Karate practice is divided into three categories:
1. Kihon (basic blocks, punches, kicks and stances);
2. Kata (pre-arranged forms simulating combat situations);
3. Kumite (sparring).
In each category the beginner is given instruction at the most basic level until the techniques become spontaneous.
A beginner’s technical progress in karate is accompanied by physical progress. Gradually the student becomes involved with the study of more intricate and difficult kata, and more dynamic forms of kumite.
As the student approaches black belt level, technique, stamina, speed and coordination become natural as a result of strong practice. It is at this stage that the serious student discovers that the study of karate has only just begun. The object of true karate practice is the perfection of oneself through the perfection of the art.
Karate as self-defense is one of the most dynamic of all the martial arts. The trained karate practitioner is able to coordinate the mind and body perfectly, thereby allowing tremendous physical power to be unleashed at will. Therefore, it is not the possession of great physical strength that makes a strong karate practitioner; rather it is the ability to coordinate mind and body. Upon developing this ability, even the smallest person finds that he has within himself the power to deliver a devastating blow to any would-be attacker.
The values of Karate to people in modern society are numerous. In our everyday lives we often forget the value of exercise to both our physical and mental health. The practice of karate tones the body, develops coordination, quickens reflexes, and builds stamina.
Also, the serious practice of karate develops composure, a clearer thought process, deeper insight into one’s mental capabilities, and more self-confidence. In this, karate is not an end, but a means to an end. Karate encourages proficiency and the keen coordination of mind and body. It is an activity in which advancing age is not a hindrance.
Although the ancient origins of karate are extremely vague, we do know that about 1400 years ago while teaching at the Shaolin Temple in China, Daruma Daishi used techniques basic to karate. Later these techniques developed into fighting forms known as Shaolin Boxing.
In the 16th century, Shaolin Boxing found its way to Okinawa from China. It combined with native Okinawan techniques to develop into several Okinawan styles. In 1922, having mastered two major styles in Okinawa, Master Gichin Funakoshi, then president of Okinawa Association of the Spirit of Martial Arts, was chosen to demonstrate karate at the first National Athletic Exhibition in Tokyo. This led to the introduction of the ancient martial art to the rest of Japan. At the urging of friends and officials, he remained in Tokyo to teach.
In 1955, Tsutomu Ohshima, one of Master Funakoshi’s last direct pupils (1948-1953, Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan), came to the United States. That same year he organized the Southern California Karate Association, which has grown over the years to become a national non-profit organization, Shotokan Karate of America, Inc. (SKA), with affiliations world wide.
Each of the black belt instructors at the Northwest YMCA received their rank directly from (or had it recognized by) Mr. Ohshima, completing the direct line from the origin of Karate to you. This direct line assures you of the highest level of instruction.
Beginners are always welcome. Regardless of your age, sex, or current physical condition, you can begin karate practice and enjoy it.
Through serious martial arts practice, we can learn to face ourselves strictly and show our best spirit in all situations.
“Originally this was the most important thing about martial arts–to reach a higher level, to become a strong human being. Strong doesn’t mean big arms. It means who can be a more strict human being with himself. That is the ideal of martial arts.” – Tsutomu Ohshima.