A Martial Art system developed on the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa. Karate Do emphasizes humility, discipline and development of character. It is predominantly a striking martial art, however, the practical applications of Karate kata consist of joint locks and throws.


Way of the Empty Hand
Anko Itosu
Country of Origin
Primary Focus
Sport, Self-defence


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Brief History

Karate originated in Okinawa when trade relationships were established with the Ming Dynasty of China.  Many Chinese families who hailed primarily from the Fujian province of China had moved to the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa.  The result was widespread cultural exchange, including Chinese Martial Arts.  The Okinawan's referred to the Chinese Martial Arts as Toudi, meaning 'Chinese Hand'.  This was later changed to Karate, meaning 'Empty Hand' to improve the likelihood of widespread adoption in mainland Japan.

Karate developed from the combination of the Ryukyuan martial arts and predominantly White Crane Kung Fu from the Fujian province.  In its infancy, the art was recognised by 3 styles named after the cities in which they were developed:

  • Shuri-te
  • Naha-te
  • Tomari-te

  Here is an in-depth view on the History of Karate



The curriculum of Karate Do is comprised of 3 basic aspects:

  • Kihon – basic drills
  • Kata – a set of codified self-defence techniques which are executed in a series of movements
  • Kumite – sparring between practitioners

 karate kata


The Martial Art in Practice

The aim of Karate Do is to finish a confrontation as quickly and efficiently as possible with the aim of immobilising the opponent in a self-defence situation.

The Martial Art predomininantly consists of striking techniques such as punching, kicking, elbow strikes, knee strikes and open hand strikes which are delivered through palm heels and knife hands.  Some of Karate's kata applications also feature joint-locks, throws and takedowns.

Karate Do is rich in tradition and aims to instil qualities such as honour, valour and perseverance in its practitioners.  The Martial Art uses a belt ranking system which begins at white belt.  Progression through to Black-Belt or Shodan differs from style to style and dojo to dojo, but normally takes place in the following order:

  • White
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Purple
  • Brown
  • Black

There are also varying degrees of seniority within the black-belt level and the highest rank that can be achieved, being 10th Dan.

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The 4 major styles of Karate Do are:

  • Goju-ryu pioneered by Chojun Miyagi
  • Shito-ryu pioneered by Kenwa Mabuni
  • Shotokan-ryu pioneered by Gichin Funakoshi
  • Wado-ryu pioneered by Hironori Otsuka

 There are also other popular styles such as

  • Kyokushin Kai - emphasises physical strength and full contact fighting, pioneered by Mas Oyama
  • Uechi-ryu - pioneered by Kanbun Uechi
  • Isshin-ryu - founded by Shimabuko Tatsuo
  • Shorin-ryu
  • Ashihara
  • Chito-ryu
  • Enshin
  • Kishimoto-di
  • Shindo Jinen-ryu
  • Shukokai Ryu
  • Gosoku Ryu
  • Shuri-ryu

 Find out more about the popular Karate styles and what makes them unique.




  • Bunkai - Analysis - consists of analysing an entire movement of a kata and breaking it down into functional units to understand how each technique can be applied.
  • Budo - Way of War - following the martial way as a path to self-improvement, spiritual advancement and perfection of character.
  • Mokuso - Reflection and Contemplation - used to acquire the correct mindset for training. Reflecting on areas of weakness and focusing on how to improve these areas during training.

If you would like to delve into the deeper concepts of Karate, I recommend reading the Bubishi a few times.  It was referred to as the "Karate Bible" by the great Karate master - Chojun Miyagi.  The Bubishi is a classical Chinese work in philosophy, strategy, medicine, and technique.

Bubishi: The Classic Manual of Combat

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If you want to learn more about some advanced aspects, concepts and interesting facts on Karate, be sure to visit the KARATEbyJesse.com - a comprehensive blog on Karate.



Weapons are also utilised in Karate Do and these include:

  • Staff
  • Nanchaku
  • Sai
  • Tonfa

Read more about Kobudo and its traditional Okinawan weapons.


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