By Damian Ross and William Pehush of The Self Defense
Traditional Karate or Karatedo is one of the best known styles of martial arts and is considered to be and competition sport. It first became popular in the west in the 1960's, but Karate was originally developed for self-defense. Created with Chinese help on the island of Okinawa traditional Karate is brutal form of combat that employs vicious strikes with the hands and feet as and depending on the style throws, grappling, and joint manipulations are also part of the training. There are many different styles of Karate with each focusing on a different area, and countless other styles have incorporated Karate techniques.
Of all the styles of Karate being practiced today though Shotokan is probably the most recognized. Action star Jean-Claude Van Damme practices Shotokan Karate, and the style was used in the Karate Kid films. The style was brought to mainland Japan from Okinawa by Gichin Funakosi in 1921, and it includes elements from Shrei-ry and Shrin-ry Karate, and even Kendo. Created with self defense in mind, Shotoanwas named after the training a hall where his students practiced. The style stresses dynamic power and constant movement, and devastating strikes.
The basic goal of traditional Karate was to kill or disable an opponent as quickly as possible, and considering the samurai who guarded Okinawa were armed to the teeth it was necessary. The Japanese ruled Okinawa with an iron fist and one of their first acts was to completely ban the natives from owning weapons. So Shotokan Karate was developed with real life combat situations in mind not sport competitions. Though Funakosi would create his style that uses deep stances and linear movements much later than some of the other styles he still held to Karates founding principals. His style was simple, effective, and deadly.
In 1879 Gichin Funakosi like many of his peers started training in martial arts and studied both Sh¨rei-ry and Shrin-ry styles of Karate which were popular at the time. Finding them to complex he began to develop a simpler style taking from the best aspects of both. He also drew from his experiences in Kendo, the Japanese fencing martial art based off of samurai sword fighting techniques. After over twenty years of study he began teaching and demonstrating his new style in Okinawa and later Japan where he continued to write and teach. His son Yoshitaka Funakoshi would add kicking techniques and low stances and long attacks, chained techniques that would break with traditional Okinawan martial arts.
The long and deep stances and more linear movements used in Shotokan Karate differ from the circular movements other Okinawan styles use, but those wouldn't be the only changes Funakosi would make to the art. Once in Japan Funakosi began calling Karate the"empty hand" instead of "China hand" which had been the tradition in Okinawan schools for generations. His actions angered many other instructors and Funakosi could never go back to Okinawa, but his style of self defense continues to be taught are the world. Sadly though Shotokan Karate has been turned into a tournament combat sport with a points based system. Funakosi intended for his style to be used for self defense against enemy soldiers and criminals not to score points in a martial arts competition.
Today many martial arts schools are concerned with combat sport Karate which is basically point sparring while others focus on the self defense aspect with others trying to teach both. Prior to World War II Karate was all about full contact and self defense, but now it is about trophies and kids birthday parties. All the traditional forms were all about hard strikes and offered many different options to help a martial artist win in a fight, but over time, they became civilized. Traditional styles like Shotokan at their heart are meant for self defense, but many of the lethal techniques were removed to make things safer for sports. Though there are some instructors out there teaching real combat karate they are few so do your research and know that just because you're learning Karate doesn't mean you can protect yourself. Remember real self defense is never complicated and it always works whether you have on a gi or not.
About the Author
Founded by world renowned martial arts and self defense
instructor Damian Ross in 1998. With a worldwide network of accredited
instructors, The Self Defense Company has been helping people learn how to
live safer, healthier and happier lives.
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