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Some systems


Descriptions of a few widespread martial arts systems.


The Japanese pronunciation is "kuh-rah-tay." The common pronunciation in the United States is "kuh-rot-ee."

Karate was originally called te, meaning "hand." Later, the name karate was adopted, which means "empty hand" or "Chinese hand" (depending on which characters are used to write the word). The word karate is formed by two characters, the first one is kara (empty) and the other is te (hand). Kara may be explained several ways:
  • One explanation is that through the practice of karate, self-defense methods are learned, where no weapons are used, other than hands, feet, or other parts of the body. 
  • Another explanation of kara, as explained by Master Gichin Funakoshi, is, "Just as it is the clear mirror that reflects without distortion, or the quiet valley that echoes a sound, so must one who would study Karate-do purge himself of selfish and evil thoughts, for only with a clear mind and conscience can he understand that which he receives. This is another meaning of the element kara in karate-do." 
  • Another explanation given by Funakoshi is that of always striving to be inwardly humble and outwardly gentle. 
  • Finally, another explanation of kara by Funakoshi also talks about the elemental form of the universe, which is emptiness (kara, ku), "and thus, emptiness is form itself. The kara of karate-do has this meaning." 

It is clear from these explanations that karate is much more than mere self-defense techniques.

Toward the end of the 19th century, Gichin Funakoshi trained with various karate masters, and then he devised his own system, which he named shotokan. He spread the style to the Japanese mainland and eventually to the West. Master Funakoshi, inspired by traditional martial arts from the main Japanese islands (such as kyudo, kendo, and judo) modified karate, which until that moment could have been called karate-jutsu (a fighting art), and emphasized its philosophical aspects by combining karate techniques with traditional budo (the martial way).

The word budo is formed by two Chinese characters. "bu" is formed by two symbols, a symbol that means to stop is drawn inside another symbol of two weapons, two crossed halberds. Thus, "bu" means to stop conflict. As stated before, "do" means a way or a life philosophy. In Master Funakoshi's own words, "Since karate is a Budo, this meaning should be deeply considered, and the fists should not be used heedlessly."

Today, it is common to find both "traditional" and "sport" styles of karate. Traditional styles being the formal Okinawan styles, and sport styles being those involved mostly in tournament competition.

Karate is based upon powerful linear kicks and punches. It is considered a "hard" martial art since its blocks and attacks are direct and forceful. Many different styles fall under the karate banner. All the styles include hard style kicks, punches, and blocks, but some emphasize linear movements, while others emphasize circular movements. In virtually every style, kata (patterns) practice and kumite (sparring) play an important role in training.


Kung-fu is the generic name for hundreds of individual Chinese fighting arts, soft and hard, internal "nei-chia" and external "wai-chia." Many believe that all forms of kung-fu descended from the exercise techniques taught by Bodhidharma, an Indian monk who traveled to shaolin temple in 526 AD. However, ancient Chinese records show that various forms of kung-fu existed long before this time.

Kung-fu includes grappling, striking, nerve attacks, and training with many types of traditional weapons. Internal kung-fu systems include pa-kua-chang, hsing-yi-chuan, and tai-chi-chuan, and wing-chun. Practitioners of external Chinese systems use kicks and punches, rather than chi, to get their point across. Some of the better-known styles of kung-fu are shaolin, h-choy-li-fut, monkey, eagle claw, crane, drunken fist, long fist, south fist, five elders, lame, mantis, pa-chi -huan, and wing-chun. Some styles, especially those that originated in southern China, emphasize hand techniques, while others, particularly those from northern China, stress foot techniques.


Taekwondo is the most commonly known Korean style of martial arts. There are three main versions:
  • Traditional. Traditional is more like the original version with its close relationship to karate.
  • ITF. The International Taekwondo Federation version that began as traditional but was modified over the years by its founder, General Choi.
  • World Taekwondo. World Taekwondo Olympic version that is more of a sport than a martial art.

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