Karate may be defined as a weaponless means of self defense. The word karate is a combination of two Japanese characters: kara, meaning empty, and te, meaning hand. Thus karate means empty hand. Adding the suffix –do (pronounced “doe”), meaning way, karate-do, implies karate as a total way of life that goes well beyond the self defense applications. In traditional karate-do, we always keep in mind that the true opponent is oneself.
Karate as self defense is one of the most dynamic of all the martial arts. It consists of offensive and defensive techniques such as blocks, strikes, evasions, throws and joint manipulations, using all parts of the body to their maximum advantage. The trained karate practitioner is able to coordinate the mind and body perfectly, thereby allowing tremendous physical power to be unleashed at will. 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 the ability 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.
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.