Karate or karate-do (空手道) is a budo art, a Japanesemartial art introduced to the Japanese main islands from Okinawa in 1922. Karate emphasises striking techniques (i.e. punching and kicking) over grappling. Karate training can be divided into three major parts, kihon, kumite and kata. Kihon is the basics. Kumite (組手) means sparring and develops from well defined forms to the free form named randori. Kata (型) means forms and is a fight against imaginary enemies, it is a fixed sequence of moves.
Originally, karate was written as 唐手 ("Tang hand" from the ChineseTang dynasty or by extension, "Chinese hand") reflecting the Chinese influence on the style. The current way of writing means "empty hand" and karate-do thus "the way of the empty hand". Karate is most likely a mix of a Chinese fighting art brought to Okinawa by merchants and sailors from Fujian Province, with Okinawan martial art. The Okinawans called the style "te", hand. Early Okinawan styles of karate were Shuri-te, Naha-te and Tomari-te, named after the three cities in which they were formed.
In 1820, Sokon Matsumura blended the three styles of te into "Shaolin" (Chinese 少林) or "Shorin-Ryu" (in Japanese) or "Forest Style" (English). However Matsumura's own students broke the style back down again into more branches and their students continued this break down adding or subtracting whatever suited them. Gichin Funakoshi, a student of one of Matsumura's students Anko Itosu, was the person who introduced and popularised karate on the main islands.
Funakoshi's karate came from Itosu's version of Matsumura Shorin-ryu which is commonly called Shorei-ryu. Funakoshi's style of karate was later named Shotokan by others. He was responsible for changing the way of writing the name of the art; he did this to get karate accepted by the budo organisation Dai Nippon Butokukai. In a time of rising Japanese nationalism, it was important not to make karate look foreign as the old way of writing it implied.
Karate was popularized in Japan and introduced into high schools before World War II.
Like most martial arts active in Japan, karate made its transition to karate-do at the beginning of the 20th century. The "do" in "karate-do" means "way," which is analogous to the familiar Chinese concept of tao. As it was adopted into modern Japanese culture, karate was imbued with some elements of zen buddhism, and the practice of karate is sometimes called a form of "moving zen." Classes often begin and end with brief periods of meditation. Also, the repetition of movements, as in kata, is consistent with zen meditation in that it is intended to maximize a student's composure, awareness, and physical presence (speed and power), even while under stress. Karate teachers differ greatly in the way they acknowledge - if at all - the zen influence in karate-do.
The modernization (and systemization) of karate in Japan also included the adoption of the ubiquitous white uniform (dogi or keikogi) and colored belt ranks, both of which were originated and popularized by Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo. Photos of early Okinawan practitioners show the masters in the street clothes of the day, or sometimes in briefs.
The Shotokan style of karate is characterised by deep, long stances said to provide stability and powerful movements. At the other end of the spectrum, Wado Ryu ("way of peace") prefers quick and subtle body movements (known as 'tai sabaki') to evade attacks and swift counter attacks. The Wado Ryu style was introduced to the West by Tatsuo Suzuki.
In Japan nowadays,Karate has two types of styles. Some of styles are called traditional karate like Shoto-kan, Goju-ryu,Wado-ryu or Shito-ryu because they ware found at very old time,and the others are called full contact karate like Kyokushin-kaikan which was found by Masutatsu Oyama and the others which has come from Kyokushin because they hit directly their bodies in their matches. Most full contact karate styles or organizations has developed from Kyokushin karate.
Karate, like jujutsu and judo, most likely came to America and then to the rest of the world through two primary paths: Japanese immigrants to Hawaii and the mainland, where it stayed largely inside the Japanese American community, although to a lesser degree in Hawaii, and by specialized study by members of the police and the military. It would be accurate to say that the biggest boost to the popularization of karate in America came with the American military occupation of Japan after World War II; once American soldiers had assimilated the discipline, they returned with it to the States and began to disseminate it.
Many masters went to the United States to popularize their art. One of them is Gichin Funakoshi. At first, he demonstrated his art of empty hands with kata, but the public wasn't very impressed. Thus, he decided to face some of their fighters, engaging many professional wrestlers and boxers and defeating all of them. The name karate has become synonymous with Asian martial arts in general for many Westerners.
In kata, points are awarded by five seated judges, similar to either gymnastics or ice skating tournaments depending on the quality of the performance. A good kata performance should perform all the movements correctly but also show a personal interpretation of the movements through one's variation in speed. When kata is performed as a team (usually of three), it is also important to match the timing of techniques as closely as possible.
In kumite there are two fighters paired in a timed fight, usually ranging from two to five minutes. Score is awarded either by technique or location.
In the United States, karate tournaments are a popular part of the sport, ranging in size from small local gatherings to national events. They are typically divided into classes by skill, age and event type (kata, kumite and weapons-kata), and have rules depending on location and the chief style(s) involved.