Karate (Kara=empty, Te=hand) was originally just Te (hand) and was developed in Okinawa, an island south of mainland Japan. In the 1300s trade relations with China were started and some Chinese envoys moved to live in Okinawa. They took with them some of their Chinese fighting/martial arts. Gradually these were incorporated into the local system.
Later, in the 1400s, a policy of banning weapons by King Sho Shin and an invasion of Okinawa by the Shimazu Clan in the early 1600s, were all factors that led to the development or the local version of Te. This later became known as Toudi or Chinese Hand, by the Okinawans.
A variety of different styles of karate developed. These were not so much styles but the practitioners own methods. These were passed down through the family. They became known according to the area of Okinawa, actually of Naha the capital. They were Shuri Te, Naha Te and Tomari Te.
In the early 1900s some high level Toudi practitioners took their martial arts to mainland Japan. It is probably around this time that the art was called Karate as it was 'more Japanese' and at that time the Japanese mainland and China did not have good relations.
It was also during this time that several different 'styles' of Karate became apparent. Shotokan, Goju Ryu, Shorin Ryu, Uechi Ryu and Shorin Ryu being the main ones.
The practice of Karate involves several different parts. Originally Karate was practiced as a form of self defence but in the 1950s the sport aspect started to become popular.
Kihon is the practice of the basics of punching, kicking either by oneself or with a partner.
Kata (meaning shape or model) is a formalised sequence of moves which represent a variety of different self defence techniques. The analysis of these techniques has become known as Bunkai and is an important part of the self defence aspect of karate.
Kumite (meaning a meeting of hands) is sparring or fighting. The sport side of the art has taken this on from non-contact to full contact fighting with a referee and bouts similar to boxing. The non sport aspect utilises kumite differently where it is more structured.
Other aspects of Karate training include conditioning, the philosophy and so on. At the Martial Arts Education Centre we have two 6th Dan Instructors, one teaches a Shotokan based system and the other a Goju Ryu system