Sunday, 28 June 2009


It is possible to trace the karate’s roots in Okinawa, the largest island of the Ryukyu Archipelago (the ancient Ryukyu Kingdom), which comprises a chain of more than 160 islands that stretch between the southern part of Kyushu (Japan) and Taiwan.
Although today we can find many different styles of karate, it is equally possible to divide karate in 3 broad categories: Modern (Sport) Karate; Traditional Karate (Japanese) and Classic Karate (Okinawa Karate).
Modern Karate
In 1945, karate started to evolve as a sport almost exclusively in the Japanese Universities. The supremacy of the own university was guaranteed by the victories that the karateka obtained in various championships. To suit this aim karate was modified; the techniques were adapted to win the match at any cost. The safety of the athletes became paramount; consequently, techniques particularly efficient in self-defence situations especially in close distance fights (therefore very dangerous) were eliminated. It is possible to see the disappearance of hands attacks, low kicks, holds, and short distance techniques; it was also introduced the use of small gloves and the concept of control, eliminating the full impact during the kumite’.
Traditional Karate
It is the karate that developed during the Meji period (1868-1911); it exalts the non-competition concept. The karatekas improve themselves through their mutual respect. This type of Karate (Shotokan, Wado ryu and others Japanese traditional styles), rightly, emphasises the importance of Kata but underlining more the aesthetic of the techniques; the katas gain importance from a physical education and mental point of view and the real meaning linked to self-defence is neglected. The superficial knowledge of many katas substituted the in-depth comprehension of one or two katas. It is important to stress that the old okinawan masters knew only one or two katas because every katas included numerous self-defence applications and fighting concepts that required very long period of practice to master it.
However to consider katas only from a physical and mental point of view is quite restrictive; the study of karate will be complete only if the student will understand the connections with its self-defence dimension, avoiding to get stuck to the appearance of the gesture and trying to uncover what the old masters wanted to transmit in reality.
Once achieved this state, it will be possible to train the technique till a point where, in a self-defence situation, the technique will be used spontaneously, without thinking. An old say of karate underlines this concept: ‘if you will use the technique you will be defeated’
Classic Karate
It is the original karate born in Okinawa; a method of self-defence that researched the efficiency in all forms of fighting: at long, medium and short distance. In the old times no training, no techniques were discarded a priori. The student learned to strike the vital points of the human body (using daily conditioning training on hands, arms, legs and feet); to use throwing (nage waza), arm locks (kansetsu waza) and katame waza techniques