Karate, Japanese for 'Open Hand', has probably become the
best known martial art in the west, apart from Kung-fu, since
the 1930's. However, its complex developmental history spanning
over 14 centuries has produced a bewildering plethora of styles.
From karate's humble origins in the Chinese form of Shao Lin
Boxing known as kempo, initially, an integral part of monastic
training, and, subsequently, a defensive form of unarmed combat
against marauding bandits; through its refinement in Okinawa;
its Japanese introduction in 1922; and US implementation in
the 1930's, at least 28 different styles (not counting Korean
Taekwon-do) have now resulted.
These stylistic differences, applicable to family pride, contending
dojos' affiliations with different senseis' (masters) techniques,
and national idiosyncrasies, have been somewhat resolved,
and a modicum of uniformity attained through adherence to
the stylised set of movements known as kata. Although international
competitions still remain impractical.
So what are the implications for the aspirant karate trainee
with this plethora of styles? Total confusion, perhaps? No,
thankfully, the Internet's information consolidation has provided
access to the contending schools' websites, and, best of all,
to centralized websites like Karate CyberDojo and others of
a similar ilk. These provide accessible databases, translation
services, feedback forums, and club recommendations, considerably
facilitating the aspirant's decision-making process.
OK, that's one problem solved, now for the really difficult
one. The student trying to learn
karate will rapidly find out that, to acquire proficiency
via karate's graduation through white, green, purple, brown,
and black belts (the first dan stage), and beyond through
the other 9 dan adept stages, they will have to totally dedicate
their lives to the task. Virtually to the exclusion of all
Not for the dilettante, karate demands from its practitioners
total commitment. Just consider what has to be assimilated:
firstly, around 200 Japanese terms for the various moves and
blows constituting the kata, or stylized systems of exercise,
and then of course, to master all their constituent jumps,
kicks, jabs, chops, blocks, and blows; secondly, to become
proficient in the exercise of the big 4: strength, speed,
technique, and co-ordination. Not forgetting powerful, linear
attacks, and deft angular movements. Accompanied by the perfection
of a finely-honed sense of timing, persistent alertness, and
all-round awareness, and the ability to evoke surprise; thirdly,
the strengthening of, and becoming impervious to pain in the
striking surfaces and impact points i.e. hands, fists, knuckles,
elbows, and forearms, feet, heels, and knees through various
exercises involving striking sand, gravel, wood, sandbags
and the like; fourthly, honing the body and reflexes to super-fit
standard by constant exercise and co-ordinated breathing exercises,
not forgetting the requisite solar-plexus originating cries
and shouts to disorientate the opponent; finally to learn
all the pressure points and other vulnerable target areas
of the body, whilst simultaneously pulling the punches, and
not hitting below the belt!
That's just the physical side, the moral fibre then has to
be developed through learning self-discipline, keeping your
cool, self-confidence, one-pointed mental focus, courtesy
and attention to ritual. Still want to become a karate expert?
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