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What is Karate?

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 “the way of,” implies that training in karate-do is a self-development endeavor that goes well beyond merely training for self-defense.

Deciding who is the winner, and who is the loser is not the ultimate objective of karate-do. Karate-do is a martial art for the development of character so that the practitioner can surmount any of life’s obstacles, tangible or intangible. Karate can also be described as a martial art, through which the student endeavors to master all body movements including steps, turns, blocks, strikes, and evasions. The qualities necessary to accomplish this are mental, physical, and emotional self-control. To become a victor, one must first overcome oneself. (Masatoshi Nakayama)

Shotokan founder Gichin Funakoshi has said that “mind and technique become one in true karate.” We strive to make our physical techniques pure expressions of our mind’s intention and to improve our mind’s focus by understanding the essence of the physical techniques. By polishing our karate practice, we are polishing our own spirit or our own mentality. For example, eliminating weak and indecisive movements in our karate helps to eliminate weakness and indecision in our minds, and vice versa. It is in this sense that karate becomes a way of life as we try to become very strong but happy and peaceful people.

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