Karate is a diverse and exciting martial art, which is beneficial and rewarding to those who practice it. This diversity makes it suitable for people of all ages and abilities and an attractive activity for a wide variety of reasons.
Its origins lie in 19th century Okinawa, which was an independent kingdom at the time but is now a prefecture of Japan. There are many books and websites that give a detailed account of its history, all of them offering a unique insight into the influences on, and evolution of, the art. In short, the term “kara-te” means “empty hand”, which is an indication of the weapon-free combat style.
Modern-day karate boasts many qualities, which are inherent in the exercises that are performed and the techniques that are studied. Some advantages are more obvious than others, such as discipline and physical exercise, but they also include balance, coordination, flexibility, concentration, perceptual awareness and self confidence. Many of these skills are useful in other sports as well as life in general, which is why karate attracts such a wide range of people.
Alongside the traditional aspects of karate, a competitive sport grew among the organisations in Japan, which has now become a significant part of the discipline. It is entirely optional to participate in this aspect of karate but for those who desire it, there are avenues of competition all the way up to officially recognised world championships.
The karate grading system is independent of competition performance and provides a structure for new practitioners to develop their skills. This is achieved through a syllabus that has been refined over several decades and successful demonstration of ability at each level leads to further progress. Ultimately, this culminates in the coveted black belt for some people, while the dedicated few tend to continue their development for the rest of their life.