Karate is one of the oldest martial arts. We don’t really know where he was born,some claim that he comes from Okinawa and would therefore be Japanese, others claim that karate was invented by a monk named Bodhidharma, an Indian who came to settle in a Shaolin monastery in northern China. Anyway, karate is inspired by ancient martial arts and exchanges between the different peoples of Asia.
Eventually, karate was probably invented in China, but it is in Japan that it will be developed and perfected. All the greatest masters and experts of the late 19th century and early 20th century are from Okinawa. In the end, it took a long time for karate to find the place it deserves, since it will not appear at the Olympic Games until 2020 in Tokyo.
As with judo , the place where karate is studied is called dojo. There is no ring as in English or Thai boxing , but tatami mats directly on the ground. These are fairly rigid mats that will cushion falls. The combat surface varies between 8 and 10 m per side. It is delimited by tatami mats of another color.
The “gi” means the uniform. For judo we therefore speak of judogi (judo uniform) and for karate karategi (karate uniform). Very often it is called a kimono, but this is a mistake. The kimono is simply the traditional Japanese dress, once used for going out on the streets or even going to work, but not for practicing a sport or a martial art.
Karategi is made of cotton or a cotton / polyester composite. The outfits may differ depending on the style of karate practiced. There are no rules at this point, some will prefer loose sleeves and others tighter sleeves. The karategi consists of a jacket and pants.
Belts and ranks
The belt supports the jacket of the karategi. It does not only have this function, since as in judo or jujitsu, it will make it possible to note and measure the progress of students or practitioners. There are therefore different colors of belts from beginner to initiate. Here is how the evolution of a karateka takes place: White, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown and black belt. In some styles of karate, the order of the belts can vary and you can even find additional colors.
Still depending on the school, there are different grades per belt. They are called “kyu” or barrettes. For example, there are two kyu for the blue belt and three for the brown belt. In most clubs in Europe, we will get bars from the first belts, but this does not exist in Japan. It is used in France or elsewhere on the old continent to motivate students in their progress. It even happens to see schools adding grades with two-tone belts.
Up to the brown belt, it is the sensei of the dojo who gives the belts to these students. We then obtain the black belt in front of a jury of the French federation of karate. We can then get in. There are 10 in total, and again they will be validated by the appreciation of a jury.
For competition, in contact karate, the wearing of a helmet will very often be compulsory. We can also use it in training to support the blows a little with some opponents. The karate helmet is quite similar to a boxing helmet , with additional padding in the chin area to absorb the opponent’s kicks in particular.
Protects tooth and shell
Also in contact karate, it will obviously be necessary to protect the most fragile or sensitive parts of the body. A mouthguard is essential. It will prevent major trauma to the jaw and broken teeth. In addition to protecting the teeth on a frontal blow, it will above all prevent the lower teeth from colliding with the upper ones.
The shell is essential for gentlemen, but also very useful for ladies. It will help protect our genitals effectively, and thus prevent a disabling accident. The day you take a blow in this area and suffer despite the shell, you imagine how painful it would have been if you weren’t wearing it …
The karate code of honor
Karate uses the code of bushido (the way of the techniques of the warrior). Karate then becomes much more than a simple combat sport, but also an art of living. This code tends us towards mastery of body and mind. This code followed by the samurai is steeped in Taoist and Buddhist influences. The main axes are as follows:
- Kindness and benevolence
- Modesty and humility
- The respect
In learning karate, therefore, one must also learn to become a respectable man or woman. Obviously, if these precepts are still very present in Japanese schools, they are unfortunately less spoken of in French or European clubs, where karate is often simply a sport.
The rules of karate
As in any combat sport, there are rules that must be known and respected. In karate, depending on the style and the school, the rules may vary, but the main lines are much the same.
To go further, we also recommend that you provide information to the French Karate Federation (FFK here ).
Course of a fight
Depending on the type of competition, a fight can last between one and three minutes. There are types of combat that can last longer, however. Men and women do not fight together, and there are weight and rank categories for fighting as well.
The combatants must demonstrate their precision, their effectiveness and their combativeness. There are fights where the blows are dealt and authorized, and therefore we will seek to incapacitate our opponent. In this type of tournament, the karatekas have no protection.
There are also point fights. The strikes must then be sharp but controlled. Judges then count the hits and we can stop the fight when the number of points is reached. Usually the first to reach three points wins the fight, so there can be up to five assaults.
Scoring of points
The count is variable according to the competitions. There may be precise targets to hit, or it may strike with precision and intensity, or provide the desired control with either non-contact or little contact. Very often, blows to the face are not landed, unlike blows to the body.
Points can be awarded with varying degrees of severity. In beginner fights, the judges will be forgiving and even an imprecise stroke can score a point. On the other hand, for the black belts, it will really be necessary that all the ingredients are there to hope to win the famous point.
It is possible to lose points or even to be disqualified from a competition. It will be an offense if a fighter delivers a forbidden blow or if he makes offensive or inappropriate remarks against his opponent, the judges, the referee or even the public and his own entourage.
In a close fight, a fighter can ultimately lose because of a warning related to his behavior. It is therefore imperative to respect the rules and especially to be respectful when setting your feet on a tatami mat.
It will not be allowed to aim at the opponent’s genitals, nor the knees. You don’t hit a fighter on the ground either. It is of course forbidden to bite, to pull the hair or to scratch.
Fighting techniques in karate
There is obviously an absolutely huge variety of strokes in karate. Each school also has different techniques and clean shots and it is this diversity that makes the beauty of this sport. The whole body can be used, fists, elbows, fingers, feet or knees, the body becomes a complete weapon when you master karate perfectly.
There are different techniques in karate, but also different positions. Here are a few :
- Zenkutsu Dachi: We place ourselves with the front leg bent and the rear leg extended / The feet are approximately shoulder width apart.
- Kika Dachi: This is the position of the rider. Both legs are bent and the feet are parallel. We can face our opponent or be on the side.
- Heiko Dachi: Just stand up with your feet together.
- Teïji Dachi: Stand, one foot in front of the other at 90 ° to form a T.
- Kokutsu Dachi: The body weight is on the back leg which is flexed, and the front leg is ready to go up to strike.
Some fist techniques
- Choku Zuki: This is the basic punch in karate. This is a perfectly balanced direct, and the point makes a full 180 ° rotation before hitting its target.
- Age Zuki: This is a pick-up punch. It is often used in counter to face a direct attack. It can hit the bust or the face of our opponent and it will be used to link the following other movements.
- Awaze Zuki: This technique requires perfect balance. We hit our opponent with the two points on the same vertical plane. This technique can be used in static or in motion.
- Haito-Uchi: Typical of karate, we hit our opponent with the edge of the hand, on the side of the thumb.
- Gyaku Zuki: We start with the fist opposite the front leg. It is ultimately a direct with a hip movement to give weight and power to the shot.
- Heiko Zuki: It’s a two-point technique. We strike our opponent simultaneously with closed fists on a horizontal angle.
- Teisho-Zuki: This is a direct to the body or face of the opponent, but performed with the palm of the hand.
Some foot techniques
- Mae Geri: It’s a front kick that you can call front kick in other disciplines. In karate, we use the tips of the toes to touch vital points, but the Mae Geri is also ideal for pushing back the opponent.
- Mawashi Geri: This is a circular kick. Use the bowl of the foot or the top of the foot to touch the opponent. It really is one of the first kicks that are learned in schools all over the world.
- Ura Mawashi Geri: The circular movement is reversed and we therefore strike the opponent with the heel.
- Ushiro Mawashi Geri: It’s a circular return kick. Its amplitude is wide, and it’s not the fastest shot, but it does offer a lot of power.
- Hiza Geri
- It is a knee blow to the head of the opponent. It can be done by staying on the ground on a block when the opponent is lowering, but it is also a jump blow to reach the fighter’s head in front of us.
- Nidan Geri: This shot requires great mastery, since it is a double kick jumped from the front. Done well, this technique can be particularly violent.
Some blocking techniques
Blocking is essential in karate, even more than dodging. Blocking will allow you to unbalance and then attack and counter with power and speed.
- Gedan barai: It’s a low blockage of the forearm. We make an arc that starts from the shoulder and ends in front of the hip of the same arm. This is perfect for blocking a front kick.
- Age Uke: This is a blockage of the forearm when going up. It is a technique inspired by a natural reflex which consists of raising the arm to protect yourself. It is therefore a movement quickly and very effective if you practice it often.
- Shuto Uke: Here we use the edge of the hand in a circular motion from the inside to the outside and thus deflect an attack laterally. It is a difficult technique to master, but which can allow you to place a powerful counter.
- Kakiwaki Uke: It is a block that is performed using both hands. We push away with power from the inside to the outside, the two hands that would like to push us or grab us at the collar.
It is a sequence of different techniques, parries, counter-attack, sequence of blows…). The sensei shows a sequence and we have to repeat it. Kihons make it easier for beginners to assimilate the techniques, and thus make them natural by repeating them.
Even the greatest karatekas regularly rehearse Kihon to make movements faster and more precise. Gradually, these movements are transformed into reflexes and are done naturally.
The katas will allow us to obtain our different ranks. They are initially much more important than the fights. It is a sequence of different techniques that simulates a real fight. It is a combat choreography that will allow you to work on postures, gestures and techniques in given situations.
We learn in this way calmly, without the stress of receiving a bad blow, and we can work on the execution of each gesture to become more and more precise and fast. Thanks to katas, we learn to manage our balance, to better assess distances and above all to coordinate our movements.
There are 26 main katas that we will all learn by heart over the years of practice. It’s pretty amazing to imagine that some of them have been practiced for decades and were invented by great masters and nowadays students are taking over the gestures.
The legends of karate
Jose Manuel Egea
You might be disappointed, but no, Chuck Noris is not the greatest karateka in history. He is neither American, nor Chinese or Japanese for that matter, but Spanish! José Manuel Egea is now 53 years old, in the 80s to 90s, he was 3 times world champion and he won 6 European championship titles in the under 80 kg category.
He is without a doubt the greatest fighter in modern karate, since no one has matched this record. He was renowned for his speed of execution, and the precision of his shots. He marked the history of this sport and he is very often shown as an example in the best karate schools.
He is quite simply the father of modern karate. He was born in 1906, and very quickly, he found himself suffering from tuberculosis. He then began studying shuri-te (a martial art) at the age of 12, to improve his health. The results are promising, which pushes him to always excel in this art. His life expectancy is considered very low, but he develops many new moves, such as the famous mawashi geri, which will transform shuri-te to become the shotokan karate that we know today.
He then created one of the largest schools of karate, where he had as a pupil many masters who have also entered the history of this sport. He ultimately died more than 25 years later than his initial life expectancy. Karate is therefore also very good for health.
This Japanese master was 9th dan in karate. He was nicknamed the Tiger and he promoted karate all over the planet. A veteran fighter, legend has it that he never lost a single fight. His karate was dynamic and powerful, and it allowed him to further democratize this martial art, especially in Great Britain and the United States.
He was the descendant of a great line of samurai, and he knew how to continue to teach the way of the warrior. Many titled karatekas went through his lessons and he was renowned for his hardness but above all his ability to quickly pass on his knowledge. A few weeks of training with Keinosuke Enoeda allowed you to learn much more than in several years on other tatami mats around the world.