What is karate? – Rules, origin and history

Among the Japanese martial arts, karate is one of the best known and practiced in the world. This discipline can work both physical and mental areas and has a very interesting ancestral history that defines the bases of its practice, as well as its popularity around the world.


Determine what martial art to practice? It can be a difficult decision to make, especially if you do not have a basic knowledge about the different disciplines.

If you have been wondering what is karate? or what should you do to be able to learn karate? Here we will review several important guidelines of its history, as well as its regulations, types and more. Maybe this will help you decide.

origin of karate

When investigating what is karate?, we must go back to the fourteenth century, when Chinese immigrants arrived on the island of Okinawa, Japan (then called the Ryūkyū Islands) and brought with them the practice of martial arts, but with weapons.

Some time later, the ban on the use of self-defense weapons within the country’s islands would come into force, so the Chinese martial art would become the inspiration for the development of traditional karate.

karate history

The aforementioned prohibition of weapons occurred in the year 1477, due to the social and political problems that the nation was going through, so that is when the discipline as such was developed. Karate literally means “empty hand” and refers to the absence of combat weapons in the practice of this discipline.

Later, in the year 1755, a karate fighter named Sakigawa Shungo moved to China to master the discipline that gave rise to karate. This character was the one who would later spread his knowledge with which Shuri-Te and Tomari-Te schools would be created, which would teach the fundamental basic fighting techniques of karate.

Over the years, the mastery of karate techniques became the poster child for Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, where many of the most famous and respected karateka hail from. By the year 1901 karate was already part of public schools and in 1905 it reached the universities.

By this time, another representative named Chojun Miyagi would be in charge of developing other techniques, making demonstrations and even appearing in front of royalty. In 1926 the karate club was founded in Okinawa where those interested in learning the discipline were invited to train together with one of the best known and most prolific senseis.

In the year 1932, all the universities in the country had their own dojo for the practice of karate and in 1934, Miyagi went to the United States to spread the combat technique, which would end up spreading the discipline to the Western world..

Today, karate has more than 50 million practitioners worldwide, making it the 2nd most popular martial art/combat sport. However, Olympic karate would not see the light of day until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, an event that was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

karate rules

Like any discipline, there are aspects that must be respected to be considered, among them: 

  •  Clothing

The practitioner must wear a karategi : a set of pants, jacket, and belt that must be completely white and unadorned, unless permitted by the judges. To use wristbands should also be consulted. 

  • Around

It is practiced on a polyethylene karate mat which is usually blue with red dividing lines for sports competitions. 

  • Time

The rounds may vary according to the specific regulations of the competition , but the execution of the kata and the bunkai are also highlighted, which must have a duration of 6 minutes respecting the initial and exit greetings. 

  •  judges

The election of the judges is based on the fact that they do not belong to the same federation as any of the contenders, as well as that they are of different nationalities .

  • Assessment

To evaluate the execution of the opponents, on Thursdays it takes into account both the technical and physical execution.

karate disciplines

Taking into account the sports environment in which it is now evaluated, the discipline can be practiced in two types of karate: 

  • kata of karate do

Within the techniques, kata karate represents the sequence of poses and movements that are adopted when practicing the discipline. It includes both offensive and defensive postures. Likewise, karate katas are adapted according to the style practiced.

  • karate do kumite

The kumite, on the other hand, refers to the combat modality itself. In this discipline you are facing an opponent, so the techniques of kihon or kata are applied.

benefits of karate

Karate do is presented as a discipline with which physical and mental capacity can be improved, so karate for children is a usual option when sports options are being considered.

Therefore, below, we will point out each of the benefits of practicing karate and how they affect the development of the little ones:

  1.   Self Defense

One of the main benefits that the practice of karate brings is based on self-defense. Being a non-violent sport, karate encourages the use of defense techniques that could get you out of trouble in the future. 

  1.   Concentration

Taking into account that karate requires physical effort and concentration in general, to carry out combat techniques, it can be used to also improve attention and reaction capacity. 

  1.   Balance

With the recurring mastery of techniques and positions in karate, it is possible to improve both coordination and balance. This, in turn, helps to better control the limbs and strengthen them. 

  1.   self control

Considering that karate uses defense as the first movement, it is important that students learn to master self-control and not get carried away by emotions. 

  1.   Discipline

One of the foundations of karate is discipline, so from the beginning, practitioners are instructed to salute, show respect, and follow orders. This practice can influence how the individual behaves in society.

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