Karate is a martial art of Japanese origin that deals with attacks through evasive body movements and/or blocking, and counter attacks using kicks, punches and strikes. Joint locks, restraints and takedowns are also used, but to a lesser extent. People variously practice it as a form of self defence, a way of keeping healthy and a sport. As a method of keeping fit and healthy, it develops balance, co-ordination, aerobic fitness, strength and flexibility. In addition, (and unlike many other physical activities), it also challenges the brain and requires constant mental alertness and agility. Finally, the sporting element allows people of a sporting inclination to test their karate skills against others in a safe and controlled environment.
There were no competitions for Karate before World War II. Now, karate is divided into style organizations. These organizations sometimes cooperate in non-style specific sport karate organizations or federations. Examples of sport organizations include AAKF/ITKF, AOK, TKL, AKA, WKF, NWUKO, WUKF and WKC. Organizations hold competitions (tournaments) from local to international level. Tournaments are designed to match members of opposing schools or styles against one another in kata, sparring and weapons demonstration. They are often separated by age, rank and sex with potentially different rules or standards based on these factors. The tournament may be exclusively for members of a particular style (closed) or one in which any martial artist from any style may participate within the rules of the tournament (open).
Practice: Karate can be practiced as an art, self defense or as a combat sport. Traditional karate places emphasis on self-development (budō). Modern Japanese style training emphasizes the psychological elements incorporated into a proper kokoro (attitude) such as perseverance, fearlessness, virtue, and leadership skills. Sport karate places emphasis on exercise and competition. The practice of karate is divided into three elements: kihon (basics), kata (forms) and kumite (sparring). However these three elements should not be considered separate, as they constantly overlap and rely on each other.
- Kihon: Kihon covers the training of all the various stances, kicks, blocks, strikes, punches and body movements that are used in kata and kumite. Techniques can be practiced individually (to perfect a particular one) or in combinations to improve agility and fluidity of movement. One of the key objectives of practicing kihon is to gain an understanding of how your body moves in order to generate as much power as possible with the minimum of effort.
- Kata: Kata literally means "shape" or "model." Kata is a formalized sequence of movements which represent various offensive and defensive postures. Each kata teaches various principles of movement and self defence appropriate to the level of the practitioner. Also, within the moves of the different kata are various exercises for improving breathing, balance and co-ordination.
- Kumite: Kumite (sparring) is where the techniques practiced in kihon and kata are applied against an opponent. There are different formats of kumite designed for developing different skills, and appropriate for practitioners of different levels. In the most basic and controlled forms (kihon kumite), everything is predetermined and the attacker and defender each know exactly which techniques will be used and when. Then, at the opposite end of the spectrum is jiyu kumite (freestyle sparring), where techniques are exchanged freely. This jiyu-kumite forms the basis for competition karate.
Karate is practiced all around the world by people young and old. Practitioners of Karate are known as Karateka and for those that want to compete; Karate has a big sporting element known as Kumite, with the World Karate Federation being the world’s largest organisation overseeing the sporting side of the martial art. The WKF hosts competitions across the world and is the only Karate governing body recognised by the International Olympic Committee. In August 2016, the International Olympic Committee approved karate as an Olympic sport beginning at the 2020 Summer Olympics.
For information regarding the events held by WKF visit: Events Calender
Players & Equipment: Competitors are placed into categories according to their weight and maybe their age in the case of junior competitions. All competitors in Karate kumite competitions are required to wear a traditional Karate suit known as a gi and this should be plain and without stripes or embroidery. Instead of wearing the belt colour that signifies their rank, one contestant wears a red belt and the other a blue belt to help distinguish them. Other prescribed pieces of equipment are:
- A gum shield
- Body protection (and extra chest protection for females)
- Shin pads
- Foot protectors
Karate in India: Karate is one of the most popular and practiced martial arts in India. Karate grew in popularity in India in 1970s and 1980s, with many dojos first established in major cities. The All India Karate Federation is the nationally recognized body for governing karate in India. Karate Association of India is the only National Federation for Karate Sports in India duly affiliated with World Karate Federation (WKF), Asian Karate Federation (AKF), Commonwealth Karate Federation (CKF) and South Asian Karate Do Federation (SAKF). KAI is also recognised by Govt. of India (Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports) and affiliated by Indian Olympic Association (IOA).