Karate facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Hanashiro Chomo.jpg
Chōmo Hanashiro
Also known as Karate Do 空手道
Focus Striking
Hardness Full-contact, semi-contact, light-contact
Country of origin Ryukyu Kingdom (present-day Japan)
Parenthood Indigenous martial arts of Ryukyu Islands, Chinese martial arts
Olympic sport Will debut in 2020
Karate WC Tampere 2006-1.jpg
Karate world championship 2006, men's heavyweight final
Highest governing body World Karate Federation
First developed Ryukyu Kingdom, ca. 17th century
Contact Yes
Mixed gender No
Type Martial art
Country or region Worldwide
Olympic Will debut in 2020

Karate is a martial art developed in the Ryukyu Kingdom. It developed from the indigenous Ryukyuan martial arts under the influence of Chinese Kung Fu. Karate is now predominantly a striking art using punching, kicking, knee strikes, elbow strikes and open-hand techniques such as knife-hands, spear-hands and palm-heel strikes. Historically, and in some modern styles, grappling, throws, joint locks, restraints and vital-point strikes are also taught. A karate practitioner is called a karateka.

On 28 September 2015, karate was featured on a shortlist along with baseball, softball, skateboarding, surfing, and sport climbing to be considered for inclusion in the 2020 Summer Olympics. On 1 June 2016, the International Olympic Committee's executive board announced they were supporting the inclusion of all five sports (counting baseball and softball as only one sport) for inclusion in the 2020 Games.

Web Japan (sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs) claims there are 50 million karate practitioners worldwide, while the World Karate Federation claims there are 100 million practitioners around the world.

History of Karate

Gichin Funakoshi, a school teacher from the island of Okinawa, introduced Karate to mainland Japan in the early 1900s. Traditional karate is different from boxing, wrestling and kickboxing: in karate, there is just as much importance on the strength of the mind and good manners as there is on strength of the body and self-defence to use when you're in trouble.

In English the word karate began to be used in a generic way to refer to all striking-based Oriental martial arts. Karate schools began appearing across the world, catering to those with casual interest as well as those seeking a deeper study of the art. Now people all over the world learn Karate.

The full name of Karate is "Karate-do" which means "the way of the empty hand" in English.

A karate student wearing a karategi

There are many schools or styles of karate, including:

Karate can be practiced as an art (budō), 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.


Only by behaving humbly can one be open to Karate's many lessons. This is done by listening and being receptive to criticism. He considered courtesy of prime importance. Karate is properly applied only in those rare situations in which one really must either down another or be downed by him. Karate practitioners must never be easily drawn into a fight. It is understood that one blow from a real expert could mean death. It is clear that those who misuse what they have learned bring dishonor upon themselves.

Karate Clothing

Coloured belts for Karate

When people practice Karate, they wear special clothes called a karategi. The karategi is made up of a white jacket and white pants. People who practice Karate also wear a colored belt, which tells other people their rank. The belt shows how long you have trained rather than how good you are. Two people wearing different colored belts can be surprisingly similar.

Minimum age and time in rank are factors affecting promotion. Testing consists of demonstration of techniques before a panel of examiners. This will vary by school, but testing may include everything learned at that point, or just new information.

Different schools of Karate have different colours of belts for their ranks. Usually the black belt is for the students who try very hard to be the best that they can be for a long time.

Some schools have several degrees of black belts. They show this by having a white stripe, called a Dan, on the one end of the belt, for the black belt degree the person has. For instance a "3 Dan black belt" would have 3 white stripes on his black belt and would be higher ranked than a "1 Dan black belt".

JJS Dojo
Karatekas wearing different colored belts

United States

After World War II, members of the United States military learned karate in Okinawa or Japan and then opened schools in the US. In 1945 Robert Trias opened the first dojo in the United States in Phoenix, Arizona.

In 1961 Hidetaka Nishiyama, a co-founder of the Japan Karate Association (JKA), began teaching in the United States. He founded the International Traditional Karate Federation (ITKF). In 1964, Takayuki Kubota relocated the International Karate Association from Tokyo to California.

In film and popular culture

Karate kid
The Karate Kid is a 1984 American martial arts film

Karate spread rapidly in the West through popular culture. In 1950s popular fiction, karate was at times described to readers in near-mythical terms, and it was credible to show Western experts of unarmed combat as unaware of Eastern martial arts of this kind. By the 1970s, martial arts films had formed a mainstream genre that propelled karate and other Asian martial arts into mass popularity.

The Karate Kid (1984) and its sequels The Karate Kid, Part II (1986), The Karate Kid, Part III (1989) and The Next Karate Kid (1994) are films relating the fictional story of an American adolescent's introduction into karate. Karate Kommandos is an animated children's show, with Chuck Norris appearing to reveal the moral lessons contained in every episode.

Many other film stars such as Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Jet Li come from a range of other martial arts.

Related pages

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