KARATE

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About Karate

There are several theories which exist regarding the origins of the martial art known as Karate. What appears to be most realistic is that in the 14th century, there was an exchange program between China and the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa) where 36 families took part. This was how the martial art known of Kara-Te (or Chinese Hand) was introduced to Okinawa. By most accounts, the Okinawans were practicing their own indigenous version of self defense known simply as “Te” (or Hand) which was combined with what the Chinese had brought with them to further refine Karate as we know it today.

Karate was practiced by many people in the tiny kingdom of Okinawa but there was a class difference. The royals and their protectors (guards) studied their Karate openly and this was done for the protection of their king. Most styles which came from this lineage follow the Matayoshi School and many of the forms and techniques and weapons are similar to the Chinese martial art of Kung Fu. The rest was practiced by the farmers and fishermen but their Karate went through a radical change when the Japanese Satsuma clan invaded Okinawa in the 16th century. For self defense and protection of their families, these peasants practiced their Karate in secret, and the styles which exist today,, including GoJu, Shorin-Ryu, and even Shotokan can trace their lineage to this type.

To guard against others stealing their martial arts techniques (as well as for health reasons) self-defense techniques were hidden in ritualized forms, or Kata, and this art was practiced in secret. The Okinawan art of Kobudo (using farm tools as weapons) was also developed during this period and thrived in its own path of development. The styles of Karate changed when Gichin Funakoshi (founder of Shotokan Karate) was chosen to bring Karate from Okinawa to Japan and Karate even further refined following WWII when the Kanji for Karate went from “Chinese Hand” (唐手) to “Empty Hand” (空手)for racial and political reasons. The styles that we practice at Jamaica Plain Martial Arts Academy include Goju-Ryu (Hard-Soft style) and Shorinji Kempo (Young Pine Forest style).

Both of these styles emphasize self-defense and the promotion of positive character development. Karate has at least 3 different approaches: self-defense, sports, and theatrical (for competition, drama, etc). Our style emphasizes self-defense, and the training involves physical conditioning, drill work (practice of techniques), sparring (kumite), and self-defense applications. The integration of Karate and Kobudo as both a historical subject and practical applications are included in our school of training.

Beginners start at the White Belt and learn basic blocking, punching, and kicking techniques plus rudimentary Kata. They are trained in free style (stand up) sparring, or kumite, early in their training. There is an opportunity to train in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu which is an excellent ground fighting complement to the stand up training, providing a well rounded self defense program. As the students progress, they learn more advanced forms of self-defense including defense against multiple attackers and opponents armed with weapons. It is a fun and challenging type of training which provides the students at Jamaica Plain Martial Arts Academy a well-round and balanced fighting regimen.