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History of Karate

Karate history can be traced back some 1400 years, to Daruma, the founder of Zen Buddhism in Western India. Daruma is said to have introduced Buddhism into China, incorporating spiritual and physical teaching methods that were so demanding that many of his disciples would drop in exhaustion. In order to give them greater strength and endurance, he developed a more progressive training system, which he recorded in a book, Ekkin-Kyo, which can be considered the first book on Karate of all time.

Shotokan, Wado-ryu, Shito-ryu, and Goju-ryu are the four main karate styles that originated in Japan, mainly in Okinawa; many additional karate forms have been created from these four. While Goju-ryu has its roots in Naha, the first three of these styles all derive from the Shorin-Ryu school of Okinawa’s Shuri city.

Karate places a much greater emphasis on standing strikes than it does on wrestling or grappling. Karate practitioners will devote more time to perfecting their harsh, linear moves including punches, kicks, and strength displays within kata as part of their style.

Traditional Karate aims to develop a well-balanced mind and body through fighting techniques and training. Traditional Karate and Budo share the ultimate goal of developing the great human character of a higher class that prevents any violent attack before an actual fight occurs. 

Karate also features kata, pre-arranged forms or patterns of movements that serve as a fundamental part of traditional karate training. These sequences of techniques are designed to help practitioners develop and refine various aspects of their karate skills, including stances, strikes, blocks, and transitions. Kata plays a crucial role in teaching students the principles, techniques, and strategies of karate.

Karate kata is an essential part of traditional karate training and provides a structured way for students to learn and apply techniques, gain an understanding of martial principles, and deepen their connection to the art’s history and tradition.

Karate’s popularity came from American soldiers returning to the United States from Japan after the second World War. With many of them returning to California, Karate became a hit becoming popular with many Californians, eventually finding its way into the movies and being taken up by celebrities including Elvis Presley and through this quickly became the most popular martial art.

Karate styles

Karate is a diverse martial art with numerous styles and systems, each with its own techniques, forms (katas), and principles. Some of the most well-known and widely practiced karate styles include:

Shotokan Karate

Founded by Gichin Funakoshi, Shotokan is one of the most popular and widely practiced karate styles in the world. It emphasizes strong, linear movements and powerful, deep stances.

Goju-Ryu Karate

Developed by Chojun Miyagi, Goju-Ryu focuses on combining hard and soft techniques, using both linear and circular movements. It places an emphasis on breathing and internal energy (ki).

Wado-Ryu Karate

Founded by Hironori Otsuka, Wado-Ryu is a more fluid and graceful style that incorporates elements of jujitsu and traditional Japanese martial arts. It emphasizes evasion and redirection of attacks.

Shito-Ryu Karate

This style was developed by Kenwa Mabuni and incorporates elements of both Shuri-Te (the style of Shuri, Okinawa) and Naha-Te (the style of Naha, Okinawa). It includes a wide variety of techniques and katas.

Kyokushin Karate

Founded by Masutatsu Oyama, Kyokushin is known for its heavy emphasis on full-contact sparring and physical conditioning. It is often considered one of the most physically demanding karate styles.

Shorin-Ryu Karate

Founded by Choshin Chibana, Shorin-Ryu is characterized by its quick and agile movements, making it well-suited for self-defense. It is often practiced in a more compact and high stanced manner compared to some other styles.

Chito-Ryu Karate

Tsuyoshi Chitose developed Chito-Ryu, which incorporates both linear and circular movements and places a strong focus on practical self-defense techniques.

Uechi-Ryu Karate

Founded by Kanbun Uechi, this style is known for its emphasis on strengthening and conditioning the body. It incorporates both hard and soft techniques.

Enshin Karate

Founded by Joko Ninomiya, Enshin Karate incorporates elements of Kyokushin and has a reputation for its strong focus on sparring and practical self-defense.

Shukokai Karate

Shukokai is a style that evolved from Shotokan and emphasizes speed and fluidity in its movements. It incorporates a wide range of techniques.

Karate in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

Karate is one of the many martial arts that has had an influence on mixed martial arts (MMA). While MMA is a sport that incorporates a wide range of fighting techniques from various martial arts disciplines, karate has contributed significantly to the development of MMA, particularly in the striking and stand-up aspects of the sport.

Here are some ways in which karate has been integrated into MMA:

Striking Techniques

Karate is known for its powerful and dynamic striking techniques, such as kicks, punches, and knee strikes. Many MMA fighters incorporate karate-style striking into their arsenal. Techniques like the front kick, roundhouse kick, and side kick are commonly used in MMA.

Footwork and Movement

Karate places a strong emphasis on linear footwork and distance control. MMA fighters who have a background in karate often use their footwork to maintain proper range and control the distance between them and their opponent.

Defensive Techniques

Karate also includes various defensive techniques like blocking, parrying, and evasive maneuvers. These skills can help MMA fighters avoid incoming strikes and counter effectively.

Karate-Based Fighters

Some MMA fighters have a karate background and are known for their karate-style striking. Notable fighters include Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson, Lyoto Machida, Michael "Venom" Page, Sage Northcutt, and George St. Pierre (GSP) who have all competed in mixed martial arts organisations including the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), ONE Championship, and Bellator MMA. Karate has most recently revived its popularity with the establishment of Karate Combat, a full-contact karate league.

It’s important to note that while karate has contributed to MMA, modern MMA fighters are well-rounded and typically train in multiple martial arts disciplines, including Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), wrestling, Muay Thai, and boxing. Karate is just one piece of the puzzle in their training regimen.

Further Reading

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