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Karate: That’s how it works!

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 166 views

Karate is an Asian martial art that originally goes back to Chinese monks. Because they were not allowed to carry weapons, they developed a martial art for self-defence from gymnastic exercises over the centuries. At the beginning of the 20th century, today’s karate arose in Japan. Read here what karate is and how it works.

Karate – what is it?

Karate is a martial art that dates back to 500 AD. Over time, Chinese monks developed a special martial art for self-defense from gymnastic exercises. You were not allowed to use weapons.

Karate-Do means “path of the empty hand”. There is a double meaning behind this: On the one hand, the karate fighter (karateka) fights without a weapon, i.e. with an empty hand. On the other hand, he should “empty” his insides of all negative thoughts and feelings. This is the only way he can act appropriately in every situation.

At that time, martial arts were also considered a path to self-discovery and self-awareness. As a sport, however, karate is still quite young: In Japan, a martial art with its own set of rules developed from the traditional martial art.


In the meantime, various styles have developed in karate: the styles sometimes only differ in nuances. The styles Shotokan, Wado-Ryu, Goju-Ryu and Shito-Ryu are recognized by the World Karate Federation (WKF) and the European Karate Federation (EKF).

Karate as a competitive sport

There are basically two competitive disciplines in this sport: kumite and kata. Whether and in which disciplines a club member takes part in a karate tournament is up to him.

“Kumite” means free fight. Here two karateka face each other and try to apply throwing, punching and kicking techniques, which are evaluated. Anyone who injures the opponent will be disqualified!”Kata” describes a precisely defined sequence of attack and defense techniques against several imaginary opponents approaching from different directions. There are around 50 different kata, some of which have been passed down from one generation to the next for centuries.

Belt rank in karate

Shotokan karate divides the skill of the students into nine grades (kyu). The grade a student has is shown by the color of the belt they wear during training and competitions. In order to advance to the next degree, the student must pass an exam.

  • 9.Kyu (Kukyu): white belt
  • 8. Kyu (Hachikyu): gelber Gürtel
  • 7. Kyu (Shichikyu): orange Gürtel
  • 6.Kyu (Rokukyu): green beans
  • 5.Kyu (Gokyu) – purple/blue belt
  • 4.Kyu (Yonkyu) violetter Gürtel
  • 3. Kyu (Sankyu) – brauner Gürtel
  • 2. Kyu (Nikyu) – brauner Gürtel
  • 1. Kyu (Ikkyu) – brauner Gürtel

The students then take exams for the master degrees (Dan). There are ten master degrees in total, all of which are denoted by the black belt – only the highest and tenth master degree is denoted by a red and white belt.

Karate – that brings it

The ultimate goal of karate is not to defeat your opponent. Instead, the karateka should develop and unfold his own personality through self-discipline and maximum concentration – similar to judo. However, the karateka must never forget his responsibility towards the opponent: respect for others comes first!

Training, relaxation, meditation

In “Kihon”, the primary school of karate, the participants acquire the basic attack and defense techniques. The individual movement sequences are rehearsed precisely and practiced again and again until the karateka has internalized them and can execute them without thinking. In addition, strength, endurance, speed and mobility are trained. The aim is good body control, because it is very important for the fight.

In addition, the ability to concentrate and body awareness also play a decisive role. They are improved using relaxation techniques, breathing exercises and meditation.

Effective self defense

Not to be forgotten: Karate is an effective method to defend yourself against attackers. Great muscular strength is not necessarily decisive, which is why karate is equally suitable for young and old, men and women. Concentration, speed, dexterity and also composure are much more important than a thick biceps. Because the karateka must not panic during the fight, otherwise he cannot defend himself effectively.

In special karate courses, the participants are not only trained in the techniques, but also in the psychological aspects of self-assertion and self-defence. Girls and women in particular can benefit from this.

Karate – the equipment

The karate suit is called karate-gi and is similar to the clothes used in judo and aikido : white pants and jacket made of cotton (both without fasteners) and a colored belt (obi). The belt colors indicate the different student grades (kyu), ranging from white to brown. Masters (Dan) holders have a black belt.

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