What is Okinawan Karate and how is it different from other “Karate?”

In 1936 the name Karate was developed by a committee of Okinawan instructors as the name of their family of martial arts.  The reasoning was that in Japanese, Kara- means empty (as in the word karaoke) and te (ti in Okinawan dialect) was hand.  The two symbols read as Karate in Japanese became the official name for these arts.  While in the US it is used to mean any fighting art, Karate is an empty handed martial art with roots in Okinawa.

Okinawa, the birthplace of Karate, is a group of islands which make up a prefecture of Japan.  You may have heard of Okinawa as being home to the happiest, most physically fit people in the world.  That unique culture infuses Okinawan Karate with the ideals of the Ryu Kyu Kingdom.  It does not have the rigid Imperial Japanese military ideas that are common in some Martial arts.  Instead, it allows students the independence to excel on their own time and develop their own individuality.  The goal is to make the student into a leader.

We have children who have acquired a skill who teach those skills to newer students.  This helps children learn to take up responsibilities and become freethinking leaders.  Some people have said that leadership skills help people succeed later in life.

We know that no two people are the same so this individuality is important in Karate.  One child may learn the physical aspect of Karate and the other might be more inclined to the history or philosophy of Karate.  This makes it possible for  each child to teach their specialty to another.  In this child-teaches-child relationship, children form great friendships that can potentially last a life-time.

Before 1900’s the arts known as Okinawan Karate were taught to the social class called Pechin.  These were the castle administrators, diplomats, and leader.  As the people taught were needed to understand how to work with other and manners.  Saying please and thank you was, and remains a vital part of Okinawan Karate.

In the beginning of aclass, the students bows and says Onaygaishimas, which they are taught and reminded means please.  At the end of class, they are taught to say Domo Arigato Gozaimashta which means thank you.  It is stressed that they say please to parents before a meal and thank you afterwards to re-enforce these habits.

Okinawan Karate is heavily influenced by Confucius philosophies that stress unity of the family, good manners, and respecting their families and older people.  At the same time, this philosophy stresses that their safety comes before all else.  Our goal is not to make tournament “Champions” but to help children find their way and become happy successful adults in the field they choose.

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