With an ever growing number of martial arts styles to chose from often with confusing Eastern names the brand name that Westerners do know and can even pronounce is Karate. So what does the word Karate actually mean?
The straight forward meaning of the word Karate is empty hand. Karate, empty hand fighting or unarmed combat straight away implies that when used in a confrontation your not going to be pulling out a weapon.
Karate students through constant practice over a period of time become confident in their ability to fight effectively using their hands and feet. The skills that they develop mean that they are far less likely to reach for a weapon when faced with an aggressive challenge.
Fights outside the school gates undoubtably go back as long as there have been schools but with todays knife culture a clash of egos can now lead to murder. This worrying trend, devastating for the families involved, may not have become prevalent if Karate was widely taught in schools as it is in some countries.
Human nature being what it is youths are always going to fight. By strongly promoting unarmed combats such as boxing judo and karate a culture where the picking up of a weapon or the carrying of a knife is seen as unmanly and cowardly is created
Te, the original art from Okinawa.
Ironically the name Karate was only coined when Karate was taken to Japan a little over a hundred years ago from its birthplace in Okinawa. Here the original art was called simply Te, which means hand. The far older style of Te with a strong Chinese influence did train in weapons but this tradition was largely dropped by the more modern Japanese version and the empty or Kara was added to the name.
Gun culture or Empty hand culture?
While Western Europe, unlike America, May not have a gun culture what of the future? Computer games for children are very often about killing the enemy with guns. Is this really suitable entertainment for youngsters or could it be something more sinister? Could these games, by accident or design, be a tool for desensitising future soldiers to the horrific act of killing?
Karate can be learnt by children from about the age of seven or eight and judo probably even younger and if your going to plant the seed of unarmed culture the younger the better.