Karate Concepts


The term Karate (Kara-empty or China / Te- hand)  describes an Okinawan method of unarmed and armed self-defense of Chinese origins. Okinawa is the southernmost island province of Japan with an independant history of trade and cultural exhange with both China and mainland Japan.  The term Karate is actually a very recent invention. The Kanji ideograms were first designed to reflect the Chinese origins of Karate but later changed by the mainland Japanese to indicate the more generic "empty" meaning. This change resulted from the considerable anti-Chinese sentiment active in Japan during the early part of the 20th century. The Chinese word for Karate is Kenpo or Kempo.


Prior to the formal adoption of the term Karate in 1933, the Okinawans refered to their indigenous martial arts simply as Te. It was divided into Buki Gawa (weapons), Tegumi (grappling), Te-guwa (impact-based fighting), Tori-te (seizing and controlling) and Kata (solo exercises). Te developed on Okinawa over many centuries by law enforcement, military and aristrocatic elements who had the time and desire to seek martial arts instruction in China's Fujian province, home of the Shoalin Temple. These Okinawans gradually combined Chinese martial arts with their indigenous martial art in a rather haphazard manner. Eventually, this art was introduced to the Japanese mainalnd where it was transformed and systemitized by the rigid cultural forces of that nation. 


By 1933, the Dai Nippon Butokukai, the mainland Japanese martial arts governing body, felt Okinawan Te was too disorganized to become part of Japanese Budo or martial arts. Therefore,  they imposed a number of conditions before the Okinawan masters would be allowed to teach in cities like Tokyo and Yokohama. Subsequently, a group of Okinawan masters agreed to name their versions of Te (creating syles); adopt the Judo uniform and rank structure and create a standardized cirriculum for advancement and competition.   The result was the modern martial art, sport and way of life called Karate. The main Japanese styles include Shotokan, Shito Ryu (roo), Goju Ryu and Wado Ryu. Okinawan styles include Isshin Ryu, Uechi Ryu and Toon Ryu. All the modern styles contain elements of Shorin (quick and light) and Shorei (rooted and hard) techniques in their syllabus.


Our main goal is to study and teach Karate in a safe and respectful environment.  We practice both empty hand and weapon techniques. Karate incorporates two related and mutually supportive facts: Jutsu and Do.  Most Karate systems contain elements of both Jutsu and Do. Karate Jutsu is the older self-defence oriented approach to Karate. This approach has no sporting application and is designed for use against common acts of violence like punches, grabs, shoves and chokes. Karate Jutsu operates on a continuum of flexible response intensity. The term Karate Do generally refers to the more modern, competitive and recreational approach to Karate developed on the Japanese mainland after the art's introduction from Okinawa in the period 1920-1940. Thus, a predominately Karate Jutsu school will have elements of Do and visa versa. It is a matter of  shifting emphasis and balance. Our training is intended to prepare students to deal successfully with the shock and violence of physical assaults of every type. We encourage our students to compliment their physical training with the study of Karate history and philosophy.  To complement our practical focus, we respect the metaphysical traditon of modern Karate Do: the practice of meditation-based introspection and research. In this way we may follow the spiritual path of Karate and gain serenity and spiritual harmony.


Ottawa Karate Jutsu is also involved in the practice of Hanshi Patrick McCarthy's Koryu Uchinadi Kenpo Jutsu. This martial art is Hanshi McCarthy's interpretation of Karate as it was practiced on Okinawa prior to World War II.  Hanshi McCarthy has developed practical two-person drills meant to create functional technical spontaneity in the spirit of pre-War Karate practice.  He offers a two person and solo drill for every category of technique, including prone grappling. Further, his drills provide a technical link between Kata and bunkai jutsu. At Ottawa Karate Jutsu, we apply the ancient principles of Koryu Uchinadi Kenpo Jutsu to modern Karate Do. 


We are committed to a process of continual testing and adaptation of practical Karate techniques to reflect the reality of interpersonal conflicts at both the physical and psychological level. To this end we recommend the use of Karate technique as a last resort and then only within flexible and reasonable limits of force that reflect the level of threat to the defender. The Karate student has an enhanced social responsibility to use minimal force during self-defence. This reality is exacerbated by the legal risks presented by our increasingly litigatious society. We hope to encourage, by example, a high standard of physical fitness and responsible citizenship. Karate training involves years of intense interaction in a courteous and structured environment. Such training is intended to have a positive affect on student's affairs outside the dojo.