Karate Concepts


The term Karate (Kara-empty or China / Te- hand) was originally coined to describe an Okinawan method of unarmed and armed self-defense. Karate developed slowly over the centuries as Okinawan martial artists blended Siamese (Thai) and Chinese martial techniques with their indigenous grappling art, Tegumi.. Okinawa is the southernmost island province of Japan with an independant history of trade and cultural exchange with both China, Japan, Korea and the feudal kingdoms of Southeast Asia. The term Karate is actually a recent invention of cultural necessity. The Kanji ideograms of Karate (China hand) were first designed to reflect its largely Chinese origins but later changed by the mainland Japanese to indicate the more generic "empty hand" meaning. This change resulted from the considerable anti-Chinese sentiment active in Japan during the early part of the 20th century. 


Prior to the formal adoption of the term Karate in 1933, the Okinawans referred 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). Eventually, this art was introduced to the Japanese mainland where it was transformed and systematized by the rigid cultural forces of that nation. 

Ironically, the newer Karate Do gradually supplanted the older Karate Jutsu on Okinawa itself due to Japanese militarism and the growing popularity of sporting matches. This "reverse influence" has rendered modern "Okinawan" Karate indistinguishable from its Japanese countertpart on the mainland.


As previously-mentioned, Koryu Karate Jutsu features escapes, vital point strikes, throws, strangulations/chokes, joint locks and prone grappling techniques that are absent from Karate Do, although some styles have broadened their technical range. The rise of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and the popularity of Brazilian Jujitsu has challenged the credibility of Karate Do as a fighting method. Conversely, Okinawan Karate Jutsu has been called the original Mixed Martial Art (MMA).

Karate Do developed on mainland Japan in the 1930's after Okinawan masters began teaching a simplified version of their secretive Karate Jutsu to Japanese learners. Although some Okinawan teachers shared basic grappling techniques these locks and throws were later removed by Japanese instructors determined to present Karate as a striking and kicking art. This new Japanese art soon joined Judo and Kendo as a recreational activity that became especially popular among male university students, These agressive young students were mainly interested in jyu kumite or free sparring contests, a practice that had been relatively unknown to Okinawan martial artists.

Gradually, competitive sparring, solo kata and tameshiwari (brick & board breaking) became the public face of Karate both in Japan and the West. While this phenomenon has popularized Karate in general, it has also created considerable confusion about Karate's self-defense value since the reality-based techniques of Koryu Karate Jutsu were mainly ignored or presented as a novelty. Ironically, the newer Karate Do gradually supplanted the older Karate Jutsu on Okinawa itself due to Japanese militarism and the growing popularity of sporting matches. This "reverse influence" has rendered modern "Okinawan" Karate indistinguishable from its Japanese countertpart on the mainland.Thankfully, the situation is changing as Koryu Karate Jutsu slowly gains acceptance.


First generation Japanese Karate Do instructors began teaching Kata (forms) in a haphazard manner, leaving the students to interpret the meaning themselves. This is unsurprising since their Okinawan masters had shared little of the Kata's hidden purposes. Prior to this, Okinawan sensei had taught Kata to their private students at the end of a learning cycle to serve as memory exercises to reinforce previously-learned self-defense scenarios called bunkai jutsu. Some kata were comprehensive enough to be considered complete martial systems. 

Later, Western students of Japanese Karate Do sensei learned and taught Kata in the same haphazard fashion, leading to the further proliferation of unrealistic "bunkai". Their primary mistake was assuming that the Kata were meant to teach them to counter the predictable techniques of other Karate ka. They could not have known that the Kata were actually meant to help learners remember self-defense techniques against common attacks like seizing, choking, myriad strikes and combined acts of violence. 


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 styles); adopt the Judo uniform and rank structure and create a standardized curriculum for advancement and competition.   The result was the modern martial art, sport and way of life called Karate Do. The new Japanese styles include Shotokan, Shito Ryu, Goju Ryu and Wado Ryu. All the modern styles contain elements of Shorin (quick and light) and Shorei (rooted and hard) techniques in their syllabus.


At Okuden Karate Jutsu we practice and teach Karate in a safe and dignified environment to ease learning and and foster a spirit of mutual respect. While we appreciate and admire the sportive spirit of Karate Do, we focus exclusively on practical Karate Jutsu which has no sporting application and was designed for use against common acts of violence like clinches, grabs, shoves, chokes and every kind of striking. Karate Jutsu operates on a continuum of flexible response intensity and is perfectly in line with Canadian law specifying the use of reasonable force.

Such training prepares 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 tradition 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. 


We are committed to a process of adaptation of Bunkai Jutsu to reflect the reality of interpersonal conflicts at both the physical and psychological level. While Kata itself must never change, the process of Awa Kata or adaptation is necessary response to changes in interpersonal violence at the street level. For example, edged weapons and group attacks have become common in Canadian cities so bunkai Jutsu must be modified to reflect this reality.  To this end we recommend the use of Karate technique as a last resort and then only within flexible and reasonable limits of force as specified by Canadian law . 


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 litigious 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 tends to have a positive affect on student's affairs outside the dojo.