Tonbridge Kyokushin Karate Club - Karate
Kyokushin Karate Club
Literally translated, the word karate means 'empty hand', emphasising the fact that karate is indeed a form of unarmed combat .The roots of karate as we know it today have been traced back many hundreds , even thousands, of years. Much of the early development is credited to India and the monk Bodhidharma. Karate as we know it today is widely thought to have largely developed in China, filtering eventually to Japan through the Ryukyu Islands, Okinawa in particular. Karate was first introduced into Japan in the early 20th century by Master Gichin Funakoshi (right), from Okinawa. Unarmed combat systems were practiced in Japan previously, practically every country in Asia had simultaneously developed unarmed fighting systems independently, but this was the first time Karate as we more or less know it today had been introduced to mainland Japan. This was a primarily defensive art, consisting of many katas (pre-set patterns of movements), with an accompanying philosophy that was, and still is, inseparable from the physical art. Sensei Funakoshi is said to have been very strict in insisting that his students never use their art against untrained fighters, even in self-defence. The peaceful philosophy of the art can be noted in the fact that all the katas begin with a blocking action, and never a strike (there may be some exceptions to this in higher graded katas or derivative styles but as a rule is accepted).

In time, inevitably, many of Funakoshi Sensei's top students left to form their own schools or 'ryus', and also more different established styles of karate had already followed from Okinawa into Japan, such as Goju Ryu and Shotokai. The name of Funakoshi Sensei's dojo was the Shoto-kan, and this name was adopted as the name of the karate 'ryu' that he brought to Japan. The different styles of karate placed different emphasis on different aspects of training, but all were considered to be traditional, and all had traditional roots. Some schools trained more towards strength, others had rigidity in their moves whilst others flowed, some regarded speed as primary, but they all encompassed parts of eachother, albeit at differing levels. Ultimately, karate training consisted (and still does) of working within a hierarchy based on grade primarily, learning blocking movements, punches and strikes with open hands, kicks, and kata, the applications of which incorporate grabs, locks and throws also. Eventually, by the mid-1960s, karate spread to the west in it's varying styles, courtesy of various senseis coming out of Japan, Enoeda, Kanazawa, Suzuki, and our own senseis Boulton and Arneil, to name only a few.

It may be fair to say that in recent years traditional karate has suffered something of an image problem, brought about largely by the commercial marketing of other martial arts and the claims of some of their instructors. There is often no etiquette other than westernised 'student creeds'. Modern martial arts magazines, produced primarily to make money, carry articles using spun terms like 'cross-training', as though the concept were a new phenomenom. In reality, the 'old-school' karate masters (and masters of other martial arts) cross-trained as a matter of course, and very little fuss was made about it as seems to be today. Our own Kyokushin founder, Sosai Mas Oyama held a 4th Dan grade in judo, and Hanshi Steve Arneil (9th Dan) had a 1st Dan grade in judo before he began his serious study of karate. Visiting the dojos of other martial arts masters was commonplace and considered a courtesy, the difference being perhaps that whilst senior students then would train and visit other styles, they would remain usually with their Sensei or teacher as a base, and wouldn't usually deviate until reaching a relatively high level in their first chosen art. Today, novice martial artists can be easily confused by the seemingly infinite number of 'different' styles on offer, though sadly very often the only thing unique about the style is the name. Karate is still very popular and is a good, traditional martial art with a huge amount to offer those prepared to commit to the training.