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Karate is a Japanese martial art which roots go back to the 6th century China. According to the legend, an Indian monk, Bodhidharma, taught a form of combat which later spread from China to other countries and developed into various styles.
In its original form (Okinawa-te), karate started in the Ryu-kyu Islands in the 17th century. Its present name is from 1935 and comes from “kara”, the Chinese ideogram for “empty” and “te”, the ideogram for “hand” – “the empty hand” (or “empty” yourself), an unarmed martial art.
Similar to transistor-radios, computers and advanced cameras, karate has been invented elsewhere, but was improved and developed to perfection in Japan. The country thus became, if not the cradle of karate, in any case its modern educational institution. It was here that the modern karate’s traditional and systematic training methods were created.
This explains why karate is based on Japanese mentality and training methods. It is built upon a holistic view of human beings and has roots in Zen and Japanese traditions. Mental development, respect for others, self-respect and self-control are equally important as physical skills. The basic attitude in karate is defensive. Its use in practice can only be justified in self-defence, however, when used, it is highly effective.
There are four traditional Japanese styles in karate: Goju-ryu, Shito-ryu, Shotokan and Wado-ryu.
The Shotokan style, practiced at Universitets Shotokan Karate Club, was created by Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957). Around the turn of the century, Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957) combined the best elements from the different martial arts that had been developed in the Ryu-kyu Island. In the 1920′s, he spread the knowledge of karate in Japan where pupils dubbed their training hall, or kan, after the master’s pen-name, Shoto. From this comes the name “Shotokan”. Today, the style is familiar in most parts of the world and is the most widespread style (ryu) within traditional karate.