Karate is a Japanese martial art whose physical aspects seek the development of defensive and counterattacking body movements. The themes of traditional karate training are fighting and self-defence, though its mental and moral aspects target the overall improvement of the individual. This is facilitated by the discipline and persistent effort required in training. If karate had to be described in only one sentence, then the most suitable one may arguably be “You never attack first in karate.” This is a maxim of Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957), the Okinawan who brought karate to Japan in 1922, and who is accepted as the father of modern karate.
The word karate is a combination of two kanji (Chinese characters): kara, meaning empty, and te, meaning hand; thus, karate means “empty hand.” Adding the suffix “-dō” (pronounced “daw”), meaning “the way/path,” karate-dō, implies karate as a total way of life that goes well beyond the self-defence applications. In traditional karate-dō, one is supposed to compete and strive to excel against him/herself.
Today there are four main styles of karate in Japan: Shotokan, Goju-ryu, Shito-ryu, and Wado-ryu. Shotokan, though never described as a style by Gichin Funakoshi, it has been nevertheless considered as his. Actually, Shotokan was the name of his dōjo, chosen after the pen name used by Funakoshi to sign poems written in his youth. Shotokan Karate is characterized by powerful linear techniques and deep strong stances. It is the style taught at the Fenland Karate Club.
Like the word karate, Shotokan is also composed of two different kanji : Shoto, meaning “pine breeze” and kan, meaning “the place”, thus Shotokan means the “place of pine”.