Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Karate in Arizona

Karate – What is it?

We see Karate Schools” around Arizona: in the Phoenix valley, karate and taekwondo schools are located on almost every block – so what is karate? Are all of the schools the same and teach similar curriculum? First we need to recognize that Karate is Okinawan in origin. Taekwondo in Korean.
One could easily write a book on ‘Karate – actually many people have. But I highly recommend you examine any book on karate before you purchase as most are not worth the paper they are printed on. Otherwise, we will try to keep this blog about karate as brief as possible.
Karate is the ‘art’ of ‘empty hand’ combat. Note I mention this as an ‘art’!  This is a very important concept because there are many combat systems that promote themselves as ‘martial arts’ when they have absolutely no esoteric or redeeming value, such as MMA (mixed martial arts). MMA should either label themselves as ‘fight clubs’, ‘street fighting’, or martial combat as they are not an art by any means.
Karate is considered an art because it has philosophy, requires respect, it has kata (forms) and more that places it in the realm of esoteric value or an art. It can be liken to dancing, but with a different purpose – the purpose being self-improvement and self-defense. If you watched the original Karate Kid movie, you will remember many pieces of esoteric philosophy that led Daniel, san to self-improvement, self-understanding and self-defense. Remember the “wax on, wax off” scene?
Yoko tobi geri (flying side kick), University of Utah
So briefly, karate was developed on Okinawa, Japan, when Okinawa was an independent country. Many are under the impression that karate was a Japanese martial art. It only is a Japanese martial art because Japan invaded Okinawa. After the Okinawans practiced this martial art for hundreds of years in total secrecy (a few hundred years under the noses of the Japanese), they finally brought it out in the open and introduced it to mainland Japan in the early part of the 20th century.
No one kept records on its evolution, so we only have folklore and legend to help discover its origins with  few scattered facts. But karate evolved from Okinawan people traveling to China to learn Kung Fu and then modifying the Chinese art to karate.
Oi-tsuki (classical signature karate punch), Arizona
School of Traditional Karate, Mesa, 2012.
When it began to develop on Okinawa, different villages had different techniques and concepts about what their karate should be. Thus different styles of karate branched from the original “Okinawa Te” (Okinawan Hand Art). After it was introduced to Japan, different Japanese martial artists began to branch from the original Shorin-Ryu karate that was introduced, a few calling themselves masters of the martial arts, and then providing different names for their branches of karate. There are so many, that hopefully, someone will one day complete a research dissertation on the origins and styles of karate.
As you drive around Arizona, you will likely only see information identifying some martial arts schools as ‘karate’. But these are different styles of karate. For example, there is Shorin-Ryu Karate, Shotokan (this style is actually a Shorin-Ryu style of karate given a different name by the Japanese and at the same time, it drifted away from the original concept of Okinawa karate), Kenpo, Kempo, Chinese Kempo, Okinawan Kempo, American Kenpo, Goju-Ryu, Wado-Ryu, Shito-Ryu, Kokusin Kai and many others. So how do you pick which is the right style (ryu) of karate for you?  That is a very challenging question that we will also examine in future blogs.

Check out these Karate Clubs and links in Arizona
Arizona School of Traditional Karate (Mesa-Gilbert)
Arizona Hombu (Mesa)
Seiyo No Shorin-Ryu Karate (Arizona)


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