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Martial Arts :: Karate

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Jackie Chan and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles know karate so why shouldn't you? Kidzworld takes a look at karate.

History

Karate comes from the Japanese words "kara" and "te" meaning "open hand." It is a form of martial arts that uses punches, kicks and deflection techniques. The origins of karate can be traced back thousands of years ago to the island of Okinawa in Japan. Because weapons were banned in Okinawa for many years, Okinawans developed strong hand-fighting techniques as a way to defend themselves without using traditional weapons. Karate was further developed by the influence of other forms of martial arts, which were brought to Okinawa by nobles and traders from other parts of Asia.

Levels and Gear

Karetkas (people who practice karate) wear an outfit called a "gi" - a white pair of loose-fitting pants and a jacket cinched close with a belt. The color of a kareteka's belt indicates their skill level, or kyu. A white belt is for those karetkas who are just starting out, a black belt is for those with very high karate skills. Colors vary depending on where you take your karate classes but at most schools, a red belt is awarded to karetekas of the highest "dan". Although, it is very rare for someone to be awarded a red belt.

Getting Started

Karate is about more than just breaking boards or being able to defend yourself. It's a martial art that can help you strenghten yourself physically, mentally and spiritually. It's also a great way to reduce stress and build self confidence. If you'd like to get started in karate, most areas of the US have private karate schools and you can also look into karate programs at your local community center.

Fun Facts

  • As recently as a hundred years ago, it was common practice for karatekas to intentionally break one or both of their middle fingers early on in their karate training. This increased the size of the middle knuckle, making it a more effective punching weapon. Ouch!
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