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Karate is a standup martial art style characterized by it’s focus on punches and kicks. Over time, practitioners have found it useful to combine elements of other styles with Karate. Because of this, four forms of Karate emerged that are currently recognized by Japan.


Translation: Kara –“Empty”, Te –“Hand”, Do –“Way”
Origin: Okinawa, a small island off the coast of Japan and China.
Major Influences: Chinese Kung-Fukarate belt colors


The Chinese introduced their version of martial arts to the Okinawans around the 14th century. By the 17th century, Japan invaded the small island and banned the practice of karate. The Okinawans had to train in secrecy, with no weapons, which is how the name karate “the empty hand way” came about.


Japanese Recognized Karate

The Japanese government recognizes these four styles as ‘official’ Karate. There are other ‘karate’ styles in Japan not mentioned here that were influenced by the four styles above, as well as other Japanese martial arts.

  • Shite-Ryu: An emphasis of power in every technique.
  • Goju-Ryu: Combination of Kung-Fu and Karate. Hard and soft techniques with circular movements.
  • Wado-Ryu: Derived from jujitsu and Okinawan karate. Includes techniques of jujitsu, soft movements, and spiritual discipline.
  • Shotokan: Powerful linear techniques with deep stances.


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