Web Japan (sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs) claims there are 50 million karate practitioners worldwide, while the World Karate Federation claims there are 100 million practitioners around the world.
Karate developed from the indigenous martial arts of Ryukyu Islands (literally "hand"; tii in Okinawan) under the influence of Chinese martial arts, particularly Fujian White Crane. It was brought to the Japanese mainland in the early 20th century during a time of cultural exchanges between the Japanese and the Chinese. It was systematically taught in Japan after the Taisho era. In 1922 the Japanese Ministry of Education invited Gichin Funakoshi to Tokyo to give a karate demonstration. In 1924 Keio University established the first university karate club in Japan and by 1932, major Japanese universities had karate clubs. In this era of escalating Japanese militarism, the name was changed from 唐手 ("Chinese hand" or "Tang hand") to 空手 ("empty hand") – both of which are pronounced karate – to indicate that the Japanese wished to develop the combat form in Japanese style. After World War II, Okinawa became an important United States military site and karate became popular among servicemen stationed there.
Karate training is commonly divided into kihon (basics or fundamentals), kata (forms), and kumite (sparring). Kihon is used to refer to the basic techniques that are taught and practiced as the foundation of most Japanese martial arts. The practice and mastery of kihon is essential to all advanced training, and includes the practice of correct body form and breathing, while practicing basics such as stances, punches, kicks, blocks, and thrusts, but it also includes basic representative kata.
Styles of karate differ greatly in the emphasis placed on kihon. Kihon may be practiced as "floor exercises", where the same technique or combination is repeated multiple times as the students move back and forth across the floor. Japanese karate styles are notorious for extended periods of kihon training. This style of practice is believed to ingrain the techniques into the muscle memory of the karateka.
Shigeru Egami, Chief Instructor of Shotokan Dojo, opined that "the majority of followers of karate in overseas countries pursue karate only for its fighting techniques ... Movies and television ... depict karate as a mysterious way of fighting capable of causing death or injury with a single blow ... the mass media present a pseudo art far from the real thing." Shoshin Nagamine said, "Karate may be considered as the conflict within oneself or as a life-long marathon which can be won only through self-discipline, hard training and one's own creative efforts."
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article "Karate", which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.