Martial Arts / Karate Do / Health
What is a martial art? In Roman mythology,
Mars is the god of war so any
fighting art (or war art) was known to European culture as a martial art (or
"art of Mars"). To be very general, most European-sourced fighting
styles tend to be closed-handed while many Asian-sourced styles tend to be
open-handed or mixed.
Asian Martial Arts (10,000 foot view)
There are many
but this webpage follows one thread of
Asian martial arts (origins) as it flowed from India, to China, to Okinawa, to Japan, to
||Zen Buddhist Monk who brought Buddhism and martial arts from India
- some sources say he walked, other sources say he went by ship
- According to Chinese legend, he also began the physical training of
the Shaolin monks that led to the creation of
Shaolinquan (Shaolin Kung Fu)
||Okinawan Te master who visits China then merges Chinese
Kung fu with
Okinawan Te into Okinawan
||brings Okinawan Te to Japan then develops Shotokan Karate
||develops Okinawan Karate into Okinawan Goju-ryu (hard/soft school)
||continues to develop Japanese Goju-ryu
||Born in the Territory of Hawaii (before it became a US state), Kim
learned judo an some Karate as a child. After WW2 he lived for seven
years in Japan teaching Okinawan Kobudo and
Shōrinji-ryū. He introduced one of his students, Peter
Urban, to Masutatsu Oyama and Gogen
||brings Goju-ryu from Japan to America then develops American
Goju which morphs into GoJu USA
caveat: Eastern Asian names are almost always presented "surname first"
Goju-Ryu is started by
Miyagi Chojun (yep,
same surname as the janitor in the movie "The Karate Kid") in 1933. Click
here to read how Chinese
Kung fu and three
different styles of Okinawan Te (Naha-te
, Shuri-te ,
merged to become Okinawan
- Funakoshi Gichin
introduces Okinawan Karate to Japan in 1922 where it is formalized then
- Peter Urban
(who trained in Japan under Sensei
and Gogen Yamaguchi
in the 1950s)
is not successful in obtaining permission from Yamaguchi to start American Goju-Ryu but does so anyway.
- Sensei Marlene & Jerry Kasper
Karate Do (Empty Handed Way -or- Way of the Empty Hand)
Karate @ Wikipedia
- Karate begins in Okinawa as Tode-jutsu or
Tode or To-te ("Te" means
- Te practitioners journeyed to China (Fuchow
was an Okinawan settlement in those days) to learn various Chinese
martial arts including Kempo,
- The merged styles were brought back to Okinawa which later migrated to Japan
where they are formalized and standardized.
- Karate definitions:
- Okinawan meaning of Karate: Way of the Chinese Hand
- Japanese meaning of Karate: Way of the Empty Hand
- Okinawa is the name of the largest island in the chain of
running between Japan and Taiwan. Although the people of Okinawa were
genetically and culturally linked to the people of Japan, Okinawa was
considered a tribute state of China.
- By 1372 trading relations between Okinawa and China had already
existed for several hundred years. That year something which would
have an enormous impact on not only the development of Okinawa Te
but also on the history of Okinawa itself happened. The Emperor of
Okinawa Satto voluntarily agreed to become a vassal of China. Under
Chinese laws of that time goods produced in countries belonging to
China's protectorate were not liable to customs taxes. China was
obliged to, in case of war, defend countries under its protectorate.
A delegation of Okinawans signed the agreement in Peking with the
Emperor Hang Wu Thai (Ming Dynasty).
- In 1393 an event called "Sanye Roku Sei" - "Thirty-six families"
took place. A large group of Chinese settlers founded on Okinawa the
village Kume Mupai not far from the city of Naha. The expression
"Thirty-six" doesn't signify the number of settlers, but rather in
the 15th century this Chinese character meant a large group of
people. They had not come to wage war. Some of them were artists,
craftsmen, and seafarers. They taught the Okinawans Chinese writing,
education, and arts. Among them was also large group Tsuan Fa
masters (Chinese Martial Art). Young people were more than happy to
start learning a new type of martial art. It was right at this time
that Tsuan Fa (Chinese Martial Art) and To De (Okinawan Martial Art)
began to unite to create Ancient Okinawa Karate - a new martial art
which had no equal. Okinawa was under Chinese protectorate for
more than 200 years. Chinese Imperial Dynasties did not interfere in
the internal affairs of Okinawa. This collaboration brought Okinawa
a much higher level of education, economic improvement and increased
trade. Okinawa sent its diplomats and high-ranking officials to
study in China.
- By 1600 the Ming Dynasty was in decline. China was invaded by
Mongolian hordes. The head of the South-Japanese clan
Iehitsu Shimatsu decided to take advantage of this situation. With
the emperor's permission and three thousand Samurais armed with
muskets on 100 warships, seized Okinawa. The Okinawan Emperor was
disposed. A small group of people loyal to the Emperor openly
resisted the Satsuma. They were captured and sentenced to death.
Several enormous cauldrons water were placed on a bonfires and they
were thrown into the boiling water alive. Okinawans who witnessed
the execution created a symbol - three twisted drops in a circle
which reminded them of the boiling water in the caldron boiling when
a man was thrown in. "Hidari
Gomon" became the symbol of the fight
of Okinawan inhabitants against Japanese Samurais and subsequently
the symbol of Okinawa Te. It was the end of Okinawa's independence
and the beginning of a harsh subjugation of the Ryukyu archipelago.
(For more details click to
- The first official act of the Japanese in Okinawa was to disarm the
population, shut down the Okinawa militia, and disband the Okinawa police.
- At that time, a Japanese soldier could arrest or kill an Okinawan
citizen for no reason at all. To make matters worse, some superstitious
shoguns believed that a sword was not ready for combat until it had
taken a life (usually done by taking the life of a criminal provided
one was available). Likewise, some superstitious sword-makers thought their
creations would gain additional hardness if heated to a red-hot
temperature then run-through a living person (they had no formal
knowledge of the science of metallurgy including
order to protect themselves from their Japanese overlords, some Okinawans
rediscovered hand-to-hand martial
arts then taught theses skills to others at night (many exercised in their
pajamas in case they were discovered). Since teaching martial arts was
illegal, all information was passed orally
from master to student; nothing was ever written down (this is one
reason why there is so much variation seen in today's history of karate;
perhaps the internet can remedy this). At that time,
three Te styles were developed in the three major cities of Okinawa:
- Since they had no weapons they developed fighting styles based upon
farming implements. Here is a very short list:
||a long stick used to transport two buckets of water
||a short walking stick
||a removable handle used as a crank of a water well
||two sticks joined with a chain (used to separate rice from chaff)
||small trident to restrain small animals or barbeque chickens
Notable People in Karate
- In 1742, Shuri-te practitioner
(1733-1815) journeyed to China to learn
Kempo. He brought this
knowledge back to Okinawa in 1762.
- In 1865, Naha-te practitioner
(1851-1915) visited China to learn
Kung Fu. He brought this knowledge back to
Okinawa in 1878.
- Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953) merges
Kung Fu and names the new style
("Hard-Soft School" or "50 School")
- In 1922, Okinawan teacher
Gichin (1868-1957) introduced Okinawan Karate to Japan. This
morphed into a Japanese Karate style known as
Yamaguchi (1909-1989) was asked by
Chojun Miyagi to popularize Karate in Japan
- Martial Arts
- Hard and soft (martial arts)
- Wado Ryu
- History of GoJu
- History of
- Local dojo sites with "Karate History" pages
- Japanese Terms
- Bodhidharma (482 AD - 539 AD) is the Zen Buddhist Monk who brought
martial arts from India to China
Kun: a gift from Chogun Miyagi (B-T-P-B-T-L-D-C)
Hitotsu (each item has equal importance)
- Be humble an polite
considering your physical strength
earnestly with creativity
- Be calm and
- Take care of
- Live a plain
- Do not be
too proud or modest
your training with patience
paths to better Kata
Karate Belt Colors
- kyu 6 white
- kyu 5 yellow
- kyu 4 orange
- kyu 3 green
- kyu 2 blue
- kyu 1 brown
- dan * black
Learn more ways to preserve rather
Avoid rather than check;
Check rather than hurt;
Hurt rather than maim;
Maim rather then kill;
All life is precious nor can it be replaced.
-- Master Khan to Grasshopper
am troubled; We learn to make powerful our bodies yet we are taught
to reverence all against whom we may use such force.
life is threatened, or the innocent life of another, you will be
prepared to defend them.
prepared better than others, should I not always stand and fight?
insulting tongue; duck the provoking blow; run from the assault of
not the actions of a coward?
boar runs from the tiger knowing that each being well armed by
nature with deadly strength, may kill the other. Running, he saves
his own life and that of the tiger. This is not cowardice, this is
the love of life.
My Karate Training (Integrated with Weight Lifting)
Here is the recommended way to train with weights (I only show arm curls but this works
for every body part):
- pick up enough weight to three sets of
ten repetitions to the point of exhaustion (of that
- do first set of 10 repetitions
- pause 30-60 seconds (allows muscles to recover)
- do second set of 10 repetitions
- pause 30-60 seconds
- do third set of 10 repetitions
- pause 30-60 seconds (optional)
- move on to a different body part
- some people skip even days (to recover) while others work out every day
(but are sure to exercise different body parts than the previous training day)
- exercising every day is better but you only need 45-60 minutes. Never
engage in overtraining.
- think of working out every day like brushing your teeth (you would never
skip a day)
- repeat exercise for day 1 (above) but see if you can do more reps per
- you might end up doing 11-10-10, then 11-11-10, then 11-11-11
- once you can do 11-11-11 (three sets of eleven)
for a short while, push for twelve sets per rep
- you might end up doing 12-11-11, then 12-12-11, then 12-12-12
- once you are at 12-12-12 (three sets of twelve)
for a short while, slightly increase the weight
then return to three sets of ten
- don't worry if you are unable to increase your reps. You are trying to
get healthy so don't hurt yourself.
- repeat the activity for day 2
Junior Karate Belts
- I joined a Karate club after working out in a gym for 17 years and was
able to keep up to people half my age so doing both can be beneficial.
- although you need to be careful to never over train any given body
- I attended Karate Class three times a week and was at the gym the other four.
Senior Karate Belts
- In our club, senior belt students at least 18 years of age must also study Classical
consists of Okinawan farming tools (bow, jo, tonfa, numchucks), Japanese Samurai Sword (via wooden
bokken), and Philipino
- By the time I made it to Blue I discovered I was becoming winded while
sparing (kumite) with students half my age.
To compensate, I changed my
gymnasium workouts so I had no 30-60 second pause between sets. Instead, I
immediately rotated to my next set (set #1 of arms, set #1 of legs, set #1 of
something else, then set #2 of arms, set #2 of legs, set #2 of something
else, etc.) so that while though individual muscles sets were recovering, my
respiratory and circulatory systems were always busy.
My Black Belt (shodan)
Okay so every Karate club is different but here is what happened at my
Black Belt Karate-Kobudo
- Only black belts were allowed to attend.
- We were pre-warned there would be no water breaks or pee breaks (also,
could not bring a water bottle).
- We were pre-warned to expect the unexpected.
- Only two people graded.
- Seven black belts attended (more on this below)
- The whole grading was a few minutes shy of 6 hours with no breaks of any
- We did various Kata as requested by the Sensi
- At the three hour mark, I was told to rest up by doing
Taichi (108 stage Yang
style) while the other student was asked to do Kobudo Kata. But there was a
twist: this was the first time I ever did Taichi while being periodically
attacked with weapons (this grading did involve Kobudo). In fact, I was intermittently attacked by one of four armed black belts (one with a wooden dagger, one
with Numchucks, one
with a single Escrima stick, and one with a
After each attack I was to continue my Taichi set at the point where I was
interrupted. Yikes! No rest here!
- After 15 minutes of Taichi it was my turn for Kobudo Kata and this went back
and forth until the hour was up.
- At the four hour mark
- we both participated in self defense where
we were attacked (starting with our eyes closed) by reasonably fresh black belts and expected to defend
- At the five hour mark
- we two students were asked to fight each other (full contact)
and this went on for 6-7 minutes with my younger opponent not holding
anything back (didn't he know there was more to come?)
- At this point my opponent was asked to do Taichi while I fought (full contact) a fresh black belt
- After a minute (seemed much longer) my sensei sent in a second black
belt so now it was "two
- After another minute he sent in a third so it was now "three on one" (at this
point I was "trying" stuff like "yanking smaller guys between me and bigger guys"
just so I could recover a little)
- This went on until it was "five on one". After about a minute
of this, I went down with a kick to the
chest (which I saw coming but was unable (no muscle energy) to block).
- Apparently my Sensei would have sent in more opponents until I did go down because
the whole point of this was "not to win" but "to see how well the student handles a no-win
situation" (reminds me of Star Fleet's
- The I was asked to do Taichi while the other student was put through
the same wringer
- At the 5.5 hour mark there was a series of verbal tests involving Karate
- We finished a few minutes before the 6 hour mark
- This was the most physically demanding thing I have done as an adult
- My KarateGi was
covered with blood splatters but none of it was mine (I have no idea
where it came from; Usually drawing blood will prematurely end a grading)
- I lost 5 Kg (11 pounds) due to water loss (needed to chug 3
one-liter bottles of
Perrier before I felt somewhat restored although I still experienced some
- The next day, my body felt like it was in a car accident (I walked
like an old man).
- I was physically unable to go to the gym for about 3 days.
Lessons Learned (my advice to you)
- I knew the grading would be 5-6 hours.
- I should have spent some gym time doing light exercises for
5-6 hours "just to feel what it was like".
- I recommend you do this once every two weeks for two months
before your grading
- Do not do this the week of your grading, or the week before (you
do not want to over-train)
- As I mentioned previously, "I saw a kick coming but was
unable to raise my arm to block it". Translation: there was no
resources available to power my muscles at that time.
- Okay so I have modified my gymnasium workouts to (try to) compensate
for not being able to come up with more energy in an emergency.
- Using my usual lifting weight, I attempted to replace "3 sets of 10 reps" with "1 set of 30 reps". This
is harder than it sounds and I invite everyone to give it a try.
- In my case I was able to only do "1 set of 22" on the first
attempt but was comfortably doing
"1 set of thirty" after 7-10 days.
- Many times I have been able to do "1 set of 36 reps" but
occasionally am able to do "1 set of 40 reps". Time to slightly
increase my weight?
- Update: this change has worked out well but I have plateaued. So now
I intend to do normal sets (three sets of ten) for three weeks followed
by endurance sets (one set of thirty) for three weeks. Always keep
A plug for "My Karate Dojo" in Kitchener - Waterloo
"Kitchener Karate", "Kitchener Martial Arts", "Kitchener Goju ryu"
Kitchener - Waterloo - Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.