from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Calligraphy of the Japanese Kanji characters for "Karate "

Karate [ kaɺate ] Karate ? / i ( Japanese 空手 , German "empty hand") is a martial art whose history can be safely traced back to Okinawa in the 19th century, where local Okinawan traditions ( okinawa Ti , ) with Chinese influences (Japanese Shorin Kempō / Kenpō ; Chinese Shàolín Quánfǎ ) merged into historical death ( okin. Tōdi , 唐 手 ). At the beginning of the 20th century this found its way to Japan and after the Second World War it was spread all over the world as karate. Audio file / audio sample

In terms of content, karate is characterized primarily by punching , pushing , kicking and blocking techniques as well as foot sweeping techniques as the core of the training. A few levers and throws are also taught (after sufficient mastery of the basic techniques), in advanced training also strangle holds and nerve point techniques are practiced. Sometimes the application of techniques is practiced with the help of Kobudō weapons , with weapon training not being an integral part of karate.

The physical condition, which nowadays aims in particular for flexibility , speed strength and anaerobic resilience , is usually very important. The hardening of the limbs u. a. with the aim of the breaking test (Japanese Tameshiwari , 試 し 割 り ), i.e. breaking boards or bricks, is less popular today, but is still used by individual styles (for example: Okinawan Goju Ryu).

Modern karate training is often more sporty. This means that the competition is very important. This orientation is often criticized because it is believed that it limits the teaching of effective self-defense techniques, which are definitely part of karate, and dilutes karate.



Karate - "dō" (Japanese 空手道 'path of the empty hand' ) used to be mostly just called karate and is still the most common name today. The addition " " is used to underline the philosophical background of art and its importance as a way of life . The spelling “ 唐 手 ”, which literally means “Chinese hand” or “foreign hand”, was in use until the 1930s . The character " " with the Sino-Japanese reading and the Japanese reading kara referred to the China of the Tang Dynasty (618 to 907 AD). Thus the Chinese origins were already manifested in the name of the martial art. Presumably for political reasons - Japanese nationalism - it was at the beginning of the 20th century, initiated by Funakoshi Gichin in Japan to over the homophone letters kara " to use", with the meaning of "empty void". The historical “Chinese hand” or “foreign hand” ( karate , 唐 手 ) became today's “ karate ” ( 空手 ) meaning “empty hand”. The new symbol was read like the old kara and was also appropriate in terms of its meaning insofar as karate usually fights with empty hands, i.e. without weapons. (see Tang Soo Do )

In German , when pronouncing the word karate, the second syllable is stressed. Often, as in several Romance languages, for example French or Portuguese, the emphasis is on te . According to the Japanese pronunciation of the word, however, an equal accentuation of each syllable is common.


The legend tells that the Buddhist monk Daruma Taishi (Jap.達磨 大師ダ ル マ ・ た い し, dt. Master Bodhidharma , known in Chinese chronicles as the "blue-eyed monk") from Persia or Kanchipuram (South India ) reached the Shaolin monastery (Japanese Shōrinji, 少林寺 ) in the 6th century and not only did Chán ( Zen - Buddhism ) there but also instructed the monks in physical exercises so that they could endure the long meditation . This is how Shaolin Kung Fu (correctly Shaolin-Quánfǎ, Japanese Shōrin Kempō / Kenpō ) originated, from which many other Chinese martial arts styles ( Wushu ) would have developed.

Since karate knows about its Chinese roots, it also likes to see itself as a descendant of that tradition (Chan, Bodhidharma, Shaolin), the historicity of which is in the dark and is controversial among historians. Nevertheless, the portrait of Daruma adorns many a dojo .


Karate in its current form developed on the Pacific chain of the Ryūkyū Islands , particularly on the main island of Okinawa . This is about 500 kilometers south of the Japanese main island Kyushu between the South China Sea and the Pacific . Today the island of Okinawa is part of the prefecture of the same name in Japan . As early as the 14th century, Okinawa, then the center of the independent island kingdom of Ryūkyū , had lively trade contacts with Japan, China, Korea and Southeast Asia.

The urban centers of the island, Naha , Shuri and Tomari , were important transshipment points for goods at that time and thus offered a forum for cultural exchange with mainland China. As a result, first impressions of Chinese fighting techniques of Kempō / Kenpō 1 ( Chinese  拳法 , Pinyin Quánfǎ 1 , obsolete according to WG Ch'üan-Fa , literally “method of fist”, correctly “fighting technique, technique of martial arts, technique of fist fighting”) came to Okinawa where they are with the local combat system of Te / De ( okin. TI , mixed and so on) death (okin. Todi , 唐手 ) or Okinawa-Te (okin. Uchinadi - "hand of Okinawa," 沖縄手 ) further developed. Te literally means "hand", in the figurative sense also "technology" or "hand technique". The original term for Tōde or Karate (Japanese 唐 手 ) can therefore be freely translated as “hand technique from the land of Tang” (China) (but of course means the various techniques as a whole).

The different economic importance of the islands meant that they were constantly hit by unrest and uprisings. In 1422, King Sho Hashi finally succeeded in uniting the islands. In order to maintain peace among the insurgent population, he then banned the carrying of any weapons. Since 1477, his successor Shō Shin ruled and affirmed the policy of prohibiting weapons of his predecessor. To control the various regions, he pledged all princes for permanent residence to his court in Shuri - a control option, the later of the Tokugawa - Shoguns was copied. With the ban on weapons, the unarmed martial art of Okinawa-Te enjoyed growing popularity for the first time, and many of its masters traveled to China to study the Chinese Quánfǎ.

In 1609 the Shimazu from Satsuma occupied the island chain and tightened the gun ban so that even the possession of any weapon, even ceremonial weapons, was made a severe punishment. This ban on weapons was known as katanagari ("hunting for swords", 刀 狩 ). Swords, daggers, knives and all kinds of blade tools were systematically collected. This went so far that a village was only allowed one kitchen knife, which was attached to the village well (or at some other central point) with a rope and was closely guarded.

The tightened gun ban was intended to prevent unrest and armed resistance against the new rulers. However, Japanese samurai had the right to the so-called "sword test", according to which they could test the sharpness of their sword blades on corpses, wounded or even arbitrarily on a peasant, which also happened. The annexation thus led to an increased need for self-defense, especially since the feudal Okinawa at that time lacked police and legal protection that could protect individuals from such interventions. The lack of state legal protection institutions and the increased need for defense against arbitrary acts by the new rulers established a process of intensifying and subtilizing the fighting system Te to the martial art karate.

It took about twenty years for the great masters of Okinawa-Te to form a secret opposition league and to stipulate that Okinawa-Te should only be passed on in secret to selected people.

Meanwhile, the Kobudō developed in the rural population , using special techniques to turn tools and everyday objects into weapons. Spiritual, mental and health aspects as taught in Quánf were lost. Designed for efficiency, techniques that involved unnecessary risk, such as kicks in the head area, were not trained. In this context, one can speak of a selection of the techniques. Kobudō and his weapons made from everyday objects and tools could not be banned for economic reasons, as they were simply necessary for the supply of the population and the occupiers.

However, it was very difficult to fight a trained and well-armed warrior with these weapons. Therefore, in Okinawa-Te and Kobudō, which were still taught closely together at that time, the maxim not to be hit as possible and at the same time to use the few opportunities that arose to kill the opponent with a single blow developed. This principle specific to karate is called ikken hissatsu . The selection of the most efficient fighting techniques and the Ikken-Hissatsu principle earned karate the unjustified reputation of being an aggressive fighting system, even the "toughest of all martial arts" (see film and media below ).

The deadly effect of this martial art led to the fact that the Japanese occupiers again extended the ban and also made the teaching of Okinawa-Te under draconian punishment. However, it was still kept secret. For a long time, knowledge of Te was limited to small, elitist schools or individual families, since the opportunity to study martial arts was only available to a few wealthy citizens on the Chinese mainland.


Because the art of writing was not very widespread among the population at the time, and it was forced to do so for reasons of secrecy, no written records were made, as was sometimes the case in Chinese Kung Fu styles (see Bubishi ). Oral transmission and direct transmission were relied on. For this purpose, the masters bundled the fighting techniques to be taught in didactic, coherent units in fixed processes or forms. These precisely specified processes are known as kata . In order to comply with the secrecy purpose of the Okinawa-Te, these processes had to be encrypted before non-initiates of the combat school (i.e. before potential spies). The traditional tribal dances ( odori ), which influenced the systematic structure of the kata, were used as the encryption code . Every kata has a strict step diagram ( Embusen ) to this day . The efficiency of the encryption of the techniques in the form of a kata is evident in the kata demonstration in front of laypeople: for the layperson and in the untrained eyes of the karate beginner, the movements appear strange or meaningless. The real meaning of the fighting becomes clear through intensive Kata study and the "deciphering" of the Kata. This is done in bunkai training . A kata is therefore a traditional, systematic combat program and the main medium of the tradition of karate.

The first known master of the Tōde was probably Chatan Yara , who lived in China for several years and learned the martial art of his master there. According to legend, he taught "Tode" Sakugawa , a student of Peichin Takahara . A variant of Kata Kushanku , named after a Chinese diplomat, goes back to Sakugawa . The most famous student of Sakugawa was "Bushi" Matsumura Sōkon , who later even taught the ruler of Okinawa.

20th century

Until the end of the 19th century, karate was always practiced in secret and passed on exclusively from master to student. Okinawa was officially declared a Japanese prefecture in 1875 during the Meiji Restoration . During this time of social upheaval, in which the Okinawan population adapted to the Japanese way of life and Japan reopened to the world after centuries of isolation, karate began to push the public again.

Okinawa Prefecture's Education Commissioner, Ogawa Shintaro , became aware of the particularly good physical condition of a group of young men during the drafting of young men for military service in 1890. They stated that they were being taught karate at the Jinjo Koto Shogakko (Jinjo Koto Elementary School). Thereupon the local government commissioned the master Yasutsune Itosu to create a curriculum that contained, among other things, simple and basic Kata ( Pinan or Heian ), from which he largely removed the tactics and methods of fighting and the health aspects such as posture, flexibility, flexibility, Focused on breathing, tension and relaxation. Karate officially became a school sport in Okinawa in 1902. This decisive event in the development of karate marks the point at which learning and practicing martial arts was no longer just a matter of self-defense , but was also seen as a kind of physical exercise .

After the beginning of 1900, a wave of emigration to Hawaii began from Okinawa . This was the first time karate came to the USA , which had annexed Hawaii in 1898 .

Itosu Yasutsune, called Ankō

Funakoshi Gichin , a student of the masters Yasutsune Itosu and Ankō Asato , did particularly well in the reform of karate: On the basis of Shōrin-Ryū (also Shuri-Te after the city of origin) and Shōrei-Ryū ( Naha-Te ) began he systematize karate. In addition to purely physical training, he also understood it as a means of developing character.

Besides the aforementioned three masters, Kanryo Higashionna was another influential reformer. His style integrated soft, evasive defensive techniques and hard, direct counter techniques. His students Chōjun Miyagi and Kenwa Mabuni developed their own styles of Gōjū-ryū and Shitō-ryū , which were later to become widespread.

From 1906 to 1915, Funakoshi toured Okinawa with a selection of his best students and held public karate demonstrations. In the following years, the then Crown Prince and later Emperor Hirohito witnessed such a performance and invited Funakoshi, who was already president of the Ryukyu-Ryu Budokan - an Okinawan martial arts association - to do his karate in one at a national Budo event in Tōkyō in 1922 Present lecture. This lecture met with great interest and Funakoshi was invited to demonstrate his art in practice in the Kōdōkan . The enthusiastic audience, above all the founder of judo , Kanō Jigorō , persuaded Funakoshi to stay at the Kōdōkan and teach. Two years later, in 1924, Funakoshi founded his first dōjō .

Through schools, karate soon came to the universities for athletic training, where judo and kendō were already being taught for the purpose of military training . This development, which the Okinawan masters had to accept approvingly in order to spread karate, led to karate being recognized as a "national martial art"; Karate was finally Japaneseized.

Following the example of the system already established in judo, karate-gi and the hierarchical division into student and master degrees , recognizable by belt colors, were introduced in karate in the course of the thirties ; with the politically motivated intention to establish a stronger group identity and hierarchical structure.

As a result of his efforts, karate was introduced at Shoka University , Takushoku University , Waseda University and the Japanese Medical School. The first official book on karate was published by Gichin Funakoshi under the name Ryu Kyu Kempo Karate in 1922. The revised version Rentan Goshin Karate Jutsu followed in 1925 . His main work was published under the title Karate Do Kyohan 1935 (this version was expanded in 1958 to include the karate-specific developments of the last 25 years). His biography appeared under the name Karate-dō Ichi-ro (Karate-dō - my way), in which he describes his life with karate.

After World War II, through Funakoshi's ties to the Ministry of Education, karate was classified as a physical education rather than a martial art, which made it possible to teach karate even after World War II during the occupation of Japan.

About Hawaii as well as the American occupation of Japan and especially Okinawa, karate became more and more popular as a sport in the course of the 1950s and 1960s, first in the USA and then also in Europe .

From the school Shōtōkan ("House of Shōtō") named after Funakoshi or his literary pseudonym Shōtō , the first international karate organization, the JKA, emerged, which is still one of the most influential karate associations in the world today. Funakoshi and the other old masters rejected the institutionalization and sporting as well as the associated splitting into different styles completely.

1The Chinese term "Quanfa - 拳法 " in japanese "Kenpo (Kempo)" is linguistically a "compound word" a kind of syllable word that stands for " 術的技  /  术的技 - technique of Chinese boxing is" . It is often, "Chinese with" Chinese fist fighting technique "," Chinese box technique " boxes ", "Technology of the Chinese martial art ", " Kungfu " translated etc..

Karate in Germany

In 1954, Henry Plée founded the first European Budō-Dōjō in Paris . The German judoka Jürgen Seydel first came into contact with karate during a judo course in France with Master Murakami, whom he enthusiastically invited to teach in Germany . From the participants in these courses, a sub-organization developed within the judo associations that taught karate and from which the first German umbrella organization for karateka, the German Karate Federation, emerged in 1961 .

Jürgen Seydel founded the first karate club in Germany in 1957 under the name "Budokan Bad Homburg" in Bad Homburg vor der Höhe , where Elvis Presley trained during his army service in Germany.

The greatest spread of karate in Germany was in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s under Hideo Ochi (until he founded the DJKB , the German branch of the JKA in 1993 ) as the national trainer of the DKB and the successor organization DKV as a merger of different styles. Ochi thus significantly spread and built up karate in Germany at the end of the 20th century.

In the GDR , karate officially only played a role within the security organs: as a young sports student in the mid-1970s , Karl-Heinz Ruffert dealt with karate in his diploma thesis at the Martin Luther University in Halle-Wittenberg - this is how the Ministry for State Security became dependent on him attentive. As an officer of the MfS, Ruffert finally introduced karate to the training of the domestic secret service. Under the leadership of the rector of the DHfK , Gerhard Lehmann , karate was officially recognized as a martial arts in the GDR from 1989 and included in the German Judo Association .

Shōtōkan is by far the most widespread karate style in Germany today, followed by Gōjū-ryū . Since the turn of the millennium there has also been an increasing number of individual dōjō in Germany in which different Okinawa styles are trained, for example Matsubayashi-ryū .

The four major styles

Japanese karate is now divided into four major styles, namely Gōjū-ryū , Shōtōkan , Shitō-ryū and Wadō-ryū , which in turn go back to two equally widespread Okinawan styles, Shōrei-ryū and Shōrin-ryū . Many smaller, newer styles are based on one or more of these six schools.

But also original styles such as B. Uechi-ryū are still in use today.

The mutual influences between karate styles in their development, as well as the influences of important, great religions and philosophical currents


There is a hierarchical distinction in karate training: In addition to the sensei , the teacher, there is the senpai and kohai .

Every karate training traditionally begins and ends with a short meditation ( mokusō ). This is also intended to express the peaceful purpose of the exercises. The short meditation suggests the tradition of karate as a way of teaching, even if today's training is based on modern sporting aspects (e.g. as fitness or competition training) and not as an exercise along the way (in the sense of classic karatedō) . Every karate training, every exercise and every kata begins and ends with a greeting. This expresses the first principle of the 20 rules of Gichin Funakoshi : "karate wa rei ni hajimari rei ni owaru koto" - "Karate begins and ends with respect!"

The outstanding show of respect for the master is sometimes expressed in seemingly strange rules. For example, it is considered impolite to go behind Master's back. This is by no means rooted in the idea of ​​being attacked from behind, but in the thought that "sneaking past" suggests a poor teacher-student relationship (due to lack of appreciation).

In many dōjōs it is customary to greet those gathered in the hall with a short bow before entering and leaving the hall, and the shōmen of the dōjō may also be greeted with another short bow when entering and leaving.

Then a greeting rite ( rei ) is celebrated together, in which students and masters bow to each other and to the old masters and ancestors (in the spirit, represented on the front, the Shōmen of the Dōjō).

Unwritten rules apply during the welcoming ceremony:

The ritual welcoming ceremony

The ceremony described below is to be understood as an example, because it varies between styles or dōjōs. But it makes the principle clear.

  • As soon as the master or a Senpai authorized by him indicates the beginning of the training, the master and student stand facing each other and take the Musubi-Dachi stand (ready position with heels closed, the feet are pointed forty-five degrees outwards). The students form a row in ascending order according to their belt colors, from the white belts on the left to the black belts on the right. The row aligns to the right with the highest graded Senpai. The pupils make sure that their toes do not cross the line of thought given by the Senpai; for this would be tantamount to a challenge from Senpai.
  • Next, the senpai takes a step forward, turning ninety degrees to the left so that he can see the whole row well. This is the Senpai's place, who has good eye contact with Sensei and Kohai from here.
  • Only when the master kneels to greet them do Senpai and Kohai follow suit. Here, too, a precisely prescribed procedure applies: You squat down so that the legs form a V. At the same time, the hands slide along the thighs down to the knees. The back is straight, the gaze is directed towards the sensei.
  • Now the left knee touches the ground first, followed by the right knee. The hands now slide from the knees back to the thighs. The now set up feet are put down so that the instep touches the floor and you can sit comfortably on your lower legs. If done correctly, you can stay like this for hours. The back is straight, the gaze and attention are still attached to the sensei. The knees are two fist widths apart.
  • The Senpai now continues the greeting etiquette. After a moment, in which he assures himself of the correct posture of the Kohai, he gives the command: "Mokusō!". Then everyone closes their eyes. The meditation begins. Higher graduate, meditatively experienced senpai sometimes take a meditation mudra with their hands during this meditation .
  • During meditation, you breathe in deeply and firmly. You imagine the Ki flow in your own body and mentally adjust to the training. Here the karateka mentally breaks away from the everyday routine and prepares for karate training.
  • If the Senpai considers the time of meditation appropriate, he continues the greeting. There is no binding time specification for the duration of the welcome meditation. The Senpai senses when he and the Kohai are ready to start training. The Senpai ends the meditation with the command "Mokusō yame!", Whereupon everyone opens their eyes. This is followed immediately by the respective greeting command. As a rule, if only the sensei is present, it says: “Sensei ni rei!” If special guests of honor or grandmasters attend the training, they will first be respected according to the hierarchy.
  • The greeting follows the command “Sensei ni rei!”. It looks like this: The left hand is first placed on the floor so that the palm of the hand touches the floor. Now the right hand follows; it is either placed next to it or slightly above the left hand so that only the fingertips of the thumb and forefinger / middle finger of the right cover the fingertips of the thumb and forefinger / middle finger of the left hand. Now the upper body is bent so that the forehead lightly touches the fingers. During this kneeling bow, pupils and masters say the greeting "Ossu!"押 っ 忍お っ す) out. There is also the variant that when bowing, shortly before the head reaches your hands, you stop halfway, raise your head to the master and look at each other for a moment. After the brief eye contact, the head is lowered to the hands and greeted. This variant comes directly from the Bushidō tradition.
  • After the verbal greeting ("Ossu!"), The karateka straightens the upper body again, thus taking up the posture again during meditation.
  • Now the master gets up first, then the senpai. The Senpai now either gives a signal or the command that the Kōhai may also rise. Getting up is the reverse of kneeling. This means that the right leg is first released from the floor and is set up and, while standing, pulled towards the left foot so that one stands in the musubi-dachi again . The palms of the hands are on the outside of the thighs.
  • Now that everyone is facing each other in the Musubi-Dachi , one bows while standing and greets one another with "Ossu". The upper body is bent at an angle of approximately thirty degrees.
  • After this bow, the traditional greeting is complete. The master now continues with the training.

The previous points describe the sequence of a greeting as it is usual in Shōtōkan Ryū (recognizable by the expression Ossu, which is widely used there ! ). In addition to the other way in which Seiza is taken and how the hands are guided, greetings in the Wadō Ryū, for example, are first greeted at the front of the Dōjō either with "shōmen ni!" Or if one is present, depending on the local conditions Altars with “shinzen ni rei!” , With everyone, including the sensei, facing straight ahead. The sensei then turns to his students, and the sensei greets them. To do this, all students usually align themselves to this and bow silently. Finally, when the command “otagai ni rei!” Is given , the students align themselves frontally and greet each other with the words “Onegai shimasu!” .

In some traditional schools and clubs it is also customary to have the most docile students recite the dōjōkun or the 20 paragraphs of karate (on behalf of everyone) at the point after the greeting while kneeling and before getting up .

The traditional farewell in training follows the same pattern as the greeting.

As usual in all other do-arts, the strict code of Reishiki and the dojokun are observed.


Every karateka wears a karate gi , consisting of simple white trousers tied at the hips, Zubon , formerly made of linen, now made of cotton and a jacket, called Uwagi , made of the same material. The jacket is held in place (usually next to a light lacing) by a colored belt, the obi . Basically, you train barefoot.

It was not taken for granted that karateka wore uniform training clothing at all. The Okinawa-Te has always been trained in robust everyday clothing. Likewise, at the time when karate was still an insular martial art, there was no graduation system. The master knew about the progress of his pupil anyway. The introduction of uniform training clothing and a graduation system took place only after Funakoshi Gichins encountered the Kōdōkan founder Kanō Jigorō , who initiated just that in judo.

The introduction of uniform clothing and a graduation system should only be understood in a socio-historical context. After the Meiji Restoration , the dissolution of the samurai class and the introduction of handguns , the importance of traditional martial arts had declined. With the burgeoning nationalism in Japan , the classical martial arts, which had a decisive part in the course of Japanese history, regained importance. Martial arts were seen as part of cultural and national identity. The martial arts - including karate - received the stamp of the nationalist politics of the time.

The martial arts went through a western militarization . From this point of view, uniform clothing is to be understood as a uniform, and the graduation system based on belt colors as a hierarchy according to military ranks. The formation in a row is similar to the military formation. Certain stands are also similar to military stands: The Musubi-Dachi stand looks like the basic position for the command “Stand still!” Or “Attention!”, And the Shizen-Tai like the relieved stand for “Move!”.


Graduation by colored belts was probably taken over from Judo . Kanō Jigorō, founder of Kōdōkan Judo, first used this system in the 19th century. Before that there was no belt color grading system in the martial arts from Okinawa and Japan.

Graduations are made between the student degrees, the so-called Kyū , and the master students or master degrees, the so-called Dan . A belt color is assigned to each of these levels. The most common graduation system in Germany has 9 Kyū and 10 Dan degrees. The 9th Kyū is the lowest level, the 10th Dan the highest.

Belt colors
Degree 9. Kyu 8. Kyu 7. Kyu 6. Kyu 5. Kyu 4. Kyu 3. Kyu 2. Kyu 1. Kyu 1-5 Dan 6-8 Dan 9-10 Dan
Judo White White- yellow yellow- orange orange- green blue brown black red- red
yellow orange green White
karate White yellow orange green blue- blue  a brown brown brown black black black
violet a
aBlue and purple are used differently in different associations. Some associations separate a violet 4th Kyū from the blue 5th Kyū, in others both are defined as blue or both as violet, in still other associations the two colors are freely interchangeable.

The belt colors are an invention of modern Budō. In addition to the intended motivation of the members, many associations also pursue financial interests, because a fee is charged for each examination to be taken.

Up until 1981, the German Karate Association had a gradation of five student grades (5th to 1st Kyū), with a color in the above order for each Kyū grade. This gradation has been replaced by the above gradations in favor of a finer differentiation.


In order to achieve the next higher student or master degree, exams are taken according to a fixed program and a waiting time, depending on the Kyū and Dan degrees. The programs of the exams differ from association to association, and there are occasionally even differences in individual dojo. Taking the exams serves as an incentive and confirmation of what has been achieved, similar to our school system. In the exams, attention is paid to technique, attitude, attention, fighting spirit, concentration and will. The overall impression is decisive. With higher master's degrees (mostly from 5th Dan) the theoretical part of the examination increases considerably. In a few organizations these grades are only awarded on the basis of special achievements and merits. In Shōtōkai , the 5th Dan (Godan) is the highest distinction.


As a Budo discipline, which includes, for example, Kendo and Judo, karate has a spiritual core made up of ideological elements of Zen and Taoism . These worldviews serve to explain the systems of Budo and do not form the basis of these martial arts.

The 20 paragraphs of karate by Gichin Funakoshi offer a good insight into the principles of karate philosophy.

The 20 rules

In Japan, the 20 rules of behavior appropriate for karateka established by Gichin Funakoshi are known as Shōtō Nijū Kun (Japanese 松濤 二十 訓 , literally the 20 rules of Shōtō , where Shōtō was the stage name Funakoshis) or as Karate Nijū Kajō (Japanese 空手二十 箇 条 , literally the 20 paragraphs of karate ). In German karate, the term is often mixed up with that of the dōjōkun , which actually only comprises five central rules and was probably established by Buddhist monks in India long before Funakoshi and with reference to all martial arts.

  1. Karate begins with respect and ends with respect.
    一 、 空手 は 礼 に 初 ま り 礼 に 終 わ る こ と を 忘 る な。
    karate wa rei ni hajimari rei ni owaru koto o wasuru na
  2. There is no first attack in karate.
    二 、 空手 に 先手 無 し。
    karate ni sente nashi
  3. Karate is a helper of justice.
    三 、 空手 は 義 の 補 け。
    karate wa gi no tasuke
  4. Know yourself first, then the other.
    四 、 先 づ 自己 を 知 れ 而 し て 他 を 知 れ。
    mazu jiko o shire shikoshite hoka o shire
  5. The art of the mind comes before the art of technology.
    五 、 技術 よ り 心術。
    gijutsu yori shinjutsu
  6. It's all about freeing the mind.
    六 、 心 は 放 た ん 事 を 要 す。
    kokoro wa hanatan koto o yosu
  7. Unhappiness always happens through inattention.
    七 、 禍 は 懈怠 に 生 ず。
    wazawai wa ketai ni shōzu
  8. Don't think that karate only takes place in the dojo.
    八 、 道場 の み の 空手 と 思 う な。
    dōjō nomi no karate to omou na
  9. To practice karate means to do it for a lifetime.
    九 、 空手 の 修行 は 一生 で あ る。
    karate no shūgyō wa isshō dearu
  10. Combine your daily life with karate and you will attain spiritual maturity.
    十 、 凡 ゆ る も の を 空手 化 せ 其 処 に 妙 味 あ り。
    arayuru mono o karate kase soko ni myōmi ari
  11. Karate is like hot water that cools down if you don't keep it warm all the time.
    十一 、 空手 は 湯 の 如 く 絶 え ず 熱 を 与 え ざ れ ば ば の の 水 に 返 る。
    karate wa yu no gotoku taezu netsu o ataezareba moto no mizu ni kaeru
  12. Don't think about winning, but think about how not to lose.
    十二 、 勝 つ 考 え は 持 つ な 、 負 け ぬ 考 え は 必要。
    katsu kangae wa motsu na, makenu kangae wa hitsuyō
  13. Change depending on the opponent.
    十三 、 敵 に 因 っ て 転 化 せ よ。
    teki ni yotte tenka seyo
  14. The struggle depends on the handling of the meeting and the non-meeting.
    十四 、 戦 は 虚 実 の 操 縦 如何 に あ り。
    ikusa wa kyojitsu no sōjū ikan ni ari
  15. Think of your hand and foot as a sword.
    十五 、 人 の 手足 を 劔 と 思 え。
    hito no teashi o ken to omoe
  16. As soon as you step outside the door, you will find a multitude of enemies.
    十六 、 男子 門 を 出 づ れ ば 百万 の 敵 あ り。
    danshi mon o izureba hyakuman no teki ari
  17. There are fixed positions for beginners, later you move naturally.
    十七 、 構 え は 初心者 に 、 あ と は 自然 体。
    kamae wa shoshinsha ni, ato wa shizentai
  18. The kata must not be changed, but the opposite applies in combat.
    十八 、 型 は 正 し く 、 実 戦 は 別 も の。
    kata wa tadashiku, jissen wa betsu mono
  19. Hard and soft, tension and relaxation, slow and fast, everything in connection with the right breathing.
    十九 、 力 の 強弱 、 体 の 伸縮 、 技 の 緩急 を 忘 る な。
    chikara no kyōjaku, karada no shinshuku, waza no kankyū o wasuru na
  20. Always think and try new things all the time.
    二十 、 常 に 思念 工夫 せ よ。
    tsune ni shinen kufū seyo


For a better understanding of the spiritual nature of karate, u. a. the study of Zen may also be suitable.

The repetition of the movements, in Kihon (Japanese for "elementary school") and Kata (Japanese for "form") is considered by some masters as meditation. The Ki , i.e. the energy of the body, the consciousness, which is expressed for example in the ability to coordinate and react, should be strengthened through physically strenuous, concentrated and dynamic movements. Since concentration is required during a Kata and at the same time the life energy (Ki) flows unaffected by the consciousness in the body, Kata is considered to be "active meditation". Kata as a form of meditation is, so to speak, the opposite of zazen : the latter is immersion in remaining, the former immersion in movement. Just practicing techniques in a kata alone does not mean that the kata is practiced as a form of meditation. Only the right attitude of mind with which Karateka fills the kata turns a traditional combat program into a path to spiritual self-discovery and meditative practice.


The principle of the do ( ) can be found in all Japanese martial arts and is impossible to describe comprehensively. is the Japanese reading of the Chinese Tao (Dao), which is written with the same character. It literally means "way" and stands not only for "way" or "road" in the narrower sense, but also for "means" or "method" in the understanding of a "way of life", an "attitude to life". Behind it stand on the one hand the Taoist fateful principle that the Tao, the way, is mapped out and that things are predetermined in their correctness; as well as the cessation of non-attachment and non-dependence on all things, conditions and needs that are taught in Zen Buddhism . The Bushidō's code goes even further: the bushi (Japanese for "warrior"), who has internalized Bushidō, not only frees himself from all material needs, but from the desire to live at all costs. The end of one's own life is not necessarily worth striving for, but it is definitely an acceptable fact, and death is no longer a horror. This attitude was a highly respected mental attitude in ancient Japan, which manifested itself in many martial behaviors such as the seppuku . In no case should this be taken as disregard for your own life or that of another. On the contrary: the sacrifice of one's own precious life outweighed any disgrace that a warrior had incurred during his lifetime. Seppuku, or ritual suicide, frees the warrior from guilt and shame and restored his honor.

The Do-Principle implies many different concepts and behaviors that cannot be conclusively enumerated. So here are just a few aspects: see also Dōjōkun , The 20 Rules of Karate

  • “Going the way”: lifelong learning and working on yourself; continuous improvement
  • Peacefulness, will for peace, but also
  • Straightness; absolute determination in battle
("Do everything possible to avoid a confrontation. But if it comes to a fight anyway, your first blow should kill.")
  • Respect and thus courtesy towards every individual and thing, including the enemy
  • "Away" fellowship with master and classmates, brotherhood, responsible action
  • Self-control, universal attention (mindfulness), concentration ( Zanshin , 残 心 )
  • Openness, striving for understanding, acceptance
  • Non-striving


The training of mind , character and attitude are main goals in karate. This is also stated in the motto of the Japan Karate Association (JKA):

"The primary goal in the art of karate is neither victory nor defeat, but rather the perfecting of the character of the practitioner."

Another basic rule in karate is

空手 に 先手 な し。」 ( Karate ni sente nashi ), in German: "In karate there is no anticipation." (This important basic rule, which can also be read on Gichin Funakoshi's tombstone in Kamakura, is often referred to as "There is none." first attack in karate ".)

This does not mean training or competition, as serious attack simulations are part of all Budo arts. Rather, the sentence clarifies the code of karatedō in daily life. What is meant is that karateka should develop into a peaceful person and not be out for arguments. A karateka, figuratively speaking, never hits the first blow, which also excludes any provocation of others.

Karate training is based on three major pillars, the Kihon , the Kumite and the Kata .


Kihon (Japanese 基本 ) means “foundation”, “basis”, “foundation” (of ability) and is often referred to as the elementary school of karate. It covers the basic techniques that form the foundation of karate. The individual techniques are repeated over and over, either slowly or quickly, powerfully or lightly / relaxed. The movement sequence of the individual technique is broken down into all components and an attempt is made to find the ideal line of movement, whereby there is always something to optimize. The sequence of movements must be optimally internalized - reflexively retrievable, as there is too little time for thinking, planning and acting in a real fight. Inhalation, exhalation, maximum tension of the whole body in the target point are the basic goals of this training. According to Asian ideas, the center of the body and thus the center of force is where the body's center of gravity should ideally be. This ideal point (approx. 2 cm below the navel), which is often denoted by hara ( , "belly"), is given special attention during breathing training ( abdominal breathing ). A good balance is also worth striving for and is often paraphrased as finding the "inner focus".


Kumite (Japanese 組 み 手 or 組 手 ) literally means "joined hands" and means practicing or fighting with one, rarely several opponents (see Bunkai ).

The kumite is a form of training that enables the trainee, after sufficient practice, to be able to defend himself appropriately in serious situations. The prerequisite is the correct understanding and practicing of elementary basic techniques from Kihon and Kata. When the execution of the technique has been grasped in its basic form, it is applied in the kumite. The application in kumite is very important, as the execution of techniques in free combat do not have to correspond to the prescribed form, as one often has to move from the fighting stance to the end position of the defense immediately in the event of surprising attacks.

There are different forms of kumite, which become more and more open in their design with increasing demands from a single, agreed, multiple technique to free combat.

Defense techniques mainly use the arms for block techniques. Throws, levers, hard, soft block movements or just dodging, mostly in combination with step or sliding movements. A block movement can also be performed as an attack technique, which requires a very good eye; the attack of the opponent is stopped with a defensive movement or a counterattack ( 出 会 い , deai , "encounter, clash").

When attacking, an attempt is made to hit the uncovered areas or through the cover to hit the enemy. It should be attacked in a concentrated manner as quickly as possible without prematurely tensing the muscles, because increased use of force leads to a loss of speed during movement. The force point is at the target point of the movement. The principle of the attack technique is similar to that of an archer's arrow in punch and thrust techniques and that of a whip in snapped techniques.

Yakusoku kumite

The Yakusoku-Kumite (Japanese 約束 組 手 , "agreed kumite") is the first stage of the technique used on the partner / opponent. Both partners follow a predetermined sequence of attack and defense techniques, which are usually carried out alternately. The aim of this exercise is to learn to assess the movements of the partner / opponent, as well as to bring your own elementary school techniques into first application, to get a feeling for distance and intensity. This form of exercise is again divided according to the level of difficulty.


In Jiyū-Kumite (Japanese 自由 組 手 , "free kumite"), defense and attack are freely chosen, sometimes without announcement or announcement.

Jiyū means “freedom” or “freedom of choice”. In general, regardless of whether you take the initiative in attacking or defending yourself, you have to be able to react from any position, unhindered from all restrictive thoughts, since you cannot immediately go into a fighting stance in surprising situations. So it doesn't matter whether you block an attack, block it, go into it or go into the attack yourself. It is only important to carry out all of your actions in such a way that you do not get caught up in distracting thoughts. The head has to stay cool. As in all other martial arts, the "movements in the head" ultimately inhibit the movements of the body. The mind must be able to flow unhindered, so to speak, in order to be able to absorb every movement of the enemy. This form of combat represents the top form of classic kumite. Timing, a sense of distance, a self-confident demeanor, a secure fighting stance, fast and supple techniques, hardened limbs, intuitive grasp, a trained eye, security in defense, attack and counterattack ... that should all leading to Jiyū-Kumite, the other Kumite forms as well as Kihon and Kata can be practiced beforehand. The latter, however, will only develop fully in Jiyū-Kumite and Randori: spontaneity.


Randori (Japanese 乱 取 り , "free practice", literally "catching unrest / disorder") is a free form of partner training, which is about getting a feel for the flow of a fight, the movements and the energy used. It is not expedient to avoid hits at all costs, as in combat, but it is expressly desired that the trainees also allow hits with well-executed attacks. There are no specifications regarding the techniques to be used. Rather, the practitioners should learn to act spontaneously from the situations that arise. The Randori should be relaxed and relaxed, allow a free flow of techniques and not assume a competitive character.

(Free) fight

The free fight either imitates real self-defense situations or serves the competition ( Shiai ) or its preparation.

Characteristic in traditional karate is the deliberate avoidance of hitting the opponent. Absolutely necessary is the ability to lock attack techniques in front of the target, the body of the opponent, with a "strong" technique, since the practice is carried out without hand and head protection. During a competition, a hit would be a rule violation that, depending on the severity, leads to a warning or disqualification. "Weak" techniques do not result in any evaluation.

Full contact karate combat systems allow and intend to hit the target in the competition rules. Many of these styles also use protective equipment such as head and bit protection and a special glove that cushions the knuckles and the back of the hand. If the free fight is carried out as a competition, there are fixed regulations that prohibit, for example, throws above hip height, kicks to the head, as well as techniques against the genital area or with open hands to the neck for safety reasons. Without gloves, attacks with the hands or fists to the head are prohibited, as in the Kyokushin-Kai , or complete protective equipment with helmet, vest, groin guard, forearm and shin guards and possibly an instep protection is used, as in Taekwondo .


Main article: Kata (karate)

Kata (Japanese , ) means “ form ”, “shaped piece”, “template”. A kata is a stylized and choreographed fight against one or more imaginary opponents that follows a fixed pattern in space, called embuses . Different styles generally practice different kata, but there are also many overlaps, variations and different names.

As mentioned in the history section, kata developed to be a condensed transmission of the techniques of a school or an individual master without the need for written records.

The four elements of the kata


Main article: Bunkai

Bunkai (jap. D , dt. "Analysis, decomposition") describes the analysis of the individual, fixed movements of a kata, as they are taught in the corresponding school. The form of the kata considered here is called the Genkyo - ( 原 拠 ) or basic model. This denotes the original form or the origin of the kata.

While the kata is taught freely and mostly publicly, the bunkai is the personal interpretation of the (teaching) master, his system / school. Usually the (traditional) bunkai is linked to the personal contact between master and student.


Ōyō (Japanese 応 用 , dt. "Application") Individual interpretations by the students are called ōyō ("free"). The level of performance as well as physical or other individual characteristics are taken into account. Some Bunkai techniques take into account z. B. not the size difference between tori and uke .

Unfortunately, with the generalization of karate, this reference has often been lost, which is why there are often free Ōyō variants in circulation whose originators can no longer be traced or their authenticity is then doubtful. This often results in a lack of clarity in the formal execution of the kata, since the form again threatens to degenerate into a purely acrobatic performance comparison (competition) without the original meanings.


Henka (Japanese 変 化 , German "change", "variation"). The execution of the kata and its expression will never look the same despite the same movements of the performers. The accentuation within the movement sequences, the force used in the individual techniques, the individual coordinative ability, the overall constitution and many other aspects mean that a kata performed by two karatekas can never be the same. Henka describes how the performer presents the kata and how he sees it.


Kakushi (Japanese 隠 し , German "hidden", "hidden"). Each Kata contains Omote ( , “external”, “surface”), the techniques that are obviously contained, and Okuden ( 奥 伝 ), the subliminal or invisible part. Kakushi deals with the latter techniques, which are potentially present in the course of the kata, but which are not self-evident to the observer or the practitioner. It is therefore usually necessary to be instructed in these subliminal tricks and techniques by a master. In traditionally oriented dōjō, these techniques are only imparted to the Uchi-deshi ( 内 弟子 , private house or master class, literally “house pupil, internal pupil”). Kakushi is traditionally taught from the 4th Dan, as this is also known as the Dan of the technical expert.

Other forms of training

Tanren makiwara training

A Makiwara is a board made of elastic wood that is firmly anchored in the floor or on the wall, e.g. B. ash or hickory , wrapped with fabric, leather or the like, on which one hits and kicks. The elasticity of the wood prevents too hard a recoil into the joints. The risk of injury ( skin abrasions and joint injuries) is still quite high at the beginning. This training promotes the formation of bones in the forearms. The arm bones consist of almost hollow bones, which are strengthened by this form of training. When the Makiwara bounces back and is subjected to a blow or kick, these areas are "thickened" by the body, so more calcium is deposited in the bone. This will be harder.


World Championship 2014 Kata Women - perfect kime demonstration

In order to practice kime , no other practice method apart from normal karate training (kihon, kata, kumite, makiwara) is generally required, since every karate technique is performed with this breathing. However, it is also customary to focus on training, but even then karate techniques are used to strengthen the kime. Kimetraining is therefore part of an extensive technical training. If you want to strengthen the techniques through the kime, you have to relieve the limbs of any tension at the beginning of a technique. Only when a technique hits the target are the muscles tensed, and at the same time the breath expelled to lock the technique in place. In order to perfect this process, only individual techniques are usually practiced, mainly the straight punch from the natural, shoulder-width stance (shizentai). Isometric exercises are also good forms of exercise. A single technique is performed and held in the end position. Then counter pressure is applied to this technique. The tension is held for about 4 seconds, the breathing during these 4 seconds is a long kime breath. This exercise is repeated several times. Other forms of exercise would be for example:

  • Fist push-ups with quick, powerful push-offs
  • Squat jumps - Mae Geri training
  • Training with the Deuser band (breathing only through Kime)
  • Special breath kata like Sanchin or Hangetsu

Competitive tournaments

WKF - Karate World Championship - Horne vs. Hyden, 2012

In the course of the modern development of some karate schools from martial arts to martial arts, karate tournaments (both kumite and kata tournaments) are practiced in some styles. Since there is a high risk of injury and even death in free combat because of the high effectiveness of many techniques in "real" combat, there are, on the one hand, very strict rules. a. to ensure the protection of the participants, and on the other hand only a limited repertoire of techniques is used in competition. Tournament fights are carried out with mouthguards and, depending on gender, with chest or groin protection. Further protective measures depend heavily on the association's philosophy. For example, the largest association DKV (German Karate Association) also uses fist and foot guards as well as shin guards, while the DJKB (German JKA Karate Association) no further protectors (from 2013 fist guards are also required).

Advocates of karate competitions emphasize the sporty character of karate and cite its sporty and practical applicability. Critics of karate competitions are of the opinion that competitions contradict the true character and spirit of karate- do and that the greatly reduced number of techniques used flattens and degenerates karate.

Basically, there are different points of view: on the one hand the traditional one, which sees karate as a martial art , the ultimate goal of which is the perfection of the personality, and on the other hand the modern sporting one, in which karate is seen as a combat sport , and in which the practical application with a sporty character is desired. One possible view is that the idea of ​​sport has enriched karate. The martial art karate could live with the sport, but the sport not without the martial art karate.

Olympic games

Karate is for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo for the first time Olympic his discipline. On August 3, 2016, the IOC delegates approved the proposal of the IOC executive at the 129th IOC session in Rio de Janeiro and, in addition to karate, also included sport climbing , skateboarding , baseball and surfing in the list of international associations recognized by the IOC ( see Karate at the Olympic Games ). Many associations, u. a. the DKV or the Martial Arts College , have started to change old forms of competition and the point system in order to make the karate competition more popular and more suitable for the Olympic Games.

World Games

Qualified karatekas can take part in the World Games, which take place every four years . The World Games are on an equal footing with the Olympic Games. Germany has already won gold medals several times in the karate category.

Film and media

See main article: Martial arts film

See also

Portal: Karate  - Overview of Wikipedia content on karate


alphabetically ascending

Web links

Commons : Karate  - Collection of Images
Wiktionary: Karate  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikibooks: Karate  - learning and teaching materials

Individual evidence

  1. Term "kara - 唐". In: tangorin.com. Retrieved May 19, 2020 (English, Japanese, homophony and ambiguity of the term "kara").
  2. Term "kara - 唐". In: Wadoku . Retrieved on May 19, 2020 (German, Japanese, homophony and ambiguity of the term "kara").
  3. Bodhidharma - Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia. Retrieved July 30, 2018 .
  4. Broughton 1999, p. 54-55.
  5. Jeffrey L. Broughton: The Bodhidharma Anthology: The Earliest Records of Zen . University of California Press, 1999, ISBN 978-0-520-92336-2 ( google.at [accessed July 30, 2018]).
  6. a b Term "quanfa - 拳法". In: www.zdic.net. Retrieved June 8, 2019 (Chinese, English, French).
  7. a b Term "quanfa - 拳法". In: xh.5156edu.com. Retrieved June 8, 2019 (Chinese).
  8. a b Term "kenpo - 拳法 (quanfa)". In: tangorin.com. Retrieved June 8, 2019 (English, Japanese).
  9. a b Term "kenpo - 拳法 (quanfa)". In: www.wadoku.de. Retrieved June 8, 2019 (German, Japanese).
  10. term "Quanshu -拳术(拳術)". In: www.zdic.net. Retrieved June 8, 2019 (Chinese, English).
  11. Term “jifa - 技法”. In: www.zdic.net. Accessed June 8, 2019 (Chinese, German, English).
  12. ^ GDR secret - The silent fighters, MDR 2003
  13. The four great styles
  14. ^ Albrecht Pflüger: 25 Shotokan Katas, ISBN 3-8068-0859-7 , pp. 9-10.
  15. Musubi-Dachi ( en ) Retrieved March 15, 2017.
  16. Karate belt colors . Retrieved March 12, 2017.
  17. Judo belt colors . Retrieved March 12, 2017.
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on April 2, 2005 in this version .