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Karate is not a Sport

by Ewa Nowogorski

Karate is a very appealing sport to westerners, especially Americans. The white uniforms and belts with different colors that show your skill and status are cool. The discipline involved is admired. There are many forms of karate, and you can find karate gyms and studios all over the country that teach this Japanese martial art. Many places practice karate as a sport. It was even featured on a shortlist for consideration for inclusion in the 2020 Summer Olympics. But although it is considered a sport by many people, traditional martial artists would not call it so. It’s even in the name; Japanese martial arts is more of an “art” or a “way”.

Karate is a freehanded striking art that uses key moves such as  punching, kicking, knee strikes, elbow strikes and open-hand techniques such as knife-hands, spear-hands and palm-heel strikes. This combative style was often taught in the Japanese military, especially to servicemen stationed in Okinawa, where the art originates from.

Karate is far from an offensive and violent art even though there are many powerful and potentially deadly moves. The philosophy of karate is to behave humbly and be outwardly gentle. One must be humble and modest, clearing their mind and opening themselves up in order to be able to accept the knowledge that is taught to them. Only by behaving humbly can one be open to Karate’s many lessons. This is done by listening and being receptive to criticism. Courtesy was important and using karate on an opponent was meant to be only in rare situations, when all other peaceful tactics failed.

Karate looks cool in popular media. You often see a pupil sparing with his master, or 2 karate masters duelling each other. But karate’s true form is almost a meditative art that conditions the body strictly. It gives one control of their minds and actions. Through control of their bodies and minds, one can liberate themselves from turmoil, both external and internal.

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