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Why is it called karate-do instead of just "karate?"


What is the difference between karate-do and karate-jutsu?









What is the purpose of training in karate-do?

What is Karate-do?

Karate-do is a unique art of self-defense and self-development created in the ancient island kingdom of Okinawa, which is now part of Japan. It is a devastatingly effective fighting art, to be sure, but it has become far more than simply a method of self-defense.

Even in ancient times in Okinawa, people found themselves only rarely called upon to defend themselves in physical combat. 99% of their lives were spent in peaceful, everyday pursuits. As a result, karate-do evolved into a Way of Life and the art has come to be called, karate-do, meaning:  "Way [of life] of Empty Hands."

As you will see in greater detail in our "History of Karate-do" section, karate-do began as principally a fighting art. Up until the late 19th century, it was called karate-jutsu ("the art of empty hands") or kenpo ("fist-method"), and the emphasis of training was to develop practical attack and defense skills for surviving in combat against opponents armed with anything from a bo (six-foot staff) to a katana (samurai sword). But, most of those training in karate-jutsu were shizoku -- descendants of samurai. who were already culturally refined, skilled in a number of martial arts -- and thus steeped in the philosophy and lifestyle of bushido.

Once karate-jutsu was introduced to the general populace beginning in 1902, however, its practitioners were no longer principally shizoku. So, the need arose to surround karate-jutsu with the philosophy and analytical methods of bushido so that it became a comprehensive martial art in its own right. In this way, karate-do -- the Way of Karate -- was born. As early as 1908, Hanashiro Chomo and others were urging their peers to teach karate-do as a comprehensive Way of Life, rather than limit instruction only to the self-defense skills of karate-jutsu. Eventually, this philosophy took hold, and by 1936 most traditional sensei were teaching karate-do in its full form as both a set of physical skills and a philosophy of successful daily living.

What this means today is that karate-do is a fully integrated Way of Life encompassing --

  • health, fitness, and longevity management
  • emotional and spiritual well-being and development
  • cultural, philosophical, and intellectual advancement
  • successful problem-solving and lifestyle management
  • self-defense and family safety

The combination of all these elements makes karate-do the art of living life to the fullest. At the Seishin-Kan we attempt to teach all of these aspects of karate-do in both their proper historical context and their practical application to the complexities of life in the 21st century. The style that we teach at the Seishin-Kan is called Shito-Ryu, the most comprehensive of Japan's four major styles of karate-do.


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2003   Leonard J. Pellman

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