Karate

The term "karate" and most of the styles it describes are 20th-century constructs. Regarded as the quintessential Japanese martial art, Karate is Okinawan in origin -Funakoshi Gichin (p. 23) brought it to Japan in the early 20th century. In 1933, Japan recognized karate-do as an official martial-arts ryu (school). Its precursor was an art called Te, or "hand." Te, in turn, owed much to the Chinese martial arts.

Originally, the kanji characters for "karate" were those for "Chinese" and "hand." In the 1920s, Funakoshi and his fellow sensei replaced the kanji for "Chinese" with that for "empty," both pronounced "kara." This changed "karate" from "Chinese hand" to "empty hand," emphasizing use over origin. These early masters also adapted many Karate terms from Okinawan to Japanese.

Karate - despite its practitioners' reputation in the popular mind - is a -do form. Its techniques are designed hittt> as much f°r safe sparring and kata as for combat utility. Karate can be effective in a fight, but it's primarily a sport. There are combat-oriented Karate schools that teach full-contact martial arts, but few dojos break free of the artistic kata and low-contact sparring which characterize the art.

Below is a small sampling of important Karate styles, both Japanese and Okinawan. This list is far from exhaustive - there are dozens of other styles, and the instructors of many styles have developed further variations. Major styles not discussed here include Chito Ryu, Shito Ryu, Shorin Ryu, Uechi Ryu, and Wado Ryu. The GM can safely use the styles described here as guidelines when expressing these other arts in game terms.

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