Karate-Do literally means “the way of Karate.” The two Chinese
characters making up the word Karate (空手) translate to “empty hand.”
“Kara” connotes “emptiness,” but can also mean “sky,” which
symbolically refers to the universe or nature. “Kara” also means
“absence of everything that is negative” and can mean “method” or
“means.” “Te” also refers to the means by which to live most
productively, peacefully and in harmony with each other and the
“Do,” means “way” or “path.” This emphasizes that Karate is much more
then techniques. Karate was at one time (as were other Japanese
martial arts such as Ju-Jutsu) referred to as “Karate-Jutsu.” “Jutsu”
meaning “technique” (also spelled “Jitsu” in some cases).
With all this said, in traditional Karate, it is rare for the serious
long-term student to refer to “taking Karate.” They may call it
“studying Karate-Do,” or “following the Way of Karate.” This does not
connote or suggest any religious or “cult” meanings whatsoever.
Through serious study and practice of Karate-Do, our children can gain
numerous benefits. The balance of the mind and body is always existent
while practicing Karate. Concentration is necessary, while the body
must make the physical effort. This is excellent in particular for the
brain and the central nervous system.
Children also see and learn the natural order of progression and the
need to learn simple things first and then gradually learn things
that are more advanced. They learn the need to do basic stances, punches, kicks and blocks first without a partner, then after with a partner. A
comparison of this would be a baby having to crawl before being able
to walk, etc.
A very important aspect of Karate-Do for children is respect and learning
to get along and co-operate with others. If ever an accident happens,
children learn forgiveness based on mutual respect and learn how to
maintain friendship, maintain respect for each other and how to
continue the relationship.
While in many sports and other activities, only the most talented get
to participate while the others sit and watch (or are left out of the
activity altogether or choose not to participate altogether due to lack of confidence) and may feel “I’m no good,” in Karate-Do everyone gets to participate regardless of ability or inability. Confidence building is of utmost importance, as are setting goals and achieving them, learning how to deal with
failure and success, and to always continue are things always present in all stages of Karate-Do, no matter how long one studies. One can practice Karate-Do during one’s youth and as a lifetime activity for a healthy, happy and productive life.
This essay is written by Doug Walsh (4th dan, Japan Karate Association), LKA Youth Program Instructor. Click here for more information on our instructors and LKA's youth classes.