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Dojo Etiquette: Rules of Conduct

8Questions About Karate

Dojo Etiquette
Goju Ryu
8Questions About Karate


1. What does "karate" mean?

It means "open hand".

2. What’s so different about karate? I mean, people talk about it like it’s holy or something.

Gichen Funokoshi, the founder of the Shotokan karate system, said that "The true art of karate is not to beat your opponent, but to perfect your character." That means to make yourself the best person you can be.

3. What does "sensei" mean?

    Teacher or master. Every student must call the teacher sensei to show respect.

4. What does dojo mean?

A dojo is a term used in Japanese martial arts that refers to a formal training hall. It is typically considered the formal gathering place for students of a martial arts style to conduct training, examinations and other related encounters.

In Japanese, dōjō means literally "place of the Way".

5. What was so special about Okinawa that made karate really grow there first?

Okinawa, now a part of Japan, was taken over in 1609. The new government wouldn’t let anyone from Okinawa have any weapons. So the people really practised the martial arts that they had been doing for hundreds of years, but now they had no other way of fighting.

6. I understand that there’s lots of different kinds of karate?

Yes. In Okinawa originally each town or area had its own kind of weaponless fighting.

In the north, for example, where the men rode horses, they had strong legs, so their karate used lots of kicking.

In the south, on the other hand, the men were fishermen with strong arms, so their karate used lots of punching.

7. Is there an easy way I can understand what all the different kinds of things are in karate? I mean, there’s dancing stuff, fighting and practicing. Are they all karate?

Yes. Karate teaching has three things to practise.

    • Kihon are the kicks and punches which need to be practised over and over.
    • Kata are special patterns of movement, a little bit like dancing. They are self-defense techniques which were really good in battle.
    • Kumite is the practice fighting where karate students put kihon and kata together.

8. Is it true that the old Mr Miyagi in Karate Kid was descended from the original person who started Karate?

Yes, it’s true, but remember that Karate Kid is only a fiction….Chojun Miyagi is the person who really brought Karate into the modern world. Karate was an old fighting way in Okinawa for a long time, but Miyagi became the most famous master and teacher. He called his school of karate Goju Ryu, which means "hard-soft school".

He taught that respect is the beginning and the end of karate. For him, karate is a way of life and a philosophy.

9. Why do masters teach Kata? Doesn’t it waste time which would be better spent in fighting practice?

Kata is to be understood as a "living textbook" in which real karate - its techniques and philosophy - is passed down. The practice of kata itself gives the person who practises a sense of structure and possibilites to use in a real fight. Techniques-within-techniques are revealed through constant practice of kata.

Even after years and years of doing kata, the master can find new understandings in them.