The Basic Forms of Karate

Karate is one of the most popular types of martial arts, especially in the US. The word karate is made up of two Japanese words: "kara" and "te." "Kara" means "empty" and "te" means "hand;" therefore, "karate" means "empty hand." Karate is known for its quick, linear movements which can have a devastating impact on opponents. Like other martial arts, karate is often used as a mode of self-defense and rarely to attack. In karate, the true opponent is oneself.

When karate began thousands of years ago, its adepts were generally just familiar with one form, or kata, of karate. Those with the time and money to spend practicing katas learned more than one. Generally, these people were high-ranking officials. Today, many karate experts are familiar with several or more forms of karate, which may speak to the divisions that the art has made over the years.

There are several basic forms of karate that a practitioner must learn before going on to more advanced katas. These include Sanchin, which means "three steps." Sanchin is the most basic kata. It involves stepping in, assuming guard and punching. Sanchin leads to seisan kata, which means "13 steps." Seisan involves basic kicks, punches and body shifting. Being familiar with these two forms of karate are essential for moving on. From there the forms of karate that you learn will depend on your skill level.

No matter which form of karate you are learning, there are aspects of karate that remain the same. Karate uniforms are constant, consisting of a Gi-white pants, jacket and a colored belt depending on the practitioner's skill level-and no shoes. The focus of karate practitioners is also universal. Students of karate focus on their state of mind, concentrating on patience, humility and inner peace. 

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