Karate is an ancient Martial Art, whose aim is to develop the body and the mind of its practitioners, and not just to teach the art of fighting. In the words of M. Nakayama, former Chief instructor of the Japan Karate Association, the world’s largest karate organization:
“If karate is practiced solely as a fighting technique, this is cause for regret. The fundamental techniques have been developed and perfected through long years of study and practice, but to make any effective use of these techniques, the spiritual aspect of this art of self defense must be recognized and must play the predominant role. It is gratifying to me to see that there those who understand this, who know that karate-do is a purely Oriental martial art, and who train with the proper attitude.”
Karate was formerly taught by means of Kata- a series of attacking and defensive movements, somewhat like shadow-boxing, but following a fixed pattern. While learning the kata, applications of its attacking and defensive movements were taught. Later on, each attacking and blocking movement began to be taught separately (Kihon), so that the practitioner could develop his techniques to the fullest. Still later, the application of individual attacking techniques and their blocks (kumite) began to be taught and this excited many practitioners of karate, who wanted to test themselves against other karatekas. However, to quote Nakayama again:
“To be capable of inflicting devastating damage on an opponent with one blow of the fist, or a single kick has indeed been the objective of this ancient Okinawan martial art. But
even the practitioners of old placed stronger emphasis on the spiritual side of the art than the techniques.”
In allowing competitors to pit their skills against each other, there was also the problem of how to minimize the chances of injury or death in an art where the techniques used are designed to inflict injury or death! This is why, although karate has been around for centuries, karate as a sport is only a few decades old.