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Learn About The Styles of Martial Arts Training

Martial Arts are various methods of unarmed combat, originally used in warfare in the Far East and shaped by Eastern Asian philosophical concepts.

The martial arts are popular in many parts of the world today as means of personal development (self esteem, self confidence, focus and concentration, self discipline) self-defense, physical fitness, competitive sports and law enforcement tactics. Among the better known forms are karate, kung fu, taekwondo, jujitsu, judo, aikido, tai chi chuan, and kendo.

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Martial Art Types and Techniques

Karate (Japanese, "empty hand"), martial art of unarmed self-defense in which directed or focused blows of the hands and feet, accompanied by special breathing and shouts, are dealt from poised positions. More than a method of combat, karate emphasizes self-discipline, positive attitude, and high moral purpose. It is taught professionally at different levels, and under different Asian names, as a self-defense skill, a competitive sport, and a free-style exercise.

Kung fu (Chinese boxing) is, with karate, the most popularly known of all the martial arts. It employs kicks, strikes, throws, body turns, dodges, holds, crouches and starts, leaps and falls, hand springs and somersaults. These movements include more techniques involving the open hand, such as claws and rips, than those used in karate.

Taekwondo is a type of fighting system that originated in Korea and that employs kicking, punching, and various evasive techniques. Most famous for its kicks, Tae Kwon Do incorporates jumping and kicking into characteristic maneuvers called "flying kicks." Taekwondo spread worldwide from Korea in the 1960s and the first World Tae Kwon Do Championship took place in Seoul, South Korea, in 1973.

Jujitsu or jiujitsu (from Japanese Ju, for "gentle"), uses holds, chokes, throws, trips, joint locks, kicks, and atemi (strikes to vital body areas). The techniques are gentle only in the sense that they are directed toward deflecting or controlling an attack; however, they can maim or kill.

Judo is a popular wrestling form developed from jujitsu in 1882 by Jigoro Kano, a Japanese educator. Like jujitsu, it attempts to turn an attacker's force to one's own advantage. Techniques include throwing and grappling. Judo was first included in the Olympic Games in 1964.

Aikido was, like judo, derived from jujitsu within the last century. In aikido, an attack is avoided with flowing, circular movements. The opponent can then be brought to the ground with painful, immobilizing joint locks.

Tai chi chuan, more popularly referred to as tai chi, is an ancient Chinese exercise and fighting system, still practiced in China and elsewhere in the world, mainly for its health benefits. It employs slow, graceful movements that are stylized renditions of original arm and foot blows.

Kendo, or Japanese fencing, is a sport derived from ancient sword fighting, now using bamboo swords.

Martial Arts Belt Levels

In many forms of the martial arts, practitioners wear colored belts to denote rank. A white belt indicates a novice; a black belt signifies proficiency at various levels. For example, first degree black belt, signifies the first level of black belt; fifth degree black belt, usually signifies a master.

Karate Martial Arts

The art of karate is more than 1000 years old and originated in eastern Asia, first as monastic training and later as a defense method used by Chinese peasants against armed bandits. During the 17th century it became highly developed as an art on the island of Okinawa, Japan. In 1922 karate was introduced to the Japanese public by an Okinawan, Funakoshi Gichin, and the art is today chiefly associated with Japan. It was introduced into the U.S. after World War II. Many types, including Korean (tae kwon do) and Chinese styles, are taught in the U.S. Technique and Training Karate is related to judo and jujitsu, but stresses techniques for striking, with lethal kicks and punches, rather than wrestling or throwing an opponent.

The three elements of speed, strength, and technique are vital to karate expertise. Constant alertness and a keen sense of timing and surprise are also requisites. Great attention is given to knowing the most vulnerable points of the human body, which may be attacked by the hands, elbows, knees, or feet. These areas include the face, neck, solar plexus, spinal column, groin, and kidneys. In ordinary karate competitions or exhibitions, only the area of the body above the waist is allowed as a target, and all blows are to be pulled.

The most common blows used are chops or knife hands, knuckle punches, hammer blows, finger jabs, and front, side, back, round, jump, and stamping kicks. In actual fighting, any of these blows can be fatal. The ability of a karate master to break boards or bricks with a chop of the bare hand is proverbial. The karate trainee toughens hands and feet by driving them into containers of sand, rice, or gravel and by striking sandbags and special punching boards (makiwara).

Constant exercises are important for limbering up and for strengthening the muscles of the body. Deep-breathing exercises are also useful because exhalation and sudden shouts accompany the directed blows, particularly the final or so-called killing blows. Such breathing and cries help the rhythm of the karate attack, focus more force in each blow or block, and psychologically invigorate a person while disconcerting the opponent. Instruction and Achievement The language of karate is chiefly Japanese.

A karate training hall or gym is called a dojo, and the white, pajama like garment worn in all training is called the gi. More than 200 specific Japanese terms are used for the various blows and moves that are employed in movement sequences called kata. Degrees of achievement are formally recognized in karate training, each represented by a cloth belt of a particular color worn around the gi, the usual colors being, in ascending order, white, yellow, orange, blue, green, purple, brown, and black.

Qualifications for belts differ from school to school, depending upon the style and standard of karate taught. The black belt, or dan, signifies the highest proficiency in karate and, like the other belts, is itself qualified by degrees of honor or skill, the highest dan being the ninth or tenth degree. Competition The Japan Karate Association, established by Funakoshi in 1949, held the first all-Japan karate championships in 1957. Since then the association has become an international organization, with affiliated karate clubs around the world.

Karate schools have also come into being, particularly in the U.S., where it has become highly popular as a sport and a method for self-protection. Karate has also been incorporated in training programs for the police, soldiers, and college athletes. No international karate organization exists, largely because of the difficulties in standardizing the many different schools and styles of karate.

In the U.S., although no single organization conducts official national competitions, hundreds of tournaments are held each year throughout the country. Among the best known are the annual American championships of the Japan Karate Association, held usually on the West Coast or in Hawaii, and the All-American Open Karate Championships, held annually at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

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