Karate-do (way of the empty hand) is a Japanese martial art which utilizes hand and foot techniques equally, in comparison to the Korean martial art Taekwondo where the majority of techniques are done with the feet.

Karate can be traced back to the Okinawan self-defense system called Okinawa-te (Okinawa hands), derived from Chinese Kempo (fist way). On its way from China to Okinawa to Japan, the martial art evolved into the karate that is seen today.

There are hundreds of ryu (styles) of karate. The four most common ryu in karate recognized by the Japan Karate Federation are: Wado-Ryu, Shito-Ryu, Goju-Ryu and Shotokan. Wado-Ryu was designed to be used against a sword. Shito-Ryu has a strong focus on economy of movement. Goju-Ryu is recognized for hard and soft techniques. Shotokan, the most contemporary of the styles, is characterized by owaza (large movements).


Karate is taught through kihon, kata and kumite. Kihon includes the basics such as punching (tsuki), striking (uchi), kicking (keri), blocking (uke) and stances (dachi). Kata is the implementation of kihon in a formal exercise of prearranged techniques against imaginary opponents. Kumite is sparring where the student uses the techniques learned through the analysis of katas to defend or attack against their opponent.

Karate-do is not solely based upon self-defense and fighting. Through the repetition of physical movements one can learn discipline, humility and confidence. The physical aspect is a tool to make the mind stronger, which in turn benefits the body.

This fusion of mental and physical strength is summarized in the following phrases, called the Dojo Kun, which are recited at the end of every class to remind and reinforce the principles upon which karate was built:

• Seek Perfection of Character: Jinkaku kansei ni tsutomuro koto
• Be Faithful: Makoto no michi o mamoru koto
• Endeavor: Doryoku no seishin o yashinau koto
• Respect Others: Reigi o omonzuru koto
• Refrain From Violent Behavior: Kekki no yu o imashimuru koto

Akemi Tsutsui is a student at Denver School of the Arts and an intern for Asian Avenue magazine. She has been learning Shotokan karate since the age of three under her father, Sensei Isao Gary Tsutsui at Colorado Budokan, 3547 S. Monaco Parkway, Denver, CO 80237.