Karate is a martial art that has its origins in Okinawa, one of the Ryukyu Islands located south of Japan. The word karate comes from two kanji characters, kara and te. Kara means "empty" and te means "hand." Thus, karate is translated as "empty hands," referring to the fact that a student of karate, a karateka, learns to defend oneself without the use of weapons. The word "empty" may also imply that one should empty the mind of all immoral thoughts. However, at one time, the character for kara was written as meaning "China," giving karate the original meaning of "China hand," reflecting China's early influence on the Japanese martial arts.
The majority of karate techniques focus on punching, kicking, striking, and blocking. Through rigorous training, the karateka develops speed, power, and agility. Karate is an excellent form of exercise and can be practiced by men, women, and children of all ages. Although the karateka learns many combative techniques, it is regretful if karate is practiced merely as a fighting art. Only those students who immerse themselves in the spiritual side of karate can expect to gain the full benefits of this martial art. A true karateka must train in a spirit of humility to strengthen the mind as well as the body. This of course requires strong discipline and concentration, but above all, great patience. Ultimately, a karateka strives for the development of character through training so that the student can overcome any problem, physical or otherwise.