What is Karate?

Karate is an Okinawan bare-handed system of self-defence that became a Japanese Martial Art. Karate was introduced to mainland Japan in the early 1920’s by Okinawan Master Gichin Funakoshi. This style of karate became known as Shotokan and was formalized into a systematic progression following the hierarchy of another Japanese martial art, Judo. Karate adopted the belt colours to symbolise the Kyu grades, as well as bringing structure to the teaching methods and grade requirements. Shotokan karate was the first of the Okinawan systems to be introduced to Japan, and over the next 10 years 3 more styles would form the basis of the Traditional Japanese styles of karate, the others being Goju-ryu, Wado-ryu, and Shito-ryu. During this time between 1921 and 1929 Gichin Funakoshi devoted himself to Zen training, which influenced his style’s philosophy and how karate was perceived in general. This lead to beliefs such as “The ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of the participant.”

Gichin Funakoshi laid out the Twenty Precepts of Karate (Niju kun) which form the foundations of the art. Within these twenty principles, based heavily on Bushido and Zen, lies the philosophy of Shotokan. The principles allude to notions of humility, respect, compassion, patience, and both an inward and outward calmness. It was Funakoshi’s belief that through karate practice and observation of these 20 principles, the karateka (karate practitioner) would improve their person. Along with the 20 precepts, Funakoshi also included 5 philosophical rules for training in the Dojo, the Dojo Kun; seek perfection of character, be faithful, endeavor to excel, respect others, refrain from violent behavior.

Belts and Ranking System

At the Leslieville Dojo we follow the Dan-i ranking system. When a student begins their training they begin at 9th Kyu. The Kyu levels have corresponding coloured belts to signify their rank. Beginning with White Belt, the student advances through to Yellow, Orange, Green, Blue, and Brown Belts. Once a student grades for their 1st Kyu (Brown Belt), they can begin preparation for their 1st Dan. All Dan grades are marked by a Black Belt. We hold Kyu Gradings (testing for coloured belts) at the end of each term, approximately 3 or 4 times a year. Our Dan Gradings (Black Belt tests) are on a per need basis. When the student is ready, we will hold a Grading for them.

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