"Traditional Karate"
Last Updated: 06.23.2007
History and Definition

    Although today there are many different Karate sports, originally there was only one.  
    The first or Traditional Karate (Karate-Do) was the original Karate from which these
    later sports borrowed the name “Karate”, as it is commonly and widely used today.

    Karate has its roots in “Tode” – a weaponless self-defense system developed in
    Okinawa, influenced by Chinese martial arts with more than two thousand years of
    history.  In mainland Japan, it was established as a part of Budo” (Japanese martial
    arts) system; “Traditional Karate” therefore is a general term for Karate that follows
    Budo principles.

    After World War II, Karate’s value for self defense, physical fitness, competition, and
    overall mental and physical development came to be increasingly recognized.  
    However, as a martial art, it necessitated long and repeated careful study.  Because the
    practice of Karate soon came to approach the semblance of a “boom” in popularity, the
    requirements of long and repeated careful study came to be overridden by the
    demands of today’s world for more rapid results and quicker development.  The result
    was the emergence of many new sports using the name of Karate.  To avoid confusion
    with these new sports, the public began distinguishing the original Karate as
    “Traditional Karate”.

    The international governing body of Traditional Karate is the International Traditional
    Karate Federation (ITKF), which is composed of Traditional Karate national federation
    from each member country.  Each member national federation is the governing body for
    Traditional Karate in its respective country.  Worldwide, members of ITKF practice many
    different “styles” of Karate (such as Shotokan, Goju-ryu, etc.).  These “styles” are
    comparable to schools or academies and have their own unique training systems
    developed by Karate masters over many centuries.  However, even under the same
    style, groups affiliated with ITKF pursue Budo Karate while others not belonging to ITKF
    practice so called “karate sports” which are merely punching / kicking games with no
    Budo principles.

Objectives and Values

    The purpose of Traditional Karate is to develop well-balanced mind and body, through
    training in fighting techniques.  Traditional Karate also shares the ultimate aim with
    Budo, which is to cultivate great human character of a higher class that prevents any
    violent attack before an actual fight occurs.

    Budo originates in the practice of physical fighting; however, it has a significant effect on
    the spiritual and physical development of a human since Budo philosophy and ethics
    are absolute requirements for the study of techniques and improvement of skills.  
    Elements such as manners and etiquette were not adapted from outside elements nor
    are they independent from the physical training, but existed within the system since the
    origin of Budo and were integrated to the technical improvement:

  • Seriousness:
    Budo training must be done in a serious manner, because its techniques are derived
    from severe life-or-death situations, where one must win the fight in order to survive.  
    This is why Budo practitioners are required to have a serious mind set.  Only in such a
    condition can one possibly achieve extreme levels of mind and body far beyond ordinary
    levels.  This is apparent in competitions.  For example, a Kumite (sparring) match is
    carried out in Ippon-shobu (one perfect “finishing blow” determines the winner) format.  
    Because only one definitive technique can conclude a match, competitors are driven to
    learn the importance of serious attitude.

  • Humility:
    To achieve a higher level, Budo requires a practitioner to keep a humble mind and
    behavior.  This allows one to always learn something from anyone.  Once one thinks
    that he or she is better than others, the possibility of improvement ceases.  This is the
    basis of the high importance of respecting instructors as well as training partners in

  • Calmness & Discipline:
    As already mentioned, the original Budo techniques were designed for the critical
    situation where one may or may not survive.  Under such a condition, it is difficult for
    anybody to keep a calm mind; the ability of clear judgment or physical reflex slows
    down, and often one may find himself immobilized due to nervousness.  Therefore
    keeping a calm mind is a crucial concern in Budo practice, and this is why a training
    session begins and ends with a period of meditation.  In addition, Budo’s rigorous and
    disciplined training makes a practitioner confident about his techniques and gain
    mental stability.  According to the recent research by sports psychologists, this method
    is recognized as most effective in avoiding mental fluctuation.

  • Skillfulness:
    In Budo, the proper technique and power are generated by skill, rather than relying only
    on muscular strength.  Techniques are delivered from the center of the body so that it
    can utilize a quick and efficient reflex of the entire body.  In the same way, Traditional
    Karate requires an integrated physical action controlled by the center of the body,
    starting from the feet on the floor.  Proper training develops a body with each part
    moving in proper sequence without unnecessary moves, and as a result, allows one to
    build a well-balanced body.

    Acknowledging the above described values, it is easy to see why such physical and
    mental training became the basis for the concept of Budo and Traditional Karate
    demanding unlimited seeking of total human development.

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International Traditional Karate Federation
The International Governing Body of Traditional Karate
International Traditional Karate Federation
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