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
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
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
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:
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.
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
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.
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.
International Traditional Karate Federation
The International Governing Body of Traditional Karate
International Traditional Karate Federation
|Copyright © 2007 International Traditional Karate Federation. All rights reserved.
1930 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 1007, Los Angeles, CA 90057
Phone: 213-483-8262 Fax: 213-483-4060