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The Philosophy Of Karate

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The Philosophy Of Karate

At its core, Karate’s focus is not just on physical activity and strength. Beyond self-defence technique and strength building, Karate is about developing character, improving the mind and body together, and growing through virtue and other valuable life skills. While you can approach karate as a physical activity promoting healthy routines and fitness levels, there is much more to gain from participating in a Karate program.

Why Was Karate Formed?

Karate was formed in Okinawa as a self-defence technique when bearing arms were banned at various times on the Japanese island from 1477-1879. The first form of martial art developed was known as Okinawa Te, which incorporated many ancient hand-fighting techniques from Kalaripayattu, which originated in India. Eventually, Te was influenced further by Chinese martial arts (such as Kung Fu). Karate originated out of necessity first, and all the elements of body and mind philosophy developed later.

Karate and Philosophy

The philosophical side of Karate was added over time as Karate developed. These include ideas on strengthening the mind, building character, virtue, and more. Some practitioners of Karate emphasize the mental and spiritual side of Karate more than the practical side.

This all comes down to Gichin Funakoshi (the father of modern Karate) famously saying “The ultimate aim of karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants.”

Philosophical aspects were added to Karate as a way to promote its growth and popularity in mainland Japan. As Karate was originally exclusive to the island of Okinawa, mainland Japanese viewed Karate as foreign and lower class. Karate masters wished for their art to be respected and accepted by mainland Japan. They believed instilling martial ethics into the art would help Karate be better seen and be able to grow. The first ethics to come into Karate were borrowed from Budo, and it lead to great success in thriving Karate’s popularity in Japan. By 1932, there was a Karate club in every major Japanese university and the following year, Karate was officially recognized as a Japanese martial art by the Japanese Martial Arts Committee. By the 1950s, Karate’s popularity had spread into Europe and the U.S., and is now one of the most popular and widely known martial arts worldwide.

Today, many Karate organizations and masters agree that Karate is a way of life that helps promote the path to becoming a better human being. Karate is enjoyed by 50 million people in over 160 countries. That’s a lot of growth since coming from nothing in the early 1900s.

What is the Philosophy of Karate?

Karate is the simultaneous development of mind, body and spirit, working to bring each into harmony with one another. Karate students learn to control their body through technique, while also learning to give up control. Expert students can perform Karate techniques without thinking while remaining focused on the task at hand. The body tells you how to move, the mind how to be still. The union between body and mind is very powerful, more so than brute force.

Karate results in flowing, natural action, building confidence, humility, openness and peace. All is only possible with a mind and body that is within sync.

Once you find that unity between body and mind, you can develop discipline, confidence, strength, humility, virtue, focus, and more.


While Karate can still be a sport that students engage in to keep active or learn self-defence, it is entirely possible to benefit from the philosophy of Karate at the same time. Respect, discipline, endurance, problem-solving, confidence – all of these and more can flourish in a Karate dojo.

Ready to begin your Karate journey? We offer specialized adult karate classes in Vancouver for all ages and skill levels.

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