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Unleash Your Inner Warrior: Karate – History and Benefits | Sachindu Perera | Australia

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ශ්‍රී LankaNZ is a free distributed Sri Lankan Community Newspaper that aims to reach a Sri Lankan population of over 18,000 all over New Zealand. The demand for entertainment in literacy media itself gave birth to ශ්‍රී LankaNZ

History.

The word karate is a term in Japanese – “kara” (empty)  and “te” (hand), meaning to fight hand-to-hand without weapons. Karate originated on the Japanese island of Okinawa, part of the Ryukyu Islands chain, as a mixture of local Okinawan and Chinese fighting styles.

Originally Karate was referred to as “te”. In 1372 trade was established between the Ryukyu Islands and the Fujian territory of China, which meant that many Chinese came to Okinawa. They brought Kenpo, a combination of Indian and Chinese fighting methods with them, resulting in a hybrid of the two fighting styles.

Karate also promotes and practices respect as you have to bow to your teachers before a lesson to show your respect to them. This teaches people to apply good character in other areas of our lives including school, the workplace or social situations. The self-discipline developed through karate training also allows students to apply restraint and self-control with all important life habits.

Skills. 

Punches are one of the most important skills in Karate. Punches should be made with a straight arm and travel from your head to your target (you always keep your hand in front of your face to protect it). There are also many kicks to learn. Sometimes kicks are more useful than punches. Legs can reach further than arms and are more likely to find a target. All kicks begin with a bent knee. Then the leg is thrust out suddenly thrust out with power. By spinning on one foot you can kick powerfully with your other foot sideways and backwards.

There are also takedowns in Karate. There are many different throws. You can use your hips or legs to lift your opponent up and throw them onto the mat. An important thing to realise is that you have to make your moves at the right time. If you wait until your opponent is off-balance, you can then trip them to the floor with your leg. You can also grapple opponents to the ground. A common tactic is to drop down on your back and throw your opponent over with your legs.

You need to also be wearing the correct equipment to protect yourself. You should wear guards for your head and mouth, and mitts to cover your fists. A good way to practice your skills is with sparring which is an exercise in which you carry out fighting moves without making strong contact.

Benefits for children.

Training in Karate develops agility, strength and speed, allowing for fast and effective techniques while also improving muscle tone and endurance. Working both the hands and feet, and left and right sides equally, it develops mental and physical coordination, as well as flexibility. This can help children participate more confidently in other sports. It also develops core strength, which can prevent or minimise back pain in adults.

Unlike team sports that may create pressure, martial arts prioritise individual growth over team competition. The emphasis is on self-improvement, alleviating the stress of letting down a team. Martial arts provide a structured system where children can work toward specific goals at their own pace. The achievement of different coloured belts as they master new skills not only boosts self-esteem but also maintains motivation. Martial arts break down complex techniques into manageable chunks, allowing children to learn gradually, repeat and add.

Martial arts offer numerous benefits to children, including the opportunity to learn complex techniques in manageable chunks and the emphasis on self-control, concentration, and respect. They also aid in enhancing coordination, fostering a structured environment, promoting safe energy release, and providing a sense of inclusivity.

Children learn gradually through repetition and the addition of steps, which builds anticipation and eventually leads to mastery of fluid movements. They must stay focused and attentive during the practice, with instructors promoting the “ready stance” as a reset mechanism to regain concentration.

Martial arts movements help children better understand their bodies in space and aid those who may struggle with motor skills. The practice also highlights the influence of the mind over the body, enhancing coordination and body awareness.

Instructors promote good behaviour and clear rules both inside and outside the class, often providing behaviour charts for parents and caregivers to reinforce positive conduct. Contrary to the misconception that martial arts promote violence; they provide a controlled outlet for excess energy and allow children to channel frustration or anger constructively.

Respect is a fundamental value in martial arts, fostering an inclusive environment. Children are required to show respect to instructors and peers, discouraging negativity and promoting mutual support. Wearing martial arts gear and accomplishing feats like breaking boards contribute to a sense of achievement and belonging, providing children with a unique sense of pride and accomplishment.

By infusing the principles of martial arts with safety education, we equip children with not only the physical skills to protect themselves but also the mental resilience to navigate the complexities of the world. This holistic approach fosters a sense of empowerment and inclusion for all children, regardless of their learning differences.

My experience.

I began learning Karate in New Zealand when I was 6. I didn’t understand that much at first but I enjoyed it. When I came to Australia and I was much older I had a more passionate interest for Karate from reading books and watching movies. I also liked watching the kata event at the Olympics. I currently have a blue belt and there are 3 more belts I have to get to achieve a black belt. I got a blue belt from lots of practice and doing the kata Taigyoku Shodan.

I think that karate has had a positive impact on me. It has improved my flexibility, confidence and strength. Before you do karate, you must do stretches and warmups as you may sprain something; like what happens in other sports when you don’t warm up. My confidence has also improved as I’m a more outgoing person than I was before I did karate. My strength has also increased because of the exercises you do in karate, such as using punching bags.

There aren’t that many Sri Lankan Karate champions so I’ll need to put in a lot of hard work and dedication. I can attend every class and practice outside of class to improve my skills. I can also participate in local karate tournaments to gain experience and build my confidence. I will keep track of my progress and set specific goals for myself, such as mastering a certain technique or winning a tournament. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by eating well and staying physically fit will help me perform my best in competitions. With patience, perseverance, and a strong work ethic, I can achieve my goal of becoming the Sri Lankan Karate champion.

Olympics and Movies.

Karate has gained a lot of attention worldwide not just because of the way it has been portrayed in movies and sporting events such as the Karate Kid and the sporting events include things such as the UFC and Olympic events about Karate. Olympic events about Karate include kata and kumite.  Karate was first introduced to the Olympic games in 2020 and is the third martial art to be introduced after Judo and Taekwondo.

The Karate Kid movie also helped people change the way they felt about karate. Before movies like The Karate Kid, people only saw martial arts movies as something screened in dollar theatres and were considered to be low-brow entertainment. The Karate Kid helped people see martial arts movies and could deliver wholesome family entertainment, as well as good box office returns.

The Karate Kids plot followed the same outline of many Kung Fu movies: the hero suffers an injustice, then the hero finds a quirky master who uses obscure training methods, and finally the hero, armed with these skills, takes revenge. However, even though it was a martial arts movie, none of the cast had received any martial arts training except Kreese (Martin Kove).

Even though experienced martial artists have found lots of inaccuracies in the movie, it manages to show the heart of Karate. The hardships Daniel endures, his loyalty to his sensei, Miyagi’s humility, and the contrasts between the street fights and the championships all play out with an uncommon sincerity, and perhaps that is the secret of its longevity.

Even with the Olympic kata event, people have pointed out how kata is not being performed to the highest standards. But it is still important to recognise the effort and hard work that Olympians put into perfecting their craft.

By Sachindu Perera – Australia

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