What is Traditional Karate?

In the late 1950s, worldwide interest in Karate prompted many countries to invite instructors from Japan. Since there were a limited number of available Japanese instructors, many areas of the world developed their own forms of "new" karate.

In the public mind, original karate as practiced in Japan became known as Traditional Karate while the variations later developed in different parts of the world became known as new karate.

Traditional Karate, as an art of self-defense, evolved in Japan over many years. Its technical base is founded on the Okinawan principle of "Tode", which itself is based an "Chonfa", the fighting art of China, a weaponless form of self-defense. Its philosophical base is Japanese "Budo" which is common to many Japanese martial arts. The combination of Okinawan fighting forms and Japanese Budo philosophy eventually became Traditional Karate. Central to the technical structure of Traditional Karate is the concept of "Todome-waza" or finishing blow whereby a single technique totally disables an opponent. This high technical proficiency makes Traditional Karate a form of high art.

Since Traditional Karate training involves the dynamic use af the total body, the physical benefits are of the highest quality. While Traditional Karate strives to develop the whole person, it also benefits the mental and emotional states, providing for overall equilibrium and stability of emotions. The ultimate goal of training in Traditional Karate is not merely the perfection of fighting skills, but rather the total development of the human character where fighting is no longer necessary.

In 1993, the 101st IOC Session (General Meeting) specified that Traditional Karate is the discipline which is practiced by the ITKF and governed by its rules. At this time "Traditional Karate" was differentiated from other "karate" disciplines. Therefore, that form of karate which is practiced and governed by the rules and regulations of the ITKF is the only officially recognized "Traditional Karate" much the same way that IOC recognized swimming as practiced under international swimming rules is distinguished from general forms of swimming.

ITKF Competition Rules are based on the "Shiai" of "Budo". Shiai directly translates to "testing each other" which means that the purpose of two individuals competing against each other is to mutually develop their skills and not merely to see who defeats the other. Mutual Respect for each other is a fundamental principle of such Traditional Karate competitions. Technical development is gained through continuous Dojo (martial arts gym) training in "Traditional Karate" fundamentals which are then incorporated into competition. The categories of "Traditional Karate" competitions are as follows:

  • Kumite (Free Sparring)
    • Men's and Women's Individual and Men's Team
  • Kogo-Kumite (Alternating Free Sparring)
    • Men's and Women's Individual and Men's Team
  • Kata (Forms)
    • Men's and Women's Individual and Team
  • En-bu
    • (Offense - Defense Technique Demonstration) Man/Woman & Man/Man
  • Fuku-go
    • (Composed of Kumite & Kata) Men's & Women's