It all happened in the end of 5th century when a pallava dynasty prince, who later known to the world as Bodhidharma, travelled from India to China. He started a commune in a small village in China and thought to the Chinese about the various facets of ‘Dhyana' (the meditation). The Chinese called it as 'Chaan', and later the Japanese named it as ‘Zen'.
But what is all this to do with the martial art form which is being introduced here!!!
Yes, there is relation. Those days' villages of China were frequented by anti-social elements who used to rob people of their valuables. To overcome this menace, Bodhidharma started teaching various Martials art forms people to protect themselves from the anti-social elements. All these forms cannot be effectively applied by the practitioners, if they are not in the state of meditation. Over the years
Chinese refined these martial art forms gave a name as Kung Fu.
Further, Japanese refined these arts named it as Karate-Do (meaning practicing martial arts as way of life). There are various forms of Karate-Do such as Shitō-ryū, Gōjū-ryū, Wadō-ryū, Bushi etc. But the most revered and traditional martial art form in the world is known as Shotokan.
Shotokan is a martial art form developed by refining various martial art forms by Gichin Funakoshi in the Okinawan island of Japan. The word "Shoto" means "pine waves" and "kan" means "Hall or Dojo". Hence the meaning of Shotokan goes as "The place where Martial Art is practiced like a waves from Pine Trees".
This martial art form lies on the foundation formed by three pillars namely Kihon, Kata and Kumite. Kihon comprises of fundamentals such as Punches, Kicks and Blocks. Combination of various techniques of kihon
in a systematic pattern forms Kata.
Application (Bunkai) of Katas during real fight is known as Kumite. A typical Shotokan session begins with Kihon, continues with Kata and ends with Kumite. Depending on the amount of practice and techniques learned by the practitioner (known as Karateka), grading's will be allotted in the form of Belts. Beginners will be given White belt. As the practice progresses yellow, orange, green, purple, brown and black belts will be given. In traditional shotokan karate, one has to practice continuously and diligently for a minimum period of 6 years to obtain a Black belt (Dan grade). By the time one reaches black belt stage, the practice would have made him/her to attain a certain degree of mastery in this art form.
Benefits of practicing Shotokan Martial Art
Even though the most popular reason for practicing this art is for Self Defence, the years of training inevitably build up the health and core strength of the practitioner and this becomes a great source of confidence. It strengthens the practitioner's body, mind, character and enable him/her to remain calm in pressing situations.It enhances one's lifestyle and confidence through better health, speed, agility, strength and reflexes. In the end, it leaves one better prepared to meet confrontations from threatening individuals, or from the challenges of life itself.
Kiai is the loud yelling sound which karateka makes during practicing and hence this article is named as Kiai!
(The author is practitioner of Shotokan Martial Art form and he is in receipt of 1St Dan degree from Shotokan Karate International Federation , Tokyo, Japan.)