Karate, literally meaning "way of the empty hand" in Japanese, is a martial art that emphasises striking techniques such as punching, kicking, knee and elbow strikes using open hand techniques. It originated as a method of self-defence which relied on the effective use of the unarmed body, and was made up of elaborate techniques of blocking or thwarting an attack and counter-attacking.
As a physical art, karate is almost without equal. This highly dynamic sport provides excellent all-round exercise and develops co-ordination and agility, making balanced use of a large number of body muscles.
Modern karate is a combat sport that employs a formal method of physical and mental training. All punches, kicks, blows and strikes must be controlled and pulled back before contact to avoid injuries to either contestant.
Different karate styles have varying belt orders, but white almost always means beginner and black is the highest belt attainable. Dress for competitive karate consists of the karate suit, the karategi, or gi, with the belt, bare feet and mitts.
Kata is the name of a very popular form of karate. It is a set sequence of basic defence and attacking routines which is performed alone, usually on a mat. At competition level, a technically good routine is essential for success.