Introducing and Explaining Karate to Overseas Guests


When a guest or client from overseas asks you a question about Karate, wouldn’t it be great if you could respond knowledgeably?

It’s a subject of fascination for many overseas visitors, and presents you with an opportunity to interact and deepen your relationship with them through sharing what you know.

Here is some information about Karate you can share, and hopefully it will encourage you to learn more.

Brief History

The martial art of Karate was created and developed in Okinawa, the extreme southern islands of Japan, at a time when they formed a separate kingdom, known as the ‘Ryuku Kingdom’.

It maintained connections and trade with China, and is thought to have adapted and developed Karate from Chinese Kung Fu.

After the kingdom’s annexation in the 1900’s interest in Karate spread to mainland Japan, (its popularity flourished, and it continued to develop into what is modern Karate.

It’s practice overseas also spread after WWII when Okinawa and much of Japan was occupied and controlled by the US, with military personnel stationed in Japan taking up its practice and bringing it to the US and elsewhere around the world.

Now let’s learn some basic words and expressions.

Useful Words and Meanings

空手 / Karate : Empty hand

空手 / Karateka : Karate practitioner

武道 / Budou : Martial art

先生 / Sensei : Teacher

精神力 /  Mental focus

格闘技 / Kakutougi : Grappling 

お礼 / Orei : Salute

道場/ Doujou : Martial arts classroom

型 / Kata : Shape or Model

組み手/ Kumite : sparring

琉球王国 / Ryuuku Ookoku : Ryuukyu Kingdom

Useful Interpretations of Words and Phrases 

Let’s start with the meaning of the word Karate, which literally means ‘empty hand’, which reflects the fact the Karate exponent uses only his bare hands and feet to strike and defeat his opponent.

There are two forms of Karate competitions: ‘Kata’ and ‘Kumite’.

‘Kata’ are routines, a set of moves and striking techniques performed in succession by an individual. Individuals compete against each other in terms of technique expression (beauty and power).

‘Kumite’ is a fight between two individuals where the winner is decided by scoring the most points against the opponent in the allocated time.

In ‘Kyokushin’ Karate, fighting is full contact, with Karateka usually wearing pads to protect themselves from injury.

The color of the belt worn.

Karate Rituals

At the beginning and end of each class, the students/exponents (Karateka) salute (Rei) their teacher/s (Sensei) and their classroom (doujou) as a sign of respect.

Karateka must have respect for their Doujou, Karate itself, the old masters and founders, the Sensei, and the other Karateka.

Karate Around the World

Karate is one of the most widely practiced martial art forms in the world.

Estimates of practitioners globally vary between 50 and 100 million.

It was amongst the first martial arts to become known and established internationally, mostly post WWII.

It has been popularized in movies, comics, anime, mangas and novels.

In 2016 it was accepted as an Olympic sport for the first time, and was to be showcased at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Basic Knowledge

Learning the Basics

Karate relies on acute physical coordination and mental focus, as well as speed, power and stamina.

A typical class will cover three practice aspects:

‘Kihon’ practice, i.e practicing the basic stances, strikes, punches, kicks and blocking moves and styles ‘Kata’ practice, going through formalized sequences of the moves learnt in  Kihon practice.

As one becomes more proficient one learns more complex moves and kata ‘Kumite’, with two participants, which can be structured Kumite with two participants performing a choreographed series of techniques with one striking while the other blocks.

Alternatively it can be unstructured ‘Kumite’, which is basically the two fighters trying to score hits in a free format fight, with the winner having scored the most points in the allocated time.

About Karate Matches and Competitions

With the Olympics likely to  go forward in 2021 here are some phrases you might use to describe karate as a sporting event.

Karate competitions have two disciplines: sparring (kumite) and forms (kata).

– Competitors may enter either as individuals or as part of a team.

– Karate specializes in striking techniques like punching, kicking, knee strikes and elbow strikes.

– Karate also involves throwing techniques, grappling, joining locks, restraints and vital points strikes.

– However, during competitive Kumite matches, the intent is not to knock out one’s opponent as in K-1 or boxing.

– Instead, during a Kumite match, three kinds of points are scored by judgment : “ippon” (three During the match, three kinds of points are awarded by judgment : “ippon” (three points), “waza-ari” (two points) and “yuko” (one point).

Watching a karate kumite match is very different from watching other martial arts.

It is not only about beating the opponent, but also about feeling the spirit of karate.

The Uniform ‘Do-gi’

The Karate uniform is white.

As with Judo, the Katateka will wear a different colour belt as he/she progresses through the skill levels, from white through various colors until attaining black belt status.

Once a black belt one progresses through ranks of black belt known as 1st dan, 2nd dan, etc.

– Karateka’s do-gi, outfit consists of white, loose-fitting pants and an overlapping hip-length jacket held closed with the belt.


To find out more about Karate and other martial arts performances Motenas offers please refer to the following article:

BUDO Teambuilding and Entertainment through Japanese Martial Arts

To find out more about team building using Karate, please refer to the following article:

Your team will love Karate as Teambuilding

With Karate now being an official sport of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, it is attracting even more attention from overseas.

It has also proved to be a popular teambuilding activity for international guests, as well as a spectacular form of entertainment when performed at parties.

Its well worth spending a little time and effort to learn about Karate to share with your guests as a way of building and enhancing your relationship with them.