The Manchester University Shotokan Karate Club is one of the most successful and dynamic university martial art clubs in the UK, and we owe every fibre of that achievement to the passion and conviction of our members. Few people know what Karate actually is, and many have damaging stereotypes about what it entails. I want to describe what this sport and martial art really is about, and how every single person reading this can get involved.
Karate is a martial art from the Ryukyu Island of Okinawa, halfway between the Japanese Island of Kyushu and the Island of Taiwan. The history of this art is complex at best, but can loosely be summed up as a combination of Japanese Jiu Jitsu, Chinese Crane Boxing, and the native martial art of Tuiti. Karate literally means ‘Chinese Hand’, in reference to its origins in Chinese military systems. A martial art employing kicks, punches, grapples, throws, and locks, Karate might perhaps seem violent in appearance. However, Karate is not about aggression, nor violence. As Okinawan master Taika Oyata said, Karate is an ‘art of life preservation’: Self-defence, physical exercise, and physical and mental conditioning.
Sport Karate is a much more modern invention, taking the original martial art and adapting it for the competitive environment of an arena. Here at the university, we practise the style of Karate known as Shotokan—the largest style of Karate in the world, practised by everyone from Chuck Norris to Paralympian David Smith.
Our competition consists of two categories: Kata, and Kumite. Kumite is a semi-contact sparring competition between two opponents, where points are awarded over timed matches for cleanly executed punches, strikes and kicks. Kata competition involves two opponents each performing a routine of movements involving a variety of techniques, with the winner being judged on their accuracy, power, speed, and concentration. These kata contain many applications that are applicable to self-defence, and are often many hundreds of years old. Top sport karateka (people who practise Karate) often specialise in one discipline or the other, but many are highly competent in both—each complementing the other.
Karate is for everyone. If you are interested in the competition element, then we cater for you. We compete at a wide range of competitions throughout the year, with the highlight being BUCS in February. This is part of the BUCS weekend event, which also includes many sports from Judo to Athletics, Boxing, and Swimming.
It is great to be a part of such a huge event and really helps to kick the competitive spirit into overdrive. However, that’s not to say that you have to compete! We have many people who come purely for the thrill of training and the constant hunger to improve and to push their body further than they thought possible. We also have a “work hard, play hard” attitude, and love attending the AU socials, but also have smaller gatherings, and often organise a Chinese meal out (especially after a competition!).
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0161 275 2930 University of Manchester’s Students’ Union, Oxford Rd, Manchester M13 9PR