It is a form of martial art that was developed in Ryukyu Islands in the area currently known as Okinawa Prefecture in Japan. Karate was partly developed from indigenous combative methods such as te and the Chinese kenpo. It is a striking form of martial art that makes use of kicking, punching, elbow and knee strikes, as well as open-handed techniques like knife-hands. Restraining, grappling, locking, throwing and striking at vital points are also taught in certain styles of Karate. Any practitioner of Karate is referred to as Karateka.

Karate Photo The practice of Karate has its origins in Ryukyu Kingdom before it was annexed by the Japanese in the 19th century. The arrival of Karate at the Japanese mainland during the early twentieth century was mainly due to a cultural interaction between the Ryukyuans and the Japanese. In 1922, Gichin Funakoshi was invited by Education Ministry of Japan to come to Tokyo and give a demonstration of Karate. Keio University founded the first Japanese university Karate-club in the year 1924. By the year 1932, most of the major universities in Japan had their own Karate clubs. During this era of an escalating Japanese military power, the name of this martial art was changed from "Tang hand" or "Chinese hand" to "empty hand", both of which were pronounced Karate. This move expressed the Japanese wish to develop this combative art in the Japanese style. After the World War II, Okinawa grew to the status of an important US military base and the combat form of Karate grew popular among the servicemen operating there.

Various martial arts movies released during the 1960s and 70's greatly served to increase the popularity of Karate and other forms of martial arts and the term "Karate" was generically used to describe all forms of striking-based martial arts that originated in the Orient. Numerous Karate schools started to appear all across the world, which catered to all kinds of people including those who were deeply interested in the art form as well as all those individuals who took a more casual interest in this combative art form.

The Shotokan Dojo's Chief Instructor, Shigeru Egami is of the opinion that most of the practitioners of Karate in the overseas countries follow this form only for the fighting techniques that it can teach. Movies and television shows portray Karate as an enigmatic and mysterious form of fighting that can inflict injury or death from a single blow. He says that the mass media presents a false art that is far from the true essence of Karate. Shoshin Nagamine says that Karate may be defined as a person's inner conflict or as the life-long pursuit that can only be won through rigorous self-discipline, years of hard training as well as an individual's own creative efforts.

Many practitioners consider Karate to be a profound philosophical practice. Karate-do can teach ethical principles and have a spiritual significance for its followers. Gichin Funakoshi, who is often considered to be the "Father of Modern Karate", named his autobiography as Karate-Do: My Way of Life by recognizing the transformative powers of Karate. In modern times, the art of Karate is widely practiced as a means of self-perfection, for self-defense, for cultural reasons, as well as a sport.