[ kuh-rah-tee ]
/ kəˈrɑ ti /
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a method developed in Japan of defending oneself without the use of weapons by striking sensitive areas on an attacker's body with the hands, elbows, knees, or feet.Compare judo, jujitsu.
a sport based on this method of self-defense.


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Origin of karate

1950–55; <Japanese, equivalent to kara empty + te (earlier *tai) hand(s)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does karate mean?

Karate is a martial art and an unarmed combat and self-defense system that targets weak areas on an attacker’s body by using the hands, arms, legs, and feet to strike with fast, powerful blows. Karate originated in Japan.

Like other martial arts, karate is known for emphasizing the mental aspects of the discipline as well as values like courtesy and respect. The learning level of a person who practices karate is signified with a belt. The highest level is black belt.

A person who practices or competes in karate can be called a karateka. A karate instructor can be called a sensei, and a school where karate is taught can be called a dojo.

Karate is one of the most well-known martial arts. Probably for this reason, the word karate is sometimes used in a very general, casual way as a catchall term for any martial art.

Karate is also practiced as a sport in two main forms. Kumite (meaning “sparring”) is the traditional form involving matches between two fighters who spar against each other and are awarded points for landing blows. The other form, kata (meaning “pattern” or “form”), involves individual competitors performing a rehearsed set of karate techniques (called forms) before a panel of judges. Both types were first included as Olympic events in the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2021.

Example: I signed my kids up for karate so that they can learn self-defense and build their confidence.

Where does karate come from?

The first records of the word karate in English come from the mid-1900s. It roughly translates to “empty hand,” from the Japanese word kara, meaning “empty,” and te, meaning “hand.”

Karate traces its origins to other East Asian martial arts. It was developed and refined by inhabitants of the island of Okinawa in the 1600s as a form of unarmed self-defense before spreading throughout Japan and then internationally.

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What are some other forms related to karate?

What are some words that share a root or word element with karate

What are some words that often get used in discussing karate?

How is karate used in real life?

Karate is one of the most well-known martial arts. Probably for this reason, other martial arts are often casually (or mistakenly) referred to as karate.


Try using karate!

What does the word karate roughly translate to?

A. empty hand
B. way of the fist
C. empty foot
D. foot and fist

How to use karate in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for karate

/ (kəˈrɑːtɪ) /

  1. a traditional Japanese system of unarmed combat, employing smashes, chops, kicks, etc, made with the hands, feet, elbows, or legs
  2. (as modifier)a karate chop to the head

Word Origin for karate

Japanese, literally: empty hand, from kara empty + te hand
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012