An oriental art of self-defense that is characterized by disabling an attacker with crippling kicks and punches that is widely practiced as a sport.

The participants, commonly called players, wear a two-piece costume called a gi. Matches, in which players are normally paired according to weight, are usually limited to 2 to 7 minutes, during which time each player directs kicks and punches at his opponent and tries to block his opponent’s blows.

The blows need not actually land on target to score, and they are normally pulled at the last instant to avoid injuring the opponent. The valid target area is the torso, and blows landing on the head, arms, and legs are not counted.

Players customarily wear protective mitts on their hands to soften blows that accidentally hit the opponent. A match is held on a 26-foot-square mat and begins and ends with the players bowing to each other and to the officials. The match is supervised by a referee on the mat who is assisted by up to four judges at the corners.

They watch for punches and kicks that are not blocked and that, had they not been not been pulled back, would have landed.

Points are awarded for a likely hit, and a player may win a match accumulating a stipulated number of points for effective blows or by delivering a single killing blow -- one that would have landed in one of the more than 20 vital points on the opponent’s body and would have been lethal if not pulled back.

A karate practitioner is called karateka or karateist.

Karate training is commonly divided into kihon (basics or fundamentals), kata (forms), and kumite (sparring).

Kihon

This means basics and these form the base for everything else in the style including stances, strikes, punches, kicks and blocks. Karate styles place varying importance on kihon. Typically this is training in unison of a technique or a combination of techniques by a group of karateka. Kihon may also be prearranged drills in smaller groups or in pairs.

Kata

Motobu Chōki in Naihanchi-dachi, one of the basic karate stances.

Kata which means literally "shape" or "model." Kata is a formalized sequence of movements which represent various offensive and defensive postures. These postures are based on idealized combat applications. To attain a formal rank the karateka must demonstrate competent performance of specific required kata for that level.

Kumite

Sparring in Karate is called kumite. It literally means "meeting of hands." Kumite is practiced both as a sport and as self-defense training. Levels of physical contact during sparring vary considerably. Full contact karate has several variants. Knockdown karate (such as Kyokushin) uses full power techniques to bring an opponent to the ground.

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