Hong Kong Lawyer

November 2017

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F rom an early age, I have always had a fascination for the martial arts – its mystique, and the superhuman feats performed by its practitioners such as Bruce Lee and the Shaolin Temple monks. My martial arts experience started off when I joined my school friend for training at a small Karate club in the South- East of England. From those humble origins, my passion for martial arts grew. I trained throughout my school years into university and beyond. Having competed at national and international Karate tournaments, having trained all over the world, I started travelling to Okinawa to train at the "Mecca" of Karate from 2004. A Brief History of Karate There is a general misconception that Karate originated in Japan, when in fact modern Karate has its roots in Okinawa, the largest island of the Ryukyu Islands before it became a prefecture of Japan. Okinawa had a long cultural and commercial relationship with China and this inevitably influenced the Okinawan fighting arts. The original meaning of Karate was Tang Hand reflecting its Chinese influence. The three main styles of Okinawan Karate are linked to the towns where they originated, namely Naha, Shuri and Tomari. From these came the modern Karate styles such as Goju-Ryu, Uechi-Ryu, Isshin- Ryu, Shotokan, Shitoryu, Wado-Ryu, Kyokushinkai etc. In the 1930s, Karate was introduced to mainland Japan as "empty hand". Over the years, it has become the mainstream martial art that we see today. There are now between 50–100 million karate practitioners around the world. What is Karate? Another general misconception about Karate is that it is primarily a bare handed fighting style consisting of only punches and kicks. While partly true, the art of Karate as practised in Okinawa also contains a plethora of techniques such as throws, sweeps, grappling, locks, strikes to vital points and those with traditional Okinawan weapons. A typical Okinawan Karate class starts with preparatory exercises to warm up, strengthen and stretch the body (junbi undo) which could take up to 30–40 minutes. The next stage consists of supplementary exercises (hojo undo) using weighted tools that are more functional than just lifting weights in the gym. Tools such as stone levers (chiishi), gripping jars (nigiri game), iron ring (kongoken) and straw hitting post (makiwara) are utilised to increase strength, promote correct body posture/mechanics and to protect the body from injury. Another important aspect of Okinawan Karate is body conditioning (tanren), in which practitioners hit different parts of their body with tools or against another practitioner in order to accustom the body for impact thereby reducing injuries that may occur during sparring or in actual self- defence. 88 www.hk-lawyer.org •  November 2017 The Way of the Martial Arts By Kam-Wing Pang, Convenor of the Law Society's Martial Arts Interest Group

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