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#404334 - 08/11/08 10:45 AM "Empty hand" kanji
harlan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6665
Loc: Amherst, MA
I'm sure this question has been asked countless times before...but my google-fu skills are lacking. Can someone please point me to resources/threads that touch on the naming of karate? Specifically, I'm interested in the story of the kanji for karate being changed. What were the kanji in question (can post them?), when the change...and more specifically...does 'empty' refer to anything more than a literal translation of an empty/weaponless hand?

thank you

#404335 - 08/11/08 10:56 AM Re: "Empty hand" kanji [Re: harlan]
dandjurdjevic Offline

Registered: 05/10/08
Posts: 844
Loc: Australia

Have a look about half way down under the heading "Chinese hand becomes 'empty hand'".

There is a link there to the 1936 meeting of Okinawan masters and also the relevant characters. We still use the old character "to"/"kara" meaning "Tang" (for Tang dynasty or China).

The other character (empty) is actually quite poetic and philosophical, because it denotes more than just "empty" (as in weaponless etc.) but more like "empty as the sky" - in other words it has a certain philosophical connection with concepts like mushin/wushin (empty mind) as well as with infinity.

#404336 - 08/11/08 11:09 AM Re: "Empty hand" kanji [Re: dandjurdjevic]
harlan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6665
Loc: Amherst, MA
Thanks Dan.

Must be the recent 'feeding crane' workshop I went to, but I'm musing in odd directions...and was wondering...if 'empty' had a more 'internal' connotation.

#404337 - 08/11/08 08:32 PM Re: "Empty hand" kanji [Re: harlan]
eyrie Offline
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Registered: 12/28/04
Posts: 3106
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#404338 - 08/16/08 10:08 PM Re: "Empty hand" kanji [Re: harlan]
WuXing Offline

Registered: 10/24/05
Posts: 481
Loc: Idaho, USA
Minutes from 1936 "meeting of masters" where they talked about changing the name.



Kara does not just mean physically empty, but is also used to describe the mental/spiritual state of emptiness. So yes, even the name has a link to Zen Buddhist practice, whether the namers explicitly intended it to be so or not.

#404339 - 08/16/08 11:15 PM Re: "Empty hand" kanji [Re: WuXing]
harlan Offline
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Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6665
Loc: Amherst, MA
Thanks, Jim.

#404340 - 08/27/08 03:21 AM Re: "Empty hand" kanji [Re: WuXing]
Uchinanchu Offline

Registered: 02/09/06
Posts: 99
Loc: Okinawa, Japan

The changing of the character had a more political, than spitirual reasoning behind it. The Okinawan masters wished to disassociate themselves with their Chinese counterparts in order to be more openly accepted by the Japanese.
That said, the character for "empty" does have better ring to it if one wishes to instill the Japanese Zen buddist philosophy.
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