Although today there are many different Karate sports, originally there was only one. The first or Traditional Karate (Karate-Do) was the original Karate from which these later sports borrowed the name “Karate”, as it is commonly and widely used today.
Karate has its roots in “Tode” – a weaponless self-defense system developed in Okinawa, influenced by Chinese martial arts with more than two thousand years of history. In mainland Japan, it was established as a part of “Budo” (Japanese martial arts) system; “Traditional Karate” therefore is a general term for Karate that follows Budo principles.
After World War II, Karate’s value for self defense, physical fitness, competition, and overall mental and physical development came to be increasingly recognized. However, as a martial art, it necessitated long and repeated careful study. Because the practice of Karate soon came to approach the semblance of a “boom” in popularity, the requirements of long and repeated careful study came to be overridden by the demands of today’s world for more rapid results and quicker development. The result was the emergence of many new sports using the name of Karate. To avoid confusion with these new sports, the public began distinguishing the original Karate as “Traditional Karate”.
The international governing body of Traditional Karate is the International Traditional Karate Federation (ITKF), which is composed of Traditional Karate national federation from each member country. Each member national federation is the governing body for Traditional Karate in its respective country. Worldwide, members of ITKF practice many different “styles” of Karate (such as Shotokan, Goju-ryu, etc.). These “styles” are comparable to schools or academies and have their own unique training systems developed by Karate masters over many centuries. However, even under the same style, groups affiliated with ITKF pursue Budo Karate while others not belonging to ITKF practice so called “karate sports” which are merely punching / kicking games with no Budo principles.