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Kara, meaning "empty" and te meaning "hand"; thus karate means empty hand. Adding the suffix -do, meaning "they way", means "The way of the empty hand". We learn to defend and attack using only our bodies, no weapons.
What is Karate-Do?
It is a form of self-defense using all parts of the body, which by hard and systematic training become effective and powerful weapons. True Karate-Do practice is to train the body and spirit, to respect one's training partner, to be practiced with all one's heart and energy, and with humility.
Karate? Not just a way to train fighters
Although Karate is a form of fighting, it will nurture non-aggression in its practitioners. When, through a misunderstanding or lack of guidance, Karate techniques are practiced solely as a fighting method, they cease to be Karate. Nobody needs Karate to learn to fight. Although a Karate-ka is capable of fighting, his training leads him to avoid trouble and provoking hostile situations. This is Karate.
Patience is a quality which a student of Karate-Do will develop. Progress in Karate (unlike that in most sports) tends to be very slow and there is often a desire to give up through disappointment. He who perseveres will always progress no matter how small that progression. This, too is Karate.
(Hirokazu Kanazawa, KANAZAWA'S KARATE, Great Britain, 1981 P. 8, 9.)