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Karate in Chinese / Japanese...

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See also: Martial Arts Words and Phrases

Quick links to words on this page...

  1. Karate
  2. Kempo Karate / Law of the Fist Empty Hand
  3. Law of the Fist Karate / Kempo Karate
  4. Old Karate / Tang Hand Way / Tang Soo Do
  5. Isshin Ryu Karate Do
  6. Karate-Do
  7. Shito-Ryu Ki-Me-Kan Karate-Do
  8. Nippon Karate-Do Genbu-Kai
  9. Shotokan Karate-Do
10. Wado-Ryu Karate
11. Goju Ryu Karate-Do
12. Uechi-Ryu Karate-Do
13. Tang Hand
14. Goju Ryu
15. Shorinji Kempo / Kenpo
16. Wado-Ryu
17. Wado-Kai


Karate

China kōng shǒu
Japan kara te
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The short, and widely-used-in-English version of karate-do without the "do" or "dao" on the end.


Literal meaning: Empty Hand.

Kempo Karate / Law of the Fist Empty Hand

China kōng shǒu quán fǎ
Japan kara te ken pou
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The first two characters mean "karate" - technically they express "empty hand".

The last two express "fist law" which is Romanized from Japanese as "Kenpo" or "Kempo".

That "empty hand" translation can be understood better when you grasp the idea that karate is a martial art without weapons (other than the weapons organic to your body, such as your foot, hand, fist, etc). When you practice karate, you do so with empty hands (no weapons).

Note: There is also an antiquated way to write karate. It has the same pronunciation but a different first character which means "Tang" as in the Tang Dynasty. Some dojos use that form - let us know if you need that alternate form, and we'll add it for you.

Law of the Fist Karate / Kempo Karate

China quán fǎ táng shǒu
Japan ken pou kara te
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The first two characters mean "fist law" which is Romanized from Japanese as "Kenpo" or "Kempo".

The last two are a secondary way to express "karate".

Notes:
The more common way to express "karate" is literally "empty hand" (meaning "without weapons in your hand"). This version would be translated literally as "Tang hand" (as in the Tang Dynasty) or "China hand" (sometimes "Tang" means "China" in Japanese). Even though the character for "Tang" is used instead of "empty", it's still pronounced "kara-te" in Japanese.

This is not commonly used in China - so please consider it to be a Japanese-only title.

Many Japanese people will say the last two Kanji are the old and antiquated way to say Karate. This fact does not stop this title from existing, as these four characters are often seen in Kenpo / Kempo Dojos around the western world.

Old Karate / Tang Hand Way / Tang Soo Do

China táng shǒu dào
Japan kara te do
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This is the alternate title for Karate-do. This title uses a character which represents the Tang Dynasty of China. Thus, this is often translated as the "Tang Hand Way" or incorrectly, "Tang Fist Way". I have also seen some call it "China Hand Way".

There is not a lot of information on this title, but some believe that a simplified form of Kung Fu that started in China, and ended up very popular in Japan used this title initially. It was later changed in Japan to a different Karate title which means "Empty Hand" (as in, without weapons).

In Korean, this title represents a certain style of martial arts. From Korean, this is often romanized as "Tang Soo Do", "Tangsudo", "Dang Su Do", or "Dangsudo". The last two romanizations on that list are the official Korean government romanization, though martial arts schools tend to use other non-standard versions.

Isshin Ryu Karate Do

Japan i sshin ryuu kara te dou
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This is the full title for Isshin-Ryu Karate-Do. The literal meaning is "one heart method empty hand way". There are also other ways you can translate this, but if you are looking for this title, you already know that.

This would make a great wall scroll for your dojo or private studio, if you study this form of Japanese (technically from Okinawa) Karate.

Because this is a specifically-Japanese title, we strongely recommend that you select our Japanese Master Calligrapher to create this artwork for you.

Karate-Do

China kōng shǒu dào
Japan kara te dou
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Credit is given that karate started in China, but migrated and became refined, and vastly popular in Japan. The literal meaning of these characters is "empty hand method" or "empty hand way". Karate is a martial art that uses no blades of weapons other than the "natural weapons" that God gave to humans (fists and feet). The last character somehow became optional, but the meaning of that character is "method" or "the way" as in Taoism / Daoism.

Shito-Ryu Ki-Me-Kan Karate-Do

Japanese only
China mì dōng liú qì mù guǎn kōng shǒu dào
Japan shito-ryu ki-me-kan karate-dou
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This is the title for Shito-Ryu Ki-Me-Kan Karate-Do.
A school of Karate.

Note that while this title can be pronounced in Chinese, it only makes complete sense in Japanese.

Nippon Karate-Do Genbu-Kai

Japanese Genbu Karate Club
China rì běn kōng shǒu dào xuán wǔ huì
Japan ni ppon kara te dou gen bu kai
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This is the title for Nippon Karate-Do Genbu-Kai.
A Japanese karate association of the Genbu school.

Note that while this title does make perfect sense in Chinese, it is really a Japanese title. In fact, the first word is "Japanese/Japan".


If you'd like your martial arts school, dojo or club added to our calligraphy database for easy ordering of a custom calligraphy wall scroll, just post your request on our Custom Asian Calligraphy Request Forum.

Shotokan Karate-Do

Japanese Only
China sōng tāo guǎn kōng shǒu dào
Japan shou tou kan kara te dou
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These Japanese Kanji make up the title for Shotokan Karate.

This should be considered a Japanese-only title. It does make sense and is pronounceable in Chinese and Korean, but only as a title for a building (perhaps a martial arts hall) surrounded by pine trees - followed by the characters for "The empty hand method" (kong shou dao / Karate-do). Also, the first two characters were simplified in both Japanese and Chinese. The third character was simplified in Chinese, but not Japanese.

Upon request, we can offer the fully traditional Chinese version, but be sure you know what you are asking for.

Note: This would be understood in Chinese and Korean Hanja by a person from those cultures who is familiar with martial arts and various schools of Japanese karate.

Wado-Ryu Karate

Japan wa dou ryuu kara te
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This is the Japanese martial arts title, "Wado-Ryu Karate".


See Also...  Wado-Kai

Goju Ryu Karate-Do

Japan gou juu ryuu kara te dou
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This is the title of the Goju-Ryu Karate-Do school of martial arts.

Uechi-Ryu Karate-Do

Japan ue chi ryuu kara te dou
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This is the title of the Uechi-Ryu Karate-Do school of Okinawan martial arts. Uechi actually means "higher stages of practice" in a Buddhist context.

Tang Hand

China táng shǒu
Japan kara te
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This is a very seldom-used title for Karate. This title uses a character which represents the Tang Dynasty of China. Thus, this is often translated as the "Tang Hand" or incorrectly, "Tang Fist". I have also seen some call it "China Hand".


There is not a lot of information on this title, but some believe that a simplified form of Kung Fu that started in China, and ended up very popular in Japan used this title initially. It was later changed in Japan to a different Karate title which means "Empty Hand" (as in, without weapons).

I am sure that some will suggest a different history or argue a different origin. I think that nobody can be sure.

Note: Just like the more conventional Karate title, this one can have the "way" or "method" character added to the end, as in Karate-Do.

Goju Ryu

Japan gou juu ryuu
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This is the title of the Goju-Ryu or Gōjū-Ryū school / style of Karate / Japanese martial arts.

Shorinji Kempo / Kenpo

China shào lín sì quán fǎ
Japan shourinji kenpou
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This is a specific type of martial arts in Japan that claims origins in the Kung Fu practiced in the original Shaolin Monastery of China.

The first three characters mean "Shaolin Monastery" and you might notice the Japanese is pronounced in a very similar way. This is because many words were "borrowed" from the original Chinese when Japan did not have a written language and simply absorbed Chinese characters into their language around the 5th century. When a Japanese word did not exist, the Chinese pronunciation was often absorbed as well as the written form.

The last two characters mean "fist law" or "method of the fist". It has long been argued as to whether the Japanese for these characters should be Romanized as "kempo" or "kenpo". The official method should be "kenpou" but it's common to drop the "u" that comes after the "o".

I imagine if you are looking for this title, you already know what it means, so the above is simply extra information that a student of Shorinji Kempo might want to know.

Wado-Ryu

Style of Karate or Jujitsu
Japan wa dou ryuu
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Wado-Ryu is a style of Karate or Jujutsu (Jujitsu).
Note: Many will argue as to whether this is a style of Karate or Jujutsu.

While some find Wado-Ryu similar to Shotokan Karate, enough differences exist in perspective and technique that it stands by itself.

Breaking down the characters into the proper Japanese Romaji, you have "wa dou ryuu" or "wa dō ryū". The meaning is roughly-translated as "Harmony Way Style" or "Peace Method Style". The first Kanji should probably be read as harmony, rather than peace in this case.


See Also...  Wado-Kai

Wado-Kai

Style of Karate
Japan wa dou kai
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Wado-Kai is a style of Karate.

Breaking down the characters into the proper Japanese Romaji, you have "wa dou kai" or "wa dō kai". The meaning is roughly-translated as "Harmony Way Club" or "Peace Method Association". The first Kanji should probably be read as harmony, rather than peace in this case.


See Also...  Wado-Ryu


Check dictionary for karate


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A nice Chinese calligraphy wall scroll

The scroll that I am holding in this picture is a "medium size"
4-character wall scroll.
As you can see, it is a great size to hang on your wall.
(We also offer custom wall scrolls in larger sizes)

A professional Chinese Calligrapher

Professional calligraphers are getting to be hard to find these days.
Instead of drawing characters by hand, the new generation in China merely type roman letters into their computer keyboards and pick the character that they want from a list that pops up.

There is some fear that true Chinese calligraphy may become a lost art in the coming years. Many art institutes in China are now promoting calligraphy programs in hopes of keeping this unique form of art alive.

Trying to learn Chinese calligrapher - a futile effort

Even with the teachings of a top-ranked calligrapher in China, my calligraphy will never be good enough to sell. I will leave that to the experts.


A high-ranked Chinese master calligrapher that I met in Zhongwei

The same calligrapher who gave me those lessons also attracted a crowd of thousands and a TV crew as he created characters over 6-feet high. He happens to be ranked as one of the top 100 calligraphers in all of China. He is also one of very few that would actually attempt such a feat.




If your search is not successful, just post your request on our forum, and we'll be happy to do research or translation for any reasonable request.

Successful Chinese Character and Japanese Kanji calligraphy searches within the last few hours...

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See: Our list of specifically Japanese Kanji Calligraphy Wall Scrolls. And, check out Our list of specifically old Korean Hanja Calligraphy Wall Scrolls.

The following table is only helpful for those studying Chinese (or Japanese), and perhaps helps search engines to find this page when someone enters Romanized Chinese or Japanese

Title
Characters 
Simplified
Traditional
Romaji(Romanized Japanese)Various forms of Romanized Chinese
Karate空手
空手
kara te
karate
kōng shǒu
kong shou
k`ung shou
kong1 shou3
kongshou
kungshou
kung shou
Kempo Karate / Law of the Fist Empty Hand空手拳法
空手拳法
kara te ken pou
karatekenpou
kara te ken po
kōng shǒu quán fǎ
kong shou quan fa
k`ung shou ch`üan fa
kong1 shou3 quan2 fa3
kongshouquanfa
kungshouchüanfa
kung shou chüan fa
Law of the Fist Karate / Kempo Karate拳法唐手
拳法唐手
ken pou kara te
kenpoukarate
ken po kara te
quán fǎ táng shǒu
quan fa tang shou
ch`üan fa t`ang shou
quan2 fa3 tang2 shou3
quanfatangshou
chüanfatangshou
chüan fa tang shou
Old Karate / Tang Hand Way / Tang Soo Do唐手道
唐手道
kara te do
karatedo
táng shǒu dào
tang shou dao
t`ang shou tao
tang2 shou3 dao4
tangshoudao
tangshoutao
tang shou tao
Isshin Ryu Karate Do一心流空手道
一心流空手道
i sshin ryuu kara te dou
isshinryuukaratedou
i shin ryu kara te do
n/a
Karate-Do空手道
空手道
kara te dou
karatedou
kara te do
kōng shǒu dào
kong shou dao
k`ung shou tao
kong1 shou3 dao4
kongshoudao
kungshoutao
kung shou tao
Shito-Ryu Ki-Me-Kan Karate-Do糸东流気目馆空手道
糸東流氣目館空手道
shito-ryu ki-me-kan karate-dou
shito-ryu ki-me-kan karate-do
mì dōng liú qì mù guǎn kōng shǒu dào
mi dong liu qi mu guan kong shou dao
mi tung liu ch`i mu kuan k`ung shou tao
mi4 dong1 liu2 qi4 mu4 guan3 kong1 shou3 dao4
mi tung liu chi mu kuan kung shou tao
Nippon Karate-Do Genbu-Kai日本空手道玄武会
日本空手道玄武會
ni ppon kara te dou gen bu kai
nipponkaratedougenbukai
ni pon kara te do gen bu kai
rì běn kōng shǒu dào xuán wǔ huì
ri ben kong shou dao xuan wu hui
jih pen k`ung shou tao hsüan wu hui
ri4 ben3 kong1 shou3 dao4 xuan2 wu3 hui4
jih pen kung shou tao hsüan wu hui
Shotokan Karate-Do松涛館空手道
鬆濤館空手道
shou tou kan kara te dou
shoutoukankaratedou
sho to kan kara te do
sōng tāo guǎn kōng shǒu dào
song tao guan kong shou dao
sung t`ao kuan k`ung shou tao
song1 tao1 guan3 kong1 shou3 dao4
songtaoguankongshoudao
sungtaokuankungshoutao
sung tao kuan kung shou tao
Wado-Ryu Karate和道流空手
和道流空手
wa dou ryuu kara te
wadouryuukarate
wa do ryu kara te
n/a
Goju Ryu Karate-Do刚柔流空手道
剛柔流空手道
gou juu ryuu kara te dou
goujuuryuukaratedou
go ju ryu kara te do
n/a
Uechi-Ryu Karate-Do上地流空手道
上地流空手道
ue chi ryuu kara te dou
uechiryuukaratedou
ue chi ryu kara te do
n/a
Tang Hand唐手
唐手
kara te
karate
táng shǒu
tang shou
t`ang shou
tang2 shou3
tangshou
tangshou
tang shou
Goju Ryu刚柔流
剛柔流
gou juu ryuu
goujuuryuu
go ju ryu
n/a
Shorinji Kempo / Kenpo少林寺拳法
少林寺拳法
shourinji kenpou
shourinjikenpou
shorinji kenpo
shào lín sì quán fǎ
shao lin si quan fa
shao lin ssu ch`üan fa
shao4 lin2 si4 quan2 fa3
shaolinsiquanfa
shaolinssuchüanfa
shao lin ssu chüan fa
Wado-Ryu和道流
和道流
wa dou ryuu
wadouryuu
wa do ryu
n/a
Wado-Kai和道会
和道會
wa dou kai
wadoukai
wa do kai
n/a

Some people may refer to this entry as Karate Kanji, Karate Characters, Karate in Mandarin Chinese, Karate Characters, Karate in Chinese Writing, Karate in Japanese Writing, Karate in Asian Writing, Karate Ideograms, Chinese Karate symbols, Karate Hieroglyphics, Karate Glyphs, Karate in Chinese Letters, Karate Hanzi, Karate in Japanese Kanji, Karate Pictograms, Karate in the Chinese Written-Language, or Karate in the Japanese Written-Language.

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