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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.
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".
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.
拳法唐手 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.
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The following table may be helpful for those studying Chinese or Japanese...
|Title||Characters||Romaji (Romanized Japanese)||Various forms of Romanized Chinese|
Law of the Fist Empty Hand
|空手拳法||kara te ken pou|
kara te ken po
|kōng shǒu quán fǎ|
kong1 shou3 quan2 fa3
kong shou quan fa
|k`ung shou ch`üan fa
kung shou chüan fa
|Law of the Fist Karate|
|拳法唐手||ken pou kara te|
ken po kara te
|quán fǎ táng shǒu|
quan2 fa3 tang2 shou3
quan fa tang shou
|ch`üan fa t`ang shou
chüan fa tang shou
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