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Martial art in which an attacker is disabled by crippling kicks and punches. Emphasis is on concentration of as much of the body's power as possible at the point and instant of impact. Striking surfaces include the hand (particularly the knuckles and the hand's outer edge), ball of the foot, heel, forearm, knee, and elbow. In sporting matches (usually lasting about three minutes) and in sparring, blows and kicks are stopped short of contact. Performances are scored by a panel of judges. Karate evolved in East Asia over a period of centuries, becoming systematized in Okinawa in the 17th century, probably by people forbidden to carry weapons. It was imported into Japan in the 1920s and spread from there to other countries. See alsotae kwon do.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on karate, visit Britannica.com.