I searched up different styles, and I say this style called Gosoku-ryū that has 46 katas including weapon katas. Why would there be katas involving weapons for a style of karate which is an art of the empty-handed?

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    Because weapons are awesome.
    – coltonon
    Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 19:37
  • Judo is supposed to be 'gentle' and without armour or weapons, nevertheless it is neither particularly 'gentle', nor its katas do exclude the idea of attacking with weapons or moving as if we still had armour. Kata is a way of securing the tradition and roots of a martial art, which almost certainly includes the whole variety of warfare. Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 9:25

4 Answers 4


Just because a karate style may include weapon katas does not mean that the name "karate" is invalidated. You can think of Kobudo as an extension, or sister art(s) to Karate. Okinawan weapon arts are supposed to have been based on farming tools that the practitioners would have had readily available.

Additionally, as has been noted elsewhere, Kara in the original characters for Kara-Te, may not have meant "empty", but rather "China" or "Chinese", referring to the Chinese origin of Karate styles. Take a look at Southern White Crane and compare to Goju-ryu, for example. Probably, the character was changed from Kara ("China") to Kara ("Empty") to remove the art from its Chinese predecessors. Therefore, in its original context, Kara-Te would have no seeming contradiction with weapon arts.

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    My style is called Okinawa Kenpo Karate Kobudo to indicate we also covered weapons. Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 17:31

When you practice empty hand way of fighting, that can be karate of which you practice hand to hand fighting. But weapon fighting can also be added of which you learn a fighting system using weapons. On the other hand, those who learn weapon fighting can add in their system empty hand fighting. In the Philippines, the weapon fighting of Arnis is complimented with Arnis de Mano, an empty hand fighting system using the movement of Arnis when manipulating their stick or bolo knife.


Specific Answer

'Karate' originally meant 'Chinese Hand'. The change to 'Empty Hand' was essentially a political shift. (The sound is the same, only the writing is different).

General Answer

The sorting of Martial Arts into distinct fighting styles (striking, grappling, weapons etc) is a relatively modern thing. Historically, people would only have access to one school because of their clan and class. So they covered a much broader range of subjects.


I recommend the Wikipedia entry https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karate

In this era of escalating Japanese militarism,[6] the name was changed from 唐手 ("Chinese hand" or "Tang hand")[7] to 空手 ("empty hand") – both of which are pronounced karate

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