Karate as a martial art originating from Okinawa with it's original meaning of "Kara - Chinese" and "Te - Hand". The name Chinese Hand was used to give credit where much of the art is believed to have originated from, China. Later the symbol for Kara was changed with another that has the same pronunciation meaning "Empty", changing the translation to "Empty Hand" that everyone is familiar with today.
There are many styles of Karate from Okinawa, Japan, Korea and now other parts of the world including the United States. Some arts have continued to innovate while others follow their traditions. All include: Punches, Kicks, Blocks, and Strikes. Some include: joint locks, throws, chokes, and weapons training.
Major Okinawan systems include: Shudokan, Shoybashi Shorin Ryu, Kobyashi Shorin Ryu, Matsubayashi Shorin Ryu, Matsumura Shorin Ryu, Goju Ryu, Isshin Ryu, Chito Ryu and Ueichi Ryu. Japanese systems include: Shotokan, Wado Ryu, Shito Ryu, Yoshukai, Shindo-Jinen Ryu, Kyokushin, Enshin, and Shukokai.
Each of these styles originated in Okinawa from one of the three main pre-Karate styles of: Tomari-Te, Naha-Te, or Shuri-Te which were named from the villages in which they were developed. As these styles matured and were spread throughout Okinawa and Japan they were blended together, and with other Martial Arts to become the individual styles we have today.
Eventually Karate was propigated throughout the US and the world by both emirants dispatched by each style and by servicemen stationed in orient. This spread has lead to the growth of both the number of arts and those practicing them.
Karate training is typically broken up into: Kata, Kumite and Waza. Kata being choreographed patterns of movements used to help the practioner learn the techniques of their art. Kumite can be either choregraphed or Free and is training that takes place with the aid of a partner or "Uke". Waza are the techniques of the style. In addition classes usually contain exercises to improve strength, flexibility and aerobic condtioning.