There are three main definitions of Kara Te, Kara to some means China, to others it means Open and still other is translates as Empty... the descriptor used gives one insight into what may be taught within that school or style. "Kara" (with stress accent on "K") means "Empty" or (with stress accent on "R") means "Open" and "Te" means "Hand" ... so Karate means Empty Hand or Open Hand.
So here we are training an empty or open hand method or otherwise not real or possessing something or not holding onto... is that what we really wanted?
In the older styles less corrupted by sport and personal changes for aesthetics, we see many opened handed positions and postures. With the associated movements they appear to be blunt striking (or blocking) to arm, head, body or leg. But if one understands an knows Kyusho, this can all change and we can gain invaluable insights into this ancient and profound art.
As example we look to the image presented here and note 3 positions of open handed Karate postures.
If we adopt the mindset that these are empty or simply open hands, the true potentials are severely limited and for the most part ineffective or worthless in real combative self protection need. They may symbolize that you are saying stop I don't want to fight, a preparing type position or a double blocking maneuver. These are truly empty propositions or ideas that when tried against a real attacker could result in your defeat.
Instead if we simply use the nomenclature of "China Hand" (with the ideology of a hand significance found and passed down in that land for true self protection - Kyusho Based), then we have greater potential, possibility and application for a real situation.
Ideas from left to right:
The first posture shows that there is a definite position of hands and thumbs (Iron Sword Ji Hand from the Bubishi), where the heal of the hand (wrist bone) is used and the angles involved in their use. We then look to the angles of the arms to see the position that the deployment of the strikes would finish and the position of the legs and feet to describe the power or weight based action or proper body mecahnics. Just two of the many possible answers to this could be a dropping wrist bone attack into the opponents pectoral muscles (many label ST-15) to affect the breathing of the opponent (see "Sealing the Breath" post). The wrist bone strikes down and in at a 45 degree angle indicated by the forearms and the drawing in of the elbows to attain this posture. The legs and feet position depict a sinking action (note the turn outward of the rear foot for deeper weight drop potential). As a test of this posture, sit back and mimic the dropping hands with your concentration on the feel of the wrist bone itself...do this first with straight thumbs and then again with bent thumbs in this position. The thumbs held in this illustration will allow a stronger or more prominent sense of the striking surface of the wrist bone. The arm position will be attained by using the larger and stronger latisimus muscles in conjunction with the dropping weight of the body.
The second posture shows a deliberate placement of the hands and direction of the fingers to depict the target as well as the best angle of attack to that anatomical weakness. We note the deliberate angle of the arms depicting the downward force and the legs noting that it may be used on forward or rearward leg (and not necessarily by hand). So if we look at the underlying structure we can see a major branching of the Femoral Nerve into the leg and the best direction to attack them for maximum result. We do not necessarily look at the hands in this posture as the weapon although they could be, but more of pointer on the anatomical map.
The third posture shows the most distinct positioning of the three and will need a very good understanding of the anatomy to decode the possibilities and potentials. The hands now appear to be more in a pressing or pulling action on targets around the neck or shoulder region. We can also see a significant drop of body weight again both in the arms and legs. The more deliberate arm position and hands could appear to target the carotid (as but one example) in an outward press with finger tips or pull with thumbs outwards further enhanced by the deeper use of full body musculature to increase power. The drop in the stance being very deep would also tell that the outward and downward direction on these anatomical targets is the best to cause dysfunction at pronounced levels. From our experience we know that this is a devastating affect on a body with just light pressures or pulling actions... but when joined with the full body weight even more. The knee position could also be braced to drop the opponent on at the perineum area that would deeply and profoundly damage the body when joined with the action on the neck structures.
So with this type of possibility we can say that the hands are not empty, they are not merely open... there is a profound and serious use that was coded and passed down through the ages. You would not need these very specific positions if the postures were simple pushes, preparations or blocks. This is an art and knowledge passed down from even older cultures from China and filled with potential once Kyusho is applied.