When talking to any teacher of traditional Karatedo, they'll tell you the essence of the art is solo kata. Everything you need to know about and learn from Karatedo is contained within the kata. Unfortunately, to the untrained eye, kata often looks like nothing more than a pre-arranged set of movements with no real practicality or adaptability to modern fighting. Nothing could be further from the truth. As you look deeply into the kata, you will find the bunkai oyo (analysis and application). Usually taught as paired drills, bunkai oyo shows you the practical application of each movement and more often than not, it's not what you expect.
Many people ask that if Karatedo is such a well-rounded fighting style, why isn't it taught that way from the beginning? If your sole purpose for martial arts study is to learn how to fight, then it's a valid question. To answer it properly, we must first look at the history of Karatedo (and even its name).
Back in Okinawa, however, the art remained true to its roots. Originally brought over from China, Tudi developed into three distinct fighting styles: Shuri Te, Naha Te and Tomari Te, named such for their towns of origins. It's from these three styles that all of the modern Karatedo systems (ryu) were developed, yet all were collectively known as Karate. Solo kata was taught, as was the practice in Chinese martial arts, but bunkai oyo was a prominent part of Karate training. The entire purpose of teaching kata and bunkai separately comes from the idea that each clan (in this case, town) had their own unique ways of fighting that were not to be revealed to anyone. Kata was a way for information to be transmitted, but unless it's true application was revealed to you, it was effectively useless. The modern notion that Karatedo is impractical comes from practitioners blindly learning kata without learning the accompanying bunkai oyo. The Westerners who did learn bunkai were often taught applications that were incorrect or impractical, because the Okinawans and Japanese did not want them to possess the secrets of their fighting style.
As the video on the left demonstrates, however, nothing in kata is as it seems. What many people interpret as strikes are often throws, takedowns and joint locks. The Okinawan practice of grappling is called tegumi 手組 (also called muto), which translates as "meeting hands." Interestingly, tegumi is written in kanji as the reverse of kumite 組手, the word used for "sparring" in Karatedo. Tegumi, along with Karatedo's striking repertoire, kyusho (pressure points) and hojo undo (body conditioning) make it the complete fighting style that it is.