It is generally believed that the art of Karate-Do
can be traced back to
sixth century China. There, in the Mt. Sung Hennan
Province, Dharma, and the founder of Zen, a sect
of Buddhism composed a sutra or collection of precepts
to promote the physical development of the monks
and missionaries to help protect them from bandits
The sutra developed by Dharma was
called "Ekkin-Kyo," and it is believed
that it evolved into Shaolin Temple Kenpo, "
the way of Fists". Unfortunately, not much
is known about this period in the history of Karate-Do
and the relationship between Karate-Do and Shaolin
Kenpo remains an ambiguous one.
In the ancient times there was no law prohibiting
people from arming themselves. Weapons were standard
in fighting, and most cultures have their own sword
fighting system. Japan is renowned for its Samurai
culture in the caste feudal system. The code of
the Samurai was developed in the 18th century. The
effective use of a sword was essential for a warrior.
Samurai practiced with them and carried them in
daily life as the symbol of their class.
In the later part of the 14th century however,
the influence of the Chinese
techniques on the development of Karate-Do becomes
much more apparent. Under the ruler King Hassi of
Chuzan of Okinawa, a policy was enacted prohibiting
the people of Okinawa from arming themselves. In
the 16th century, Japan's most southern clan, the
powerful Satsuma clan, invaded Okinawa. They colonized
Okinawa for use as a trading post with China. They
also levied taxes on their goods. These events forced
the people of Okinawa to secretly develop the so-called
" Te". In addition to the weaponless fighting
methods, Okinawans were using their farm tools for
defense and developing fighting systems. These systems
were referred to as "Te", meaning hands,
techniques, and methods. In combination with the
influence of Chinese techniques it was often called
"Kara", referring to the Tang Dynasty
of China, that there was a sense of more preciousness
as today's foreign goods, and "Te", techniques.
1868, the Meiji restoration ended the Japanese feudal
system. Japan opened free trade with western countries.
Western culture, its industrial methods and educational
system flourished in Japan in the late 1800's and
early 1900's. This Meiji restoration brought the
influence of western laws and values to Japan. The
major reform was the abolition of the Samurai feudal
system and the establishment of a centralized governing
system. In short time, the new laws and customs
were used to abolish the traditional carrying of
the samurai sword. Hairstyles were also changed
to a westernized cut. The Japanese no longer wore
Samurai knots in their hair, and they were encouraged
to wear western suit and dress.
In this era, in Karate, there were no specific
styles, names, ranks or belts that are known today.
Lacking formal names, people generally referred
to various labels by putting the names of masters
and Katas (as instructional methods) together, creating
a label for the particular school. Similarly, distinctions
of Karate were also named according to their distinct
The three prominent centers of Karate in Okinawa
were Shuri, Naha, and Tomari. You must understand
that the teaching methods at the time were not like
today's systematic rational methods. There were
only a few Katas in each location, which were taught
and developed. Only a small number of people took
the private lessons. Later, Karate came to Tokyo,
the capital of Japan, which recorded an exhibition
in 1922 of Gichin Funakoshi. Funakoshi's Karate-Do
later became the modern Shotokan system.
In this era many prominent Karate masters came
to Japan, even though Okinawa was a part of Japan,
Okinawa's history and its remote location resulted
in the people of Okinawa being considered as colonized
peasants and mistreated by most common Japanese.
The most prominent Karate Masters came to Japan,
among them were; Kenwa Mabuni, founder of Shito
Ryu, and Chojun Miyagi, founder of Goju Ryu.
After the Karate Masters came to Japan in the 1920's,
the present day style of karate developed; they
have descended from the primitive Okinawan forms.
It was not until the 1930's that a label was claimed
and developed as a style, forced by the other established
Japanese martial arts societies. Chojun Miyagi,
a senior disciple of Kanryo Higaonna, first claimed
a label to his style as Goju-Ryu (Hard Soft Style).
Kenwa Mabuni named his style as Shito-Ryu. These
two were very close friends and developed most of
the technical bases of today's Karate.
The form of Kumite as practiced in today's Karate,
was also influenced by other Japanese martial arts
such as Jujitsu, Judo and Kendo masters. Until the
late 1930's, Karate-Do practice emphasized only
the Kata and its applications.
The term Karate-Do also was influenced by the Japanese
Zen Buddhist sect and became "Kara" (empty)
"Te" (techniques) and "Do" (The
way of.). Dr. Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo,
established the current belt system during this
era. Judo was a synthesis of Daito-Ryu and other
Ju Jitsu. Dr. Kano established and created Ju (Soft)
Do (The way of) from Jujitsu; these were methods
for the development of ideology not just the development
of technical skills.
Gichin Funakoshi aimed to teach only university
students who were candidates for the governing leadership
group. Funakoshi did not like his students to participate
That young Japanese group developed today's sparring
methods and later developed the basis of today's
tournament systems, not those of Okinawan residents'
Karate instructors. Okinawan masters never even
dreamed of competing with each other under established
rules. They thought Karate techniques were so deadly
that it would be impossible to hold any tournament.
The first appearance of the modern version of a
Karate tournament was held in the late 1950's in
Japan. All Japan Collegiate Karate tournaments were
the first tournaments ever held in Japan including
Okinawa. It went on to develop Karate-Do worldwide.
History of The Ryukyu Kingdom and its Relationship
with China and Japan