History of Karate

Martial Arts From The Ancient World

Martial arts are codified systems and traditions of combat practices, which are practiced for a variety of reasons: self-defense, competition, physical health and fitness, entertainment, as well as mental, physical, and spiritual development. Although the term “martial art” nowadays has become heavily associated with the fighting arts of eastern Asia, Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics depict martial arts from millennia B.C. There is also evidence of martial arts of Indian, Greek and Roman civilizations.

Karate is a martial art developed in the Ryukyu Islands in what is now Okinawa, Japan. It developed from the indigenous martial arts of Ryukyu Islands (called “te”, literally “hand”; “tii” in Okinawan) under the influence of Chinese martial arts, particularly that of the Fujian White Crane. Karate is a striking art using punching, kicking, knee strikes, elbow strikes and open-hand techniques such as knife-hands, spear-hands, and palm-heel strikes. In some styles, grappling, throws, joint locks, restraints and vital point strikes are taught. A Karate practitioner is called a Karate-ka.

Gichin Funakoshi Founder of Modern Day Karate

Karate was brought to the Japanese mainland in the early 20th century during a time of cultural exchanges between the Japanese and the Ryukyuans. It was systematically taught in Japan after the Taisho era. In 1922, the Japanese Ministry of Education invited Gichin Funakoshi to Tokyo to give a Karate demonstration. In 1924, Keio University established the first university Karate club in Japan and by 1932, major Japanese universities had Karate clubs. In this era of escalating Japanese militarism, the name was changed from 唐手 (“Chinese hand” or “Tang hand”) to 空手 (“empty hand”) – both of which are pronounced Karate – to indicate that the Japanese wished to develop the combat form in Japanese style.

After World War II, Okinawa became an important allied military base and Karate became a popular practice among servicemen stationed there. It wasn’t long before the Japanese art began to spread throughout the world.