What exactly is Karate? How did Karate get started? Karate’s history is very interesting. It shows us that even people who are mistreated can change the rest of the world for years to come.
Karate is a tough style of martial arts from Japan. This means that the movements are sharp and clear, unlike the “soft” circular movements of Kung Fu. (Although getting hit by a Kung Fu fighter is not a soft thing.)
Practitioners learn strong self-defense moves that they can use physically. They spend hours doing drills, hitting padded surfaces and then wood to make the parts of their bodies that hit harder. They also work on their balance and coordination.
But Karate is about much more than just how you move. It is also a way to think and live. Physical strength is just as important as spirit, strategy, and timing. If you’ve ever watched a Karate class or competition, you’ve seen people with focused, determined looks on their faces. You’ll also hear them yell loudly when they attack. This is how they let their inner power flow out and into the target.
Karate, which in Japanese means “empty hand,” is mostly done without weapons. As we’ll see in a minute, the style probably came from poor peasants who wanted to protect themselves. Their Samurai bosses would never let them carry weapons, but some weapons have made their way into their lives over time.
Karate is now practised all over the world. Its roots are in East Asia and Japan. There are two types of competition in karate tournaments: Kata and Kumite.
Katas are pre-planned sets of moves that were mostly used before there were video cameras to pass on information. Katas are like a living collection of techniques.
But they are much more than just a library. When katas are done in competition, they are done with a level of intensity that you won’t see in any other sport. Just as important as doing the techniques perfectly is having a strong will to fight.
Sparring, or kumite, is a way to learn how to fight. Kumite, on the other hand, is a bit more civilised than MMA, where fights can sometimes get pretty rough. Contestants are told to “pull” their punches, and matches are judged on how well they do that.
Dangerous moves are not allowed, and contestants are penalised if they do an illegal move by accident.
This policy is sometimes seen as a flaw in traditional Karate. The argument is that contestants are practising to lose on the street. As a result, full-contact styles of Karate have been made. Kyokushin, also called knockdown karate or Japanese full contact karate, is the most common full-contact style.
Karate has a long and interesting past. It didn’t start in a single place or at a single time. You can’t point to a single person and say, “They made Karate.”
Karate was not made all at once. Instead, it grew slowly, and its practitioners were influenced by many different things over many centuries. In the end, they made what we know as martial arts today.
Most of these changes took place on an island called Okinawa. Here is a short video that gives an overview of Karate’s history:
Karate comes from the native fighting style of the Ryukyu Kingdom, which was based on the island of Okinawa, which is now part of Japan. The Chinese Ming Dynasty started trading with the Ryukyu Kingdom in 1372.
The Chinese brought their own fighting style with them. It is called Kung Fu, and it is mostly based on an ancient Indian fighting style that was developed in the Shaolin Temple.
There was not much consistency between the two styles. Instead, it was a group of people who were each making up their own way to fight. In 1477, King Sh Shin made it illegal for people in Okinawa to carry weapons. According to the story, this made people want to learn martial arts because they wanted a way to protect themselves without using weapons.
A few hundred years later, at the end of the 1700s and beginning of the 1800s, Okinawan martial arts finally became more organised. The name “Tudi,” which means “Okinawan martial arts,” came up.
Different kinds of tang hand grew up in Okinawa, and Gichin Funakoshi, the leader of one style, was later asked to show his moves at the Ministry of Education in Japan. This made karate more popular, and Gichin’s style, which became known as Shotokan Karate, was soon followed by other styles on mainland Japan.
As nationalism and anti-Chinese feelings grew in Japan before the Second World War, the name “tang hand” was changed to “karate,” which is a Japanese word that means “empty hand.” This was done because the name “tang hand” was linked to China.
Karate kept changing, and as it became more popular in the west in the late 1960s and early 1970s when Japanese instructors moved there, it became more like the sport we know today.
History has forgotten what the real story of Okinawan Karate was. As we’ve seen, there is a basic plan and timeline, but it’s not clear who practised Karate and kept it going.
For example, some stories say that farmers and peasants used martial arts to protect themselves when they couldn’t carry weapons. The legend goes on to say that many of the modern Okinawan weapons, some of which are used in Karate, were based on farm tools because that’s all they had on hand.
Some people say that farmers and peasants would never have had the time or energy to learn martial arts. They were much more worried about how to get through each day.
Another interesting fact is that the Satsuma clan of Japanese Samurai took over the area in 1609 and ruled it for the next 270 years. During this time, they stopped Okinawans from practising martial arts so that they would be easier to control.
Here, people say that they practised at night, when they were less likely to be seen. But again, how many farmers and peasants would have been able to do this?
Even so, someone kept the traditions alive, and the martial art lived on until the late 1700s, when it was formalised.
Karate has roots in both Ancient China and India, but it was mostly created on the island of Okinawa. It was brought to Japan in the early 1900s, where it was improved and turned into what we know as modern Karate.
Modern Karate comes straight from Japan. After being brought to Japan from Okinawa, the style of martial arts was improved and honed there. Karate students are now taught to think and act in a way that is deeply rooted in Japanese culture.
But you could be forgiven for wondering if Karate has anything to do with China. A lot of Kung Fu, which is Chinese martial arts, was mixed into the Okinawan art that became Karate. Even though Kung Fu and Karate look very different now, it is interesting to see how they were both influenced by each other.
Karate wasn’t made by just one person. It was made by a group of people. Gichin Funakoshi, on the other hand, is called the Father of Modern Karate. He started Shotokan Karate, which is one of the most popular types of Karate, and brought Karate to Japan.
Karate has been around for less than 100 years, by the book. When Gichin Funakoshi brought the art to Japan in 1936, he gave it the name “Karate.” Even though the name is new, Karate has been around for hundreds of years, as we’ve talked about here.
You can be sure that when you put on your Karate gi and tie your belt, you are joining a long history of martial arts.
It’s hard to say for sure when Karate was first made. As we’ve talked about here, Karate has been around for hundreds of years. But if you want a date, the modern name of Karate came about in 1936. Then, in 1939, Japan opened Shoto-Kan, its first official place to learn Karate.
Almost. Okinawan martial arts, which were heavily influenced by Chinese Kung Fu, gave rise to Karate. Because of strong trade ties, many Chinese families moved to Okinawa and brought Kung Fu with them.
Simplest of all, you could say that Karate is a mix of Kung Fu, Okinawan martial arts, and a little bit of Japanese style.
We hope you found this information about where Karate came from interesting. As you can see, the art has a long and colourful past. Even though we don’t know everything about the art, we can still be proud of its history.
Many Karate students and masters have worn their belts with pride before you. They joined a long line of honourable people who have worn their belts throughout history.