A Short History of Karate
The art of karate as practiced today, can be traced directly to an Okinawan style called, in Japanese, Okinawa-te (Okinawan hands). This system is, in turn, a descendant of the ancient Chinese art of ch’uan-fa (fist way).
Little is known about the historical development of karate in Okinawa, but there is an interesting story told: About five hundred years ago, King Hashi of the Okinawan Sho dynasty, succeeded in uniting the Ryukyu Islands into one kingdom. To ensure rule by law, and to discourage military rivals, he seized all weapons in the kingdom and made possession of weapons a crime against the state. As a direct result, it is said the art of “empty-handed” self-defense (Okinawa-te) was developed.
The man most responsible for the systemization of karate as we know it today was Gichin Funakoshi. He was born in Okinawa in 1869 and began studying karate at the age of eleven under the two top masters of the art at that time. He is credited with being the first man to introduce karate to Japan when he began exhibitions in 1917.
In 1948, the Japan Karate Association (JKA) was developed with Funakoshi as chief instructor. This organization made it possible for the leading karate-ka’s to pool their knowledge and ability, allowing the development of the three aspects of present-day karate (as self-defense, physical art, and sport). The efforts of Gichin Funakoshi and the JKA allowed the introduction of karate throughout the world.