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A Brief History of Karate

by in Student Blog

Karate originated on the island of Okinawa which belongs to a chain of islands known as the Ryukyu Islands. Before the origin of karate natives of these islands practiced a form of martial art simply known as Te. In 1372 trade relationships were firmly established between the Ryukyu Islands and the Fujian Province of China, which eventually led to a cultural exchange.


Fujian Province & Okinawa 

Chinese martial arts would become blended with the local Te. In 1669 a ban was placed on the practice of martial arts, along with a ban on weapons that had previously existed. Okinawa-te was forced to become an "underground" activity, practised in great secrecy, usually late at night or before dawn. Over the next two centuries the empty handed techniques were refined and systematized. Three main centres became known for the teaching of Te and this gave rise to three styles; Naha-te, Shuri-te and Tomari-te, each named after the village in which they were taught. Since these three styles belonged to the same family of martial arts they were collectively called Tode, meaning Chinese hand. In 1879 Okinawa became a province of Japan and several changes were implemented, one such change was on the replacement of Okinawan and Chinese words with Japanese pronunciation. Tode was now pronounced Karate. Karate was officially introduced to the Japanese mainland by Grandmaster Gichin Funakoshi, considered to be the father of modern karate. Gichin Funakoshi was a pioneering figure in karate and was responsible for systemizing how it was taught as well as helping to establish one of the first karate organizations in Japan.


Early Karate



One famous student of Gichin Funakoshi was a man by the name of Masutatsu Oyama. Oyama studied with Funakoshi as well as several other karate masters for several years, eventually deciding that he wanted to dedicate his life to karate. He withdrew himself from society and trained at Mt Minobu for two occasions, the first lasting 14 months and the second lasting 18 months. After this time he returned back to society as a completely different man. Mentally, physically and spiritually much stronger, he set about establishing his own unique style of karate known as Kyokushinkai Karate. Meaning “the society of ultimate truth” this system of karate became famous for its full contact, knockdown way of fighting, and has one of the highest dropout rates for students due to its intense physical training. Karate has many styles and is now practiced all over the world, each day it continues to grow in members and has solidified itself in history as both a destructive and creative force to be reckoned with.



United States Kyokushin Karate.(n.d). Budo Karate. Retreived from

Academy of Traditional Fighting Arts.(n.d). History,Karate. Retrieved from

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