What is Karate

There has been much written on the history and origins of Karate and, indeed, Martial arts in general. Although still very speculative in the very outset, the history and lineage become clearer from the time of martial arts being practised in Okinawa.
It is not the intention of these pages to repeat or rewrite these texts, but merely to provide a general overview.

It is widely accepted, that over a thousand years ago, a Buddhist monk called Bodidharma travelled from India to a monastery in Shaolin-si, China.
There he adapted the regular exercise regimen to strengthen the mind and body, to form the basis of Chinese martial arts. This, however, may be a slightly romantic concept of accrediting one person with the birth of all ‘fighting systems’.
A more general idea is maybe that travelling religious people, envoys, merchants, military personnel or students had to learn to avoid being attacked and therefore learnt to fight.

After many years, these secret, fighting arts spread across Asia and indeed found a home in Okinawa. Historically, an independent kingdom, but was strongly influenced by Chinese culture. These arts would be generally called Okinawa Te, or Okinawa hand.

Here, on this small island, there derived three main streams or styles of ‘TE’,
Each being called after the area in which they were practised; Shuri-te, Naha-te and Tomari-te. 
Due to a couple of historical events and the subsequent banning of weapons, these fighting arts were practised to refine their hand techniques in secret, and no records were ever kept.

It was not until the early 20th century, after Anko Itosu, ‘the grandfather of modern karate’ in 1901, was instrumental in getting karate introduced into Okinawa's schools; and later when one of his students, Gichin Funakoshi, ‘the father of modern karate’, gave a demonstration of his karate prowess in Kyoto, Japan. This was well received and much interest in karate followed. He was invited to remain in Japan to teach and promote karate.
During this time, he adopted the Chinese symbol for ‘empty’, Kara, and subsequently changed the name of the art to the now recognised ‘karate’ or empty hand.

Today, there are thought to be 4 main lines or styles of karate:
Goju Ryu; Shoto Kan; Shito Ryu and Wado Ryu. Each having their own systems and philosophies of movements.


If you do not overcome your tendancy to give up easily, your life will lead to nothing.
- Mas Oyama

When you train, do so as if on the battlefield. Your eyes should glare, shoulders drop, and body harden. You should always train with intensity and spirit and in this way you will naturally be ready.
- Anko Itosu