The History of Karate is full of uncertainty and mythology. In this  article we will introduce one of common versions it at Okinawa (birthplace of Karate.)

Based on mans’ instinct of self-defence, different fighting arts were developed in most cultures in Central Asia, Egypt and Turkey.

The principles of the Asian martial arts are believed to have spread from Turkey to India where they were further developed to arts-’’kalaripayt’’.The History of Karate can be taken back to India, perhaps two thousands years before Christian Era. Indiawas birthplace of bare-handed martial arts called Vajramushtthi. Evidence seems to indicate that it was practised by the Warrior Class of that time and which can be compared to the medieval knights of Europe.


It is said the third child of King Sugandha of Southern India was a member of the Warrior Caste. He received his religious training from the Dhyna of Master Prajnatara. Under the masters guidance the boy grew into a very wise man and advanced in the way of the Dhyana or Budhist practice and was given the name Buddhadharma.

After his masters death, Buddhadharma traveled to China, were he taught. His life was centered around the Shaolin Temple and monastery located in Hunan Province. Tradition states that upon seeing the emaciated condition of the monks, Buddhadharma instructed them in physical exercise, to condition their bodies as well as their minds. The exercise was called ’’eighteen hands of Lo-Han’’ .The exercise also included breathing ; he knew that this physical activity helped to prepare body internally. Eventually the monks began to study the animals and form exercises that resembled their ways of fighting ( later was known as Chuan-Fa- the art of the fist ). The motives to practise was art, physical conditioning, and finally, self-defence.

During the Sui period (589-618) bandits began to raid monastery for the purpose of food and anything value.

At this time the monks ,in order to protect their lives and monastery , utilized their Chuan-Fa art and defeated the bandits. Reputation of the Shaolin fighting monks spread ,and many came to study the art along with Buddhism .

During 14 the century Chuan-Fa was introduced to Okinawa( the island between Japan and Taiwan) .It won popularity as an art of self-defence under the name’’ Tote ‘’(Chinese hand). At Okinawa the native fighting art ’’ Te’’ was practiced long before the introduction of Chinese Chuan-Fa. It is believed that blend of those two arts, by the Okinawa’s , developed into the martial art known today as karate.


Japan invaded Okinawa in 1609 they reinstated the ban on weapons (first declared by King Sho Shin in 1477) .The Japanese also banned the practise of martial arts . Consequently , the okinawans continued with martial arts in secrecy.

During the next three centuries the martial arts developed its own character and is called “Okinawa Te “. It is split into three main styles:

Shuri-te influenced by the hard techniques of Kempo (Chuan-Fa) and characterized by an offensive attitude.

Naha-te influenced by softer techniques of Kempo including breath control and “Ki” . It was characterized by a more defensive attitude with grappling , throws and locking techniques.

Tomari-te influenced by both hard and soft techniques.

Members of Okinawan upper classes were sent to China regularly to study various political and practical disciplines. The incorporation of Chinese Wu Shu into Okinawan martial arts occurred partly because of these exchanges and partly because of growing legal restrictions on the use of weaponry. Traditional karate kata bear a strong resemblance to the forms found in Fijian martial arts such; White Crane, Five Ancestors. Many Okinawan weapons such as the sai, tonfa, and nunchaku may have originated in and around Southeast Asia.

In 1872 Japan annexed the Okinawan island group.

In beginning of 1900s karate was introduced to the Okinawa Prefectures School system. During this time period famous Okinawa masters influenced spread of karate in Japan.


The modernization and systematization of karate in Japan also included adoption of the white uniform-karategi-and coloured belt ranks. Both of these innovations were originated and popularized by Jigiro Kano, the founder of judo.

In 1922 The Ministry of Education invited Gishin 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 club. In these era escalating Japanese militarism . The name was changed from “Chinese Hand” to “Empty Hand” -both are pronounced “karate”

After Second World War ,Okinawa became an important U.S. military site and karate became popular among servicemen stationed there.

The martial arts movies of 60-70s increased its popularity ,karate schools began appearing across the world, catering to those with casual interest as well as those seeking a deeper study of the arts.

Today karate is practised for self-perfection, for cultural reasons, for self-defence and as sport. In last International Olympic Committee voting , karate did not receive the necessary two-thirds majority vote to become Olympic sport. By some estimates there are around 50 millions karate practitioners worldwide.