Karate History

The History and Development of Karate-do !!

About 14th century, Dharma, Buddhist monk who is the founder of ‘Zen’ Buddhism, had a long journey from the west of India across Himalayas to China for the purpose of expanding Buddhism. Year later, he went to Shao Lin Monastery (Shorin-ji) in Hunan, China and found that the monks could not tolerate with the strict disciplines of Buddhism. Because of this, he discovered the method for physical and mental development. Dharma said that .. 


Even though the practice of the Buddha is focusing mainly on mind, but body and mind cannot be separated. That is why you (monks) cannot fully practice the Buddhist teachings, so I will give you the method to increase your physical strength and you will be able to practice all of the Buddhist strict disciplines”.

After that, the monks of Shao Lin Monastery became very famous in both physical and mental strengths. The method of Dharma was expanded into many areas included Ryukyu Islands (now is Okinawa) and called Shorin-ji Kempo as the name of the origin.

From the history records, the beginning of Karate-do was about early 14th century. There was an exchange of goods and also cultures between China and Ryukyu Islands. At that time, Kung Fu was spread into Ryukyu Islands and developed to Ryukyu Islands Arts of Self-defense (such as Todei, Tee, Kempo, and Okinawa te).

In 1429, King Sho Hashi combined 3 areas of Ryukyu Island and became ‘Ryukyu Kingdom’. They were very rich and had trade relations with China, and this was a cause of ‘the war of expanded territories’. About 200 years later, October 22nd, 1600 was the end of Seki ga Hara War, King Tokugawa Ieyatsu won the war and became a Shogun in 1603, and he died in 1616.

In the period of Shogun Tokugawa (about 1609 or the 14th year of Gaisho), Daimyo Shimazu of Satsuma took over Ryukyu Islands and announced the unarmed policy; the development of Karate-do might have come from this policy. Karate-do is the combination of art of self-defense and the concepts of winning in just one strike (by using sword) of Satsuma family (Jigen-ryu). From this, the training of Karate-do focuses on how to overcome the enemy in just one technique.

In year 1922, the first Karate Demonstration was held in Tokyo by Master Gichin Funakoshi and had made a powerful impression on the Japanese public. After that, Karate became very popular and had been taught in many universities. The first Karate-do Club was in Keio University and followed by many universities. Now, Karate-do is spread into many countries around the world. In May 1948, Japan Karate Association (JKA) was established by the students of Master Gichin Funakoshi (Shotokan) with the standards of training (Kihon, Kata, Kumite) and competition.

In October 1957, the first Karate-do Tournament was held in Tokyo by Master Masatoshi Nakayama with the competitions in Kata and Kumite and used the JKA rules. Currently, the rules in competition have changed into many new standards (WKF, AKF, ISKF, JKA, JKF, etc.), but still use the early JKA rules as the base.

Ref : The above information has been taken from the J.K.A information guide book. 

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