History: the base

Hey out there! Just to get started safely, and correctly, and for those who are just gaining an understanding of Karate, let’s get the ‘proper’ History done. There’s nothing extraordinary or revealing here. After all, we can’t change History, and you can get basically the same mantra about Karate History in thousands of places on the web, right? And believe it or not, there are many versions. So bear with me.

‘Karate’ is a Japanese word. ‘Kara’ means ‘empty’ or ‘open’, and ‘Te’ means ‘hand’. So together it can stand for either ‘Empty Hand’ or ‘Open Hand’ depending on who’s applying the interpretation. However, either is correct.

Karate is a Japanese Martial art, but history teaches us that originally it was a style of martial art developed in the Ryukyu Islands in what is now Okinawa, Japan. The history of the Ryukyu Islands is complicated, so for the sake of simplicity, it was a Chinese Tributary of the Ming Dynasty. Fast forward several hundred years and subsequently, around 1879 the Ryukyu Province was renamed Okinawa Prefecture and the monarchy of Shuri was abolished.

By then, of course, the Ryukyuans had developed an indigenous fighting method they simply called ‘Te’ (hand), much or some of which was from Chinese Kenpo, prior to the 19th century annexation by Japan. It was the Okinawan’s who changed the name from ‘Te’ to ‘Karate’ during the early 20th century, during a time of cultural exchanges and escalating Japanese militarism between the Japanese and the Ryukyuans, to indicate that the Japanese wanted to develop the Okinawan form in Japanese style.

In 1922 the Japanese Ministry of Education invited Gichin Funakoshi, of Okinawa, to Tokyo to give a karate demonstration. Subsequently in 1924 Keio University established the first university karate club in Japan. Hence, Gichin Funakoshi is generally regarded as the Father of modern day karate. Funakoshi was the founder of the Shotokan Style of Karate. Master Funakoshi passed away on April 26, 1957 at the age of 89.

Funakoshi’s Shotokan Karate has continued to thrive, and it is the style that we teach.

But Shotokan Karate is but one of the many Japanese Karate Styles among many other Japanese martial arts styles and others worldwide.

For more in-depth historical information check: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karate.

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