Japanese Martial Arts History is Steeped in Secrecy

Origin of Karate

As you’re aware of all the benefits from martial arts training, let’s delve into the history of karate, the most widely available style that forms the basis for most other martial arts styles.

What we know as karate is actually a relatively new sport, going back only a few centuries to Okinawa, Japan, where a 17th century ban on weapons and an even older ban on common people learning martial arts was in place. People trained in secret in the latter part of the 18th century, learning to defend themselves using only their bodies.

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Okinawan style karate

A Chinese man known as Kushanku visited Okinawa in the latter part of the 1700s, bringing with him a variation of Kung Fu and possibly the initial iteration of Shotokan kata kanku dai. His martial arts methods became known as Tode, which translates in Okinawan to “art.” Te, which means “hand,” and which was the form of martial arts being secretly taught throughout Okinawa, was eventually blending with Tode, forming some of the fundamental principles of modern-day karate.

By the end of the 19th century, the secrecy of training in the martial arts ended, and it became commonplace for Te to be taught in schools throughout Okinawa, mainly due to the efforts of Anko Itosu.

Sensei Gichin Funakoshi, a student of Itosu, furthered the martial arts throughout his lifetime, modifying the art and expanding it to more Japanese while also changing the name from Te to karate and eventually founding the Japanese Karate Association.

There earliest karate styles that were developed in Japan are:

  1. Shotokan-rye
  2. Wado -rye
  3. Shito-rye
  4. Goju-rye