What is Karate? History and origin of Karate

Origins of Karate 

Karate is a style of martial art that has a very vibrant history and then be placed back to the Ryukyu Kingdom, situated in modern-day Okinawa.  But this was different from Karate back in the 12th century and back then the Ming dynasty was in trade relations with Japan and this is how historians believe led to the birth of Karate. The Chinese brought with them Kung fu and these two different styles, one soft and one hard mixed together to form what we know now as Karate. The inhabitants of Okinawa are believed to have used hand-to-hand combat as a form of self-defence when Okinawa was being invaded by mainland Japanese forces and this style of combat was influenced by the fighting styles of the Chinese families who had settled in Okinawa.  Karate or empty hand fighting really took off when the King of Okinawa banned the use of weapons for ordinary people and this made people more interested in weaponless forms of martial arts such as karate. 

Thus three important styles of Karate emerged from three important cities of Okinawa, these styles are Shuri-te, Naha-te and Tomari-te. And these styles together formed the Okinawan form of martial arts known as tode or the Okinawa-te. Later these three styles merged into two forms of martial art known as Shorin-Ryu and Shorei-Ryu.

Karate In the modern context

In the 1800 martial arts final became more formal and was largely regarded as Okinawan martial arts.  There were quite a several different types of martial arts being practised in Okinawa, Gichin Funakoshi marketed and popularized the style of karate we now know as Shotokan karate.  He was the driving force behind the popularity of Karate as he went on demonstrating this type of Karate through Okinawa and mainland Japan.

Who kept Karate alive?

This is still a matter of debate between martial art historians and combat experts as to who kept this form of martial art alive for nearly 800 years and who were the people that used to practice Karate on a daily basis. There are many theories to this and many claims but one of the more popular ones is that the peasants and the farmers who did not have access to good quality weapons would practice Karate and would even implement their farm tools within the martial art form to protect their farms and themselves from hostile elements.  But a counter-argument to this is when would these peasants, who had to work really hard all day, get the time to practice Karate and where would they get this extra boost of energy on their simple diets that differed completely from the warrior diets of the Samurai.  But it is safe to say that Karate stayed on within the public consciousness and quite well to not get lost in the chapters of time.

Reason Behind the name Karate 

The name Karate was not used during in the 18th century or the 19th century but a different variant of the name known as ‘tang hand’ was being used throughout Japan but this changed after the first world war and the onset of the Second World War as Japanese nationalism begin to grow and promoted everything including the naming scheme of things to be in pure Japanese and this led to Karate being named in Japanese which literally meant ‘empty hand’. This name stayed on even after WW2 and this name would also be popularized throughout the world as Karate moved to the west in the 1960s.  In the West, however, Karate was marketed towards both as a means of self-defence and a way to stay fit as obesity levels in the West were beginning to rise and this helped Karate gain popularity into the mainstream.  


These were all the knowledge that we have come to know about the origins of Karate and although historians continue to make discoveries, the origin place of Karate does not seem to change much from the island of Okinawa with Chinese influences which was in turn influenced by the Indian monk Bodhidarma who travelled to China to the temple of Shaolin much earlier to teach Zen Buddhism along with a form of martial art to help the monks defend themselves. 

What we know from certain is that in this day and age where self-defence is still quite necessary, learning a martial art form like Karate can be really beneficial and especially if it can be learned from the safety of your home, online. That is why we at MAE(martial art extreme) have meticulously designed and developed world-renowned online Karate learning programs which can help you learn Karate and become a pro-grade Karate practitioner. Do check out the programs.