Brief History of Karate

Ever wonder about the history of martial arts? Where it began, why? Here’s a brief introduction into Karate:
Enjoy the reading!


The History of Karate
The Japanese art of karate’s roots can be traced to ancient India, China, and Okinawa. India, which developed yoga and its diaphragmatic breathing methods, has exerted influence on numerous combative techniques throughout the Orient. Many martial scholars consider India the birthplace of all martial arts. During the 5th and 6th centuries B.C. Zen Buddhist monks transmitted Indian combat techniques similar to modern karate to China.

It is thought that at the end of the 5th century A.D., a Buddhist priest named Bodhidharma traveled to China from India to instruct at the Shaolin monastery. There he taught the monks a combination of yoga and Indian fist-fighting that became the kung-fu system of Shao-lin. As the art proliferated throughout China, variation and local styles appeared.

The fighting techniques of China were subsequently carried to the offshore islands, most notably Okinawa, by waves of immigrants, refugees, and priests. Weaponless combat, called te (hand), had already existed on Okinawa; with the ban against carrying arms issued by the Japanese occupation in 1470, these empty-hand techniques thrived.

Later, with the aid of Chinese kung-fu masters who fled from China, te developed into a crude form of karate. At first the new art was translated to mean T’ang, or China hand, to indicate its Chinese origin.

Gichin Funakoshi

Gichin Funakoshi

It was not until the 20th century, when Gichin Funakoshi – an Okinawan karate instructor – introduced Okinawa-te to Japan, that it acquired the name karate. In the years following Funakoshi’s arrival in Japan, other styles of karate-do were developed. Many Okinawan masters brought their styles to Japan, among them Kenwa Mabuni, who introduced Shito-ryu in 1930, and Chojun Miyagi, who combined hard Okinawan karate with soft Chinese forms and called it goju-ryu (hard-soft way). Rivalry among these groups was so intense that each style practiced its art in secret.

Following World War II, owing to the presence of many western servicemen in Japan and Okinawa, karate gradually acquired devotees in America and Europe. By the late 1950s and early 1960s, karate was well established, and by the 1970s, the art was practiced extensively throughout the world.

Dojo Etiquette and Dojo Oath

Dojo Etiquette – Some of the rules common to all dojo are:

1. Students must bow from the waist when entering or leaving the workout area.

2. Students must wear the traditional uniform to all practice sessions.

3. All uniforms must be clean and in good condition.

4. Students must keep their bodies clean and nails trimmed.

5. Students must not wear jewelry or sharp objects when working out.

6. Students must not chew gum or candy, or eat while in the dojo.

7. Students must not engage in idle talk while in the dojo and should remain attentive at all times.

8. Students must always be courteous and helpful to each other.

9. Students should never use their skills, except in self-defense.

Dojo Oath – Code of conduct in the dojo and a guide to everyday life.

(Written by Isshinryu’s founder Tatsuo Shimabuku)

We will train our hearts and bodies for a firm, unshaken spirit.

We will pursue the true meaning of the martial way so that in time our senses may be alert.

With true vigor, we will seek to cultivate a spirit of self-denial.

We will observe the rules of courtesy, respect our superiors, and refrain from violence.

We will pay homage to our creator and never forget the true virtue of humility.

We will look upwards to wisdom and strength, not seeking other desires.

All our lives, through the disciplines of karate, we will seek to fulfill the true meaning of the way.

Rules of Karate

Gichin Funakoshi established principles, the strict observance of which was absolutely essential to achieve an understanding of Karate-do.

The Rules:

Be deadly serious in training. Your opponent must always be present in your mind, whether you sit or stand or walk or raise your arms. Should you, in combat, strike a karate blow, you must have no doubt whatsoever that the one blow decides everything. If you have made an error, you will be the one who falls. You must always be prepared for such an eventuality.

Train with heart and soul without worrying about theory. Very often the man who lacks that essential quality of deadly seriousness will take refuge in theory. The kibadachi (horse-riding stance), for instance, looks extremely easy but the fact is that no one could possibly master it, even if he practiced every day for an entire year. What nonsense, then, for a man to complain after a couple of months’ practice that he is incapable of mastering a kata.

Karate-do consist of a great number of kata and basic skills and techniques that no human being is capable of assimilating in a short space of time. But once you have completely mastered one technique, you will realize its close relation to other techniques. If, therefore, you become a master of one kata, you will soon gain an understanding of all the others merely by watching them being performed or by being taught them in an instruction period.

Avoid self-conceit and dogmatism. A man who brags in booming tones or swaggers down the street as though he owned it will never earn true respect, even though he may actually be very capable in karate or some other martial art. It is even more absurd to hear the self-aggrandizing of one who is without capability. In karate, it is usually the beginner who cannot resist the temptation to brag or chew off; by doing so, he dishonors not only himself, but also his chosen art.

Try to see yourself as you truly are and try to adopt what is meritorious in the work of others. As a karateka, you will, of course, often watch others practice. When you do and you see strong points in the performance of others, try to incorporate them into your own technique. At the same time, if the trainee you are watching seems to be doing less than his best, ask yourself whether you too may not be failing to practice with diligence. Each of us has good qualities and bad; the wise man seeks to emulate the good he perceives in others and avoid the bad.

Abide by the rules of ethics in your daily life, whether in public or private. This is a principle that demands the strictest observance. With the martial arts, most particularly with karate-do, many neophytes will exhibit great progress, and in the end, some may turn out to be better karateka than their instructors. The instructor runs the risk of complacency in that some day the young students may go beyond him — in the art of karate or in other fields of human endeavor. No one can attain perfection in karate-do until he finally comes to realize that it is, above all else, a faith, a way of life.

Inasmuch as karate-do aims at perfection of mind as well as body; expressions that extol only physical prowess should never be used in connection with it.

To attain true proficiency in the art of karate-do, the karateka must control his mind and conquer himself. The Zen doctrine is central to Okinawan goju-ryu karate-do. Intuitive understanding cannot be taught, but is awakened in the karate student’s mind after many years of dedicated training, discipline and meditation.

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