The Founder of Fighting:
In the sixth century, China reached its highest cultural
point and was the most powerful nation on earth. In 525 AD
a Buddhist monk, named Bodhidharma, left India and traveled
to Northern China. He walked across the Himalayas into
Northern China and settled on the Songshan Mountains in the
Shaolin Temple. There he taught the priests of the
monastery a series of eighteen exercises. With the passing
of time, these exercises were refined and developed into a
fierce form of self-defense known as the Shaolin Temple
method (Shorin-ji Kempo).
The Shaolin Temple is believed to be the birthplace of
systematized martial arts. This Chinese method of
self-defense spread through Asia and eventually found i's
way to Okinawa. In most parts of East Asia today,
Bodhidharma is referred as the spiritual father of Zen
Buddhism and the founder of weaponless fighting styles,
which was the precursor of modern day karate.
Martial Arts Enters Okinawa:
In 1392, thirty-six families moved from China to Okinawa as
a result of a cultural exchange program. Among these
thirty-six families there where some experts of martial
arts who solidified the growth and interest of Chinese
Kempo in Okinawa.
In 1429 King Sho Hashi wanted to improve Okinawa's position
in the world and involve the islands in active relations
with other countries. The Okinawans were excellent sea men
and quite naturally fell into their more profitable role as
commercial sea traders. For two centuries Okinawa's two
largest towns, Shuri and Naha became famous ports of
traffic in luxury goods. Sailors traveled port to port
exchanging their knowledge of their particular style in the
martial arts. This expanded martial arts throughout Okinawa.
Okinawa Fights Back:
With the fall of the Sho Dynasty in 1470 and the
establishment of an all new dynasty under Sho Shin in 1477,
came a ban on all weapons. The reason for this was to
insure that the citizens would not be able to defend
1609 was a very important year in Okinawan history. A
military expedition led against Okinawa by Japan, resulted
in ending Okinawa's independence and giving way to complete
control by the Japanese. The Okinawans, being infuriated by
the Japanese control, frequently fought with their captors
using only their hands, feet, or any other weapon that they
Resistance against the Japanese by small unorganized bands
was futile so those smaller groups began to unite and
present a lager front that commanded a new fighting style
known as "Te" which translates as "hand". "Te" had been
developed, and practiced in utmost secrecy, and only by an
elite group of trusted and carefully selected trainees. The
art had to be practiced in secrecy because the Japanese
were at that time trying to eliminate any and all forms of
martial arts from Okinawan society. The three most advanced
schools where in Shirr, Napa, and Tomari. At this time the
art also became very brutal, in response to its soul
purpose of maiming and killing their Japanese oppressors.
Sometime between 1784 and 1903, the word "Te" was replaced
by the, now well known term "Karate". Kara in Japanese=
"empty" Te in Okinowan= "hand". Around this time Japan
became the official controllers of Okinawa.
Karate's Introduction To Japan:
Some historians report that a small number of Okinawan
instructors were known to have traveled through Japan and
taught their sacred art as early as 1904 but it is recorded
that Japan did not get its full taste of Karate until 1915.
The person to officially introduce this art to Japan was
Master Funakoshi who had been invited by the Ministry of
Education in 1922. He presented several lectures and
demonstrations to large groups of Japanese onlookers in
Over the next few years Master Funakoshi taught in
universities around Japan. In 1924 Funakoshi persuaded the
current rulers that his art, Karate, should be included in
each of the university's physical education programs.
Several universities, at this time, began to put D'j's on
campus which increased Karate's popularity. By 1937 Karate
reached the general public in Japan but was primarily
practiced in the universities and the Japanese armed
Karate's Journey Into Hawaii:
In the late 1800 many Okinawans traveled to Hawaii. Because
Okinawa and Japan where united, the people who kept track
of immigration considered the Okinawans to be Japanese.
There is no separate record and the present population
records show that there are approximately 61,000 "Japanese"
living on the Hawaiian islands. They had migrated to the
islands originally to find jobs on plantations working in
the fields. These people made up 40% of the population, and
a large number were familiar with, if not proficient in
There were no formal schools where martial art was taught.
The first semblance of such a school was opened by Kensu
Yabu, a retired Japanese militia lieutenant and one of the
leading experts on karate. This occurred coincidentally
when he was approached by a group of Okinowans, asking him
to hold a Karate demonstration.
Modern Day Karate:
In 1954 Edward Parker, a Karate instructor, opened a Karate
school in Utah. He also opened another school in Pasadena,
California. Tsutoma Ohshima and Hidetaka Nishiyama are
opened a great school in California. They could be called
the greatest influences for "pure" karate's great
popularity in America today.