History of Karate martial arts

History of Karate martial arts

Karate has its origins in the Okinawa Islands, Japan. This kind of martial arts is heavily influenced by traditional Chinese martial arts, commonly referred to as Kung Fu. The history of Karate Okinawa originated in the late 17th century when the ban on weapons was issued by samurai authorities.

The unknown history

The exact development history of Karate martial arts was lost due to the lack of textual information. This lack was because of the strict rules of Karatedo at that time. This means that all masters training sessions like Kanga Tode Sakugawa and Sokon ‘Bushi’ Matsumura must be done in secret.


The text of Karate in Okinawa refers to the word “Tode” (the name given to Okinawan martial arts) in the late 1700s. The text also mentions the visit of a Chinese tourist named Kushanku. This person taught Kung Fu to people on Okinawa Island. The combination of 2 disciplines is called Te, meaning “hand”.

History of Karate martial arts

Te is popular in three cities including Shuri, Naha and Tamarai. Each city develops martial arts in its own way. Branches today clearly show this: Shotokan and Shito-ryu are mostly influenced by the style from Shuri city, which is Shuri-te and Goju-ryu. Meanwhile, the others were more affected by Naha-te.

At the end of the 20th century, Anko Itosu was allowed to publicly train people who wanted to study martial arts and began teaching Te at Okinawa schools. Sensei Gichin Funakoshi, one of Itosu’s students, expanded the Te movement and introduced the martial art to Japan in 1922.


Funakoshi made many modifications to make it easier for Japanese to access martial arts including changing the name to Karate. At the end of his life, Funakoshi succeeded in establishing the Japan Karate Association (JKA). The organization was founded with the aim of making Karate an international martial art by sending the best teachers to impart it globally.

Author: Charlene Matthews