The History of Karate

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As very little has been recorded about the beginnings of karate, the supposition is that it evolved from the Bodhidharma who travelled from India to China preaching his beliefs and teaching unarmed combat to monks who were not allowed to use weapons and relied on their hands for defence.

Chinese fighting styles were brought to Japan when trade was opened between China and Japan. These Chinese traders brought their skills, called Kenpo, which, when combined with the styles practised by the inhabitants of Ryukyu Islands, was the beginning of karate. Three forms evolved: Shuri, Tamori and Naha.

Karate is the name given to the sport meaning the “the way of the empty hand”. No definite time can be given to the start of karate which grew in leaps and bounds in the early 1900s when it became part of the physical training of the dojos. In 1922 a demonstration was given at the Kodokan dojo which, perhaps, was the beginning of bringing karate to the populace. From then on, universities and schools started.

Karate then went international, firstly to Canada in the ’30s and to the USA after the Second World War when returning members of the armed forces taught what they had learned in the East. Karate also finds afoot in Europe in the ’60s and Russia ten years later where it was met with government disapproval and banned only to be allowed to reopen at a later stage. From these beginnings, four karate styles have developed, Goju-Ryu, Wado-Ryo, Shito-Ryo and Shoto-Ryo.

Karate in the West

In 1996 the International Karate Federation (the IKF) formulated in Hawaii, by Sensei Kotaku who was Japanese, born in 1941 and he started training in 1948. After winning the All Japanese Karate Championships, he went on to win numerous other titles and ended up instructing in Hawaii. Having over 190 member countries, it is the only Federation acceptable to the International Olympics Committee. It now has 10 million members worldwide and will be partaking in the 2020 Olympics for the first time.

Karate reached Europe after the Second World War. The French Karate Federation held the first International Karate Championships in 1961 and of the six other European Federations, five accepted. As there were different styles practised by the various Federations, they were unable to unify into one body. When, in 1965, the European Karate Union was formed, and the next year the first Championships were held in Paris. Because there were many facial injuries, and consensus could not be reached, it was decided to unify the referees, so that the different forms of karate could fight to the same rules and standards.

Karate – the meaning

Karate is mainly the art of striking using fists, knees, feet, elbows, and hand forms such as a knife, and spear. In some styles, as in judo, opponents can grapple (wrestling), throwing (judo), joint locks and restraints (wrestling and judo).