I come to you with only empty hands (karate); I have no weapons.
But should be forced to defend myself, my principles, or my honor,
should it be a matter of right or wrong, or life or death,
then here are my weapons, karate, my empty hands.
*To begin with I would like to note that the history of karate any style of karate has been debated for many years. Karate grow in a time when it was not allowed to be practiced in the open. Therefore the history of karate was passed down from one generation to the next through word of mouth. As we all know that means that things many have been changed slightly here and there (we have all played telephone at some point in our lives). On this website I will try and present as many view points of the history of karate that I believe to be possible. I hope that all who read will at least take something out of that reading.
From the Progress Log
Because of the absence of
many historical documents and the lack of written records during the era which
gave karate its birth, this summary is not to be taken as 100% authentic, but
only as a reasonably accurate accounting of Karate from its beginning to one of
America’s most exciting means of self defense or sport.
Karate is a science of unarmed self defense and counterattacking. The person using it employs parts of the body to ward off an assault and to injure the attacker by striking him with a severe blow to some vulnerable area.
Karate means “empty hand” in Japanese. The name emphasizes the fact that no weapon is used. Instead, Karate converts the hand, fist, finger, elbow, or foot into a weapon to aim at an attacker’s weak spots.
Karate, as we know it today, takes its beginnings from India in the age of birth of the Buddhist religion. Although they didn’t use the word “Karate”, the priests of the early Buddhist temple evolved various spiritual disciplinary systems for refinement of the body.
It was an Indian Buddhist monk named Bodhidharma who introduced eighteen exercise techniques (which evolved into karate) to the Chinese monks. Ironically, this was not at all his objective. He decided to go to China because he didn’t like the way that Buddhism was taught outside of India.
Bodhidharma arrived in China around 520 A.D. and eventually received an audience with the emperor and obtained permission to reside at the Shaolin Szu Monastery in Hohon Province. This location became the birthplace of Karate.
Upon arrival at the Shaolin Temple, Bodhidharma found the monks in poor physical condition due to the inactivity resulting from hours of kneeling and meditation. Like many people, before and since, he sensed the intricate relationship between mind, body, and spirit. Therefore, he began teaching the Buddhist Monks the system of integrated physical and mental discipline embodied in the Indian I-Chin-Sutra which he had been taught as a youngster while a member of the Kshatriya (a warrior class in India). His exercises were further developed and integrated with various forms of Chinese unarmed combat and became what was known as Shaolin Ch’uan Fa. His eighteen original techniques later evolved into 170 movements. With the seed now planted, these teachings spread throughout China usually taking the name of the priest, or the place, where they were taught.
Of all the countries that have contributed to the evolution of the art of modern karate, tiny Okinawa was the most influential. It is generally accepted that Okinawa was first inhabited by shipwrecked survivors of vicious typhoons. These survivors were diplomats, priests, and scholars, traveling to Japan from China. Certainly some of the Chinese survivors must have been skilled in various systems of unarmed combat, including Ch’uan Fa.
One of the most important chapters in the history of Karate, and a direct link to the present day Karate, was its development in Okinawa. In 1477 the Sho Dynasty consolidated its civil administration with the prohibition and confiscation of all arms, leading to an increased interest in fighting with hands, feet, farm implements and self-made weapons. This became known as Okinawa-te.
Further Interest was fanned in Okinawan-Te when a Kyushu lord terminated the Sho Dynasty with the capture of Okinawa and enacted a fresh prohibition against weapons of any kind in 1609.
Okinawa-Te advanced tremendously as a result of such oppressive measures. From this rose the styles of Shuri-te (Shorin-Ryu), Naha-te (Goju-Ryu), Tomari-te (Shorin-Ryu), Bushi-Te, and Shaolin-Te, along with others. Due to the fear of civil authorities, it was necessary to teach Okinawan systems with the utmost secrecy and they were not to come out into the open again until the 1900s.
At the turn of the century, Karate was still a secret art, taught only to a select few, as it had been for the past three hundred years. In 1901, Master Ankoh Itosu broke this tradition by teaching Karate as a part of the regular curriculum of the Okinawan public schools.
At this time, many great masters came to light and systemized their teachings. Some of these masters included: Sokon (Bushi) Matsumura, Ankoh Itosu, Choko Motobu, Kanryo Higashionna, Chojun Miyagi, and Gichin Funakoshi (who introduced Karate to Japan in 1920).
In 1935, a board of Okinawan Black Belts changed the characters of “Karate” from “Chinese Hand”, to mean “Empty Hand”.
Following WWII, mainly in 1946, American soldiers who had been exposed to Karate while stationed overseas came home and began to teach what they had learned. The first commercial karate schools were opened that year by Robert Trias in Phoenix, Arizona; Peter Urdan teaching Goju-Ryu in New York, and Ed Parker teaching Kempo in Los Angeles.
In American today there are many styles and systems of karate. Although the basics of Karate began thousands of years ago, there has been a gradual changing in the execution of its techniques as changing times require. Each Master of the past and present added his own special ideas to produce a form of self defense equaled by no other means. This change will continue to occur, and as time passes and new things of physics and other subjects are discovered karate will adapt to these changes and continue to provide its practitioners with a system of self defense.
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