A Short History of Karate.
The history of Karate is full of uncertainty and mythology. The teaching of Martial Arts is available worldwide and the origins are similarly widely diverse from that of the extremes of pugilist forms (boxing and wrestling) to the ancient far eastern forms (Kendo, Karate, Ju Jitsu and many others). The most popular Martial Arts taught in the Western World are based on the Japanese form of Karate. Ironically these forms are relatively new with their origins dating back to as recently as 1917.
It has been suggested that 1,500 years ago a young Buddhist monk (Bodhidharma) invented a method of self-defence. Travelling from India to China through the Himalayas, he used his hands to defend himself against wild life and hostile natives. His religion prevented him from carrying (and using) weapons.
Once in China, he blended in with the local residents, and developed a system of exercises and physical techniques of Yoga, which consisted of stretching postures and deep breathing.
Eventually, his system developed into a very strong martial art that gave those who practiced it, strength and confidence. This formalised training in Martial Arts was first recorded by the Shaolin Monks of China. This enabled the Shaolin Monks to be capable of protecting themselves from warlords and bandits that plagued China, whilst also complying with the laws of Emperor for citizens not to carry weapons. This system of self-defence is now popularly known today as Kung Fu.
Bodhidharma's teachings later became the basis for the majority of Chinese martial arts. In truth, the origins of karate appear to be somewhat obscure and little is known about the early development of karate until it appeared in Okinawa.
Shotokan, as practised by students of Custom Karate, was founded by Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957) in Tokyo in 1938. Funakoshi is considered to be the founder of modern karate. Born in Okinawa, he began to study karate with Yasutsune Azato, one of Okinawa's greatest experts in the art. In 1917 Funakoshi first introduced Karate to Tokyo. In 1936, at nearly 70 years of age, he opened his own training hall. The dojo was called Shotokan after the pen name used by Funakoshi to sign poems written in his youth. Shotokan Karate is characterized by powerful linear techniques and deep strong stances. This is the most popular system of Karate taught in the West.