What is special about the development of karate is first and foremost the time it lasted before it became a modern martial art. The origin of Karate can be clearly traced back to the 19th century and finds its origin as a publicly accepted martial art in Okinawa around the year 1875. The road to this point, however, was very rocky. Among historians it is disputed whether the origin of Karate lies in a modification of Shaolin Kung Fu, which was created in the 6th century, but so far this could neither be clearly proven nor disproven.

Karate Geschichte

Karate has Chinese roots

The fact is that karate actually has Chinese roots. Okinawa, which at that time was not yet part of Japan, already maintained pronounced trade relations with Japan, Korea and China in the 14th century. In the exchange of goods also a part of the Chinese martial arts swung over to Okinawa and mixed with the native martial arts to the Okinawa-Te (translation: the hand from Okinawa).

Due to a ban on weapons on Okinawa as well as all the islands around in 1422, the unarmed martial arts gained more and more importance, but only after the tightening of this ban in 1609 to the extreme, the masters of martial arts joined together to teach students in secret, so that they could defend themselves against the arbitrary acts of violence of the samurai. Around the same time, Kobudō, which converts simple peasant objects into weapons, also developed. These martial arts were also banned by the shoguns, but continued to be taught in secrecy.

Origin of modern Karate

Until Okinawa was declared a Japanese prefecture in 1875, the teachings of karate were reserved for the few whose families had knowledge of it. Karate only slowly re-emerged into the public eye after 1875 and was practiced as a school sport on Okinawa beginning in 1902. The Karate emergence had at this point outlived the times of use as pure self-defense and the martial art was now also used for physical training.

Today, karate is divided into four major styles, which predominantly emerged from the Okinawan styles of Shōrei-Ryū and Shōrin-Ryū.

Karate today

Originally designed as a defensive methodology against the arbitrary use of force by unjust rulers, karate today represents one of the most widely practiced martial arts in the world. Founded in 1993, the World Karate Federation (WKF) is the highest governing body and has over 10 million members in 188 countries.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be the first time karate is introduced as a discipline, but the World Games have had it on the program since it was first held in 1981. Karate has thus not only found a way down from the Japanese island chain, but is now practiced worldwide and is considered a highly respected martial art.

Karate styles

The multifaceted development of karate styles can be attributed in part to the fact that the practice of the martial art was forbidden for centuries and developed in secret and differently for each family. Partly, the original styles are still practiced today, but they are rather the exception.

ShōtōkanThe Shōtōkan style of karate was founded in the 20th century by Funakoshi Gichin and is the most widely practiced style today. Characteristic of Shōtōkan karate is the very low stance of the karateka and the fact that all techniques can be used equally for attack and defense.
Gōjū-RyūThe Gōjū-Ryū style is also very widespread and got its name from Chōjun Miyagi in the early 20th century, but its roots go back much further. It contains many movements of Chinese boxing as practiced as early as the 17th century, but also teaches all other karate-type punching and kicking techniques as well as throws and levers.
Shitō-RyūShitō-Ryū was founded in 1934 by Mabuni Kenwa, who was equally taught by Higashionna Kanryō and Itosu Yasutsune. This style contains various Chinese influences and even kata not found in the other karate styles.
Wadō-RyūWadō-Ryū was founded by Hironori Ōtsuka and has been registered as a karate style since 1939. The peculiarities about this style are that with each attack there is a change of body position and that the blocking techniques do not deflect attacks, but redirect them to use the force for the counterattack.