Karate History – Origins, Definition, Past and Future

Karate is an ancient martial art that has been around for centuries. Karate history is fascinating and there are many different stories about the origins of this unique fighting style. This article will talk about some of the origins of karate, as well as what life was like for people who practiced karate in its early days.

Karate has seen some crazy times already across the world, but what does the future have in store? Perhaps if we examine karate history closely enough, we may gain some insight.

Disclaimer: This article was published for entertainment and educational purposes. It should not be used as personal or professional or medical advice. Please consult your doctor before deciding to engage in any new exercise activities or nutritional regimen. Take care!

What is Karate?

Also known as “Karate Do”, karate is a martial art with roots in the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa, Japan. Originally called simply “te”, the word karate means “empty hand” in Japanese.

But where did karate come from? According to Wikipedia, the fighting style which later became karate was introduced to Japanese folk by visitors from China. In fact, “empty hand” was originally called “Chinese hand”, before the martial art developed its own identity.

Karate Origins

karate class

The origins of karate are very complicated and debated. Some say that the art is much older than we think, with roots in ancient China or India (or even Japan). Others have said that Karate actually originated from Korea, while others believe it came about because Japanese warriors were spending too long on horseback.

The most commonly accepted theory seems to be that martial arts found their way into Okinawa via Buddhist monks who had studied Shaolin Kung Fu in Southern China before returning to their home islands. Whatever its true origin might be, the history of karate can roughly be divided into three periods: Early Period (prior to 1868), Late Period (1853-1945) and Modern Era (since 1945).

One interesting origin myth has roots in Okinawa where some believe that karate originated as a way for farmers who grew up working outdoors all day long to protect themselves when they were attacked by bandits. The karateka were able to use their skills from farming, such as planting rice and picking fruit, in order to fight back.

Who Founded Karate?

In its earliest days, karate evolved naturally without a true “founder”. There were many practitioners, most of whom had their own unique style.

Over time three main branches emerged: Shuri-te (which came from the capital city), Naha-te (from the port town) and Tomari-te (from an area near China).

It’s likely that any karate we practice today has been influenced by all three of these original styles. One known early mover in Japanese martial arts is Sakukawa Kanga. Kanga studied early boxing or “pugilism” in China, and then brought his knowledge back home to introduce to the town of Shuri.

While Kanga taught a separate martial art, one of his students named Matsumura Sōkon eventually taught a combination of Shuri-te, Tomari-te, and Chinese martial arts. This blend would later become known as “Shorin-ryu.”

One of Matsumura’s most well known students was Itosu Ankō, who is credited with helping to introduce karate to Okinawan public schools. His students included Gichin Funakoshi, Kenwa Mabuni, and Chōki Motobu, three of the most iconic karate masters in history. This earned Itosu the moniker “the Grandfather of Modern Karate” in some circles.

Why Was Karate Invented?

Karate was invented because of a need for self-defense. In 1868 to 1922, weapons were banned by the government of Japan. This ban was put in place because of the caste system that most Japanese citizens were living under at this time, and those who didn’t comply with these regulations could be severely punished or killed for their disobedience. As a result, many samurai created martial arts to teach themselves how to protect themselves from others without weapons.

Karate’s Fighting Style

This martial art’s focus includes self-defense as well as attacking one’s opponent with punches, kicks, knee strikes and elbow strikes using full force. Karate techniques are often classified into two main categories: punching (“tsuki”) and kicking (“keri”). Kicks can be used to attack head or torso while punches may primarily target the chest area but also involve backhand techniques for targets at close range like nose or mouth.

In modern sport karate, an emphasis is often placed on incorporating or at least learning to avoid grappling techniques. Because of the still-growing popularity of MMA (mixed martial arts), karate is still evolving to keep up with the changing demands of its students and spectators. In fact, the karate league called Karate Combat included takedowns as part of their rule set.

History of Karate in the United States of America


In the USA, karate has evolved into a highly popular and widespread martial art. It became a very visible part of American life after World War II; soldiers returning from stations in Japan had learned karate and brought the art back with them to their homes in America. Jack Dempsey, Joe Lewis, Chuck Norris, Dan Inosanto, Linda Lee Cadwell, and Noriyuki Matsumoto are just a few popular people who have influenced American karate history.

Karate is often used as a form of exercise because it has helped build strength, endurance, coordination, flexibility and balance for students across the world. It is practiced all around the world today but there are still many misconceptions about what this martial art is.

There are three types of karate: Shotokan from Kyushu Island in Japan which emphasizes speed and agility; Wado-ryu which concentrates on relaxation yet powerful techniques; Kobayashi ryu whose methods combine both hard and soft style into one complete system

Modern Karate in Popular Media

Although it has recently been overshadowed by MMA, karate still enjoys a popular presence in movies and television shows. One modern series is “Cobra Kai”, a sequel series based on the characters from the original Karate Kid movie.

“The Karate Kid” (1984) starred Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita as Daniel LaRusso and Mr. Miyagi respectively. Looking at Cobra Kai vs its much older origins film, you can see the growth that the martial art has experienced. Karate also has some references in the Marvel Universe, with characters such as Iron Fist and Luke Cage having training backgrounds.

And of course, what would an article on karate be without honoring Chuck Norris? Chuck Norris is perhaps the most notorious figure of American karate, and anyone who disagrees can settle it with him!

Origins of Karate – Karate History in Summary

There are several branches and sub-styles of karate which came about due to differences in teaching methods, philosophy, and application. Emphasis on one style of fighting, and sometimes even a difference in weapons.

But karate is still alive today! It has become an international sport with tournaments happening all over the world. And it’s actually not only for adults: there are many schools which teach children karate as well.