What is the History of Karate? The roots of karate and how it spread throughout the world!



Motenas Representative
Motenas Representative

Karate” is one of Japan’s representative martial arts.

Although karate has been adopted as an official event in the Olympics and has many competitors worldwide, many people do not even know the history of karate.

In this issue, we will take an in-depth look at the history of karate and how it originated and spread.

If you know it, you can have a different conversation with foreign customers, so please read on.

The origin and source of karate|What is karate?

The origin and source of karate|What is karate?

First, let’s look at how karate was born.

There are many theories about the origin of karate, but it was originally called “karate (tude).

The origin of this karate is thought to be the ancient martial art of tee, which existed in what is now Okinawa.

This “hand (tee)” is believed to have come into existence around the 14th century.

Birth of the Ryukyu Kingdom

Karate was born in the Ryukyu Kingdom, which is now Okinawa Prefecture.

This Ryukyu Kingdom was created in 1429 and lasted until 1879.

As the Ryukyu Kingdom developed as a unique nation, it also began to trade and diplomacy with geographically close China (Tang Dynasty).

Around this time, the samurai families of the Ryukyu Kingdom began to learn tee, a self-defense technique, as a form of culture.

After the 18th century, Ryukyuan martial artists brought back Chinese martial arts from the “Tang Dynasty,” the equivalent of today’s China.

This Chinese martial art and “tee” were fused together to form “Tang Te (Toodyi).

From here, the long history and development of karate begins until today.

Passed down as a kung-fu method that is not allowed outside the gate.

Karate has long been passed down from generation to generation as a kung-fu style not to be practiced outside of the gate.

Therefore, it is unclear how exactly the area developed, but it is believed to have developed around Shuri, Naha, and Tomari.

In the course of its development, many schools were also created.

Of these, the following three are still practiced today as the three major styles of Okinawan karate.

  • Shuridee (Shuidee) type
    …inherited by the “samurai” (samurei) of Shuri, which was at the center of politics.
  • Nahate (Nafardi) type
    …He was born in “Kume Village (Kuninda)” where there were many Chinese immigrants.
  • Tomate (Tumidee) system
    …was passed down by the “samurai” (samurei) of the Tomari region.

For hundreds of years, karate has been passed down from parent to child and from master to apprentice in each region as a secret tradition.

Okinawan kobudo also develops

While karate was passed down from generation to generation as a fist technique, Okinawa’s own kobudo (ancient martial arts) also developed.

This kobudo was born around the 11th to 12th century.

Okinawan kobudo used weapons called sticks, nunchaku, sai, and tung-fu, and it is said that these tools came to be used as diplomacy with China became more active.

Kobudo was also passed down from generation to generation as a martial art that could not be practiced outside of the school.

There are various theories, but it is believed that this fusion of Okinawan kobudo and other arts transformed karate into what it is today.

Okinawa becomes mainland Japan in the Meiji Era|Inflow of Karate begins.

Okinawa becomes mainland Japan in the Meiji Era|Inflow of Karate begins.

In the Meiji era (1868-1912), Okinawa became mainlandized.

The previous Ryukyu domain was abolished and the city became Naha City.

With the abolition of the Ryukyu domain, karate, which had been passed down from generation to generation in the Ryukyu Islands, faced a crisis in its transmission.

Then, Itosu Ankou, a karate master, takes a certain countermeasure.

First introduction to school education

In April 1901, thanks to the efforts of Itosu Anko, karate was introduced to the gymnastics department of Shuri Elementary School.

This was the moment when karate was first adopted into school education.

Four years later, in 1905, karate was adopted as a physical education course at junior high schools and teacher training schools, and karate became widely known in Okinawa.

Expanding guidance in Kanto and Kansai areas.

By the Taisho era (1912-1926), karate began to flow into the mainland.

One person who played a major role in the spread of karate to the mainland was a man named Gichin Funakoshi, founder of the Shotokan style, one of the four major styles of karate today.

Gichin Funakoshi worked as a teacher while training in karate.

In the midst of all this, I was asked to give a course on karate surgery to high-ranked judo practitioners at the Kodokan, the headquarter of judo.

This led to the spread of karate to police departments and universities on the mainland.

Karate begins to permeate the Showa era.

Karate begins to permeate the Showa era.

As the era moved from Taisho to Showa, “karate” changed its name to “karate” in 1936.

From the original name “karate,” the word “karate” came to be used for “empty hand,” which means “without any weapon in the hand,” and the name “karate” came to be used.

Furthermore, the names of kata, which had previously been written in katakana, were changed to kanji, marking the beginning of the full-fledged Japanization of karate.

Began teaching abroad during the Showa Era.

Around the time karate was transformed into karate, he also began teaching abroad.

In 1939, a Japanese martial artist taught karate in Hawaii.

It is also said that during this period, many people immigrated from Okinawa to Hawaii, and they spread karate in Hawaii as well.

Naming of representative schools occurs.

During the Showa period, names were also given to representative schools.

  • Goju-ryu
    The school was created by Miyagi Chosun, the founder of the school, who added his own elements to Nahadee…
  • Shotokan-ryu
    …School named by Gichin Funakoshi who was practicing Shuridee (Shuidee)
  • Shitoryu (style of Japanese fencing)
    …School originated in Osaka by Kenwa Mabuni, who trained in Shuidee and Nahaidee.
  • Wado-ryu
    …originated by Hiroki Otsuka, who trained under Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shoto-kan-ryu. He took the characteristics of swordsmanship and jujutsu, which he had practiced since his childhood, and perfected them.

The Great Postwar Revolution|Karate Becomes Popular

The Great Postwar Revolution|Karate Becomes Popular

During World War II, karate in schooling is suspended.

After the war, as reconstruction progressed after the Battle of Okinawa, the number of karate dojos increased and karate became popular in earnest.

Furthermore, since Okinawa was under U.S. military rule at the time, U.S. military personnel would have more opportunities to see karate dojos.

Like U.S. servicemen also learn karate in a dojo.

As the number of karate dojos in Okinawa increased, people in the U.S. military also became interested in and trained in karate.

The trained U.S. servicemen then returned to the U.S., where they opened karate dojos and made other efforts to spread karate in the country.

The martial arts brought back from China by the ancient Japanese were fused with Okinawan martial arts and exported to the United States, where they spread throughout the world.

Formal competition rules are established.

By 1969, the first All Japan Karate Championship was held.

Only then will the rules be standardized and formal competition rules be established.

It is surprisingly recent considering that it has been less than 100 years since the rules of karate were officially established and the first All Japan Championships were held.

From here, karate rapidly grew to become the “KARATE of the world.

Formation of the World Karate Federation

In 1970, one year after the first All-Japan Championship, changes were taking place in the world.

The “World Karate Union” (later the World Karate Federation) was formed.

Furthermore, the karate population is expanding worldwide, with the first World Championships being held in Tokyo.

The Showa period was a time of upheaval for karate, as karate was renamed karate and the number of practitioners expanded to the point that the World Karate Federation was formed.

Modern Karate and the Future|Karate Spreading Around the World

Modern Karate and the Future|Karate Spreading Around the World

Karate is a traditional Japanese sport known to all modern Japanese.

How will karate develop now that it has become a well-known sport in the world?

Learn about karate in the modern era and anticipate its future development.

Why more than 100 million people around the world love it

Today, karate is known as the “KARATE of the world” and has grown into a sport with more than 100 million enthusiasts in over 150 countries.

The reason why people love it so much is because of [the philosophy of karate].

Karate is a martial art that pursues not only physical strength but also mental strength.

The aspect of fighting with respect and civility, honing one’s own spirit and skills, and respecting one’s opponent, has gained worldwide support and led to the development of today’s game.

Martial arts made compulsory and introduced into junior high school classes in Japan

In 2008, martial arts became compulsory in junior high school classes in Japan.

Of course, “budo” includes karate, and we can expect more junior high schools to introduce karate classes in the future.

Incidentally, in Okinawa Prefecture, the birthplace of karate, karate has been introduced in a fairly high percentage of junior high schools in the prefecture, with a karate implementation rate of over 80% (*as of 2014, according to the Okinawa Prefectural Board of Education Health and Physical Education Division).

It will be a step forward in connecting karate to future generations as students are exposed to karate more often.

Adopted as an Olympic event

It is still fresh in our minds that karate was adopted as an official sport for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

In fact, the “shape” was particularly responsive at this time.

For people from overseas who have never competed in karate before, it was their first experience to see karate kata, and the flawless performance by the Japanese representatives was a highlight of the event and drew a great response.

More and more people worldwide will be exposed to the appeal of karate, and the number of competitors and enthusiasts will increase.



Karate was born in Okinawa hundreds of years ago.

As Japanese people, we feel proud that our traditional culture, which has been carefully refined and passed down by our predecessors, is loved and appreciated around the world.

Let’s learn about the history of karate and its appeal, and continue to pass on the traditional culture of karate to the next generation.


[Reference site
Introduction to Okinawa Karate: Okinawa Karate – The Birthplace of Karate in Okinawa: Okinawa Policy: Cabinet Office
Karate “culture” transmitted from Okinawa to the world|Okinawa tourism information WEB site Okinawa Story
Karatedo – Sports Dictionary – Sasakawa Sports Foundation