History of Karate
Karate history can be traced back some 1400
years, to Daruma, founder of Zen Buddhism in Western India. Daruma is said
to have introduced Buddhism into China, incorporating spiritual and physical
teaching methods that were so demanding that many of his disciples would drop
in exhaustion. In order to give them greater strength and endurance, he
developed a more progressive training system, which he recorded in a book, Ekkin-Kyo, which can be considered the first book on
Karate of all time.
The physical training, heavily imbued with Daruma's philosophical principles, was taught in the Shaolin Temple in the year 500 A.D. Shaolin
(Shorin) kung-fu, from northern China, was
characterized by very colorful, rapid, and dynamic movements; the Shokei school of southern China was known for more powerful
and sober techniques. These two kinds of styles found their way to Okinawa, and
had their influence on Okinawa's own original
fighting method, called Okinawa-te (Okinawan hand) or simply te.
A ban on weapons in Okinawa for two long
periods in its history is also partly responsible for the high degree of
development of unarmed fighting techniques on the island.
In summary, Karate in Okinawa
developed from the synthesis of two fighting techniques. The first one, used by
the inhabitants of Okinawa, was very simple
but terribly effective and, above all, very close to reality since it was used
throughout many centuries in real combat. The second one, much more elaborate
and impregnated with philosophical teachings, was a product of the ancient
culture of China.
These two origins explain the double character of Karate--extremely violent and
efficient but at the same time a strict and austere discipline and philosophy
with a nonviolent emphasis.
The Influence of Master
Master Gichin Funakoshi
was the first expert to introduce Karate-do to mainland Japan, in 1916. One of the few
people to have been initiated into all the major Okinawan
Karate methods, Master Funakoshi taught a synthesis of the Okinawan
styles, as a total discipline. This method became known as Shotokan
(literally "house/school (kan) of pine waces
(shoto - Funakoshi's pen name)” ).
Because of the great popularity of the style in Japan and, later, around the world,
Funakoshi is widely considered to be the "father of modern
original Shotokan Dojo