A Dive into the History of Modern Japanese Karate

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Hi everyone, Sensei Craig here and after many years of umming and ahhing, I’ve finally decided to start blogging Now remember, I’m no Jesse Enkamp but I’ve been encouraged to find an online space to share some thoughts and ideas and, what better place than our brand new website.

I thought I would start at what is, for me anyway, a basic overview of modern karate and its roots. So, here we go:

Karate is a martial art renowned for its precise strikes, graceful movements, and disciplined philosophy while boasting a rich history steeped in tradition and evolution. Its journey from ancient Okinawan roots to a globally recognized discipline is a testament to human resilience, cultural exchange, and the relentless pursuit of self-improvement.

The origins of modern Japanese karate can be traced back to the island of Okinawa, where a blend of indigenous Okinawan martial arts and Chinese martial arts laid the foundation for what would become known as karate. Influenced by centuries of trade and cultural exchange between Okinawa and China, these early forms of combat were practiced in secrecy, as the ruling class of Okinawa prohibited the possession of weapons among commoners. Thus, unarmed combat techniques flourished, giving rise to karate’s emphasis on striking, blocking, and evasion.

It wasn’t until the early 20th century that karate began to spread beyond Okinawa, thanks in part to pioneers like Anko Itosu, often referred to as the “Grandfather of Modern Karate”, Kenwa Mabuni, Gichin Funakoshi, and others. It was Gichin Funakoshi that properly introduced karate to mainland Japan in 1922, when he gave a demonstration of Karate at the First National Athletic Exhibition in Tokyo.

Throughout the 20th century, karate continued to evolve as practitioners from different regions and backgrounds contributed their insights and innovations. Styles such as Goju-ryu, Wado-ryu, and Shito-ryu emerged, each with its own unique principles and techniques. Meanwhile, karate masters traveled the world, spreading their knowledge and establishing schools and organizations to promote the art’s practice and philosophy. At Samurai Karate, we practice Shito-ryu karate, and honour it’s founder, Kenwa Mabuni.

The 1960s and 1970s saw a surge in karate’s popularity, thanks in part to Hollywood films featuring martial arts legends like Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris. These movies captivated audiences worldwide, sparking interest in martial arts and leading to a boom in karate dojos and tournaments.

In 1970, the World Karate Federation (WKF) was established, providing a unified platform for karate practitioners to compete at the international level. Karate made its debut as a demonstration sport at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and achieved full Olympic status at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, further solidifying its place on the world stage.

Today, karate continues to thrive as a martial art, a sport, and a way of life for millions of practitioners worldwide. Its enduring appeal lies not only in its effectiveness as a form of self-defence but also in its emphasis on discipline, respect, and personal development.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief history of modern Japanese Karate. In my next post, I’ll delve more into the ancient origins of Karate, when it was Tode, Okinawa and more. I hope you’ll stay with me and we can enjoy this journey together.

A Dive into the History of Modern Japanese Karate
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