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WELSH ACADEMY OF MARTIAL ARTS - BARRY YMCA
THE HISTORY OF KARATE
WHO ARE WE
THE HISTORY OF KARATE
THE HISTORY OF KICKBOXING
RHYDIAN TOLCHER JAMES
LYNNE TOLCHER-JAMES
NEWS
CLASSES
WHAT DOES A BLACK BELT REPRESENT
BLACK BELTS ROLE OF HONOUR
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF A BLACK BELT
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS 2002 WAMA TO REPRESENT WALES AGAIN
LYNNE WITH "DON THE DRAGON" WILSON
TRAINING AND GRADING SYLLABUS
HALL OF FAME
INSTRUCTORS AND FIRST AID OFFICIALS
EXCELLENCE IN RECENT GRADINGS PRODUCING "A" GRADE STUDENTS
THE ROYAL VARIETY PERFORMANCE
HOW TO TIE YOUR BELT
OUR NINJA KIDS
KICKBOXING FOR LADIES
LYNNE WITH DAVID MITCHELL author of the "Young Martial Arts Enthusiast"
LYNNE/ RHYDIAN/PHILLIP WITH COLIN JACKSON
BEING A MARTIAL ART TEACHER
MEDITATION
CAN MARTIAL ARTS IMPROVE YOUR AWARENESS
MARTIAL ARTS CAN HELP IF YOU ARE BEING BULLIED
DONNA HILLBERG
STUDENT AND INSTRUCTOR
STUDENT OF THE YEAR AWARDS
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
LIVE CHAT
WELSH CHAMPIONS
NATIONAL AWARD WINNERS
NATIONAL MILLENNIUM AWARD WINNERS
THAI GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL VISIT
NOVICES STRIKE GOLD
WHY PRACTICE KARATE OR KICKBOXING
BREATHING TECHNIC
SPARRING AND FIGHTING STRATEGY
BAG WORK
ASTHMA AND KICKBOXING
BASIC TIPS
STRETCHING
Contact Us
LINKS

History of Karate
Funakoshi's Face

It is true that there is little that we can say that we truly "know" to be truth when it comes to the history of karate. Karate is not simply the development of a single style over a long period of time. We can't trace the roots of karate as easily as we can something like judo or kendo. Karate's origins are confused, partly because there is a lack of documentation about karate's beginnings but also because a lot of the early ideas of karate were shared among several different "masters" of different competing arts.

Today there are karate groups that call themselves "traditional" or "authentic" to their Okinawan roots. The truth of the matter is that the original masters of karate cooperated and shared different styles and ideas of empty-handed training in the hopes of learning from one another and benefiting mutually through the exchange of ideas and practices. This is actually a very positive thing for karate.

It means that our art is something that is meant to evolve and change, to grow and develop as new ideas and theories are introduced by different people. Karate has been, right from the very beginning, an act of collaboration. During the early days of karate Japan was not the Japan that we know today. The people of Okinawa did not see themselves as Japanese and the Japanese did not accept them as citizens either. The people of Okinawa were considered outsiders and foreigners, just as people of the West are considered today. In fact the Okinawan people had a rich culture and language of their own, and although influenced by the proximity of Japan were also influenced greatly by China, Taiwan, and other nations whose people traveled frequently through the South Pacific.

When karate came to Japan from Okinawa, many changes took place. The Japanese took the Okinawan art of karate (or to-de as it was also called) and made it their own. The Japanese have done this kind of cultural adaptation to all kinds of other cultures and do so even to this very day. French and Italian restaurants in Japan have a certain Japanese flavor and presentation to them that you would certainly not find anywhere else in the world. Disgusting though it seem, even McDonalds has things like green tea milkshakes and teriyaki burgers with globs of mayo.

During the heyday of karate making it to Japan, the nation was embroiled in war. Young men, hoping to improve their odds of survival during the Japanese war on Asia came in droves to Funakoshi's dojo to receive instruction. Many of these original students never came back to Japan again. The methods of training and the kinds of instruction that went on during Japan's wartime years is not readily shared with the Western world. The virtues of the dojo kun, particularly those of refraining from violent behavior, may not have been taught with the same insistency that they are today. Japan was at war with the world and at that time karate belonged primarily to the Japanese. The war of Japan on Asia is a dark page on the history of the nation. The atrocities of wartime activities in China have scars that still run very deep in Asia.

Gichin Funakoshi, as a karate master and teacher, was very much associated with the upper classes of Japanese society. His books were endorsed and supported by various high ranking military personnel and by the nobility of Japan. As an individual who may have had strong moral parameters for himself, his ability to have any influence on societal change may have been limited. Or perhaps he, like many of his countrymen, endorsed Japan's war efforts.

To this day, we simply do not have enough factual information to form knowledgeable opinions about who Gichin Funakoshi was and what kind of man and teacher he was to others

Was Karate something else before it was renamed!

The history of karate has about as many versions to it as the Beatles' "Let it Be" in karaoke bars all over Japan. We keep hearing all kinds of different things, different versions, myths, legends, wishful thinking, and basic lies all tangled up in one huge Gordian knot.

So, what is really the truth about the history of karate? Where did it come from? How did it get to be what it is today? Why are there so many different styles of karate? How is it possible that they all claim to be "traditional", implying that they are "original" or "authentic" as the "real" karate as opposed to all those other fakes out there.

Legend has it that karate was something else before it became karate. The popular belief is that it began long long ago somewhere in the misty past of Ancient Greece or India where some guy, whose name is unknown and thus mysterious, came over to China. The Chinese, who have been a meditative and pious people, learned the venerable art of this weaponless combat and changed it into something of their own.

The legend further mutates to suggest that it was the ancient Shaolin monks who formalized this training and made it an art. The Shaolin temple monks are renowned for their fighting prowess, their deep sense of spirit, and their superhuman abilities in punching and kicking.

What grew out of the Shaolin tradition was a myriad of different fighting styles that grew into the various schools of wushu, or kung fu in the contemporary. Kung fu forms are based largely on the actions, attacks, and reactions of animals. There is the white crane school or kung fu, the tiger school, the praying mantis school, the bear school, to name but a few.

Somehow, in the midst of all of this, a form of unarmed combat training found its way through China, to Taiwan, and then up to Okinawa. The legend continues that the crafty and extremely resourceful Okinawans developed this craft to suit their own needs.

As a largely agricultural society, the Okinawans became adept at unarmed conflict but also added different weapons to their repertoire of deadliness. It is from this point that our sticky tale becomes even stickier. There was a man named Gichin Funakoshi. This man was one man among many who learned the art of The Hand, or Te. As a school teacher he had hoped to find a way to introduce this art into the school system as a means of developing the physical education programs of Okinawa.

The exercises he designed for his physical education classes were adaptations of the karate that he was learning secretly from karate masters who lived nearby. In the early days of modern karate, the art's popularity was localized to Okinawa only but later came to the rest of Japan. In 1921 the Japanese Crown Prince (who later became Emperor Hirohito) saw a karate demonstration by Gichin Funakoshi and his traveling band of karate men. From there, karate spread in popularity due to the rave reviews of the Crown Prince.

Karate grows in many shapes and forms as other styles of karate come from Okinawa to the Japanese mainland, including Gojuryu, Wadoryu, and Shitoryu. University clubs throughout Tokyo and Osaka start forming. Karate has now become a standard "Japanese" activity and pastime.

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