History of Modern Karate

Originally, the martial art Te (“Hand”) developed in Okinawa as a system of self-defense.

Due to Okinawa’s frequent contact and exchange with China, it is certain that the Okinawan martial art was influenced

by Chinese kempo at some point during its development.

However, with only oral tradition and no formal contemporary written records,

it is not certain exactly when the art called Kara-Te first emerged in Okinawa.

It is thought that it developed roughly 500 years ago, when the dynastic ruler King Shoha unified the region after decades of warfare and issued an edict banning the possession of weapons on the island.

According to conventional accounts, a similar law forbidding the possession or use of weapons was re-issued and enforced by the Satsuma clan, who had invaded Okinawa in the early 1600’s and brought it under the rule of the Japanese Shogunate. It is believed that in this environment karate developed as a form of unarmed combat for protecting oneself and one’s country, and it was taught and practiced in secret.

Around 1900 Karate began to be more openly taught . In 1902 Karate was introduced to the Okinawan school system.

As Karate began to be more openly practiced public demonstrations were given.

At one such demonstration the Japanese Crown Prince was present,he was so impressed by the demonstration that he invited

the leaded Gichin Funakoshi to come to Tokyo give a demonstration.

In 1922 Funakoshi along with several assistants gave one of the first demonstrations of Karate outside Okinawa.

The Japanese were so impressed that Funakoshi was overwhelmed with requests to teach Karate. He decided to remain in Tokyo to teach and organize.He remained in Tokyo until his death in 1957.

Funakoshi is considered the father of modern karate.

The style of Karate taught by Funakoshi became known as Shotokan.

The word Shotokan (松濤館) can be divided into two words.

Shoto  (松濤) which was Gichin Funakoshi’s pen name (he wrote poetry).  Kan (館) means house or practice hall. Therefore, Shotokan means the place where Shoto practices.

In 1949 Funakoshi along with his senior students formed the Japan Karate Association.

He became the first Chief Instructor of JKA

Following Funakoshi’s death Masatoshi Nakayama took over as Chief Instructor.

Nakyama was instrumental in developing the famous JKA instructor program.

He was also noted for his scientific approach to Karate training. Nakayama greatly influenced the growth of Karate in the west through the publication of his book Dynamic Karate and his Best Karate series.

These books helped to standardize the practice of Shotokan Karate through out the world.

Gichin Funakoshi


Father of Modern Karate

Founder of JKA

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Masatoshi Nakayama


Chief Instructor of JKA


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