Modern Karate (Japanese for Empty Hands) is a striking based martial art, which utilises punching, kicking, elbow strokes, knee strikes, open hand techniques such as spear-hands, knife-hands, and palm-heel strikes.
Historically, and in a few modern forms, grappling, throws, restraints, joint locks and vital point strikes are taught.
While it may not be as popular, always as effective, or as adaptable to MMA as other forms such as Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Wrestling. Karate has proven to be a highly effective form inside the octagon when used by the right practitioner.
Modern Karate developed on the Ryukyu Islands in Okinawa, Japan. It was brought to the Japanese mainland at the beginning of the 20th century, during a period of cultural exchanges between Japan and China.
Because despite peoples attitude of Karate in modern society as being ideologically identified with Japan, it is actually China that shows the history of Karate goes back much further-
Karate’s earliest recorded history began as a common fighting defined as “Te” among the Pechin class of the Ryukans, after trade relations were developed with the Ming Dynasty in around 1372.
There is no physical evidence of Karate’s roots before this time, however one popular theory, is that it actually came from India over a thousand years ago, and was brought to China by a Buddhist Monk called Bodhidarma.
So in around 1372 a large amount of Chinese families moved to Okinawa and introduced various forms of martial arts to the Ryukyu Islands, particularly in the Fujan province.
As the newly established community of Kumemura grew through the years, three main forms of Karate were created called Shuri-te, Naha-te and Tomari-te. Each style was named after the three towns from which they emerged.
Karate was not just a martial arts system, it also developed as a means for practitioners to develop psychological stability, concentration, fearlessness, perseverance, leadership skills and altruistic virtues.
Gichin Funakoshi the founder of Shotokan said many statements that explain Karate’s principles better then most in history –
“Within Karate one must be inwardly humble and outwardly gentle”
“you must never be easily drawn into a fight”
“in times of grave public crisis, one must have the courage, to face a million and one opponents”.
Funakoshi and many great Karate masters through time, all have stated that it is only through being humble, receptive to criticism, courteous, decisive and brave, that one will be open to understand the many secrets of Karate.
Learning Karate to start conflicts and dominate others has always been frowned upon within Karate communities throughout time, and practitioners with this starting point have always and still are to this day banned from Dojos for abusing the art.
Most Influential Figures:
Gichin Funakoshi: Founder of Shotokan.
Itosu Anko: Brought karate to Okinawan schools and simplified it for increased public acceptance.
Chojun Miyagi: Creator of the Gōjū-ryū style.
Hironori Otsuka: Creator of the Wadō-ryū style.
Kenwa Mabuni: Creator of the Shitō-ryū style.
Masutatsu Oyama: Founder of Kyokushin.
Developing Into The Modern Era:
In 1922 Gichin Funakoshi was invited to provide a Karate demonstration at Tokyo, by the Japanese ministry of Education. Then in 1924 Keio university introduced its first Karate club in mainland Japan, and from there spread into every Japanese University.
Here’s a few dates to note after this period –
1930s: Karate is first brought to Canada as more Japanese people immigrated.
1939: Japan opens Shoto-Kan, its first ever formal training school.
1945: The first Dojo is opened in the United States as many members of the US military learnt Karate during their time in Okinawa in WW2.
1949: The Japan Karate Association is formed.
1950s: Karate emerges in the United Kingdom.
1960s: Karate develops in the Soviet Union and is banned and unbanned several times over the next three decades.
1964: France Shotokan Karate is developed in France.
1989: Karate is legalised again in the Soviet Union.
So Karate is now a global martial art, with classes and schools in most countries you can think of, interest continued to explode in western culture after films like 1984s Karate Kid garnered much acclaim.
Now while Iv’e highlighted the main points here, Karate like many martial arts has such a long storied history, that it would take 10 books to explain all the finer details.
As I stated at the beginning of this history, Karate while not as common in MMA as other martial arts for various reasons, can be a devastating form with the right practitioner using it.
Here’s a few of the best Karate based fighters in MMA today: Stephen Thompson, Lyoto Machida, Conor Mcgregor, Sage Northcutt, Vitor Belfort and Georges St-Pierre.
If your interested in learning Karate, here’s a video to watch –
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If you want to look at various techniques right now then go HERE.