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Now that the Olympic is over, Is it over for Karate in the future Olympics?

Updated: Aug 14, 2021

It took karate 50 years to be included and just a few days to be excluded from the Summer Olympics. Why?

Some Background

According to ancient Okinawan legend, Karate had its beginnings in India with a Buddhist monk named Daruma. Tradition says that Daruma traveled across the Himalayan Mountains from India to the Shaolin Temple in Honan Province of China. There he began teaching the other monks his philosophies of physical and mental conditioning. Legend has it that his teachings included exercises for maintaining physical strength and self defense. This same monk known as Bodhidharma in India and as Ta Mo in China, is credited with founding the school of Buddhist philosophy known as "Ch´an" in China and as "Zen" in Japan. The Okinawans believe that the art known as Karate today came from those original teachings of Daruma through an Okinawan who visited or lived for some time in China at the Shaolin Temple. Whether or not this is true, it is obvious that there are similarities in the Okinawan art of Karate and the language and martial arts of China. Further, we must assume that the Karate of Okinawa developed from trial and error of fighting experiences into a different and unique martial art.

The birthplace of karate is Okinawa not mainland Japan as many believe, Both areas have a vast difference in mentality and approach to Karate and some good and some bad. The Okinawans see karate as "Bunka" in the traditionalist on the Island karate could never be a sport, tempering and training everyday to improve ones mind, body and spirit is what the ultimate aim of karate is to the Okinawan. Generations of secrecy have shed a veil of mystery around the history and origin of Okinawan karate. To a certain degree, this veil of secrecy still exists. This, coupled with the general lack of written records, has created the lack of information on the early years of Ryukyu martial arts. What little information we may have has come to us by scattered bits and pieces that somehow have come into the possession of modern karate historians or from those of us who were fortunate enough to have been told some of the history from an Okinawan sensei. Nevertheless, any attempt to write on karate “history” will leave many stones unturned.

Some History

Early Okinawan karate, or tode (“China Hand”) as it was called, owes its origin to a mixture of indigenous Okinawan fighting arts and various “foot fighting” systems and empty-hand systems of Southeast Asia and China. Being seafaring people, the Okinawans were in almost constant contact with mainland Asia. It is quite likely that Okinawan seamen visiting foreign ports were impressed with local fighting techniques and incorporated these into their own fighting methods. Interest in unarmed fighting arts increased during the 14th century when Chuzan King Sho Hashi established his rule over Okinawa and banned all weapons. A more rapid development of tode followed in 1609 when the Satsuma clan of Kyushu, Japan, occupied Okinawa and again banned the possession of weapons. Thus tode or Okinawa-te, as the Satsuma samurai soon called it, became the only means of protection left to the Okinawans. It was this atmosphere that honed the early karate-like arts of Okinawa into a weapon, enabling the island people to conduct a guerrilla-type war with the Japanese samurai that lasted into the late 1800’s. So tode or Okinawa-te was developed secretly, thus preventing the Japanese from killing the deadly art’s practitioners and teachers. Tode remained underground until the early 1900’s, when it was brought into the Okinawan school system’s physical education program.

Development of Karate Styles

Chatan Yara was an early Okinawan master of whom some information exists. Some authorities place his birth at about 1670, in the village of Chatan, Okinawa; others place his birth at a much later date. In any case, he contributed much to Okinawa karate. He reportedly studied in China for 20 years. His bo and sai techniques greatly influenced Okinawan kobudo, his Kata, "CHATAN YARA NO SAI," "CHATAN YARA SHO NO TONFA," and "CHATAN YARA NO KON" are widely practiced today. Most modern karate styles can be traced to the famous Satunuku Sakugawa (1733-1857) called "Tode" Sakugawa. Sakugawa first studied under Takabara Peichin of Shuri. Later, Sakugawa went to China to train under the famous Kusanku. Kusanku had been a military attache in Okinawa. When Master Kusanku returned to China, Sakugawa followed and remained in China for six years. In 1762, he returned to Okinawa and introduced his kempo ("fist way"). This resulted in the karate we know today. Sakugawa became a famous samurai and was given the title of Satunuky or Satonushi, titles given to Okinawan warriors for service to the Okinawan King. Sakugawa had many famous students; among them were:








Sakugawa contributed greatly to Okinawan karate. We honor him today by continuing many of the concepts he introduced. Sakugawa’s greatest contribution was in teaching the great “Bushi” Matsumura Sokon.

Shuri and Naha Te

Okinawa, the birth place of karate ,has produced many versions or individual styles of its bare-handed fighting art. Some styles evolved from the teachings of different masters, other styles are indicative of a particular town, or villager family tradition handed down from one generation to another. However in terms of the main stream of historical development of karate, there are really only two styles. One style is known as Shuri-Te(Shuri hands) and the other is Naha-Te(Naha hands).

Naha-Te was developed around the principal port city of Naha, a large trade center. This method of Te (empty hand fighting) was perpetuated by Bushi (warrior) Sakiyama (b.1819), Arakaki Kamadeunchu (1840-1920) and Kanryo Higashionna (1851-1915). Naha-Te ultimately became known as Shorei Ryu (inspirational style) and evolved into the Goju Ryu and Uechi Ryu styles of modern karate. The use of soft circlular blocks in Goju and Uechi Ryu make them similar although Uechi Ryu Shows a much stronger Chinese influence.

Shuri-Te, on the other hand, was a style that developed mainly in the ancient city of Shuri, the ancient capital of Okinawa. This is where the king and members of the nobility lived. Actually another style known as Tomari-Tewas a closely related system and was considered to be an off shoot of Shuri-Te. Tomari-Te was practiced in Tomari Village. This village was located close to Shuri and was populated mostly by farmers and fishermen. Tomari-Te eventually blended back into Shuri-Te. Ultimately Shuri-Te developed into Shorin Ryu (Young Forest Style). Of the two styles of Okinawan Karate, it should be noted that the Shuri-Te system is characterized by speedy movements rather than the more forceful movements of the Naha-Te system. Shuri-Te was a more offensive style while Naha-Te was a more defensive one. The differences of style are really only surface differences as both styles are derived from similar Chinese martial traditions. Naha-Te seems to have more of the soft-techniques and emphasis on breathing and control of Ki (intrinsic energy) influenced by Taoist philosophy. While Shuri-Te appears to be derived from the Shaolin Kenpo Style. The Shuri-Te style was practiced by the samurai of the court at Shuri Castle. The original Shuri-Te and its evolved counterpart Shorin Ryu traces its history back over two hundred years in Okinawa.

Karate (空手)is a martial art developed in the in what is now Okinawa, Japan. It was developed from indigenous fighting methods called te (手, literally "hand"; Tii in Okinawan) and Chinese kenpō. Karate is a striking art using punching, kicking, knee and elbow strikes, and open-handed techniques such as knife-hands. Grappling, locks, restraints, throws, and vital point strikes are taught in some styles. A karate practitioner is called a karateka (空手家).

Shigeru Egami, Chief Instructor of Shotokan Dojo, opined "that the majority of followers of karate in overseas countries pursue karate only for its fighting techniques...Movies and television...depict karate as a mysterious way of fighting capable of causing death or injury with a single blow...the mass media present a pseudo art far from the real thing."

Shoshin Nagamine said "Karate may be considered as the conflict within oneself or as a life-long marathon which can be won only through self-discipline, hard training and one's own creative efforts."

For many practitioners, karate is a deeply philosophical practice. Karate-do teaches ethical principles and can have spiritual significance to its adherents. Gichin Funakoshi ("Father of Modern Karate") titled his autobiography Karate-Do: My Way of Life in recognition of the transforming nature of karate study. Today karate is practiced for self-perfection, for cultural reasons, for self-defense and as a sport. In 2005, in the 117th IOC (International Olympic Committee) voting, karate did not receive the necessary two thirds majority vote to become an Olympic sport. It is claimed there are 50 million karate practitioners worldwide, this includes all types of karate including the Olympic type.

The institutionalizing of Karate as a recognized martial art and sport began in 1949. when the Japan Karate Association through the university system was born. Note that, at that time, Karate has spread across the globe already, and dojos were teaching its principles in multiple states. But, this was the first official National Association for Karate as a sport.

At this time a body in Japan by the name Federation of All Japan Karate-do Organization (FAJKO) was created in an attempt to unite all karate styles.

The rapid development of the art made the World Karate Federation (WKF) possible only 21 years after the JKA was founded. WKF is founded in 1970., and is still today the leading organization for sport Karate. The biggest honors are won in their tournaments. Also, the WKF united the rule sets and developed a system of regulations and scoring held in all the competitions in sport Karate in the world.

It was not recognized as an Olympic sport, but it will make its first appearance in the next Olympic Games. They were supposed to be held in Tokyo, Japan in 2020, but the Games were canceled and will probably be held in 2021. The location stays the same, though, which is perfect – to induct Karate into the Olympics in the native country where the art was developed.

To be continued.........

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