What is Karate? The History of Karate

What is Karate? is a question asked by millions of people world wide. Often understood by the masses as a martial art propagated by Mr Miyagi and involves catching flies with chop sticks and standing on drift wood in crane stance.

The origins of Karate trace back to the ancient travels of Buddhist monks throughout Asia. Unarmed and often attacked during their travels, a weaponless form of self defence became necessary for their survival.

The early influence of these holy men led to the development of a unique physical activity known as Martial Arts.

One very well known establishment for the practice of martial arts named the Shaolin Temple—famous for its academy lifestyle, where monks selected to enter become very skilful and renowned for their creditable deeds.

Martial arts practice infiltrated throughout the Asian frontier; mainly in China and then later imported to Japan.

So what is Karate?

Karate was founded in the Ryukyu Kingdom, or now formally know as Okinawa, and is a fighting art developed from methods called ‘te’. ‘Te’ literally means hand, and in ‘Karate Do’ translates to ‘Open Hand Way’. These ‘te’ predominantly use striking techniques including punching (including elbow strikes), kicking (including knee strikes),  maneuvering footwork, grappling and throwing.

Karate was then further developed by Chojun Miyagi Sensei who founded ‘Goju Ryu Karate do’ which translates to the ‘hard soft style open hand way’.

For more information about ‘What is Karate?’ there are a series of 5 videos on on Youtube from a lecture conducted by Charles C. Goodin Sensei from the Hawaii Karate Museum.

1 Karate in the Ryukyu Kingdom and Hawaii


2 Karate in the Ryukyu Kingdom and Hawaii


3 Karate in the Ryukyu Kingdom and Hawaii


4 Karate in the Ryukyu Kingdom and Hawaii


5 Karate in the Ryukyu Kingdom and Hawaii



I hope this answers your questions around ‘What is Karate?’. If you have anything else you would like to add feel free to comment below. Sharing is caring 🙂

What is Goju Ryu?

What is Goju Ryu? - Chojun Miyagi Hanshi Founder of Goju Ryu Karate doWhat is Goju Ryu?

In the late 1800s, an enthusiastic youngster by the name of Chojun Miyagi, born of noble class on the island of Okinawa, began to study this unique empty hand combat. His mentor, a family friend, recommended a well known instructor in their region. This instructor would inspire Miyagi to venture to mainland China to further explore various martial arts methods in a quest for advanced studies.

This search led Miyagi to the hard school of Shaolin Chuan and the soft school of Pakua Chan. His experience during this short period in China proved invaluable.

Upon returning to Okinawa Miyagi commenced teaching a martial arts system that has proven to be successful. Its success was recognised by the education department and local authorities as a tool that provided locals with a new form of cultural activity and physical education.

Master Miyagi founded the Goju style of karate. Goju Ryu, or the ‘hard and soft’ style, was named in 1930 following a demonstration by one of Master Miyagi’s students at a Japanese martials arts festival.

In 1931 Miyagi Sensei ventured into Japan with his Goju Ryu. He disseminated the Karate of Okinawa through universities, in the process claiming national popularity. His most committed student was Gogen Yamaguchi of the Retsumeikan University, Kyoto.

The Japanese martials arts fraternity, Butokukai, formally accepted the registration of the Goju Ryu as a practice of karate in 1933.

Miyagi Sensei is said to have been the first karate teacher to propagate the art to the western world. For more information about the historyof karate please read “What is Karate?

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