WHAT IS KARATE?
Karate-do is a martial art originated in Okinawa, modified and transformed in a way of life by Master Gichin Funikoshi. Until before these modifications, it was just a group of techniques that permitted self defence without weapons other than your hands and feet. Though there was some Chinese influence, the development was mostly Okinawan, and thus Japanese.
Master Funikoshi, influenced by traditional martial arts from the main japanese islands,kyudo, kendo, judo for example, he modified Karate, that until that moment could have been called Karate-jutsu, a fighting art and emphasized the philosophical aspects, this way all that was learnt could be extrapolated to the daily life of the student. This is why Karate is a way of life: Karate-do (do, means way or road). Gichin Funikoshi, thus, combined Karate techniques with traditional Budo (the martial way), inserting the essence of Budo in the heart of Karate -- the real way of martial arts. The Budo word is formed by two Chinese characters, bu is formed by two symbols, one means to stop, inside another that represents two weapons, two crossed halberds, thus, bu, means to stop conflict. In Master Funikoshi's own words: "Since Karate is a budo, this meaning should be deeply considered, and the fists should not be used heedlessly." Shotokai Chile, has modified its name from Karate-do to Karate Budo, to emphasize its difference from so many other Karate-do's that have very little of the original foundations, sort of what Master Funikoshi did when he modified the Kara character and added the do.
The word Karate is also formed by two characters, the first one kara (empty) and the other(hand) the first one having many sides to it. The first one is the least subtle and the most straightforward, through the practice of karate, self defence techniques are learnt, where no weapons are needed, other than hands, feet or other parts of the body. Secondly, and in the words of Master Funikoshi: "Just as it is the clear mirror that reflects without distortion, or the quiet valley that echoes a sound, so must one who would study Karate-do purge himself of selfish and evil thoughts, for only with a clear mind and conscience can he [she] understand that which he [she] receives. This is another meaning of the element kara in Karate-do."
Another meaning given by the Master is that of always striving to be inwardly humble and outwardly gentle, thus meaning a internal emptiness of egoism and acting gently and moderately. Finally he talks about the elemental form of the Universe, which is emptiness (kara), "and thus, emptiness is form itself. The kara of Karate-do has this meaning." After what's been said, it is clear that Karate-do and Karate Budo are much, much more than mere self-defence techniques, actually, such a definition is a far shot from the real essence of Karate as a philosophy, which strives to develop the inner qualities of a human being and the search of perfection of your character, through strenuous training in the do and budo martial arts.
Origins of Karate
The origins of Modern Japanese Karate can be traced back to Okinawa. During the government of Okinawan King Shohashi in 1429, he unified the islands of Okinawa under his rule and banned all use of weapons. This prohibition gave a great impetus to the populace to practice empty-handed combat, known as Okinawan-te, for self defence.
Moreover, in 1609, the Okinawan islands were conquered by the Japanese warlord Shimazu. As a consequence of the Okinawans refusing to help Shimazu, he banned the use of weapons in the country. During this era, the art of empty handed fighting became popular and many farming tools were cleverly converted by the people to be used as weapons. The Nunchakus, Tonfa and the Sai were formerly farming tools used as weapons, just to name a few.
Click the Images Below to View Fullsized
Karate masters Anko Itosu and Kanryo Higashionna were the first Karate instructors in Okinawa. Many talented Okinawans including Kenwa Mabuni (Founder of Shotoryu), Gichin Funakoshi (Founder of Shotokan) and Chojun Miyagi (Founder of Goju Ryu) came to understudy from both instructors (Kenwan Mabuni) or either of them. (Funakoshi from Itosu and Miyagi from Higashionna respectively).
In 1879, the Ryukyu Islands became Japanese provinces and Karate was brought formally into Japan by Okinawan experts in the early 1900's.