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.
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.