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The Origin of Karate- Part II: The Global Spread

We read in part I of The Origin of Karate about the Chinese origin, the influence of Mongols and the famous Shaolin temple.

If you came straight to this blog, I recommend reading part I to understand the origin. However, this blog may also be read on its own as a story of the spread of Karate.

The Chikara Kurabe

Chikara Kurabe was a brutal fighting method that came into existence around the same time as the end of the Han period, around AD 200. Nomi No Sukune and Tagima No Kehaya were the oldest recorded fighters in Japanese history.

Tagima was a famous champion from the Nara (then Yamato) region. The Emperor chose Nomi to challenge Tagima.

Nomi won the fight, breaking Tagima's ribs and hips with brutal kicks. Chikara Kurabe was also the first recorded fight that used kicking techniques.

Chikara Kurabe became extremely popular as no-rules fights. It also became a means of war preparation.

Warriors- Ancient China
Ancient Warriors


However, Chikara Kurabe evolved under Kumi-Uchi with some restrictions as centuries passed.

Later, around A.D. 785, towards the end of the Nara period, armour made using kicks and punches less futile, replacing Kumi-Uchi with Jiu-Jitsu. Jiu-Jitsu also used throws, joint locks and strangulations apart from strikes making it more practical in the given situation.

Jiu-Jitsu in Action

Back to Kempo

We detoured ancient times to see the origin of Kumi-Uchi and Jiu-Jitsu. However, as we read in part-I of this blog, how Kempo came into existence.

Chen Yuan Ping (or Gen Pin Chin) introduced Kempo (Ch'uan-fa, the way of the fist) to Japan as Karate around 1627. He also introduced Sai, which was later adapted and modified by the Police.

1868 marked the end of the feudal age and the beginning of the Meiji era. The Samurai had to lay down their weapons and cut their tresses, symbolising their status. The popularity of Jiu-Jitsu and Kempo declined as Japan opened itself to foreigners. Master Jigaro Kano created Judo from Jiu-Jitsu, which gained immense popularity in local competitions.

Master Jigaro Kano was the first to introduce the belt system.
The end of Samurai

Okinawan Karate reaches Japan

In 1879, the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa being part of it) became a Japanese province, and the Okinawan Karate reached Kapan. In 1886, Master Anko Asato defeated every famous martial artist, including Sakujiro Yokoyama, the strongest judoka of that time.

In 1911, an admiral of the Japanese Navy selected his officers to learn Karate. A demonstration happened, which included experts, including Gichin Funakoshi, under the guidance of Itosu Anko. The crown prince of Japan saw the demonstration and invited them to the National Athletic Exhibition in Tokyo, organised by the Ministry of Education.

In 1922, Gichin Funakoshi published the first karate book, Ryukyu Kempo Karate.

The exhibition opened the path for masters like Motobu Choki (Founder- of Gojuryu Karate) and Kenwa Mabuni (Founder- of Shitoryu Karate) to teach Karate across Japan.

In 1924, the first university Karate club came into existence, and then the University of Tokyo became the first to introduce protective equipment for competitions held later in 1930.

Kori Hisataka introduced Karate to Taiwan in 1929 and reintroduced it to China in 1932 on the occasion of the creation of the Chinese Confederation of Manchuria, the first official recognition of Japanese Karatedo by China. He also introduced Karate to Thailand, Korea, Burma, Afghanistan, Russia, and Mongolia.

Okinawa- Birthplace of Karate
Okinawa- Birthplace of Karate

Mas Oyama Gives Karate a Power Push

The United States invited Norimichi Yabe to demonstrate Karate in the United States in 1920. However, after World War II, Masutatsu Oyama (Founder of Kyokushin Karate) gave intense demonstrations of defeating boxers, wrestlers and conquering bulls with his bare hands.

In 1963, Masayuki Hisataka began to teach Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo in the United States and officially represented Japan at the New York World Fair. He introduced Karate throughout the United States, giving it its popularity today across the globe.

The Global Spread

Karate spread throughout the world over the past century. Initially developed in Okinawa, Japan, it has since become globally popular. This spread attributes to the globalisation of martial arts, as well as the popularity of Karate in movies and television shows.

Movies like The Karate Kid helped popularise Karate.

Recently, Karate fighters like GSP and Lyoto Machida in UFC also helped revamp the image of Karate as a fighting art.

Additionally, many people are attracted to Karate's discipline and physical fitness. As a result, Karate has become a widely recognised and respected martial art, with millions of practitioners worldwide.

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