Who Founded Karate?


Karate is a martial art that originated in Okinawa, Japan, and has since spread throughout the world.

It is known for its striking techniques, including punches, kicks, and knee strikes, as well as its use of grappling and joint-locking techniques.

However, the question of who founded karate is not a straightforward one, as the development of the art was influenced by many individuals and cultural factors.

One of the most influential figures in the development of karate was Funakoshi Gichin, who is often credited with introducing the art to mainland Japan and popularizing it there.

Funakoshi was born in Okinawa in 1868 and began studying karate under various masters as a young man.

In 1922, he traveled to Tokyo to give a demonstration of karate at the First National Athletic Exhibition, and he remained in Japan to teach the art there.

Funakoshi’s teachings emphasized the importance of character development and self-discipline, as well as physical training, and his approach helped to make karate more accessible to a wider audience.

Origins of Karate

A serene dojo with ancient Japanese architecture, adorned with traditional martial arts weapons and symbols. A sense of history and reverence fills the air

Karate is a martial art that originated in Okinawa, Japan.

The word “karate” means “empty hand” in Japanese, which reflects the fact that karate practitioners do not use weapons.

Karate is a striking-based martial art that emphasizes speed, power, and accuracy.

Early Development

The origins of karate can be traced back to the Ryukyu Kingdom, which was an independent kingdom that existed on Okinawa from the 15th to the 19th century.

During this time, Okinawa was a trade hub that was heavily influenced by China and other neighboring countries.

Karate developed in Okinawa as a means of self-defense against bandits and other criminals.

It was initially practiced in secret, as the Ryukyu Kingdom had strict laws against carrying weapons.

Over time, karate evolved into a formal martial art with a standardized curriculum and ranking system.

In the early 20th century, karate was introduced to Japan, where it gained popularity and was further developed.

Influence of Chinese Kempo

The development of karate was heavily influenced by Chinese martial arts, particularly a style known as Chinese Kempo.

Chinese Kempo was introduced to Okinawa by Chinese traders and was adapted by Okinawan practitioners to create a new martial art that would later become known as karate.

Chinese Kempo emphasized circular movements, joint locks, and throws, which were incorporated into karate along with striking techniques.

The influence of Chinese Kempo can still be seen in many aspects of modern karate, including kata (forms) and techniques such as the kote uchi (forearm strike).

Also see: Who Founded Karate?

Gichin Funakoshi

Early Life

Gichin Funakoshi, born on November 10, 1868, in Okinawa, Japan, is the founder of Shotokan Karate.

He was the son of a low-ranking samurai and was introduced to karate by two of Okinawa’s top masters, AnkĊ Asato and Yasutsune Itosu.

Funakoshi was a sickly child, and his father encouraged him to study karate to improve his health.

Contribution to Karate

Funakoshi’s contribution to karate is immeasurable.

He is credited with introducing karate to mainland Japan and the rest of the world.

In 1922, he gave a demonstration of karate at the First National Athletic Exhibition in Tokyo, which was attended by the Emperor of Japan. This demonstration helped to popularize karate in Japan.

Funakoshi’s philosophy of karate was based on the concept of “karate-do,” which means “the way of the empty hand.”

He believed that karate was not just a martial art but a way of life.

Funakoshi placed a great emphasis on the development of character, self-discipline, and respect for others.

His teachings were not just limited to physical techniques but also included moral and ethical principles.

Shotokan Karate Foundation

Funakoshi founded the Shotokan Karate Foundation in 1938, which is still one of the most prominent karate organizations in the world.

The name “Shotokan” was derived from Funakoshi’s pen name, “Shoto,” which means “pine waves.”

Shotokan karate is known for its strong, linear techniques and powerful strikes.

Funakoshi’s legacy lives on through the millions of people who practice karate around the world.

He is remembered as one of the greatest karate masters of all time and a true pioneer in the world of martial arts.

Expansion of Karate

Karate in Okinawa

Karate originated in Okinawa, Japan, and it was initially practiced by the locals as a form of self-defense.

The art was developed by combining various techniques from Chinese martial arts with the indigenous martial arts of Okinawa.

Over time, Karate evolved into a popular sport and was introduced to the Japanese mainland in the early 20th century.

In Okinawa, Karate was taught in secret and was only passed down from master to student.

However, as the popularity of the art grew, it became more widely available, and many schools and dojos were established.

Today, Okinawa remains an important center for Karate, and it is home to many renowned masters and schools.

Global Spread

Karate’s popularity continued to grow, and it eventually spread to other parts of the world.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Karate was introduced to the United States by Japanese instructors, and it quickly gained a following.

Today, Karate is practiced in over 190 countries, and it is recognized as an official Olympic sport.

As Karate spread around the world, different styles and variations of the art were developed.

Some of the most popular styles include Shotokan, Goju-Ryu, and Shito-Ryu.

Each style has its own unique techniques and philosophy, but they all share the fundamental principles of Karate.

Styles and Influences


Shorin-Ryu is a style of karate that was founded by Choshin Chibana in 1933.

It is a blend of traditional Okinawan martial arts and Chinese martial arts.

The style emphasizes speed and agility, with quick, low stances and fast strikes.

Shorin-Ryu is known for its use of open-handed techniques, including palm strikes and knife-hand strikes.

The style also incorporates kicking techniques, throws, and joint locks.

Shorin-Ryu has been influential in the development of other karate styles, including Goju-Ryu and Shotokan.


Goju-Ryu is a style of karate that was founded by Chojun Miyagi in the 1930s.

It is a blend of traditional Okinawan martial arts and Chinese martial arts, with an emphasis on close-range combat and grappling techniques.

Goju-Ryu incorporates both hard and soft techniques, including powerful strikes and circular movements.

The style also emphasizes breathing techniques and meditation, which are believed to improve focus and concentration.

Goju-Ryu has been influential in the development of other karate styles, including Kyokushin and Shito-Ryu.

Other Styles

There are many other styles of karate that have been developed over the years, each with its own unique characteristics and influences.

Some of the most well-known styles include Shotokan, Wado-Ryu, and Kyokushin.

Shotokan is a style of karate that was founded by Gichin Funakoshi in the early 20th century. It is known for its powerful strikes and deep stances.

Wado-Ryu is a style of karate that was founded by Hironori Ohtsuka in the 1930s. It emphasizes fluid movements and evasion techniques.

Kyokushin is a style of karate that was founded by Masutatsu Oyama in the 1950s. It is known for its full-contact sparring and emphasis on physical conditioning.

Also see: Founded Karate

Modern Karate

Karate has evolved over the years to become a popular martial art around the world.

Today, it is not only used for self-defense but also as a competitive sport and as a form of exercise.

Sport Karate

Sport karate involves a set of rules and regulations that govern competitions.

Competitors are judged based on their technique, power, and speed.

The most popular form of sport karate is known as Kumite, which involves sparring with an opponent.

In sport karate, protective gear such as gloves, shin guards, and headgear are worn to minimize the risk of injury.

Competitions are held at various levels, including local, national, and international.

Karate in Popular Culture

Karate has become a popular subject in movies, TV shows, and video games.

Many popular characters, such as Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Chuck Norris, have helped to popularize karate in popular culture.

In addition to movies and TV shows, karate has also been featured in video games such as Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat.

These games have helped to introduce karate to a new generation of fans.

Notable Practitioners

Karate has a rich history and has been practiced by many notable individuals throughout the years. Here are just a few of the most famous karate practitioners:

  • Gichin Funakoshi: Known as the father of modern karate, Funakoshi was the founder of Shotokan karate.
  • He was instrumental in bringing karate to mainland Japan and was one of the first people to teach the martial art in a formal setting.
  • Mas Oyama: Oyama was the founder of Kyokushin karate and is widely regarded as one of the greatest karate practitioners of all time.
  • He was known for his incredible strength and endurance, and for his ability to break through solid objects with his bare hands.
  • Chojun Miyagi: Miyagi was the founder of Goju-ryu karate and is considered one of the most important figures in the history of karate.
  • He was a master of both hard and soft techniques and developed a unique approach to training that emphasized both physical and mental discipline.
  • Kenji Midori: Midori is a former Kyokushin karate champion and one of the most successful karate competitors of all time.
  • He is known for his powerful kicks and punches, as well as his unwavering commitment to the principles of martial arts.

These are just a few of the many notable practitioners who have helped to shape the history of karate. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced martial artist, learning about the achievements of these great individuals can help to inspire and motivate you on your own journey.

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