Who Started Karate?

Karate is a martial art originated in Ryukyu Islands that has become world-renowned for its intricate techniques, power, and strength. The practice of karate involves striking, kicking, knee and elbow strikes, and open hand techniques. It is a martial art form renowned for its precision, making it a sought-after art form for self-defense and competition alike.

But who started karate? This is a frequently asked question, and the answer is more complex than one might think. In this blog post, we will explore the origins of karate and the individuals who contributed to its development.

The Roots of Karate

The roots of karate can be traced back to the Ryukyu Islands, located off the coast of Japan, which is now known as the Okinawa prefecture. Due to the island’s geographical location and the frequent trade relationships with China, the island enjoyed cultural exchanges with China for many centuries. This means that the influence of Chinese martial arts and culture was strong in the Ryukyu Islands.

There is evidence to suggest that karate’s early origins date back to the 6th century when Bodhidharma, an Indian monk, brought his style of fighting and meditation to China. The style is referred to as Shaolin Kung Fu, and it is believed to have had an impact on the development of karate.

As Okinawa continued to develop its unique form of martial arts, it was heavily influenced by traditional Chinese martial arts, particularly Shaolin Kung Fu. Okinawa’s martial arts eventually gave birth to karate, a term derived from the Japanese words „kara“ meaning „empty“ and „te“ meaning „hand.“

The Influence of Sokon Matsumura

Sokon Matsumura was a legendary figure in the development and popularization of karate. Born in 1798 in the Ryukyu Islands, Matsumura was trained in the martial arts from an early age, and he became one of the most skilled practitioners of karate in the region.

Matsumura was the first person to combine the various martial arts forms practiced in the islands and develop a unified system known as Shuri-te. This style was named after the Shuri prefecture, the place where Matsumura resided for many years. Shuri-te was characterized by fast and powerful movements that were easy to learn, making it popular among the island’s people.

Matsumura taught martial arts to the Ryukyu Kingdom’s royal family and played a pivotal role in the martial arts‘ development. The techniques he taught soon spread throughout the Ryukyu Islands and became the basis for modern-day karate.

Gichin Funakoshi

Gichin Funakoshi, born in 1868, is another pivotal figure in the history of karate. Funakoshi became an understudy of Itosu Ankō, who was a disciple of Matsumura. Funakoshi spent many years studying and practicing karate and eventually became a notable figure in the development of the martial art.

Funakoshi is best known for his significant contributions to the standardization and popularization of karate. In 1922, he was invited to mainland Japan to demonstrate his unique style at a martial arts tournament, which was hosted by the then Crown Prince.

Funakoshi was invited to stay in Japan and teach karate, and he established the first official karate dojo in Tokyo in 1931. He was instrumental in developing standardized karate techniques and developed a grading system to monitor how well students learned the martial art.

Who Started Karate?


Karate is a popular martial art that originated in Okinawa, Japan. It has since evolved to be practiced worldwide, becoming an extremely popular activity for people looking to improve their physical fitness, discipline, and self-defense skills. Despite its popularity, there is still much debate about who exactly started karate. In this blog post, we look at some of the most frequently asked questions about the origins of karate and seek to provide evidence-based answers.

What is Karate?

Karate is a martial art that emphasizes striking techniques with punches, kicks, knees, elbows, and open-hand techniques. Karate practitioners also practice throws, joint locks, and other grappling-based techniques. It is said that karate developed as a self-defense system in Okinawa, Japan, during the Ryukyu Dynasty (1392-1879).

Who Started Karate?

There is still much debate about who started karate. However, many believe that the originator of karate was a man named Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953). Chojun Miyagi was a practitioner of Naha-te, which was one of the three main martial art styles during the early 20th century in Okinawa.

Chojun Miyagi developed a style of karate called Goju-ryu, which is still practiced today. Miyagi’s Goju-ryu karate was heavily influenced by Chinese martial arts, which he learned during his travels to China.

What is the Connection Between Karate and Chinese Martial Arts?

The art of karate was heavily influenced by Chinese martial arts, especially through Okinawa’s interactions with China during the Ryukyu Dynasty. Chinese martial arts were introduced to Okinawa, and the Okinawan martial artists adapted these Chinese techniques to create their own unique style of martial art.

Karate practitioners incorporated the concepts of energy, movement, and precision from Chinese martial arts such as Kempo, and Tai Chi. These influences significantly impacted the development of karate, which incorporated new ideas and techniques from different martial arts styles.

What is Okinawan Karate?

Okinawan karate is a form of karate that originated in Okinawa, the largest island in southwest Japan. It is said that Okinawan karate is the ancestor of all karate styles today. It incorporates many techniques from various martial arts styles, including Chinese martial arts, Japanese martial arts, and indigenous Okinawan martial arts.

Okinawan karate is generally characterized by shorter stances, quick and powerful strikes, and low kicks. Various Okinawan karate styles were developed over the years, with each emphasizing different principles, techniques, and practices.

What is Japanese Karate?

Japanese karate refers to the karate styles that were developed and practiced in Japan during the early 20th century. These styles were heavily influenced by Okinawan karate, which was introduced to Japan during that period.

Japanese karate is generally characterized by longer stances, deep breathing, and powerful blocks. Some of the most popular Japanese karate styles include Shotokan, Shito-ryu, and Goju-ryu.

How to Find Information About the Origins and History of Karate

Karate is a martial art that has been practiced for centuries, and its origins and evolution have been a topic of interest for many. If you are curious about the history of karate and want to learn more about its roots, here is a step-by-step guide on how to find information on this fascinating topic.

Step 1: Start with the Basics

Before diving into the origins of karate, it is important to have a basic understanding of what the art entails. You can start by researching what karate is, how it is practiced, and what its key principles are. This will provide a foundation for further research on the subject. Some good sources for this basic information include reputable martial arts websites, books, and even YouTube videos.

Step 2: Research the Origins of Karate

The origins of karate can be traced back to the ancient martial arts traditions of Okinawa, Japan. You can start by looking for reliable sources that provide a detailed history of how karate evolved over time. This could include books, articles, and online resources that are authored by experts with an in-depth understanding of the martial art.

Step 3: Consult With Experts

If you are serious about learning the history of karate, why not speak to an expert in the field? Look for a karate dojo or martial arts school near you and get in touch with the instructor to see if they are willing to share their knowledge with you. You could also attend martial arts seminars or workshops, which may provide valuable insights into the history and evolution of karate.

Step 4: Visit Museums and Historical Sites

Many museums and historical sites around the world have extensive collections or exhibits on martial arts, including karate. Consider visiting places like the Okinawa Karate Museum or the Japan Karate Association headquarters to learn more about the history of karate firsthand. As well as providing context, these sites can also prove to be visually appealing and even inspiring, so make sure to take some photos or make notes during your visit.

Step 5: Analyze Primary Sources

If you are serious about researching the history of karate, you should also look for primary sources on the topic. These can include ancient texts, manuscripts, and other materials that provide direct evidence of how karate was practiced and evolved over time. Some primary sources may be available online, but for others, you may need to visit a library or museum to access them.

Step 6: Read Academic Journals

There are many academic journals dedicated to martial arts research, including karate. You can subscribe to these journals or check articles that are published online. This will give you access to the latest research and insights into the evolution of the martial art.

Step 7: Attend Seminars and Workshops

Finally, attending seminars and workshops is a great way to learn more about the history of karate from experts in the field. Many martial arts organizations and schools offer these types of events, which can be held locally, nationally or even internationally. Attending such events will give you a chance to connect with other karate enthusiasts and learn from some of the best in the business.


Karate is a complex and fascinating martial art with a rich history that spans centuries. By following the steps outlined above, you can gain a deeper understanding of the practice and its roots, and become a more informed karate practitioner. Remember to use reputable sources when conducting research, and don’t be afraid to consult with experts in the field. With time and dedication, you can become an authority on the history of karate, and share your knowledge with others who are curious about this ancient martial art.

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