History Of Karate

 

Karate was developed on the island of Okinawa.  In 1377, the king of Okinawa expressed his allegiance to the emperor of China, which resulted in a huge influx of Chinese culture and customs. The methods of the skilled Chinese martial artists had a huge influence on the growth and development of the native Okinawan fighting systems. Many of our kata today came from China. By allowing a movement multiple applications, great amounts of information could be contained in a kata.

In 1477, the king of Okinawa put a ban on the private ownership of weapons by civilians. The banning of weapons resulted in the Okinawan people having no other option but to use their unarmed combat skills in the event of attack. At this time, all the Okinawan nobles were required to live close to the king. Many of the nobles would practise martial arts to ensure that they had the skills needed to maintain order and to protect the king should the need arise.

The Japanese took over Okinawa and again karate was banned. This resulted in it being practised in secret. This meant only a chosen few would be taught karate. The kata and, in particular, their applications became further shrouded in secrecy.  The only purpose behind a kata at this point in history was to record highly effective and brutal methods of combat, and to provide a training method to help perfect those methods.

In 1868, Japan became a democracy. Japanese authorities were keen to continue to foster many of the values associated with the past. It was felt that the practise of martial arts would promote health, would develop strong sprit and encourage morality in the Japanese people.

anko itosuIn 1901, Anko Itosu campaigned successfully to get karate onto the physical education program of an Okinawan elementary school. As it stood, Itosu believed karate to be too dangerous to be taught to children and set about disguising the more dangerous techniques. As a result of these modifications, the children were taught the kata as mostly blocking and punching. It is also said that Itosu also changed many of the more dangerous strikes (taisho, nukite etc.) into punches with the clenched fist.

Itosu's modifications resulted in huge changes in the way the art was taught. The emphasis was now placed firmly upon the development of physical fitness through the group practice of kata. The children would receive no instruction in the combative applications associated with the kata and deliberately misleading labels were adopted for the various techniques. Today, it is Itosu's terminology that is most commonly used throughout the world and it is important to understand why this terminology developed.

In the mid 1930's, Gichin Funakoshi - a student of Itosu and the founder of Shotokan karate - led a movement to gain karate national recognition from Japan's leading martial arts association. After numerous meetings and demonstrations, karate was finally granted national recognition, but there were a number of conditions attached. The Japanese insisted that karate develop a unified teaching curriculum, distance itself from its Chinese origins, adopt a standard training uniform (a lightweight Judo gi was decided upon), assign a system of ranking (the Kyu-Dan grade system of judo), develop a system of competition and to further reduce some of the more violent methods employed. If these changes had not been made it is extremely unlikely that karate would ever have left Okinawa, if it survived at all!

 

History Of Musashi

 

Miyamoto Musashi was a great figure in Japanese history. He was an effective military leader, for his great strategies. Musashi was also a great artist, being able to produce paintings, sculptures, and calligraphy which have become one of the finest among others in Japanese history.

Musashi however, is best known for his great skill as a swordsman. Today, he is remembered as a kenshi, or "sword saint" for his supreme skill with a sword, in more than 60 duels by the age of 29 and was victorious in all.

"Miyamoto Musashi's work is devoted to the art of war as a purely pragmatic enterprise. Musashi decries empty showmanship and commercialisation in martial arts, focusing attention on the psychology and physics of lethal assault and decisive victory as the essence of warfare."