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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

The History of Karate

Updated: Nov 29, 2018

Karate is a word that in Japanese means ‘empty’ (Kara) hand (te) and it is a form of martial arts that uses the body rather than weapons for self-defense. While the actual date that Karate began is not known, we do know that it can be traced as far back in time as 500 A.D. to the Indian abbot Bodhidharma. Bodhidharma, the legends say, found that monks were not very disciplined, and he wanted to instill mental as well as physical strength in them to maintain discipline and become worthy fighters.

In theory, karate was formed from a combination of teaching styles from many different people including priests and monks from China as well as Tibet and India. From China, it is believed that karate was brought to Okinawa in Japan in the early 1900’s. Karate was prevalent in the Okinawan cities of Shuri, Naha and Tomari. From each of the three cities came a different technique of hand to hand fighting that evolved over the years.

During the early days of karate in Japan, due to the Samurai’s who ruled Japan, there was a strict ban on weapons in Japan and there were also rules that prevented people from learning martial arts. Samurais were military nobility and their teachings are still prevalent in today’s martial arts. Teachers started training students in karate without the Samurai’s permission to do so.

People visiting Japan were able to learn karate during their time spent in the country and that included U.S. military members who were stationed in Japan in the mid 1940’s. Many members of the U.S. military brought their knowledge of karate home with them when they returned to the United States and since the early 1950’s, karate has grown in popularity worldwide. Karate is used today by students, men and women and even private security guards working in the security industry.

Throughout the years, there have been a few unsuccessful people who have made feeble attempts to try banning martial arts, including karate because they feel it goes against their religious beliefs or for other reasons. Thankfully for those who practice karate and other types of martial arts, none of those have been successful in their attempts and chances are they never will.

Today, karate has become a very popular sport that is taught in thousands of martial arts studios worldwide. It’s taught in self-defense courses for men, women and children and even through online courses. It’s not only used as a means of self defense but it’s fun to learn as well. You can even see karate on the big screen with movies like ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,’ ‘Bloodsport’ and many more.

With karate, it is not how large or strong you are, but it is all about how fast you are and how well you understand where to strike the body to defeat an assailant. It is a martial art that helps participants bring their body and mind together to work as one and today, millions of people worldwide practice karate.

Guest poster Jason Mueller has been studying martial arts since he was a kid when his parents enrolled him in karate. His love for karate and other martial arts has only increased as he grows older. He can be reached at

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