(Martial arts instructors teach what they know best and what they believe will work best for real self defense. This is a continuation of a special series of articles this year about the martial arts that influenced me most during the past 50 years. These arts are a big part of what we learn in Grace Martial Arts.)
I studied three styles of Karate when I was a young teenager: Shito Ryu, Wado Ryu, and Shotokan. I was taught that all of them were Japanese martial arts. I later learned that the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa had a huge influence on the development of what is known as Japanese Karate. Japan annexed Okinawa in the 19th century and many of the great Karate masters from Okinawa traveled to Japan to teach their art. One of the first to do that was Gichin Funakoshi, founder of Shotokan Karate. He was a senior student of Anko Itosu. Other Okinawan masters who taught in Japan were Kenwa Mabuni (Shito Ryu) and Kanken Toyama (Shudokan).
The word Karate originally meant Chinese (Kara) Hand (te), but was later changed by the Japanese to mean Empty Hand. The Chinese introduced their martial arts to the people of the Ryūkyū Shotō islands more than a thousand years ago. The Ryukyu people would have had their own fighting styles, but the Chinese who visited them shared their styles of Ch’uan Fa (Fist Method). The early art on Okinawa was known as Te, as well as Bushi Te and Tode.
Dr. William Durbin, a brother in Christ and one of the world’s leading experts on Okinawa Te, graciously shared special insights about the history of martial arts in Okinawa with Grace Martial Arts in 1999. Dr. Durbin is Soke of Kiyojute Kempo. You can read his articles at the following locations:
Grace Martial Arts